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.

 

Katharina's Italy

YUMMY HUMMUS IN THE MAREMMA

What do Syria and Tuscany have in common? Well, probably several things, but for sure a passion for great food! A few weeks ago, I partook in a Tuscan-Syrian lunch at the Chimera d’Albegna, a small winery founded by a Florentine family and located a few cables’ length away from the Marsiliana estate, one of our long-established holiday rentals in the Maremma.

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TESTING WATERS IN TUSCANY

Ah, springtime!… Longer days, blooming trees, twirling swallows and, above all, – I may have mentioned this to you before – my very first swim of the year in the Mediterranean!

This inaugural sea dip usually takes place in April somewhere on the Tuscan coast. This year, though, because of a persistent cold North wind, it looked as if this ritual might have to be postponed to some later date. But having finally decided against any rain check, my family and I tried our luck at one of the South-facing bays on the Monte Argentario peninsula, and found nothing else there than a little patch of paradise…

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LIVORNO’S GREAT SNACK

Every once in a while – and always when I’m embarking on a New Year – I feel the urge to gorge myself on a delicious cecina, a chickpea flatbread which is the typical street food of Liguria and Northern Tuscany.

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TOUCHING WOOD…

I really love giving books as Christmas presents, especially books about Italian art, handicrafts, touring, food and wine. And there won’t be any exception to the rule this year, since I’ll be offering to three of my friends the beautiful “Woodworking : Traditional Craft for Modern Living”.

The authors of this book, Andrea Brugi and Samina Langholz, an Italo-Danish husband-and-wife duo, very nicely show how anyone, without the tools or expertise of an artisan, and by blending Tuscan elegance with the sleek lines of Scandinavian design, can turn bits of reclaimed wood into stools, egg cups, clothes racks, and what have you.

Exclusively crafted in their Maremma workshop, Andrea and Samina’s olive wood creations can be found on their website, in selected shops around the world, and on their Instagram.

 

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An Autumn Swim in the Mediterranean

They are everywhere… Over the last twenty years, the monotonous Monobloc – a lightweight stackable polypropene chair, often white in colour – has proliferated like mushrooms all over the world, and most noticeably at beach bars and seaside resorts.

The numbers make your head spin: a billion Monoblocs have been sold in Europe alone, and I’m told that one Italian manufacturer turns out 10 million units a year!

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One of Italy’s Most Beautiful Food Markets

I have always loved wandering in the aisles of markets, covered or open-air ones.

So when I found out, in Giulia Scarpaleggia’s excellent cookbook, From the Markets of Tuscany, that Livorno’s market is probably the liveliest and most impressive in the whole of Italy, I decided it was high time for a visit.

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A Sweet Pre-Latin Aperitivo in Vetulonia

Before moving to the bel paese, I had barely heard about the Etruscans, a rich and remarkable civilization who flourished in ancient Italy until they were conquered and assimilated by the more powerful Latin polity.

The ancient Romans often referred to them as the “Tusci”, from which “Tuscany” has been derived. They also borrowed from them many of their ingenious inventions in agriculture and road construction.

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My Sweet Tuscan October

“Designers want me to dress like Spring, in billowing things. I don’t feel like Spring. I feel like a warm red Autumn…”

These words – which I can easily relate to – were delivered during the 1950s by Norma Jeane Mortenson, also known as Marilyn Monroe.

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A Cool Place to Visit this Summer

The Leaning Tower of Pisa… Who has not seen it, at least in pictures, and tried to imagine what it feels like to be at its top, precariously tilting some 50 meters above ground?!… The prospect of such a thrill will definitely make your children pull you by the arm: “Mum, Dad, let’s climb up there!”

But in the high season, when you’re assailed with the hot spells and sightseeing hordes, even the most magnetic landmarks get a lot less attractive – to youngsters and grown-ups alike! So it’s always nice to have in store satisfactory alternatives.

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