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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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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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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Whistle-Stop Copenhagen

I have a theory. In every city, there are four overarching categories of tourist sites (although obviously there will always be some crossover), and for a successful city break, you need to visit at least one of each. I put this theory to the test when I visited Copenhagen recently, and had less than five hours to see all of it. So here it is; the single most whittled-down, focused tour of a city imaginable, based on the four types of places you need to see (plus one extra, which will become apparent later on).

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The Nation’s Pastime

“Baseball. Like cricket, but round and round instead of up and down.”

For context, I should state that cricket is one of very few sports I just can’t bring myself to watch, and my problems with it would not be resolved by simply changing the direction of travel. What baseball does remove however, is the FIVE DAYS a single game of cricket takes. That’s over four and a half days longer than any decent sport should require. Other than that, it’s similarly slow-paced and technical, so all the indications were that I would hate it. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to an evening at Fenway Park, legendary home of the Boston Red Sox. This was the American Cultural Experience that I had come to the US to seek, after all.

So how did I get on?
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Italian Classics and Italian Audiences – Perfect Strangers

Five minutes before Perfetti Sconosciuti [Perfect Strangers] was due to start, I looked it up on Wikipedia. I’d seen the trailer, but couldn’t work out whether this was a comedy, a drama, or something else entirely.

As it turns out, I needn’t have bothered, Wikipedia was no help at all. It told me I was about to watch a comedy, but no comedy I’ve ever seen has left me feeling so traumatised and disheartened (except for possibly an Adam Sandler one I watched some years back, but that’s for different reasons entirely).
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