Tourist-Free Tourism: Tuscany Without Florence

This article aims to answer one simple question: If you had a car and a weekend in Tuscany, and wanted to get away from the crowds, where should you go?

As requested by a friend, I thought I’d do a few posts on lesser-known tourist destinations for the regions of Italy that I am most familiar with.   Look out for words in red in the article. Where you find one, there will be a little fact at the end which corresponds to it. Consider these my gift to you, which you can use to blow your travel partners’ minds.

I have done one of these before with Veneto, but this is the big one. The granddaddy of Italy challenges. How to spend a weekend in Tuscany without signing over your personal space for the entire duration.

DISCLAIMER: The title is misleading; anywhere you go in Italy, you will encounter tourists. Stumble into a car-park on the outskirts of an industrial area in Lombardy and you will be sure to encounter a fellow traveller holding an open phrasebook exclaiming excitedly how “bello” it all is. This is doubly and triply true for Tuscany, where tourists wouldn’t hesitate to blow their entire holiday budget on a biro if you told them it was the one Dante used to write the Divine Comedy.

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The Ultimate Jewish Film Guide

Back in September, I compiled a list here of some of the most iconic Jewish music from across genres and across the decades. Now it’s time to do the same for some of the most noteworthy Jewish films of all time. As with the previous list, the definition of what is a “Jewish” film is contested, but I will attempt to explain and justify all my choices as I go. If you disagree or have any other suggestions, add a comment and let me know! I’ll add a new one every day until New Year’s Eve, so keep checking back, and follow on twitter @WanderJewBlog to see when I’ve updated it.

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Italian Travel in the Time of Earthquakes

On August 24th, the world looked on in horror as images came in from central Italy in the aftermath of a dreadful earthquake. It was the second major seismic shock to hit the region in the last decade, and repair and recovery efforts have been hindered by ongoing aftershocks. The damage to the region has been immense.

Tourist authorities in the region also fear longer-term consequences, as nervous tourists stay away. Whilst this is an understandable sentiment, as long as you follow the guidance of the UK Foreign Office, there is no reason to avoid this remarkable area, and countless reasons to do the opposite, and make a point of going there. That way you will both be aiding the quake-hit regions and simultaneously enjoying some of the finest art, architecture, nature and gastronomy that Italy has to offer anywhere.

In case you’re not familiar with the area, allow me to help. Here are six places you should write into your travel plans for 2017.
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ROUND-UP: The Year in Jewish Cinema

I thought I’d dedicate this round-up to some of the big news from the world of the silver screen, where there has been plenty of recent Israeli/Jewish news.
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Jewish New Year Honey Cake Recipe

This is something I haven’t done before on the blog. The blog is partially about Jewish culture though, and nothing is as Jewish as food. We have food for every occasion and for none. The vast majority of Jewish holidays revolve around the kitchen, whether it’s fried food on Hannukah, hamantaschen pastries on Purim, or honey cake for Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year. We don’t really *do* healthy, as this recipe will make wonderfully clear. It’s my mother’s recipe, and is fairly unique because it doesn’t actually use honey. Try it, and leave me a comment telling me how it turned out.
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The Ultimate Jewish Playlist

For the upcoming Jewish holidays, on which more soon, I thought I would compile a playlist of influential or unique Jewish musicians. The Jewish musical tradition goes back as long as the religion itself. This is especially true in the Sephardi (Middle East/North African) community, whose prayers are traditionally much more lyrical and tuneful than the spoken Ashkenazi (Central/Eastern European) prayers. My family is as Ashkenazi as it is possible to be, but when my parents moved to a town in the Galilee in 1975 which had been established to accommodate Moroccan immigrants, our European traditions went out of the window. We don’t miss them. My mum cooks flavourful, colourful Sephardi food and my dad sings the Friday evening prayer to the more lyrical Sephardi tune. I mention this because there are disproportionately more Sephardi singers in my list, and that is entirely fair.
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Lolland and Falster – Denmark’s Secret South

I don’t usually tend to admit ignorance. I grew up the youngest of four intelligent siblings, meaning that to admit ignorance was to admit weakness. Also, I’d usually back myself to know at least as much as the average person on any given country. I feel like Denmark is the exception though, because the average person these days seems to have watched The Bridge and Borgen, and so at this point knows substantially more than me.

How little did I know? Well, for one thing, in my mental map of Europe, Denmark was an enormous single landmass jutting out above Germany, easily the equal of its Scandinavian cousins. To those of you thinking “yeah, that sounds about right”, allow me to take you on a journey of discovery that might just blow your mind, as it did mine.
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