Episode 45: Tuscany By Ferrari: Florencetown Tours

February 13, 2016
Is there anything cooler than a Ferrari? When you think of superb Italian design, speed, sophistication, and something you just want to experience; owning or even driving a Ferrari is on the list.

A brand new Ferrari can cost upwards of $400,000, maybe even more! When sitting down to write this post I started doing some basic research on Ferrari's and I think a post on Truecar.com sums it up much better than I can.

Ferrari models are built with speed and performance thanks to the company's racing background. Today's Ferrari cars are lauded as "supercars" and use the famous prancing horse symbol and signature "race red" color. Ferrari car prices are notoriously expensive as Ferrari caters to the upper echelon of consumers.

For the majority of us, the closest we will ever get to a Ferrari is at a car show where we are allowed to look, but not touch. Well, that is about to change. We've had Urbano Brini on the Total Tuscany podcast several times talking about his company, Florencetown Tours.  We have experienced several of the companies outings have given all of them 5-stars. Urbano is a brilliant marketer who listens to the wants and needs of his customers and is constantly looking for new ways to provide tourists an authentic experience in Tuscany.

Tuscany by Ferrari. A tour new in 2016 to the Florencetown line-up for travelers and tourists. Here's how the experience is described on the Florencetown website.

Strap in and start your engine! You’re in control; it’s time to hit the road along vineyards and olive groves. After the adrenaline subsides, relax and unwind in the heart of Chianti Classico wine region. Stop in a local medieval village for some pictures, and then enjoy the guided visit to a fascinating winery with its ancient cellars to learn the secrets of wine and olive oil production. At the end of the exciting drive, a traditional Tuscan lunch will be served with wine tasting at our boutique winery.

We have enjoyed the Tuscan lunch and wine tasting on the Florencetown Vespa Tour of Chianti, it's amazing!

A Ferrari driving experience isn't the only new tour for 2016; as I mentioned earlier, Urbano is listening to customers, and the feedback he keeps getting is from more thrill seekers.  That's you can now go "off-roading" on previous off-limits areas of Tuscany or how about a helicopter ride from Florence to Siena to check out an aerial view the Tuscan landscape? 

What started ten years ago as a couple of guys offering bike tours around Florence has grown into a company that prides itself on offering exceptional excursions in Florence and around Tuscany that focus on the customer experience and the service and attention each client gets. There's a Rick Steeves has recommended Florencetown in his travel guide five straight years.

Enjoy this podcast and get ready to start your engine as you begin to plan your first or next trip to Tuscany! 

Coming soon! The first ever Total Tuscany tour, spend a week with Travis and Pat in pure paradise, sign for our email newsletter and get more information when we officially announce details. 

We like to hear from you as well; please leave your comments or thoughts in the box below.

Episode 44: Parker Villas: A True Matchmaker

February 2, 2016
When you think of matchmaker, what comes to mind? An internet dating service? It's fine if you do, a simple Google search of the word yields 11,500,000 results.

The 1997 movie of the same name starring Janeane Garofalo might jar your memory or if you are little older, the 1958 cinema not so classic with Anthony Perkins (before Psycho) and Shirley MacLaine. 

Our friend Mario Scalzi is an Italian matchmaker. No, Mario is not a broker of relationships.  Instead, he looks to make the perfect pairing between you and the villa you choose to stay in when visiting Italy. Mario started Parker Villas over 20 years ago; full disclosure, we have rented from Parker Villas on three different occasions and give the company our highest recommendation.

This interview marks the 3rd time we have featured Mario and Parker Villas on the Total Tuscany Podcast. Why do we keep having him back? Simple, we think Parker Villas has the best selection of villas in Italy and Tuscany.  Besides have the best collection of vacations homes, Parker Villas offers 5-star customer service. This attention to satisfaction so important as you are getting ready to make an investment in what might be the trip of a lifetime.

Why are we having a conversation with Mario again? First, the Parker Villas Spring Sale is going on right now, and you can get great deals on vacation homes all over Italy including a large selection in Tuscany. 

Also, with the 2016 booking season about to hit a fever pitch, we thought it would be a good idea for you to hear about some of the new properties Parker Villas is offering and what are the major differences that set it apart from its competitors. 

Make sure to listen all the way to the end, we have a teaser for you on something big we are working on at Total Tuscany.  We want to know what you think of the podcast; please leave your comments below. Your feedback and suggestions are very helpful and give us great ideas on how we can tell stories that interest you. 

Thanks for listening and tell a friend or two about us.  We'll talk to you next week with another Total Tuscany Podcast. 


Episode 43: Dario Cecchini

January 17, 2016
Dario Cecchini is a butcher. A simple man who takes great pride in his craft and his responsibility to provide his village of Panzano in Chianti with meat. 

Dario Cecchini is an artist. You may not think slicing and dicing a cow or a pig as work of art, but it is.  A skilled craft handed down through eight generations of Cecchini's, all father to son. What we are talking about is over 300 years of apprenticeship to master; traditions and secrets that that have stood the test of time. His studio is Antica Macelleria Cecchini; his tools are knives, cleavers, and a butcher's block. His masterpiece is Her Majesty the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, a T-Bone/Porterhouse cut and cooked to perfection.

Dario Cecchini is a philosopher. There is a certain way the 60-year-old approaches craft, and it starts first and foremost with respect for the animal. His cows and pigs are raised naturally by people he knows, trusts, and respects. A very holistic and spiritual approach to the natural order of life. 

Dario Cecchini is an entertainer. He has been featured all over the world and in our view is the most beloved butcher in Tuscany, maybe Italy and the world! Featured on TV, radio, and magazines; Dario is a showman for thousands of tourist who visits Panzano every year. Yes, when Dario is not traveling the world he is in his shop, behind the counter, part work, and part showman for visitors from near and far.

We have visited Dario's market twice, the first in 2011. A day trip to Panzano. We were blown away by the by the experience. We watched in wonder, as did many others as Dario was able to perform his craft effortlessly and yet interact and entertain actual shoppers and even the onlookers there for a free glass of Chianti Classico, and a crostini with meat and lardo. 

Blown away by the retail experience, we knew we had to return for dinner. There are three different options for dinner at three different price-points. Here's a piece of advice, make reservations! It's easy to do on the website and saves you the heartache of being turned away because there is no room at the table.

In 2011, we opted for the cheapest dinner option, the Solociccino, which cost 25-euro per person. Wine is included in the dinner experience, but you are also able to bring your own bottles of vino and drink them without a corkage fee! We sat at a community table with locals and tourists and shared stories of our travels, families, and homes.  Here was the evening's menu:

Spicy meat ragu on toast
Raw vegetables to dip in extra virgin olive oil
Our special salt
Garbanzo and white beans
Beef roast
Boiled beef and vegetable salad
Braised meat
Tuscan bread
Vittorio’s wine (a quarter liter)
Water with and without bubbles
Coffee, e.v. Olive oil cake

After several hours of food, drink and making new friends we walked out of the restaurant stuffed! But it was a dining intimacy we have never experienced before, and we vowed to come back on go bigger and better.

In March of 2015, we did just that. We pulled into Panzano after sunset and starving.  Dario tells you to come with an appetite, and we did! Ready to take on Officina della Bistecca; in our humble opinion the best 50-euro you can spend.  Take a look at this mostly all-meat spread.

Beef tartar
Seared rump carpaccio
Costata alla Fiorentina   (Bone-in Rib eye)
Bistecca Panzanese    (Panzanese steak)
Bistecca Fiorentina   (T-bone / Porterhouse)
Raw vegetables to dip in extra virgin olive oil
Tuscan beans with e.v. olive oil
Baked potatoes
Chianti “butter”
Tuscan bread
Vittorio’s wine
Water with and without bubbles
Coffee, e.v.olive oil cake
Grappa and Italian Military spirits

Dario was not here on this evening, but the "show" was every bit as entertaining and delicious as we expected it would be. Our company was again a mix of locals and tourist. You make friends for a night, but memories for a lifetime. 

It is humbling that Dario would take the time to talk to us on the Total Tuscany Podcast. As you listen, you will notice all his answers are in Italian, they are then translated into English by his wife Kim who is originally from the United States. You get an understanding of Dario's passion for his craft, his business, and his life. 

If there is one thing you do when visiting the Tuscan countryside, it is to visit Panzano in Chianti and visit Dario. His popularity has grown with time but the experience as remained faithful to its roots. 

Tell us what you think about the Total Tuscany podcast, please leave your comments below. Want to hear more from us? Sign up for our newsletter.

Episode 42: Tuscan Women Cook

January 13, 2016
Bucket list. We all have one; things we want, adventures we want to try, people we ant to meet. Back in the late-1990's Bill and Patty Sutherland sold ninety percent of their possessions and moved to Tuscany. (Raise your hand if you have thought about doing that once or twice.) Now, the Sutherland's were lucky enough to own a second home in the region, but moving there was bucket list item Bill had been dreaming since he first went backpacking across Europe in 1967. 

While enjoying a bottle of Brunello and enjoying the Tuscan landscape at their home, Podere Poggio Castagi, a 300-year-old stone farmhouse that sits atop a hill and surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, the Sutherland's ask themselves a very simple question.  Now that we are here, what are we going to do to make a living? As you will find out in this podcast, Bill admits he makes his best decisions when drinking a couple of bottles of wine. (Who doesn't?) 

Bill had always had a passion for cooking, taking lessons from Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck, and other celebrity chefs. The thought came to him why not create a cooking school in Tuscany? 

The setting for Sutherland's cooking school was perfect! They are situated in the heart of Brunello de Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano country, and border on the Chianti wine region. This is an ideal spot for wine lovers and presents spectacular views of the Tuscan landscape.

Bill and Patty are extraordinary people, and they wanted to make sure they were offering an extraordinary service, something different, something unique, something memorable.

Just like that, Tuscan Women Cook was born. A week long cooking school that emphasizes the quality of a home cooked meal. How do you do that? Well, Bill recruited the women who live in the tiny village of Montefollonico. 

So every day you get to wake up and create the magic that tastes delicious and will give you memories that last a lifetime. The great thing about Tuscan Women Cook is, you have a different instructor every day. This means you will get different family recipes and different cooking styles to take home and impress your friends.

Don't worry, it's not all cooking all the time. As Bill tells us in this podcast, the cooking class is an important part of your experience but not the only part. Day trips to Siena, Florence, and other popular destinations in Tuscany.

Your experience with Tuscan Women Cook includes lodging. Here is the description of La Chiusa from the Tuscan Women Cook website.

La Chiusa, an elegantly restored farmhouse, and olive oil mill. La Chiusa’s luxurious accommodations and award-winning restaurant have been critically acclaimed for decades, and travelers from all over the world come to Montefollonico to stay in this enchanting place.

La Chiusa is ideally situated for glorious views of the Chiana Valley—rolling hills covered with olive trees and vineyards, and the ivory-colored hilltop town of Montepulciano in the distance. You can have breakfast on the terrace, enjoying bread that’s been freshly baked in La Chiusa’s wood-burning oven, slathered with jam made from the property’s fig trees. A breeze may blow through, carrying with it the scent of lavender from the herb garden. In the evenings, the sunsets over La Chiusa’s panorama will dazzle you. Here is a country retreat that calms, inspires, and lifts your spirits.

In the podcast, you will notice Bill has a Texas accent.  Well, when he's not living in Tuscany he's in Texas. The cultures are an ideal mix; it's all about hospitality!  

We would love to hear what you think of this podcast, feel free to leave your comments below. Also, take the time to follow us on Twitter, like our Facebook page, and sign up for our newsletter.

Episode 41: Study In Lucca With Alt Studio

December 21, 2015
Okay, let's see a show of hands; have you ever dreamed of studying in Tuscany? For some of you reading this right now, that dream has already come true. For some of you, it hasn't.

Fort the last two years we have been committed to telling you about unique people, places and experiences in Tuscany. The 41st Total Tuscany Podcast is a dream come true for a young creative, or even an old creative.

John Murphy has assembled a dream team of award winning photographers and filmmakers for a five-week intensive course this summer based out of Lucca, Italy.

"I want to share with my students an experience unlike any other: to work and create in Tuscany. Through Alt Studio, participants will be able to learn from my dear friends, who happen to be exceptional professionals in their fields, while completely immersing themselves in Italian culture. Living and working in Lucca, and exploring and documenting Tuscany will be one of the best summers a creative young person could ever have. To spend time, a small part of one's life, shooting in this charmed land will change any artist forever. I know it changed me forever.”

Do you have to be a current undergraduate or graduate student? The simple answer is no. What you need is a desire to create, learn and let your passion for storytelling shine in a place that will inspire you for a lifetime. 

What is cool is, upon the completion of the five-week program, a group show/opening and a night of screenings of all Alt
Studio work will take place in Lucca. Following the students’ return to the United States, the same show of work will be exhibited in New York in September 2016.

So how did this course come about? Find out from John Murphy in this podcast. Great personal stories that get the creative juices flowing and just might inspire you to take a 5-week "vacation" to study in what we consider to be heaven on earth.

Episode 40: KM Zero Tours

December 10, 2015

People often ask us what Tuscany is like; they want to know if what they see in the movies and read about on travel blogs is real. Our answer is always the same, Tuscany is every bit as beautiful as you can imagine. But like most things in life, not everything you see or do when you visit Tuscany is authentic as you might think.  The big question you need to ask yourself as you start planning your first or next trip to Tuscany is; how can I get the most authentic experience possible? 

In our 40th edition of the Total Tuscany Podcast, we have found the authentic experience your are looking for, KM Zero Tours. Don't let the "tours" in its name fool you, Arianna Cinci grew up in Chianti and is committed to giving her guests an authentic Tuscan Experience. 

We first heard about Arianna and her partner Alessio from one of our favorite Tuscan bloggers, a former guest here on the Total Tuscany Podcast, Georgette Jupe. Her description of the KM Zero experience made us curious to find out more. From the moment we contacted Arianna, we knew she was going to have a fantastic story to tell.

What we love about the video they have produced is that they don't need words to tell the story of what the experience is like; the pictures and video speak for themselves.

KM Zero Tours tag line is, "Slow Travel in Tuscany". If you are like us, when you visit Tuscan you want to do more than just "see" things.  You want immerse yourself in the culture and get a hand hands on experience that will create memories that last a lifetime.

As you will hear when you listen to this podcast, Arianna is passionate about creating an authentic experience. She knows first hand what that should look like; she grew up on the on the estate they call Montrogoli. The five bedroom, four bathroom holiday home is for rent in the heart of Chianti. 

Whether you choose to stay at the holiday home or not, KM Zero Tours has a plan in place to give you a tailored tour that satisfies your need to experience Chianti the right way, authentically. Arianna and Alessio have partnered with local producers and craftsman that meet their high standards of excellence. Wine, cheese, pasta and olive oil, meat, handcrafted items and cooking classes. Look at the slideshow to see examples of excellence.

Right now is the perfect time to start planning for a trip to Tuscany. There are so many things to do and see that you might not know where to start. We recommend KM Zero, which means, no distance. Listen to the podcast and hear firsthand why you don't have to go far to get authentic Tuscany.

Episode 39: Starting Fresh At La Tavola Marche

September 6, 2015

As we get ready to celebrate Labor Day in the United States, we take time to celebrate a labor of love for a couple of expats who took a chance 10 years ago. Ashley and Jason Bartner are the creators of La Tavola Marche. They explain their business the best on the the home pate of their website.

La Tavola Marche is a unique culinary experience where you actively participate in Italian culture through seasonal activities paired with local artisans, farmers, and wine makers while staying in a 300 year-old farmhouse agriturismo. If you are willing to muddy your feet, we'll guide you off the beaten path where you will see Italy at its roots. 

We combine searching for the best seasonal local ingredients, hands-on cooking classes, and the conviviality of the table to help you connect with the people through their food, culture, and terra.

From the hustle and bustle of New York City to the simple life of the Italian countryside; Ashley and Jason have never heard the word "fail." After honeymooning in Italy the two decided this was the the life for them and with a definite "can do" attitude and a desire to offer a unique experience to tourist they started La Tavola Marche.

In this edition of the Total Tuscany Podcast, we talk with Ashley about the journey she and her husband  have been on. The ups and downs of owning a business in Italy; starting with what Ashley calls Kindergarten Italian to where they are now.  Has it been easy? No! But getting what you want never is. A lot of us wish our dreams would come true, Ashley and Jason made theirs come to life.

La Tavola Marche offers the total package when it come comes to the giving tourists the relaxed Italian countryside experience.

Farming, lodging, cooking classes and most of all great people!

Normally, this podcast is about places in Tuscany, well we aren't afraid of going outside the region for a good story to tell.  

From the Website:

Travelers who want the best of central Italy are now heading for Le Marche, the third region, alongside Tuscany and Umbria that makes up the area. The region lies on the eastern side of central Italy, between the Adriatic Sea and the high Apennine mountains. Much of it remains unspoiled by mass tourism. The Adriatic coast has been known as a sun and beach mecca for years. However, inland, perhaps more so than anywhere else in central Italy, you will find places where time really has stood still. 

Enjoy the podcast and leave your comments below, we would love to hear what you think.

Episode 38: The Tuscan Times

August 23, 2015

If you are a regular listener of the Total Tuscany Podcast, you have heard us interview Helen Farrell before. She is editor of the Florentine, an English-speaking news magazine based in Florence. The publication was founded in 2005 and now has a circulation of over 10,000/month; The Florentine reaches over a quarter of a million people online every year.

Helen is back again to talk with Travis and Pat about the latest publication from the staff of The Florentine. The Tuscan Times was an idea that has finally been turned into a reality. The first edition was published on July 16th to rave reviews. The Tuscan Times utilizes English-speaking correspondents and ex-pat's living across the region to share their stories. The Tuscan Times really is an inside look at the entire region with stories and suggestions so we can all enjoy Tuscany to the fullest.
In this podcast, you will hear Helen tell the story of how the Tuscan Times came about and what the future holds for the publication. Tuscany continues to capture the hearts and imaginations of travelers from all over the world; the work Helen and her staff is doing brings everything to life. 

Episode 37: Lost In Florence

May 25, 2015
That's an a very good question and one I wish we had an easy answer to give you. It's been almost two months since our last podcast and for us it seems like even longer. When we got back from Tuscany in March things were moving at a rapid pace and time just got away from us. Did we have a Tuscany hangover? I don't know if I would call it that, maybe it was a deep depression of not being able to spend more time in Tuscany and see more people and places. In the last couple of months, we have produced some videos from our trip and we encourage you to watch them for ideas of what to so when you visit Tuscany.

We are excited to get back at it with a brand new podcast with a lovely person, Nardia Plumridge publishes the website "Lost In  Florence." A native of Australia, Nardia has been living in Florence since 2010 her website captures the essence of what Florence is all about, art, craftsmanship, authenticity. She describes it best as the following comes from her website.

The slightly hidden, less touristic, more authentic discoveries: wine bars, café joints and places for the perfect meal; artisan shops, boutique hotels and much more. Whether you live in Florence or are visiting for a few days, Lost in Florence has many discoveries waiting just for you. 

This year we are expanding to include cities outside Florence but with the same philosophy: boutique and unique offerings to discover the true essence of a city. Often the best travel experiences we have are when we take that little back street and get lost... in the most adventurous sense. This website is an alternative travel place to gather the right information for you to plan your perfect stay... plus meet some local artisans on the way.

Nardia does a great job come capturing what we all want when we think about and visit Tuscany, the authenticity of the region that has so much history. 

I'm not going to lie, there are plenty of tourist traps in Florence and things that look authentic really aren't. It's easy to get caught up in the moment and the atmosphere and buy a souvenir from a street vendor or market only to find what you purchased was "NOT" made it Florence.

The artistic authenticity you are looking for in Florence, and all around Tuscany is there, but you have to look for it. In fact, you may just have to get "lost" to find exactly what you want. 

Let Nardia be your guide, listen to this podcast for great tips and tricks. Stay up to date with here latest finds by going to her website on a regular basis. You can also follow "Lost in Florence" socially: 


Episode 36: Laura Morelli/Authentic Arts

March 30, 2015

The last thing you want when you go to Florence is to get ripped off. Sure there are plenty of authentic artisans practicing and perfecting old world technics that produce art and crafts that are of the highest quality. But don't kid yourself, for every "original"  piece of art you find there two more like it that are fake and probably made is China, not Florence. 

In this edition of the Total Tuscany Podcast, we talk to Laura Morelli. She has just released here second book in her Authentic Arts series. "Florence, A Travel Guide to Fabrics, Frames, Leather Goods, Maiolica, Paper, Woodcrafts, & more." 

Laura is here to help! This guide is like one we have never seen before. Most guides tell you where to go, where to eat and maybe some off the beaten path shop the writer had a good experience at while visiting. Luara digs in deep with boots on the ground using her vast knowledge and experience in Italy to provide you the information you need to make an informed purchase. The great news about this book, there is also a companion guide that comes with your purchase in the form of an e-book.  This companion guide is going to be continually updated by Laura and will tell you where to buy authentic goods. 

Armed with a Ph.D. in Art History from Yale, Laura's passion for authentic art and skilled craftspeople dates back to when she was a teenager. She has been documenting her journey ever since and enjoys sharing her expertise with you.

We could go on-and-on about Laura and why you should buy her book. But don't take our words for it, listen to Laura on the podcast and decide for yourself. The last thing you want to do on a trip of a lifetime is to get ripped off! 

Like what you hear? Make sure to ready more of Laura's works by picking up copies of here "Made In..." series and her award winning art-historical fiction novel, "The Gondola Maker."

We would like to hear your feedback, leave your comments below.  Tell us what you like, don't like or something you would to know more about.