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The heart of Italy (Tuscany, Italy – Day One)

One of the things that I have realised since arriving in Italy is that it is so difficult to categorise it in a certain way, and no single image does it justice. One of the most indelible images that spring to most people’s minds when they think of Italy is the classic image of gently rolling hills covered in grape vines, olive trees and villas. Tuscany perfectly lives up to this cliché. As I drove south from Florence (which is simply stunning, but is kind of a sinkhole when it comes to money), I became more excited at a place that seems so familiar, as you see it on travel and cooking shows, on calendars, promotional material of Italy, you name it. Tuscany has a number of unfair advantages over every other region in Italy. The first is its location close to the centre of Italy, where the weather is neither too hot nor too cold. It has some of the most beautiful and diverse natural scenery in Italy, from the hills all the way to the coast. The diversity also helps with viticulture, and they have the ability to produce a wide range of wines. It is a very large province, and also has a very long history, with families going back over 1,000 years. Tuscany is very wealthy, and is arguably the most visited province in the country. The food is great, the people are great. If this were the USA, Tuscany would be California. And like cabernet sauvignon is the most important grape (but far from the only one) in California, the king of varieties in Tuscany is sangiovese, and I am spending five days here to become more familiar with it.

Dante Alighieri once owned these cellars

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