Total Tuscany
Episode 49: Find Yourself In Tuscany

Episode 49: Find Yourself In Tuscany

July 30, 2016
It's human nature to ask ourselves questions like; what am I doing with my life? Am I where I need to be? Is there something I should be doing differently for me that in return will serve others?  The introspective thought is healthy and in many cases, people find the answers they are looking for,  all it takes is a leap of faith and taking action that sets change in motion.

Rewind to 2012 and picture a 56-year old woman standing outside coffee shop in Rome. She is on the last day of her vacation and realizes that she doesn't want to go home.  Sure, all of us have had that feeling at one time or another, but we pass the emotion off as a pipe dream and return to our daily grind of what we call "normal" life. Lisa Condie was fed up with "normal" and after taking a deep breath, she decided that Italy was going to be her new "norm" and start a life many of us dream about, but we rarely try and make it come true. 

Fast forward to 2016 and Lisa will tell you that she has zero regrets about her decision. Has it been easy? By no means, but it has been rewarding and life changing. Everything she wanted, and as you will find out in this podcast, the best is yet to come.

Lisa's website is www.finyourselfintuscany.com, and she invites other women to share in her experiences. No, she's not asking them to sell everything they own and move to Florence.  You can find yourself in Tuscany by taking one of Lisa's tours that take a deep dive into the history and culture of Tuscany. 

Take it from us; you can find yourself in Tuscany, how do you think this podcast started? Why do you think we started this website and are regularly posting stories about Tuscany? It's because we found ourselves there and experienced a people and a culture that speaks to our soul. We didn't have to move there to find what we are looking for on a daily basis. 

Lisa has helped hundreds of women find themselves.  She also shares her stories on the Huffington Post and Tut, and she's even been featured on the Today Show. Her change has happened so fast she is chronicling her story in a book titled "I Found Myself In Tuscany." How fitting, right? 

Be inspired, listen to the podcast and discover the power of making a decision and following through with the action.

We would like to hear your thoughts on this podcast; please leave your comments, thoughts, or questions in the box below. If the moment moves you, please share this link with others you know will be inspired by the story. Go find yourself! If it's in Tuscany, even better!  
Episode 48: Mary Shea from Querceto Di Castellina

Episode 48: Mary Shea from Querceto Di Castellina

June 18, 2016
When it comes to tourism in Tuscany, Querceto Di Castellina has what I call the holy trinity for visitors.

Great Location
Fantastic food and wine
Affordability

We stayed on the estate a couple of years ago for a full week; the picturesque setting remains embedded in our memories, and when we are drinking a bottle of Chianti Classico it's easy to imagine ourselves on the estates large terrace overlooking the vineyard.

If you are a regular listener to the Total Tuscany Podcast, you know that we've talked about Querceto before, way back on Episode #3 with Jacopo di Battista. While traveling to the United States to promote the wines of Querceto, Jacopo met the love this life, Mary Shea. Having done consulting work in the food and wine industry, Mary knew a good wine when she tasted it. However, we aren't quite sure if that was prerequisite to getting the first date but I'm sure it didn't hurt.

After a long distance courtship, Mary has moved to Tuscany to be the Marketing Director for Querceto. She manages the brand from a social and visual aspect, but Mary also makes sure the hospitality and service you get when visiting Querceto are second to none. It's no secret that tourism in Tuscany is very competitive and visitors looking for a unique and memorable experience. 

Querceto is a family owned Agriturismo and the wines produced on the estate are certified organic. Currently, there are five different vintages produced at the farm that dates back to the 14th century.

L' aura Chianti Classico 
Furtivo Igt Toscana Rosato 
Sei Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
Podalirio Igt Toscana
Livia Igt Toscana (White)

The estate also produces olive oil and Grappa di Chianti Classico
affinata in Barriques. 

For us, the best part about Querceto is not the wine. Don't get me wrong they taste amazing! But as you can tell from our podcast, we LOVE Tuscany, and it was Querceto that made it feel like home. There are ten apartments on location that sleep anywhere from two people up to six. You can stay here a night, a week, a month, or even longer. If we had our way, we would have never left. 

Enjoy this podcast and when you are planning your next trip to Tuscany make sure to visit Querceto Di Castellina. Until then, follow them on social media by clicking the following links. 
Episode 46: Join Us in Tuscany

Episode 46: Join Us in Tuscany

March 9, 2016
It's hard to believe we have been podcasting for over two years! Hundreds of thousands of listens later we have arrived at episode #46.  The number itself isn't that significant; the content in this episode is what we are so excited for you to hear. 

After years of planning, organizing, making contacts, and testing, we are ready to launch the Total Tuscany experience! Join us October 29-November 5, 2016 on a trip of a lifetime. Whether it's your first trip to Tuscany or your next, this experience gives you the right amount of structure and organization but still the freedom to roam and take in Tuscany at your pace.

Our experience is tailor made for couples who are looking for a unique opportunity to travel, meet new friends, and ignite a passion that will open your soul to new possibilities and a slower pace of life. One of our favorite quotes about travel is this one by Saint Augustine.

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."

For the longest time, we were stuck on page one. Are you stranded, looking to turn the page to have the entire world open up? Start with us as we host you in the Tuscan countryside with other couples who share the same feeling for Italy as you do.

We are not going to use this blog post to go into full detail of what the trip entails.  Our suggestion, listen to the entire podcast. Once you have heard what we have to say about the journey, spend a lot of time going through and reading our newly designed website, (we hope you like it.) Here you will find all the information you are looking for about our planned Total Tuscany experience. What's included, what's not included, the cost of the trip, and a daily itinerary so you know exactly what you will be doing.  If you are excited about what you will be doing just by reading the website, trust us, experiencing it first hand is a million times better!

We want to know your thoughts. Feel free to leave your comments below.  Are you interested joining us in Tuscany this fall? send us a and email, info@totaltuscany.com and schedule a time to have a one-on-one conversation with us, we are looking forward to it!
Episode 45: Tuscany By Ferrari: Florencetown Tours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.