Cheese & Wine at the ‘Corzano e Paterno’ farm

Halfway between Siena and Florence, there is a little farm that seems to have been sitting on its hill forever. Fattoria Corzano e Paterno produces excellent wine and olive oil, and a variety of Tuscan sheep cheeses that I can never resist.

The history of the farm is interesting. It was founded by the Swiss architect turned farmer Wendel Gelpke in the early ‘70ies. Today Corzano e Paterno is run by two of his daughters, the sisters Sibilla and Arianna, his nephew Aljoscha and their respective families.

I usually stop at the farm shop for the delicious Buccia di Rospo, but never manage to leave without some fresh ricotta and a serving of Rocco, an excellent fresh goat cheese.

FATTORIA CORZANO e PATERNO

The shop is open from Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, and Saturday 9am to 1pm in summer and from 9am to 1pm during the rest of the year.  Book ahead for tours, wine and cheese tastings and light lunches.

 

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Canoeing on a Tuscan river

The Italian coastline does not need an introduction. But have you ever explored one of the country’s rivers? After 30 years in Italy, I finally ventured onto the Ombrone River in Southern Tuscany.

The Ombrone crosses the Parco della Maremma nature reserve before joining the Tyrrhenian sea south of Grosseto. The park is a bird watching paradise, but also a place to spot wild boars and deer, and the local guides are happy to point out all the lesser known fauna and flora.

The canoes – joined together in pairs – are very stable and make for a safe activity for families with children. The Silva cooperative organizes different types of tours at dawn, in the afternoon and during full moon. My favourite one is, of course, the sunset paddle that includes a glass of white wine. The canoes are equipped with an electric motor if your group gets tired of rowing back upstream.

CANOE TOURS in the Maremma Park

Prices range from 20 to 35€ per person depending on activity (reduced rates for children up to 12 years).  Bring a hat, sunscreen and bottled water, and combine it with a bike ride or a swim.

 

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Venetian Cicchetti – the Cookbook

The first thing I do when I arrive in Venice? I head out for a glass of wine and a plate of sarde in saor. The sweet and sour preparation of sardines – often served on a slice of bread as a cicchetto – makes for a perfect introduction to the unique flavors of Venetian cooking.

Considering my love for bàcari, the backstreet bars where Venetians stop for ombre and cicchetti, I was overjoyed when Emiko Davies stayed at Palazzo Ca’nova while researching her latest cookbook.

Cinnamon and Salt: Cicchetti in Venice (Hardie Grant Books) is Emiko’s fifth Italian cookbook and her first about Venice. It is a great pleasure that some of the recipes in the book have been tested and photographed at the Lipparini apartment of Palazzo Ca’nova.

 

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Special Gem: a newly opened Palazzo on the Grand Canal

Whenever I’m on a vaporetto on the Canal Grande, I admire the facades of the palazzos lining it and wonder what’s behind them. Most of the buildings on the canal were the exquisite homes of the city’s patrician families. Some still are – as in the case of our Palazzo Ca’nova (a bit about its history here).

Some have been turned into museums. Palazzo Vendramin Grimani opened its doors to the public only last year. The Palazzo goes back to the 15th century and was lived in by the same family until 1959. It now belongs to a foundation. Having undergone complete restoration, it will host exhibitions.

In 2022, during the Venice Biennale of Art, the palazzo shows works of Bosco Sodi. The Brazilian artist prepared the show while staying at the palazzo and shared some enticing ‘behind the scenes’ on Instagram.

Palazzo Vendramin Grimani – April 23 to November 27, 2022 (closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays).

 

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DONATELLO, THE RENAISSANCE

In March 2022, the most important Donatello exhibition ever opens its doors in Florence. Over 50 museums from all over the world have lent works by the famous Renaissance master.

The exhibition takes place at Palazzo Strozzi and the Bargello museum, the permanent home of Donatello’s David. Works from Florence’s Basilica di San Lorenzo and Siena’s Cathedral have been moved for the first time and painstakingly restored for this occasion.

From September 2022, the exhibition will be on show in Berlin and in 2023 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. However, the works from Siena Cathedral and Basilica di San Lorenzo will be on show in Italy only.

DONATELLO, The Renaissance – Florence Palazzo Strozzi & Bargello museum, March 19 to July 31, 2022

 

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MY SECRET B&B TIP FOR THE MAREMMA

Last autumn, I took a little detour in Maremma. I had been at Il Priorato, one of excellence.villas’ high-end properties in southern Tuscany. Before heading back to Rome, I stopped for a coffee in the hilltop town Pereta.

I took a stroll through the pretty village and noticed a palazzo on the main square. It didn’t have a sign or a bell, but I marveled at its garden and the beautiful view from the town wall. “This type of setting,” I thought, “is exactly the sort of place I would love to call home.”

On the way back to my car, I checked Google Maps and to my surprise found a tag for a B&B with the enticing name “Locanda Sospesa” which could be freely translated to “floating boarding house.” Of course, the next time I was in the area, I booked myself a room there.

This is how I met Johnny and Elizabeth, the wonderful couple behind that secret door. During the first Covid lockdown, they left their corporate jobs in Rome and settled in Pereta, where Johnny had spent his childhood. Their two young daughters now go to the local school and Johnny and Elizabeth opened Locanda Sospesa to build a new life for themselves in the Tuscan countryside.

We had a lovely time and while Pereta’s beautiful palazzo may never be mine, I feel comforted now – it’s in good hands.

LOCANDA SOSPESA, Piazza San Marco 1, Pereta (GR).

 

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HOMO FABER VENICE

In April 2022, Venice will host Homo Faber, an international exhibition that champions artisanship from Europe, and this year also from Japan.

We’re especially excited about the opportunity Homo Faber provides to discover the workshops of Venetian artisans. To find a workshop (most are free) browse the ‘In Città’ section of the Homo Faber website, select a category (e.g., glassblowing or bookbinding) and book your spot early.

You can use the website as a resource even if you’re not in Venice this spring. It showcases some of the best artisans and workshops in town, and many of them offer visits and activities all-year round.

We found the workshop of Piero Dri like this. At Il Forcolaio Matto, the talented Venetian craftsman produces oars and forcolas, the crucial parts of any gondola.

HOMO FABER – from April 10 to May 1, 2022. Many of the 15 shows will take place in the beautiful spaces of the Giorgio Cini Foundation on Isola San Giorgio Maggiore.

 

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A VENETIAN RESTAURANT WITH VEGETARIAN TREATS

Are you a pescatarian? Or do you travel with friends who are vegetarians but you’d still like to try the famous fegato alla Veneziana (calf’s liver Venetian style)?

Osteria La Zucca in Venice has a varied and excellent menu that will make everybody happy.

Located in the Santa Croce neighborhood, the restaurant has a porta d’acqua, an entrance door right onto a canal. Hence it is easy to arrive by water taxi or gondola. And La Zucca’s elegant interiors are reminiscent of the precious woodwork on sailboats.

WHERE: Osteria la Zucca, 1762 Santa Croce, Venezia.

WHEN: We recommend La Zucca in summer and in winter. It is open for lunch and dinner. Closed on Sundays.  Make sure to check the current opening times and book several days ahead.

Phone +39 041 52 41 570 – www.lazucca.it

 

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Medici Villas and Gardens

Look what I’ve just found! A website about the 14 UNESCO heritage Medici villas and gardens in northern Tuscany. In the past, I visited many of them, but finding these properties required quite a bit of detective work. Thanks to the new Medici villas website, planning a visit has become much easier.

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A DAY AT THE 17th VENICE ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE

The inspiring 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale explores the most crucial question: “How will we live together?”

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