While you may be going to Italy to see the historic sites, museums, churches, magnificent architecture or beautiful countryside don’t forget to visit some of the shops. Yes, the Euro right now makes shopping less attractive but there are deals to be found and shops that you don’t find in the US that you may want to visit. I found that you can find deals the outlets in Italy, perhaps even better deals then what can be found in the US. If in the Tuscan region, then I highly recommend stopping by the Prada outlet in Montevarchi, which is south of Florence. It is off the beaten path so you have to plan on going you will not just stumble across it. I have only gone by car but if you don’t have a car then you can take public transportation. If you do drive, be aware that the outlet itself is in a Corporate Park and it is very easy to pass by. All the locals know where it is so don’t be afraid to stop and ask and they will point you in the right direction. However, once you get there, it is worth the trouble of finding. There are many shoes both Prada and Miu Miu and you are bound to find at least one pair in the needed size. Also, you can shop for clothes, jewelry, bags, hats, gloves and sunglasses and more. I found the staff to be friendly and you can request the VAT exemption which you later have to collect at the airport (this is more trouble than it is worth because they actually want to see the physical items you purchased, which is fine if it is small but if you have a lot then it could be a hassle). There are a couple other outlets in the Tuscan area and some such as the one in Reggello are closer to Florence but I have not been there so I can’t comment. If anyone visits any of the other Prada outlets I would love to hear about the experience otherwise I hope to get to them on a future visit. For the hours and location of all the Prada outlets visit their website at http://www.prada.com/en?cc=US#!/store-locator?cc=US. You can find plenty of articles about the outlets by doing a simple search and there are even tours that you can take, but if you are like me you don’t want to be on someone else’s timeframe for shopping, if there are items I like I want to take my time, if there is nothing for me then I want to be on my way.
Note: If you plan on travelling between Florence and the Southern Tuscan Region (Montalcino or Montepulciano for example) then it is worth detouring during this trek of your trip. The Montevarchi outlet is not far off the Autostrada.
Posted in Uncategorized and tagged Florence Italy, Italy, prada, shopping, Tuscany by TheTuscanContessa with .
I know people who will not rent a car in Italy because they fear driving in another county, they have heard about the crazy Italian drivers, or they are afraid the car will not be automatic. My recommendation is if you are visiting Tuscany (outside of the cities like Florence) rent a car for at least a couple of days so you can explore the countryside and the small towns that are perched in the hills. Pienza is one of these towns. Renowned for its cheese, you can see why as you make your way to the town and see herd after herd of sheep. I love cheese, so Pienza was like being in a candy store. Shop after shop with variations of cheese, some with truffles, some with hot pepper flakes, some that have been covered in ash and the list goes on. However, there is more to Pienza then cheese. The town looks as if it is out of a picture, with flower boxes hanging on each home, the quiet streets, the beautiful square and church, and a breathtaking view of the countryside. There are plenty of restaurants in the town so finding a good meal is not difficult. On one trip we opted for a very casual and light lunch that consisted of purchasing a fresh pork sandwich at the local butcher with a drink and sitting at the edge of the town overlooking the rolling hills….it was perfect. There are several other historical sites that you can visit within Pienza as well as many little shops and wine stores that you can peruse.
http://www.pienza.info/ this site, while in Italian only, will give you an idea of the town, the sites you can see, a list of restaurants, etc. There are other English sites you can visit as well for this information.
In the coming posts I will write about other towns that you can visit by car. It is well worth overcoming any fear you have of driving in Italy to visit them. Driving in the countryside is very easy. My recommendation is to rent a car in advance before you get to Italy, rent a small car and if you do not drive standard make sure to request an automatic. Once in Italy do not let the rental car company talk you into a bigger car, the gas is expensive, and the streets are tight. If you are first staying in Florence arrange the rental car up around that stop (i.e. pick it up on the day you depart Florence to go into the outskirts) because parking in Florence is expensive and driving there can be confusing as many streets are off limits to traffic.
Posted in Uncategorized and tagged Cheeze, Formaggio, Italy, Pienza, Tuscany by TheTuscanContessa with .
I love all of Italy but have a fondness for Tuscany and the diversity of the towns that make up this region. From the tourist filled streets of Florence to the flower boxed windows of Pienza and all the towns in between, you find great food, friendly people and amazing scenery and architecture. My biggest problem in starting this site has been what to write about first. My husband told me to start with a food item, specifically Pici. Being a food lover that is what this posting will concentrate on. For those of you who are unsure what Pici is, it is pasta, very particular pasta that is found only in the Tuscan region. Wikipedia refers to Pici as “thick rolled pasta, like a fat spaghetti,” which is a pretty accurate description of how Pici looks. However, neither Wikipedia, nor any other site can tell you about the fabulous taste or the seriousness in which the Tuscans take their Pici. I have had the opportunity to eat Pici in several restaurants but the best that I have had to date is in a small restaurant in Montepulciano, called Borgobuio. Borgobuio is off a small side street in the historical center of Montepulciano and is wonderfully cozy while emanating a feeling of being in a wine cellar. The staff is friendly and in addition to the Pici they have many other menu items to offer. However, go their specifically for the Pici and then order if you want more. Remember though, Pici is a very heavy pasta so you may want to go light on ordering a second dish. While you are at Borgobuio, ask your waiter if you can step down into the Etruscans ruins, where the antiquity of the restaurant is more than apparent and it will cap off your visit to this restaurant. You can visit their website at http://www.borgobuio.it/eng/index.html .
If you search for Pici on the internet you will find several sites that sell this Pasta, however, like anything that is not freshly made you will not get the full or true taste of this pasta, so do not judge it by a dried version that you purchase online. I even brought some dried Pici back from Italy, and you guessed it, how sadly disappointed after my wonderful Pici meal at Borgobuio.
Posted in Uncategorized and tagged Best Italian Restaurants, Montepulciano, Pici, Tuscan food, Tuscany, Tuscany Italy by TheTuscanContessa with .