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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Top 10: Italian Cities

This is not an original concept, I admit. Guilty as charged. I’d like to think I’m making up for it though with a top 10 which is significantly different from the hundreds of similar lists. I’ve mainly avoided overly touristy cities not because I’m an Italy-hipster (although I probably am) but because getting ripped off is among the things most guaranteed to reduce my enjoyment in a city. I also prefer smaller cities, and in fact the biggest city on my list is only the 23rd biggest in Italy (some of my choices aren’t technically cities at all). Entirely by chance, nine regions are represented in my Top 10, which is very pleasing. So here, without further ado, are my top 10 cities in Italy (plus a few honourable mentions):

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Teaching: The Greatest Hits (So Far)

I’ve now been an English language assistant for just over two months now, which seems like a good time to stop, reflect, and mainly, to share some of my favourite memories. So here, with all the grace and smooth transitional ability of a Buzzfeed intern in his first day on the job, is my Top 5: Teaching Moments of TB1:

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Feverish Dreams

I’ve been lying in bed for the last three days with tonsillitis, slowly going out of my mind and wishing I was anywhere else. Unusually, I don’t get homesick in these moments (although I do in plenty of others). I’m uncomfortable being made a fuss of and I don’t usually care what’s wrong with me, as whatever it is, sleep and paracetamol are usually the solution anyway. I don’t even own a thermometer, because seriously, what’s the point? In pain = paracetamol, not in pain = no paracetamol. It’s only morbid curiousity and bragging rights that make us care what temperature our body is at (“Yeah? Well I had 39.3 one time, I nearly went to hospital!”).

Anyway, I digress. I don’t miss home in these moments, but I do miss being outdoors. Nothing makes me want to be out in nature, walking on some quiet, lonely trail, as much as not being able to. Continue reading “Feverish Dreams”