The Case For Tuscany In Winter

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On a recent return to Tuscany, Danielle Pergament of the NYT discovers things are a little different in the region come the dead of winter when the tour buses have gone home and the crowds have receded from the piazzas. And what remains in the off-season when things get back to normal? None other than the “real” Tuscany.

Forget the magazine covers that promise “The Undiscovered Tuscany!” “The Hidden Tuscany!” “The Secret Tuscany!” When a place has been attracting admirers for more than a thousand years, no square inch is undiscovered. The real Tuscany, as locals have been telling me over the years, is found in the dead of winter, when the crowds are thinner and the rooms, flights and restaurants are pleasantly cheaper.

A December-time stop at the family-run vineyard, Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, results in a private tour of the facilities (try to get that in the summer), and a visit around the village of Montepulciano — a classic notch on the tourist belt — allows a traveler to “almost glimpse what the town was like before it became a cliché.”

And just so you don’t forget it’s winter, a drive up to the volcano Monte Amiata is a trip into a classic winter scene of ski lifts and hot chocolate — a far cry from most people’s memories of Tuscany.

I know the whole point of “Europe Week” here is to gear everyone up for their summer travel plans. But it’s never too early to begin planning for the winter, now is it?

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