5 great off-season activities in Tuscany

 

Tuscany is a fabulous and picturesque part of Italy, understandably popular with visitors who enjoy the great cities, art and architecture and wonderful food and wine. Throughout the summer months the main cities, Florence, Pisa and Siena can be unbearably hot and while the hills and mountains are generally cooler, accommodation there is expensive and often pre-booked by Italian city dwellers escaping to the country. Some of the most popular cultural destinations are easier off-season. And many of the food and wine events happen outside the summer months.

1. Food festivals

The Tuscan Festa is a celebration of artisan produce. I visited San Miniato White Truffle festival this year, a great example of a typical Festa, with a large area devoted to a display and tasting of local truffles and truffle products. If you are interested in finding out more about this gourmet fungi, a truffle festival is a great place to start. The memory of the heady aroma of fresh truffles will linger long after your holiday is over, and you’ll have the opportunity to taste them at their absolute best. Although the festas tend to have one product as their focus, you’ll find a range of regional specialities on display, perhaps with one area covering Italian produce from outside of Tuscany, wine tasting and sometimes cookery demonstrations. It’s a chance for everyone to have a party and enjoy the spending food of the area.

2. Museums and galleries

The famous museums and art galleries of Florence are sold out during peak tourist seasons. And, although most can be booked online, there are still entrance queues and sometimes the numbers of tours walking through make it impossible to view anything properly. Out of season, galleries like the Uffizi are still busy and still need pre-booking. But, you stand more chance of seeing those famous Botticelli Masterpieces close up in the Uffizi, at looking up in awe at David in the Acadamia without being constantly jostled if you go out of season.

3. Olive harvest

In Tuscany the Olive harvest starts in October and continues through November. Quality olive oil is produced on or near to the estate where the olives have grown so that pressing can take place within a few hours of picking the olives. That way, production is maximised and the flavour of the oil is at its best. Spend time watching the olives being ‘combed’ from the trees into nets and boxed up, and visit an artisan oil mill to see the pressing. Try tasting Olio Nuovo, the ultimate in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It should look a little cloudy. The taste is uniquely fresh and peppery and it is only available for a couple of months each year so don’t forget to buy some to take home.

4. Designer shopping

It goes without saying that out of season, there are greater bargains to be had, particular at the luxury end of the market. Prada, Fendi, Dolce & Gabanna and Gucci all at half price or less. Many of the big brands can be found at The Mall in Leccio, others, like Prada, have their own factory shops. Shoes, handbags and leather goods are particularly good value.

5. Eating out

You’ll find it easier to get space at the best bars and restaurants. And, many Tuscan specialities like Ribollita, Wild Boar and Caccuicco are hearty dishes that you need a healthy appetite to enjoy. You are less likely to be charged ‘tourist’ rates and more likely to find a real Italian experience. Try to avoid eating in the heart of the main tourist centres and head for towns like Livorno and Pistoia, with a strong reputation for local food and enjoy great food for half the price in the tourist centres.

Even if you don’t want to visit the museums and art galleries or learn more about Italian food, you’ll get an Italian’s view of Tuscany. There are still the guided tours with their umbrella waving leaders, but not so that it will spoil your view of the Duomo in Florence or the Piazza in Siena. So, take time out in Tuscany off-season and see more.

Comments (12)

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  1. It looks like you have summed up 5 good reasons to go to Tuscany. I love the food; it sounds so inviting. I hope it wouldn’t put pounds on me as I like clothes shopping too.

    It’s nice to know it’s good off-season too as that suits me much better.

  2. I had a FABULOUS trip to Tuscany this month, but it was at least partly down to a bit of planning in advance.

  3. Jess says:

    This is truly so fitting, as the boyfriend and I were just discussing a place we’d both like to go for our next vacation, and Tuscany was the common thread! These suggestions will definitely be coming in handy, and I’m especially intrigued by the olive harvest. Nothing better for dipping bread in than the ultimate EVOO!:-)

  4. Cari says:

    After reading all about your Tuscan vacation, I am beyond excited about my visit coming up in May! I can’t wait to try truffles, olives, and wine! It sounds like you had a great experience. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Rebecca says:

    I’m planning a trip to Europe next year and was unsure where to go in Italy. You’ve helped to decide – I’m definitely visiting Tuscany for more than the Tower of Pisa

  6. Emma says:

    Tuscany is always so beautiful, all year round! Always something special to do, to visit, to taste….! I have to try the olive harvest…anyone already tried?!
    Anyway, once you visit Tuscany, you’ll never want to go back home…anyone’s planning to move here?!

  7. Marco says:

    If I can add a thing, in the section museums and galleries, I would add to go to visit three of the most beautiful buildings in Florence:
    1) Palazzo Strozzi, http://www.palazzostrozzi.org/
    2) Palazzo Portinari Salviati, http://www.palazzoportinarisalviati.com/
    3) Palazzo Pitti, http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/musei/?m=palazzopitti

  8. Rossana says:

    I think there’s also another good reason to go to Tuscany: get lost in the countryside. It is my first advice to our clients, don’t plan to much and just get lost! Some of the most beautiful sceneries are just around the corner of that famous city you’ve planned to view months ago. The Val d’Orcia (UNESCO heritage site) is my favorite place. I love to drive along the country roads and just stop to take photos or walk into a field of red poppies and gold wheat…

  9. Emma says:

    Thank you Marco for your suggestions! So many things to discover in Florence! I really love the magic of all those historical buildings and the history of those florentine families. I know well Palazzo Pitti but I haven’t visited Palazzo Strozzi and Palazzo Portinari Salviati yet..do you know if they are open to the public?
    I agree with you Rossana, I love the sensation of getting lost! Have you been to Parco regionale dell’Uccellina in Maremma? There’s nothing like walking through the Park and end up on the beach…

  10. Marco says:

    Unfortunately I don’t think it is open to the public, for that that I know, it’s under restructuring to made some apartments. I feel me surrounded by the magic near this building, where the love between Beatrice and Dante was born, then looking at these images
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LNgV37ysWr4

  11. Emma says:

    What a pity! I’d love to visit it! But I read that the building in under restoration and 42 luxury apartments will be ready in 2014 and already for sale! This is a great opportunity to have a piece of renaissance for your own! Thanks again Marco!

  12. Andrea Naomi says:

    What an awesome post Fiona! The olive harvest sounds like so much fun! I really enjoy events where you can take the day’s memory home and eat it too :) We lived in New Mexico a few years ago and we used to visit so many vineyards during the weekend the Olive Harvest experience reminded of that! Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

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