People tend to take vacations and visit the wine areas of the world in summer & fall. We decided to tour the Tuscan countryside during the Christmas and New Years holiday season. Our goal, besides gathering comments and opinions on the recent harvest, was to experience the holiday focus in Italy. If you never considered a winter trip to Tuscany, you miss the chance of a much more up-close and truly personal visit. A winter trip versus a summer one offers several trade-offs. On the plus side, the off-season has no crowds so driving the countryside is great. In fact its possible to stop almost anywhere to capture that special photographic moment. Local people are much more approachable and have time to chat, giving you the opportunity to really learn about local culture and customs. Even waiters, cooks, and property owners seem more friendly and willing to spend extra time with you. And that amazing villa you’ve dreamed of renting is truly affordable.
There is a down side however. There are no grapes on the vines, and hills are not green. Also some hotels and restaurants are closed or have a limited schedule (or maybe fewer items on the menu). Back on the bright side is that with less foliage it is easier to see the Tuscan architecture. There are no trees and bushes to hide the buildings, so if architecture is your thing, winter is great for “villa looking”. And there are no tour buses to hide the sites as well!
And there is even a better reason to tour in winter. Food dishes are more hearty and there are some things you cannot get any other time of the year. Truffles are in abundant supply, along with many types of mushroom. Plus winter is wild boar season, and its used both in pasta sauces as well as main course specialties. And for Dolce (desert) there is panatone and a whole host of very special holiday cookies and pastries.
Special Villa in the Country
We would be remiss if we failed to mention our very special accommodations in the Tuscan countryside. In past visits to the area we had the pleasure of touring the castle & winery of Castello Del Trebbio. With a history dating back to 1184 this is a must stop for any visitor to the Florence & Tuscany areas. Besides great wine & olive oil, the tour of the castle is fun and very informative. But as a base for exploring the entire Chianti region, the farmhouse apartments cannot be beat. Great location, super value for the money, and an amenities list that’s all inclusive and impressive.
The farmhouse is divided into three very separate apartments complete with their own patio, private garden and swimming pool. They provide a great way to experience the relaxed Tuscan country while being close enough to Florence to pop in and explore the city. Situated near the castle they have been recently renovated and offer different sizes to sleep up to 7 people. In addition, the Villa Faltignano is situated on a hill overlooking the medieval Castello del Trebbio. In a style that is both rustic and luxurious, it offers a high standard of comfort and relaxation for up to 14 people. The Villa Faltignano has been constructed in such a way that each guest can enjoy his privacy; yet enjoy spending time with friends and family in the common areas. Each of the 7 bedrooms carries the name of a local flower and is coordinated in color with its private bathroom.
A range of activities, from cooking classes to Italian courses, from painting classes to mountain biking are available. Horse riding either around the practice ring or through the beautiful native forest is another possibility that can be arranged. Guests are welcome to wander through the estate, and feast on any of the delicacies they find, such as mushrooms, figs, apples, kiwifruit, nuts or peaches. A fairly regular bus service stops at the castle gate linking this country villa with Pontassieve, Florence and some of the quaint small towns near by.
If your plans call for an extended stay in Tuscany we highly suggest you contact Trebbio for pricing and availability. They can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you decide to venture into Italy’s cities you’ll see lots of Christmas decorations, nativity scenes, and street festivals. Very colorful. Florence has very festive lighting decorations and each church displays an elaborate nativity village that goes way beyond a simple manger, family, wise-men, and Sheppard’s theme. Each one is a true village including houses, people, animals, places of trade, and water features. It seems they all try to outdo one another, and in fact they have competitions and prizes for the best ones.
Further afield, Rome has the Festival of Witches in the Piazza Navona that runs over the entire holiday season…and its usually packed with people and kids. And with all the churches in this magnificent city the variety of nativity villages is amazing. Not to mention all the great shopping on the Via Candotti, and the special Christmas treats at Giolitti (my favorite gelato and pastry shop). Do not miss this place.
So then what’s so special about a Tuscany/Italy trip in winter? The simple answer is a much more personal visit and a real opportunity to experience the culture, customs, food, and friendship of the Italian people. Something to consider.