In this post Caterina, our new contributor from Italy, shares some tips for discovering lesser known places in Tuscany and some secrets for getting to know the locals.
If you loved the movie “Under The Tuscan Sun” you will adore the village of Castiglion Fiorentino, a sort of little Cortona but not so well known: its graceful shaped hills, together with its buildings of Etrurian origins, are really unique; why not wander under the Tuscan sun while the perfumes of golden sunflowers tickle your senses? Its romantic paths, shaded by emerald pines, are the perfect set of a romantic walk hand in hand; Castiglion Fiorentino really is a little secret jewel in Tuscany!
But, on the other hand, Castiglion Fiorentino is not just a typical picturesque country village: all the young people in the area would more easily remember its name for the very nice and fashionable pubs (The Garden and the Velvet) than for its typically Tuscan surroundings. Personally, I am also fond of the “Carro Armato” ice-cream: there is no better way of enjoying Italian life than with a gelato in hand.
Foiano della Chiana
Such a tiny village can have some surprises for you: you can admire some unique Della Robbia’s pieces of art, in particular in St. Francis Church and St. Michael’s one; you could also be part of the Flower Fair, set in the middle of a colourful Spring where many perfumes seduce your senses; if you are looking for a reason to warm a cold Winter there is the hot competition during the Carnival period between allegoric floats of four different districts: the impatient anticipation of the name of the winner at the end of this typical celebration is a must try if you want to feel part of Foiano life! You will find that Foianesi – the name Foiano inhabitants are called – are capable of fighting during these occasions, and show the best of their originality (not only in the kitchen if I must say). Italian people are, indeed, not only “mommy’s boys”, as sometimes are depicted, but prove themselves capable of deeply believing in something in more than one occasion.
Civitella della Chiana
We do not know the secret of Civitella; maybe it is hidden in the narrow paths that seem as if they could lead you back to the Middle Ages. What is sure is that local lovers know the perfect place to admire a breathtaking, romantic, purplish and golden sunset in a reverent silence, where even a breath is something unwanted. That is Civitella Castle, at whose feet all the Valdichiana valley lies.
Unfortunately, the local old people cannot enjoy these views: it is necessary for them to live near inhabited areas, and Civitella can not offer supermarkets or school, this is why it is not densely inhabited. This could be the reason why this little jewel is sometimes not so much considered by guides, and could not be chosen by tourists dreaming of buying local food in typical “botteghe” (small shops) without having to drive a car or, at least, take the bus. It’s possible to cycle, but the curvy paths are difficult unless you are very well trained.
If, after reading these few words, you are ready to book your flight to Pisa and wander through Valdichiana Valley, it is important to know something. Particularly, you will find that, contrary to popular beliefs and stereotypes, not all Tuscan people are willing to tell you jokes all the times and trying to convince you to buy useless items. People living in all these villages know how to behave with tourists, and are ready to give you advice as well as their friendship, but you must have the right balance of respect and irony to reach their hearts, and only then they will be ready to open their houses to you.