The Tuscan Magazine Circa 2011
For several years this was the website for the e version of the Tuscan Magazine. This magazine was perfect for anyone who loves Italy and Tuscany. It featured an Italian lifestyle, food, culture & places. Restaurant reviews, wine column, authentic recipes, what’s on, where to stay, best shopping and much more. It was essential reading for anyone visiting or living in Italy’s most famous region.
Content is from the site's 2011 archived pages providing a brief glimpse of what Tuscan Magazine offered its readers.
About The Tuscan Magazine
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Help us to make it work.
About the editor:
Sarah Fraser is an author, journalist, mother, horse breeder & editor.
She likes chocolate and May.
She doesn’t like getting sunburnt.
She’s very friendly but has a lot to do so don’t get too cross if you email and she doesn’t reply straight away.
Life is an adventure. Your time in Tuscany should be filled with as much enjoyment and fun as possible. We aim to help you make that happen.
If you know of anything interesting happening, grand openings, competitions, news, gossip or events, jobs, please let us know
CIRCA 2011 POSTS
Top Tips for Summer Driving in Italy (TTM Issue 1)
by Sarah Fraser
Driving in Italy
The roads are scary in Italy. People drive fast, drive close and seem to be forever on the mobile phone (which is illegal btw). Here are a few tips to get you by, keep you cool and on the right side of the law.
Tailgating: In Italy the tendency is to be close to your bumper. This is obviously dangerous but also requires a lot of acceleration and braking which burns way too much fuel. Don’t be tempted to join in. The rules in Italy are the same as everywhere else – if you run into the back of someone you were deemed to be going too fast and you will be liable.
Air Conditioning: The air conditioning (and anything electrical) uses a lot of extra fuel. Air conditioning sucks power from the engine as it uses a compressor to cool the air and then uses the battery to (which is powered by the engine) to fan it around the car. So, to save fuel, open your windows – as long as you are going less than 30mph/48kmph. After this speed the drag created by open windows is counterproductive to fuel savings and you are better off using the air conditioning or putting the interior fan onto ‘circulate’ instead.
Motorway Driving: There is a speed limit (130kph). Drive in the right hand lane unless you are overtaking. Don’t sit in the outside lane or you will incur a lot of ‘flashing’ from drivers behind you. You must always have your lights switched on when driving on the autostrada.
Flashing Orange Traffic Lights: This phenomenon normally occurs late at night or on Sundays – any time when there is not expected to be much traffic. It means ‘proceed with caution’.
Learning the Lingo (TTM Issue 1)
Want to impress the locals? Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to improve your knowledge of Italian, there’s a whole wealth of language learning resources out there. What’s more, you can combine your learning whilst wine tasting, capturing those beautiful Italian landscapes on canvas or aiming for a hole in one on the fairway!
Angela West shares her top tips on how to pick up a few words and phrases to get you by or progress your proficiency. It’s easier than you think!
If you studied languages at school some time ago, you’ll find that things have changed a lot and it’s now much more fun. Create a routine, set yourself short-term goals and make time on a regular basis for your language learning so it becomes an active part of your life. If you’re pushed for time, why not learn in your lunch break? Just a few hours a week and you’ll pick up the basics in no time. Many people find that 10 minutes a day is more effective than a marathon session once a week so little and often is best, even if it’s just a word a day.
Is it hard to learn Italian?
Standard Italian is, in fact, based on Tuscan dialects and as a phonetic language, is actually considered one of the easiest languages to learn. Words are pronounced clearly and exactly as they’re spelt, unlike many in English, so it’s not particularly hard to articulate and make yourself understood.
Descending from Latin, this evocative, musical language is one of the Romance languages, many of which share a similar grammatical structure along with useful similarities in vocabulary. It can help if you already know some French, or Spanish in particular.
Italy’s cultural importance, in terms of literature, opera, film, fashion, design, cuisine etc. is reflected in other languages. You’ll probably already know some of the brands – think Armani, Versace, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana – but you’ll also, therefore, find that you recognise quite a few words, e.g. you may well have played the piano, created a portfolio, or enjoyed a pizza or tagliatelle bolognese al fresco!
Study Study Study!
Regarding pronunciation, as a general rule, the stress usually appears on the penultimate syllable of a word. You’ll notice that a few words have the same spelling as their English equivalent but are stressed on a different syllable. Some words, although spelled differently, are so similar to their English counterparts that you can probably guess their meaning, e.g. possibile or supermercàto.
However, watch out for ‘false friends’, or words which sound similar to a word in English yet mean something different. You’ll stumble across quite a few of these in Italian e.g Sensibile means ‘sensitive’, not the easily assumed ‘sensible’.
For many Italian learners, it’s not just about memorising vocab and grammar rules, it’s also about understanding the country and its culture. Gesture, of course, is also the universal, and passionate, language of Italy. Watch the locals conversing and gesticulating with each other, conveying messages with their hands and facial expressions. Another ‘handy’ method of communication you could do well to pick up and a good way of getting to know your neighbours!
Know your ABCs…
The Italian alphabet is fairly similar to our own, but with just 21 letters – the letters J, K,W,X,Y occur only in foreign origin words. Just like in English, the alphabet has five vowels – a, e, i, o, u – and most of the 16 consonants are pronounced the same as they are in English.
There are six endings for each verb tense and nouns are either masculine or feminine, with adjectives agreeing with them accordingly.
Certain aspects of the Italian language might prove a bit of challenge but get your head around a few simple rules and you should find things quickly fall into place, enabling you to communicate with confidence. Pronouncing the ‘r’ sound can be tricky, but don’t let this put you off – even some Italians struggle with rolling their ‘r’s!
Practice makes perfetto!
Learn for free with the BBC
Money an issue? It doesn’t have to cost you a penny. Help is at hand… at the touch of your keyboard and mouse. Why not learn online, in the privacy and comfort of your own home? Play a few games, download phrases to your iPod or mobile ‘phone or complete a course at your own pace, dipping in and out at your leisure.
If you’re starting from scratch, the BBC offers not only phrasebooks and language learning CDs and DVDS, but fun, interactive online courses and downloadable phrases. Its dedicated Languages site at www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian has a wealth of materials for beginners and more advanced learners, including videos, downloadable phrases, fun quizzes and learning games, with plenty of opportunities to test yourself as you go. To top it all, all of the online resources are free!
Want to ask where the beach is, order food or find the ski lift? Don’t forget to pack or download your printable, handy holiday Quick Fix phrases… essential, accessible help on your MP3 player or mobile ‘phone. Take your first steps in Italian with the online course for beginners, Italian Steps and you’ll not only learn the basics, you’ll get a BBC certificate! Sign up for weekly email tips for help and encouragement through the course in just 12 weeks, or try the fast track if you already know a few words.
Want to keep your cool while schmoozing at the local sagra? Check out the ‘Cool’ slang and add colour, realism and vitality to your spoken Italian. Get a buzz as you break out of the formal language, wowing native speakers with vivacious, streetwise language. Speak with vibrancy, punch and flair and they’ll just love you for it.
Watch the Don’t Try This Abroad videos and enjoy other people’s embarrassing language mistakes in the Your Say section. Read about humiliating blunders’n’howlers in Lost for Words and submit your own! You can also pick up learning tips and find out about other people’s experiences of moving to Italy.
Back to school…
Want to learn the lingo fast? Whatever your age or level, from just a couple of hundred pounds you can spend anything from a week to a year attending language classes, by far the best method of picking up the language rapidly and accurately, with the added bonus of an optional holiday thrown in!
It’s not all about sitting in a classroom… Language and Activity courses are the perfect opportunity to combine language classes with a whole host of exciting activities, even if you’re a mature student. Cactus Language Training believe that picking up a language is as much about getting out there and doing it as it is about learning verb tables, so they offer a variety of courses with morning language lessons, leaving the afternoons free to learn a new activity or indulge in an old favourite. You can also give your body a workout, not just your brain, on a Language & Sport combination course.
Italian can be fun!
For instance, in Rome, arty types can study the History of Art or Architecture & Design while showbiz wannabes can create a theatre script culminating in a live performance, or make for Milan to try your hand at fashion design in the fashion capital of the world. Head to Sorrento for some serious business Italian or set sail from Sardinia or scuba dive in Sicily. Enjoy a journey into Italian cinema in Genoa, fine tune your vocals on an opera course in Verona or learn to Tango in Turin!
Learning on location in Tuscany
It’s impossible not to be seduced by all that Tuscany has to offer, from breathtaking countryside, vineyards and olive groves, to the legendary cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa. But for those who want to dig a little deeper and experience something of the real Tuscan way of life, learning the language is essential.
There are plenty of study options available in Tuscany for students of all abilities and taking a language course on location is definitely the most fun and effective way to learn. Students can’t fail to be inspired by their surroundings and they get the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned in real-life situations, e.g. ordering their doppio espresso in the local piazza.
One of the most popular study options is a group course at a local language school, which cater for all levels from beginners to advanced. Classes focus on the four main language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing, with classes usually taking place in the morning from Monday-Friday. Students have the afternoons and weekends to themselves to explore their local surroundings. On a combined course in Florence and Siena, food fanatics can get a true taste of Tuscan cuisine with cookery lesson or head to the Chianti region if you’re in the mood for fine wine.
If you don’t live close to your chosen school, you can stay with a host family, in a hotel or self-catering apartment. The schools usually offer excursions and after-class socialising activities and a typical programme may include trips to monuments’n’museums, galleries or shows and visits to nearby cities, beaches or countryside.
Nothing beats total language immersion and Cactus Language also provide tuition and accommodation in the home of your own private teacher, a unique opportunity for a full immersion experience, enabling you to really ‘live’ the language at your own pace, without the distractions by other speakers of your native language. This one-to-one formula gives you the full attention of your teacher and is suitable for all ages and types of learner, especially beneficial for those who feel shy in a large class. Mealtime conversations, visits, television and social contacts are all conducted in Italian and tailored to your needs, ensuring your self-confidence builds quickly. The more you try to express yourself, the faster you’ll learn the language.
Benefits of language learning
Never underestimate the value and the pleasure of knowing another language. It breaks down barriers between cultures, enriches your life and can even improve your employment opportunities. Even a little knowledge of the lingo can make all the difference to the attitudes of the people you meet in Italy. Just think about how much better you’ll feel armed with a few words that you know will help to get you by. Who knows, you might even get the ‘language bug’ and aim for fluency.
So, what are you waiting for? Whether you’re skiing the slopes of Switzerland, chilling in the Chianti region or buying that dream property in Pisa, there’s no excuse now for not knowing a few basic words in la bella lingua. It’s well worth the effort!
Learning tips & staying motivated
- Language learning takes time and commitment. Be realistic and don’t expect to remember everything you’ve learnt
- Use any method which works for you. You might like to write words on post-it notes and stick them around the house or play language CDs on your way to work, while jogging or cooking. Try making shopping lists Italian and saying ‘phone numbers out loud
- Repeating activities helps consolidate what you’ve learnt
- Improve your accent and confidence by listening to audio/video clips in Italian over and over again, imitating them out loud to familiarise yourself with the sounds
- Grammar doesn’t have to be scary – it’s simply the term for the mechanics of the language. Basic knowledge of the rules allows you to say what you want to say
- If your concentration’s wavering, stay focused by reminding yourself why you want to learn. The thought of buying your dream property or even just a trip to the local market can be a fantastic incentive to keep going
- Do some research into Italian culture and show your appreciation of it. This way, you can charm the locals and win their respect by making a beguiling, all-important first impression. You’ll receive bucket-loads of admiration in return!
- Team up with a ‘learning partner’ and keep each other motivated
- Don’t worry about making mistakes – it’s all part of the learning process and you’ll learn much more quickly by having a go. Generally, Italians will be pleased that you’re making an effort to speak their language and will make allowances if you’re not spot on
- Keep track of your progress – you might be underestimating just how much you’ve improved. Go back occasionally to something you did early on to prove to yourself just how much you’ve learnt. You’ll feel a deep sense of achievement and your confidence will soar!
- Above all, enjoy it and don’t allow it to become a chore
Italian Wine Laws (TTM Issue 2)
by Marta Chiavacci
My name is Marta Chiavacci and I am a sommelier with the Italian organization FISAR. I have been a sommelier since 2005 and in 2007 was named FISAR Sommelier of the Year. This past February, I was the sommelier at Casa Italia in Vancouver, BC (my hometown) during the Winter Olympics. My goal with these articles is to de-mystify wine- Italian wine in particular.
Yacht Support Services (TTM Issue 4)
by Sarah Fraser
Viareggio is a fabulous little seaside town on the coast of Tuscany (just above Pisa). It has a long ‘boulevard’ with designer shops, behind which is a wonderful stretch of golden sand. Originally a fishing port, the town now hosts one of the most lucrative business’ in Tuscany – Yachts.
It is an international industry, which quietly yet firmly established itself on our Tuscan coastline. Why Viareggio? Obviously, it has a good port. But more than this, there is also easy international access via the airport in Pisa and a fairly swanky piece of coastline to keep the mega rich amused for the time they will be visiting to pick out their designer interiors. The area has some wonderful 5 star hotels and nearby Forte di Marmi is a sophisticated playground for Italians and foreigners alike.
The other thing that is necessary to all yacht owners is a good yacht supply company. Just for a moment imagine the logistics of having to cater for decidedly wacky diets, desires for comfort food from all over the world, an owner on board who will not eat anything green… This is the daily life of a chef on board a yacht. As a rule, the more expensive the boat, the more wacky the food remit can be. It is essential for the chef to have a good supply company, and in Viareggio the best supply company is Versilia
Another scenario that dogs the captain on a super yacht is what to do if something breaks whilst you are on the water. Who do you call to supply the set of bar stools that mysteriously went missing after an evening of drunken partying. Where do you go to replace the two full sets of Dolce & Gabbana crockery (every luxury yacht must carry at least two of everything breakable) that the owner flung at her husband half way to Sardinia? Is there someone who can replace one of an identical pair of unsinkable jet-skis that a corporate guest managed to sink off Elba whilst looking for his girlfriends missing bikini? (all true stories – though sources are understandably protected).
Again, one call to the Versilia Supply Service and you will have everything back to normal in no time, no matter where you are in the world.
Boats in Harbour
The other fabulous news about Versilia Supply Service is that they are opening an ‘international shop’ in Viareggio. This means that the general public can benefit from their ability to source anything from anywhere. From Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups & Mountain Dew to Cadbury’s chocolate and Glenmorangie single malt, Asian spices for curry lovers and Vegemite… you will be able to get everything you are missing at Richmond’s English Food Shop in Viareggio, due to open in 2011.
|Versilia Supply Service
VIAREGGIO – 55049
|Versilia Supply Service
LIVORNO – 57100
Did you know?
Despite sustained challenge from the US, Italy remains the leading builder and exporter of yachts over 80feet. The Tuscan (Versillian) coast has the highest concentration of luxury boat producers in Italy.
The Azimut – Benetti Group are the largest exporters of yachts in the world. They are based in Viareggio and build their boats in Livorno.
La Mamma della Mamma (TTM Issue 4)
By Zara Nelson
“My mum’s mum is always with me when my mum is not” goes the prize-winning song ‘La Mamma della Mamma’, from the Italian Zecchino d’Oro annual children’s song festival in 1998. Twelve years later, and these simple words ring truer than ever for millions of Italian children who are cared for daily by their grandparents.
Italian Partners (TTM Issue 4)
by Sarah Fraser
Be it marriage or a holiday romance, there are some fundamental differences in the Italian opposite sex that you should know about.
TTM interviewed numerous Anglo men and women to ascertain exactly what the differences are between the two cultures when it comes to LURVE
The Stereotype: The Italian Stallion’s accent is normally enough to make most women swoon. He’s tall dark and handsome. Passionate and romantic, he’ll be a womanizer but so charming that he is forgiven his indiscretions in an instant.
The Reality: The Italian male is a strange breed. He probably will live at home with his parents until he’s married. He’s definitely not thinking of marriage before he’s at least thirty five years old. Of course, he’s thinking of sex though, and since he lives at home this is often expected to take place in a car. So if you were wondering why he is so hung up on having a nice car, or is driving an estate when there clearly is no small family or dog needing all that extra space, now you know. Ten to one there’ll be a blanket and some cushions in the boot too.
Plus they groom. Eyebrow plucking, hair straightening, hours in the bathroom, angst about the right clothes… you either love this or hate it.
Romantic? Well, according to sources they are super romantic to start with. They will sweep you off your feet with gestures and words of love. Then, once they have caught you they turn into boring, predictable blokes again. This particular interviewee emphasized that at least Anglo blokes don’t raise your hopes and then let you down so awfully…
Passionate? Yes! According to almost every Anglo woman interviewed the Italian man is more passionate. Well, to be frank, better in bed than the average Anglo equivalent. Why? Because Italian men tend to make a whole ‘spettacolo’ (performance) of making love. It is considered and art form and given time, energy and thought.
Italian men are also simply more affectionate. The kiss, cuddle and hold hands more. There is no loss of masculinity in showing your feelings. Which, admittedly is all pretty different to your average Anglo chap.
Loyal? Bah! It is accepted in Italy that minor indiscretions happen and that this is not the end of the world. If you are looking for an exclusive relationship you need to make this 100% clear at the outset. Then you need to keep your eyes open and remain vigilant. Some women we talked to linked this to the Italian man’s innate lack of confidence. Whatever the reason is, a faithful Italian man is a rare and wonderful find.
The Stereotype: Italian women are gorgeous. They dress well and look stunning even pushing the trolley around the supermarket. They are sexy and exotic and will drive you crazy in all the good ways.
The Reality: Italian women are difficult. They look good enough to eat but you cannot get so much as a lick without knowing them for years, being introduced to the whole family or taking them out for months on end. Unless you’re rich (in which case there’s a certain slackening of the puritanical rules). This sounds very harsh but the information has been given by several separate sources so cannot be completely ignored. Italian women need even longer than Anglo women to get ready for going out. They can be sulky and withdrawn if not treated like a princess. They tend to be impractical and unrealistic about relationships – waiting for years for the ‘colpo di fulmine’ (bolt of lightning – to be struck by true love) rather than being practical and getting on with finding a good match.
Romantic: Italian women are romantic. Or rather they like to be romanced. In fact, they expect to be romanced. Which can cause some problems for the poor Anglo bloke who has no cultural history of understanding the romantic gesture.
Passionate: After spending a lot of time and energy on looking good and being poised, it is considered a waste to lose your head to passion. At a club you will see lots of women looking good but not looking like they are enjoying themselves. Italian women are not usually drinkers so they keep their inhibitions wrapped around them. They can be stiff and formal and literally unable to lose themselves in the moment. They also expect the man to do all the work in bed… which might be why Italian men are considered great lovers.
Loyal: Italian women are expected to be faithful. The reality is that they are just as disloyal as their male counterparts but they are better at hiding it. The marriage laws here are very harsh on women who stray regularly – you can actually have your children removed from your care for ‘lack of morals’ so Italian women are naturally more careful when it comes to adultery.
Did you know?
Mixed race marriage (between an Italian and a foreigner) are on the increase and now make up a large percentage of all marriages in Italy.
Facebook has revolutionized the way Italians pay court. The ability to ‘chat’ easily with a person means that they are less reliant on family and friends introducing them and manufacturing meetings.
Italian men spend more time in the bathroom than your average Anglo female.
Women in big cities are more likely to drink alcohol and therefore easier to ‘pull’.
Tuscan women are considered amongst the most gold-digging of all Italian women.
Mystery Shop D&G (TTM Issue 4)
by Sarah Fraser
However, after our last victorious foray into the world of designer outlets (Roberto Cavalli – Sesto Fiorentino) I decided to head for the D&G outlet in Regello, just below Florence to see if we could find a beautiful bargain.
Sales Assistants: There were a lot of them. They were mostly very tall, very beautiful
and very adept at looking down their noses. A couple were helpful. The males ones were downright unfriendly.
The Shop: Situated just off the A1 (Incisa exit), the Shop is a large white building which is fairly well signposted. I cannot fault it -it has spacious sections for sunglasses and accessories, shoes and clothes, including children’s wear. The shop is light and airy and there is plenty of parking outside. However, it is in the middle of nowhere.
Red Leopard Print
Stock: Outlets ordinarily carry last year’s stock or even older items. They also will sell seconds and returns so sometimes you might find something from a current season. The problem is that if a line has not sold well you will get a lot of it stocked in the outlets. D&G were selling mostly last year’s collection and with a heavy emphasis on a (horrid) red leopard print. There were some really lovely classic pieces but be careful not to chose a signature piece from last season as it will be spotted as ‘old hat’ immediately by fashionistas.
Value: We found up to 70% off some items. The suit section for men and women was where the best bargains could be found. It’s a great place to go for your work clothes. Casual wear was relatively expensive. Shoes and accessories had 50% or more off and if you can be bothered to trawl through the dross you will find some outstanding bargains.
Best Buy: Pair of prototype heeled sandals trimmed with real coral €187.00 down from €520.00
Overall: This outlet is definitely worth a trip for D&G fans.You can combine it with a visit to the nearby designer outlet The Mall and make a whole day of it.
Inside the shop
Top Tip: Don’t try to take photographs inside: we found that you get shouted at. I assume they thought that we were going to run off with last season’s fashion secrets and start producing red leopard print garments of our own…
Dare to walk in off the street with no intention of purchasing anything? Of course… it’s just an outlet after all. Ignore the snooty staff and root out a real bargain.
Santa Maddalena 49, Plan dell Isola, Incisa in Val d’Arno, Tuscany. +39 055 83311
Andrea Colombini – Lucca Legend (TTM Issue 4)
by Sarah Fraser
Andrea Columbini is a ‘personaggio’ of Lucca . Roughly translated, this means ‘personality’ or ‘character’. Everyone knows him and he knows everyone. He is famous for his unwaivering dedication to keeping the spirit of Puccini alive in Lucca. He is infamous for his direct and forthright approach to speaking his truth (which is certainly not an Italian characteristic).
The Tuscan Magazine caught up with Andrea in a quaint little bar directly opposite the church where he organises a year round festival dedicated to Puccini.
Modern perfume industry born in Florence (TTM Issue 4)
by Sarah Fraser
Catherine de Medici
Our sense of smell triggers many subconscious animal instincts in us and is the strongest sense at retrieving memory. Little wonder then that perfume and aftershave are one of the most popular gifts for our loved ones.
Historically man has always used scents to mask or enhance our own body smell. The ancient Egyptians were the first documented makers of perfume, using oil to steep herbs and bark to extract the essential oils.