ACTIVITIES IN AND AROUND THE VAL DI CHIANA There is an embarrassment of choice with regard to fairs, events and activities found in Tuscany. The Region lists over two hundred in the month of May alone, of which 119 are in the Cignella area (Val di Chiana). FOOD Each little town offers a fair at least once a year featuring local food and wine. As an example San Giovani d’Asso is the centre of the truffle area. Its annual fair offers truffles for sale, truffles to eat on pasta or meat and a Museum of the Truffle. You can learn the difference between white truffles and black truffles, how to conserve truffles, you can purchase a truffle slicer or books on cooking with truffles. Pienza specialises in cheeses. Every day you can visit shops where cheeses have been buried in a barrel of aromatic herbs for a year or more, visit a little bar where you are served a plate of cheeses together with special jams, very light mustard, and the owner will recommend what goes with what. You learn that some of the best food costs next to nothing to make: Bruscetta with no topping, or spaghetti con aglio, olio e peperoncino. At Cetona you can visit 20 farms that offer tastings of their own produce whilst a Tavolo con il Mondo offers courses in local cooking. WINE Like food wine is an obsession in Tuscany. Most serious wine Fattorias welcome visitors with a free wine tasting or for a few Euros you can have a tasting, tour of the cellars and a small snack. At many Enotecas you can sample half a dozen local wines one against the other with no obligation to purchase. Siena has its own ‘Wine Week’ , seven days of tastings which are both free and guided. You learn that production of controlled wines like Brunello is limited per acre, wine evaporates in the cellars during production, wine makers therefore overproduce to be sure of fulfilling their allowed quota but cannot sell the overproduction as a labelled wine, hence it is sold ‘sfuso’, which means you bring your own container, buy by the litre and bottle it back at the house. Simple bottling tools are sold in any ironmonger’s shop; sfuso can be very good. A self education in wine is an adventure. CULTURAL TOURS In Siena and Chiusi you can visit the underground passages and the water system, a town under the town - a true marvel of medieval engineering. Every Sunday there is a guided tour of places normally not open to the public around Castelnuovo Berardegna ending in a visit to a wine fattoria for a tasting of wines and local foods. Participants are given discounts in local restaurants and shops. In Montepulciano concerts are given in the Palazzo Contucci. Each concert is preceded by a guided tour of the Palazzo which includes the 12th century wine cellars, the huge kitchens where you taste the family wine (the Nobile di Montepulciano) and local produce, the entrance of the Renaissance Palazzo designed by Antonio di Sangallo the Elder and ends in the Ballroom with frescoes by Andrea Pozzo. MUSIC From classical music to jazz there are a huge number of occasions to hear music, especially during the summer months when concerts are arranged out of doors. Most concerts include either a dinner or at least wine and snacks. Many well known musicians and orchestral players have a house in Tuscany, many more visit for the summer and they form the basis of the summer festivals in this area. EVENTS The famous Mille Miglia road race is remembered with a three day procession of classic cars that drive the whole 1,000 mile course. You can follow the evolution of the automobile from the earliest Renaults of 1905 through to the huge Bentleys and Mercedes of the 1930’s to the Lamborginis and Feraris of a later era. Choose one of the official stopping places and you can see the cars close up. Certain restaurants border the route and you can while away many an hour, glass of wine in hand, watching the cars go by. You can take a balloon trip and float over Tuscany’s little changed landscape to end with a champagne lunch. You can spend a lazy afternoon watching polo, horse racing, steeple-chasing or a more energetic one trying to get a good viewing point for the infamous Palio horserace in Siena.