Rick Steves

How to Experience Tuscany's Dolce Vita

Ah, life is sweet ... especially in Tuscany. This central region of Italy really is every bit as beautiful as its pictures, making it the perfect spot to enjoy la Dolce Vita.

Rick Steves went to Tuscany for his travel show "Rick Steves' Europe," walking us through its fascinating pre-Roman history and gentle beauty, and showing us what the sweet life is all about. Here are some key elements to living la Dolce Vita during your next stay in Tuscany, as presented in the show. Check out the full episode here for more tips on planning the perfect Tuscan vacation. Also, tune in every weeknight at 7:30 p.m. for more of the best of Rick Steves' Europe.

1. Charming accommodations
To get a real taste of Tuscany's quintessential rural charm, lodge at one of the area's many farmhouse B&Bs, like the one Steves crashed at near Pienza. In order to supplement their income, these scenic working farms offer pleasant room and board to travelers. Some are luxurious, with plush rooms and amenities, while others are more simple and rustic dwellings. Either way, the Agriturismos offer a peaceful and really affordable, home base for exploring the region.

2. Tuscan gastronomy
There's no doubt that Italian food is well known all over the world. And Tuscan cuisine in particular is one of the major pleasures that attracts so many visitors to the area. Each region of Tuscany has its own culinary specialty, something that Steves got to experience firsthand during the episode -- from hunting for beloved truffles to catching the annual artichoke festival in Chiusure and learning about the Slow Food movement.

3. Tasty vino
Another key ingredient to living la Dolce Vita is indulging in some fantastic wines, especially in Tuscany. The region produces some of Italy's tastiest and most famous vinos, including its traditional Brunello di Montalcino -- a red wine made purely of Sangiovese grapes. The region's other favorite red, Super Tuscan, is Tuscan as the name suggests, but also blends other international grapes (like a Cabernet, Merlot, or Syrah). You can taste blends like these at enoteca wine bars across Tuscany, like the La Vena di Vino Wine Bar in Volterra.

While in Montepulciano, you can taste the town's most famous wine -- Vino Nobile -- at any of the cantinas lining Via Ricci and Via di Gracciano nel Corso. The Contucci Cantina welcomes visitors to appreciate their wine with guided winemaking tours. You might even get to sample some of the aging wines straight out of the barrel.

All these elements of La Dolce Vita really come together when you can gather with friends, enjoy a hearty, cheerful meal, and sip on a local wine. Salute!

RickStevesTuscany

Photo: Any.colour.you.like/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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Berlin

A tumultuous 20th century left Berlin filled with powerful sights - from evocative memorials, to surviving bits of its communist and fascist days, to its glass-domed Reichstag. We enjoy its now-trendy east side, its people-friendly riverfront, and its vibrant social scene. Reunited Berlin - perhaps the fastest changing and most happening city in Europe - is entertaining more visitors than ever.

  • 2020-04-20T02:00:00-07:00
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Germany's Hamburg and the Luther Trail

Hamburg, Germany's mighty port city has risen from the ashes of World War II with a gleaming new skyline and a brisk creative energy. From there, Rick visits the great historic sights of Martin Luther and the Reformation (Erfurt, Wittenberg, and Wartburg Castle) before finishing in the capital of Franconia: wine-loving Wurzburg.

  • 2020-04-21T02:00:00-07:00
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Germany's Dresden and Leipzig

Saxony, part of the former East Germany, remains a secret to most travelers. Rick visits the two great cities of the region: the capital city of Dresden, with the opulent palaces and art treasures of the Wettin dynasty, and Leipzig, with its Bach heritage, a massive monument to the day Europe beat Napoleon, and museums remembering its communist heritage.

  • 2020-04-22T02:00:00-07:00
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Germany's Frankfurt and Nurnberg

Skyscraper-studded Frankfurt - with so much commerce it's nicknamed "Bankfurt" - has a delightful-to-explore old center. Rick also visits Nurnberg, a capital for both the First Reich (the Holy Roman Empire) and the Third. From its towering castle and playful fountains to its Nazi Documentation Center and maze of underground bomb shelters, Nurnberg is a fascinating study in contrasts.

  • 2020-04-23T02:00:00-07:00
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Bulgaria

Bulgaria, so mysterious to most Americans, has a vivid identity as a crossroads of the Balkans. Rick traces the country's complex history, from ancient Thracian tombs to medieval Orthodox Christian monasteries to Soviet monuments. And he enjoys an intimate taste of contemporary culture: the yellow brick road of Sofia; the gregarious craftspeople of the medieval capital, Veliko Tarnovo; and the thriving pedestrian zones of cosmopolitan Plovdiv.

  • 2020-04-24T02:00:00-07:00
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Romania

Rick and his team tour Romania's vibrant capital, Bucharest, with its "Little Paris of the East" architecture and lingering reminders of a brutal communist dictator. Then they head into Transylvania, where they visit fortified churches, cobbled merchant towns like Sighisoara, and castles made famous by an imported German king and the real-life Dracula. Finally, they explore Maramures, where everyday life still feels like an open-air folk museum.

  • 2020-04-27T02:00:00-07:00
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Assisi and Italian Country Charm

In the Italian countryside, Rick connects with rustic, traditional culture: enjoying an agriturismo (farmhouse inn), seeing how prosciutto and pecorino cheese are made, and hiking down into deep and ancient wine cellars. He ends in Assisi - the hometown of St. Francis - which retains its spiritual aura to this day. Like pilgrims, he explores its stony center before trekking to its awe-inspiring basilica, built on the tomb of the beloved saint.

  • 2020-04-28T02:00:00-07:00
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Siena and Tuscany's Wine Country

Siena, once a proud and independent city-state, retains its confidence and unique traditions. Rick enjoys a front-row seat at its wild horse race - the venerable Palio - and marvel at cultural treasures from the days when Siena rivaled Florence for leadership of Tuscany. Then he heads into wine country for a little dolce vita under the Tuscan sun.

  • 2020-04-29T02:00:00-07:00
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West England

The quintessence of charming England is the "West Country": quaint Cotswold villages with their fine churches, manor homes, and gastropubs; Wells, England's smallest cathedral town; and the New Age capital of Glastonbury, with its legends of the Holy Grail and King Arthur. He finishes by pondering the dramatic prehistoric stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury.

  • 2020-04-30T02:00:00-07:00
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Southeast England

Arcing along the southeast coast of England, Rick travels from Canterbury (with its famous cathedral) to Dover (stoutly fortified from Roman times to the Battle of Britain). Then he hikes the trails that top the towering chalk cliffs of the South Downs, wander into the beachy resort of Brighton (England's Coney Island), and push on to Portsmouth, whose naval heritage has left it with the best collection of historic sailing ships anywhere.

  • 2020-05-01T02:00:00-07:00
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England's Cornwall

The far southwest of England is a world unto itself, with a persistent Cornish culture. He explores a world of flowers springing from towering hedges, a tin-mining heritage going back to biblical times, salty pirates' towns and fishing villages, and the Land's End of England. Then, side-tripping deep into the vast and mysterious Dartmoor National Park, he hikes to forgotten stone circles and chase wild ponies.

  • 2020-05-04T02:00:00-07:00
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Burgundy: Profound France

Burgundy is a calm and cultivated corner of France, where nature is as sophisticated as the people. Traditions are strong here. We'll slow down to enjoy the region's edible, drinkable, scenic, and floatable delights. We'll travel on a canal barge, visit a medieval hospice and a modern monastery, build a barrel, appreciate fine Burgundy wine, slurp escargot, and eat very, very well. If you're looking for the quintessential French culture, you'll find it in Burgundy.



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France's Dordogne

  • 2020-05-06T02:00:00-07:00
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Barcelona and Catalunya

The creative spirit of Spain's Catalunya the land of Picasso, Gaudi and Salvador Dali is on a roll. We'll get caught up in the festivity of Barcelona, enjoying the vibrant street scenes, tasty tapas and pedestrian-friendly Gothic Quarter. Then we'll take a scenic side trip to mountaintop Montserrat, and finish with an artist's pilgrimage along the Costa Brava to Salvador Dali country seaside Cadaques to visit his home and nearby Figures to experience his playfully surreal mausoleum/museum.



  • 2020-05-07T02:00:00-07:00
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