120 Hours in Tuscany – What to See, Eat & Do

Italy

It’s a clear day in Tuscany as warm sunlight blankets a stretch of chartreuse green. Italian cypresses line the roads, curving through hilly grasslands to unending vineyards, solitary hilltop towns, and saffron-coloured farmlands. At the brink of twilight, a nonna (Italian grandmother) is calling out to her family for dinner as she brings out the feast.

Tuscany is the crown jewel of the Italian tourism scene, and many have swamped the accessible cities where the tourist buses go. Yet, there is an understated beauty that still lurks in uncharted territories that surprises at every bend of the road. 

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THE WINERIES

Many associate Tuscany to its thriving wineries – after all, the undulating countryside of well-manicured greens are a result of vineyards and wineries that have been around since the 8th century. Drinkers and non-drinkers alike wine trip through this hilly region in search of the Tuscan reds. Castello della Paneretta stands tall in the Chianti region, where you can take a tour through the castle grounds. A wine tasting there includes pairing the wines with bread, cheeses and cold cuts.

Drive through the cypress-lined path to Poggio Antico for their Brunello di Montalcino wines. If you can spare a meal in the country, head to the winery’s restaurant to feast on Tuscan flavours and uninterrupted views.

For the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, head to Azienda Agricola Poliziano. You will be taken through the vineyards and cellars before the wine tasting. 

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THE TOWNS

Pecks of old-world towns dot the hilltops – a stop at any one of these is a must, to get acquainted with the Tuscan vibe. Many speak of glorious towns like Siena, Pisa and Lucca, but it’s the unsung hero towns that give you a peek into the people’s everyday lives. A long way down south of Florence is Pienza, home to pecorino cheese. Pienza has some of the best views of the Val d’Orcia due to its high vantage point. A visit to any of the cheesemongers there will get you stocking up on a plethora of cheeses (truffle cheese, pistachio cheese, and what have you). Just a few kilometres east and west of Pienza are the towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino for impromptu wine tastings at bars and more stunning views. 

Hands down, the best way to stumble into an obscure town is to drive aimlessly, not caring where you end up in. That is the spirit of exploring Tuscany – to let it surprise you. 

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THE FOOD

When it comes to Tuscan food, it has got to be meats, cheeses, olive oil, and plenty of good wine. Tuscany is one of the few regions in Italy where you can find Chianina cattle. This fabled beef is what makes a mouthwatering piece of Florentine steak. Ragus (meat based sauce) are what Tuscans pride themselves on. Ground meats are stewed for hours with tomatoes, celeries and carrots, and served spooned over homemade pappardelle sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese. For more on what to eat here, check out the eating guide

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ROOMS

The expanse of the Tuscan countryside means that there is plenty of room for country houses, which were erected during the days of old. Over time, these copious dwellings have been converted into swanky bed and breakfasts for travellers. On top of being a winery, Castello della Paneretta has a villa that can house ten to eleven people next to acres of sprawling vineyards. Never mind the sheer size of the villa or the glistening swimming pool, it’s the ambrosial meals cooked by the hosts that guests rave about. If you want to take home a recipe or two, you can always go for the cooking class. 

For those who love the city and everything abuzz, Le Tre Nonne in Florence is an affordable accommodation with antique rooms and a hearty Florentine host who’s more than happy to share with you every nook and cranny of the artistic city. 

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The Eating Guide to Matera, Italy

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There’s something about Matera that makes the town an enigma; church bells ringing poetically at the crack of dawn, dusty alleys leading to houses carved into rocks, the haunting silence when the town lights up for the night. Either way, its presence draws outsiders in like a moth to a flame.

Once shut out to the outside world, Matera has been gaining traction as a tourist spot since biblical movies – and one popular film The Passion of the Christ – made the town its setting. Dig deeper into the intricate network of cave dwellings (Sassi) and you’ll see that the town is littered with trattorias and restaurants. Tourists have yet to discover Matera in full, so the food is still steeped in tradition. 

Look forward to: Sausages, lamb and salumi

Kapunto 

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Where: Via Lucana, 178, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Raviolis
For: Affordable lunches

In traditional Matera, Kapunto shines bright in its modern approach to serving fresh pastas. Every morning, pastas and raviolis are handmade and laid out in all shapes and sizes. Pick the pasta that catches your eye, followed by the sauce (butter and sage, bolognese, pomodoro, rapeseed, or black chickpea and octopus cream) to go with it. If you ask the waiter, he would recommend the right sauce for your choice of ravioli. 

Il Cantuccio 

Where: Via delle Beccherie, 33, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Specials of the day
For: Lucanian cuisine

Lucanian food is the bread and butter of Il Cantuccio, a small-scale restaurant holed up in a back alley. The seasonal specials are the ones to watch – minced meat ravioli with senise peppers, chickpeas with porcini mushrooms, or goat’s milk ricotta with fig. One of the restaurant owners tends the tables, and he would gladly share the origins of their seasonal ingredients from the region. 

L’Abbondanza Lucana 

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Where: Via Bruno Buozzi, 11, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Pistachio pasta
For: Smart dinners

You might have to crouch a little to get past the entrance – L’Abbondanza Lucana is housed inside a cave structure. Impeccable service and an exquisite menu reimagined from traditional Lucanian cuisine are what makes this restaurant favoured for corporate dinners and fancy dates. Meals normally start with a glass of prosecco and the chef’s seasonal appetiser, before you indulge in dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. 

I Vizi degli Angeli

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Where: Via Domenico Ridola, 36, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Gelato
For: An ice cream stop

If you have ever stepped onto the main square of Matera, you would have wandered into I Vizi degli Angeli after witnessing the periodic queues. Delightfully rare gelato flavours are what you’ll get at this gelato laboratory – apple and celery, pineapple, avocado and lemon, red wine, and ricotta. The gelato comes in a cup, cone, soaked in coffee syrup, or even wedged between a slice of bread. 

Trattoria I Due Sassi 

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Where: Via Ospedale Vecchio, 1, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Lamb
For: Affordable dinners

Eat well and affordably at Trattoria I Due Sassi, an old-fangled trattoria that does homely Lucanian food that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. A platter of local cheeses, salumi and pickled vegetables (the best way to taste Basilicata’s produce) will set you back €12. For the best lamb, this trattoria’s version falls right off the bone. 

The Eating Guide to the Amalfi Coast, Italy

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The Hollywood guest list at the Amalfi Coast is a never-ending story; the coast is a perennial favourite amongst A-listers for its glamourous Italian beaches, opulent hotels, and of course, divine seafood. The Amalfi Coast is made up of almost 80 km of twisting roads, soaring cliffs, and views that get exceedingly beautiful at every turn. 

In summer, days at the coast are long and languid. Stare into the deep blue ocean and you’ll see fishing boats bring in their catch of the day, which will end up on your plate at dinnertime. While you’re on the Amalfi Drive, you’ll find yourself pulling up at unexpected stops for a photo moment. Just by the side of a curb, a man is selling freshly squeezed lemonade. That’s la dolce vita for you. 

Look forward to: Seafood

La Strada 

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Where: Via Gennaro Capriglione, 178, 84010 Praiano SA, Italy
What: Seafood risotto
For: Romantic dinners

You will find La Strada tucked along the narrow streets of Praiano. There, a staircase at the back hides a surprisingly spacious, panoramic terrace on the second floor. Run by the Gagliano family, most of the menu is dependent on what the family’s trawler brings in from sea. The seafood risotto is outstanding, and other seafood dishes such as prawns and fish come with lemon dressings. 

Casa e Bottega

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Where: Viale Pasitea, 100, 84017 Positano SA, Italy
What: Clean food
For: Breakfasts and mid-day snacks

Casa e Bottega is bringing the clean food trend to Positano by introducing organic ingredients to its menu. You’ll find freshly squeezed juices, smoothie bowls, homemade cakes, natural gelato, and an elaborate breakfast menu. They give a healthy dose of vegetables to each dish, and you’ll even find that the eggs come with cucumbers. The café also doubles up as a shop, and you can buy fish-patterned ceramics and fabrics there. 

Saraceno d’Oro

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Where: Via Pasitea, 254, 84017 Positano SA, Italy
What: Vongole pasta
For: Casual lunches

Have a meal at Saraceno d’Oro, and you’ll feel like you’re family. This family-run restaurant tops the list for reasonable prices and quality in Positano. The atmosphere is casual, and you’re most likely going to enjoy your vongole pasta while the waiter shares with you the history and ownership of the restaurant. 

Franco’s Bar

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Where: Via Cristoforo Colombo, 30, 84017 Positano SA, Italy
What: Steaks
For: Pre-dinner drinks

Franco’s Bar is the bona fide watering hole – no food, just drinks and nibbles to complement. The open space is utterly chic, glamourised by splashes of gold and royal blue. Come before 6 pm (the bar’s opening time) to get a front row view of houses tumbling down Positano’s cliff. It’s insanely photogenic. 

Mimi’s Pizzeria

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Where: Via S. Francesco, 12, 84010 Ravello SA, Italy
What: Pizzas
For: Casual lunches

Despite being hidden from the main square at Ravello, Mimi’s Pizzeria still gets swarms of patrons hungry for pizzas freshly baked in a wood fired oven. You won’t go wrong with the classic margherita – just tomato, mozzarella and basil on fluffy, thin crusts. If the classics bore you, go for the Mimi’s specials such as pizza with ricotta stuffed crust, tomatoes, mozzarella and olive oil. 

La Bonta del Capo

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Where: Via I Maggio, 14, 84010 Conca dei Marini SA, Italy
What: Lemon ravioli
For: Beef

You will need a car to get to La Bonta del Capo, where chef Fiore Oliveto’s lemon ravioli is the star of the menu. Stuffed with lemon zest and ricotta cheese, this ravioli dish is undoubtedly light and works as a sharing dish so you won’t have to miss out on the other seafood dishes. Choose the outdoor seating area that juts out into the ocean, and you’ll know the drive up the narrow road is well worth it. 

Villa Maria

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Where: Via Santa Chiara, 84010 Ravello SA, Italy
What: Vongole pasta with chickpeas
For: Smart dinners

Situated above a garden terrace, the Villa Maria mansion stands out as one of the remaining old world Italian residences in Ravello. The tables in the al fresco restaurant are housed under a canopy, with a view of Ravello’s stunning terraces. The garden is where the chef picks out fresh ingredients. There’s nothing standard about the menu – carbonara with salmon instead of pancetta, vongole paired with chickpeas. Take a walk inside the hotel’s sitting area to marvel at the marble-clad interiors. 

Kasai

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Where: Via Umberto I, 84, 84010 Praiano SA, Italy
What: Seafood
For: Casual dinners

You can’t stay past a day in Praiano without your host whispering to you that Kasai is Praiano’s finest restaurant. The menu is predominantly seafood (well, it is the Amalfi Coast after all), so don’t waste it on a chicken thigh. You can have your fill with the €25 daily set, which includes a starter, first course and main course. 

La Moressa

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Where: Via moressa 1, 84010 Praiano SA, Italy
What: Homemade sausages
For: Breakfast

La Moressa will satisfy your craving for a good ol’ English breakfast. The homemade sausages are very old fashioned – grilled ground pork shaped into irregular patties. Eggs are rare for breakfasts in Italy, but this café does them fried and as sunny side ups. And bacon, well, it comes in the form of grilled pancetta, but we’re definitely not complaining.