Your staycation guide: Tuscany
Author: Sophie Thorpe
Switch the news for Pavarotti and pour a glass of something sensational as you start planning the ultimate staycation. You may have to imagine the hustle and bustle of a piazza, the olive groves and cypresses, as well as a suitably luxe villa – but there’s plenty you can recreate in your back garden. Here’s where we suggest starting – with recommendations on what to read, watch, eat and listen to on your Tuscan adventure.
- Under the Tuscan Sun: There is nothing wrong with revisiting this old-school rom com – and no shame in loving it when you do.
- La Vita è Bella: You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, and you’ll want to watch it all over again. It’s no surprise that this 1997 classic was awarded not one but two Oscars.
- Gladiator: Tenuous, perhaps, with much of the action of this epic set in Rome; but some scenes were shot in Tuscany, which is more than enough to justify a re-watch.
- Tea with Mussolini: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Cher – need we really say more?
- A Room with a View – EM Forster: This classic early 20th century novel effortlessly conveys the colour and vibrancy of Italy, and Italians, offering a happy ending to boot.
- A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway: Hemingway’s semi-autobiographical account of life during the First World War is a heart-rending love story set amongst a brutally honest depiction of wartime Italy.
- The Birth of Venus – Sarah Dunant: Immerse yourself in the drama of 15th century Florence, at the cusp of the Renaissance, with this evocative tale of art, religion, love and power.
- Up at the Villa – Somerset Maugham: Short but sweet, this dramatic novella combines crime and passion in the hills above Florence.
- Con te partirò – Andrea Bocelli: Warble along in the kitchen to this tear-jerker.
- Puccini: Opera snobs look away. This iconic composer was born in Lucca, where a festival is held in his honour each summer. Recreate it at home by relaxing to his sweeping scores, soaring arias and tales of extraordinary passion. The tragic Tosca would be our choice.
- Florence + the Machine: A stretch, perhaps, but one worth making for Florence’s extraordinary vocals.
- Tu Vuo’ Fa’ l’Americano – Renato Carosone: Renato was Neopolitan rather than Tuscan, but we bet you still can’t resist tapping your foot to this familiar favourite (sampled more recently on Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP’s We No Speak Americano).
- Panzanella: An excellent way to use up any stale or failed sourdough experiments; but be sure to invest in the best tomatoes possible.
- Lardo: This silken form of cured pork fat has become popular on modish menus of late. Serve the salty salumi as antipasti, ideally with some nuts, or use it to elevate any number of dishes.
- Bistecca alla fiorentina: add a Florentine flourish to a thick-cut rare T-bone steak, perfect alongside the region’s Sangiovese-based reds.
- Cantuccini: savour these sophisticated biscuits at the end of a meal,ideally with (and traditionally dipped in) a glass of Vin Santo.