Tuscany: A field of dreams (Photo courtesy: Dympna, Creative Commons)Whenever I watch the credits roll after (repeat) screenings of my favourite Italian-based movies, including "Room With a View," "The English Patient" and "Under the Tuscan Sun," I feel one of the major players is never properly thanked in the credits: Tuscany. In "A Room With a View," Tuscany, one of the most beautiful regions in Italy, holds its own up against star players such as Daniel Day Lewis, Judi Dench, Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith. And, in my view, Tuscany should get equal billing with Diane Lane and Sandra Oh in the feel-good "Under the Tuscan Sun." (Just a thought: put your TV on 'mute' and watch the closing scenes of "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "A Room With a View." You'll see what I mean. Leftover footage from those award-winning flicks could make for a wonderful travel show segment.)
Signature Cypress trees of Tuscany (Photo courtesy of Roman Harak/Creative Commons)The three things register about my first trip to Tuscany: the food (fresh, simple, and incredibly tasty), the scenery (freeze-frame the picnic scene in "A Room With a View" or hit rewind to that image of Diane Lane on the back of a scooter winding through the back lanes of Tuscany in "Under the Tuscan Sun") and the people (charming, effusive, anything but shy).
Follow in the footsteps of Diane Lane in "Under the Tuscan Sun"? (Photo courtesy of G Adventures)One of my fondest experiences in Tuscany was booking into a guest house which had a communal kitchen. It wasn't the financial benefit of cooking my own food on vacation that appealed to me, it was lure of having an excuse to shop in the local markets and village produce stands, to rub shoulders with local cooks, housewives and restaurant owners and discover the real food of Tuscany. I recall spending my mornings (with dictionary in hand) browsing through the best stalls, haggling for the ripest organic tomatoes, smelling my way through mountains of freshly-picked basil, fretting over the absolutely best cheese for my salad. Not speaking any Italian is never a problem. Shopping for food in Italy only requires your taste buds, endless hand gestures, a willing to taste whatever cheese or cured meat is offered to you, and, of course, a dose of passion. It's this hands-on experience you get in G Adventures' Local Living small-group trips, and it's definitely how you want to visit Southern Tuscany, Italy. Now's your chance for you and a friend to 'live like a local' in Southern Tuscany. Simply enter the G Adventures - Canadian Living Southern Tuscany contest. You'll join a small, like-minded group of travellers who also want to embrace la vita bella. The Southern Tuscany trip includes: • a hands-on cooking demonstration with your host Stefano • a half-day tour in Rome upon arrival • 5 nights at a family-owned agriturismo (farm house), where you'll tour the orchards, vineyards and olive oil cellars • a visit to Montalcino and Abbey Sant'Antimo, plus another half-day to Montepulciano (watch, or re-watch "A Room With A View," just saying!) • Lots of time in Chianciano Terme, a commune within Siena (which, by the way, is where "Romeo & Juliet" was originally based, rather than Verona. • plus, the grand prize includes round-trip airfare for two.
A room with a view: Staying with a local family-owned agriturismo puts you right in the heart of Southern Tuscany (Photo courtesy of G Adventures).
G Adventures' Local Living in Southern Tuscany trip includes a visit to the Benedictine Sant'Antimo Abbey near Montalcino (Photo courtesy of G Adventures).
Wander the olive grows and vineyards of your local host in Southern Tuscany – and sample all the products! (Photo courtesy of G Adventures).To enter to win, simply visit Live Like a Local in Southern Tuscany contest, which closes Nov. 28. Plus, discover how you can get 15% off all G Adventure trips to Italy.