How long have you lived in Tuscany and why did you choose to live here?
I’ve been in Tuscany since 2006, but I’ve been in Italy since 1999! My husband and I decided to move to Italy for a better quality of life - and to escape the English weather and food!
Why have you chosen to partner with Citalia?
Citalia offers real authentic Italian holidays, and I want to be able to show the Citalia audience all of my hidden gems and secret spots to truly make your Citalia holidays a unique, local and original experience!
Where's your favourite place in Italy?
I’m not biased, but it would have to be where I currently live. Vicopisano is full of authenticity and character, and I love the charm of the area and exploring the hidden hilltop towns and countryside. It’s also located conveniently close to Pisa, Lucca and Florence, and we are also only 30 minutes from the Tuscan coast, so it’s easy to delve into the city and escape to the sea.
What’s the best thing about Tuscany?
It would have to be the varied landscape, olive trees and the hiking trails, to the typical Italian hidden beaches and coves. It really does have it all!
What's your favourite place to eat/drink in Tuscany? It’s hard to pin down because there are so many fantastic places in our region. One of the main reasons we left England was to escape the British food, and I can say that I’ve never been disappointed with a meal out here. I love having a drink during ‘golden hour’: as the sun dips below the rolling hills and everything turns orangey-amber.
My favourite foodie market is Il Mercato Centrale in Livorno, Tuscany’s important port city and only 30 minutes from Pisa. It was redesigned under the reign of the Medici family during the Renaissance period and is one of the oldest covered markets in Europe sitting alongside the main canal. You’ll find 30 odd shops and over 200 stalls that line the corridors of this huge food hall, which has an amazing selection of the freshest fish and seafood.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Tuscany?
I love all the hikes and nature trails around me, and one of my favourite activities is to go foraging! I also love visiting all the local farms, and learning about how they create their produce.
My region is all about slow and organic living, and I love this way of life. It’s so easy to grow your own vegetables here and create your own olive oil, due to the culture of the region, which focuses on nature.
One of my favourite places to explore and go hiking are around the hills of Monte Pisano, a small range of hills that separates the plains and cities of Pisa and Lucca. It’s here where you’ll find a route called Strada dell’Olio Monte Pisani, which winds between the olive groves and wildflowers with distant views out to sea and the Tuscan island of Gorgona. It’s the perfect territory for nature lovers, hikers, and mountain bikers.
In springtime you’ll find yourself hiking between poppies and wildflowers and foraging for wild asparagus and garlic. In May there’s a free trekking festival, and in October you’ll get to see the olive harvest and pressing!
What’s a few must-do activities in Tuscany?
Visit Lucca, one of Tuscany's best loved cities and walk or cycle along the famous walls! These walls date back to Roman times, and the 'Princess of Lucca' restored them back in the 16th century, turning them into wide walkways for the locals to enjoy. These walkways are now part of everyday Lucca life. There really is no better way to explore Lucca than on foot or peddling away, as this city is mainly a car-free zone!
If you’re seeking relaxation, then have a spa day at Bagni di Pisa Palace and Spa in the waters of San Giuliano Terme. This luxury hotel was a former summer palace built for a Grand Duke of Tuscany in the 18th century, and has so much history and amazing grand interiors.
The spa really does take you back in time as you follow the Salus per Aquam Circuit, a small complex of pools filled with naturally warm spring waters rich in healing minerals. Imagine bathing in pools of thermal waters that were first enjoyed by the Etruscans, then the Romans, and then the Medici family!
If you’re looking for a unique experience and something you wouldn’t expect to do when visiting Tuscany, explore the coast. Tuscany may be known for its rolling hills but it also has 142 miles of beautiful coastline!
My top tip is to find and book a stabilimento balneare (beach club) in advance as they often get booked up by the locals, especially at the weekends. Beach clubs are the ultimate way to enjoy Tuscany’s most stunning sandy beaches.
If you enjoyed reading all about Tuscany, give our team of Italy Experts a call and they can advise where is best to visit to get the most out of your Tuscan stay. Make sure to pop onto Maries Instagram @authentictuscany to continue deep diving into the beauty of Tuscany.
Call us today to speak to one of our Italy Experts for further travel advice, hotel recommendations or to begin planning your next Italian holiday.