Nine Days of Wild Boar!

Certaldo is the epicenter for all things wild boar this weekend and next.  Cinghiale, or wild boar, is a traditional meat used in Tuscan cooking when it is not running wild and destroying the beautiful yards of villages.  This is a traditional feast offered with four courses for a fixed price.  Typical cinghiale dishes on the menu inclide: appetizers with wild boar salame; first courses of polenta, pappardelle pasta and fresh tortelli with wild boar sauce; second courses with wild boar steak or a wild boar and black olives.  Other traditional and vegetarian items are available for selection if cinghiale or meat are not preferred.  Side dishes include beans, salad or French fries.  The meal is finished with a sweet choice of cantuccini or gelato and topped off with a glass of local wine.

Certaldo is set about 35 miles southwest of Florence in the Tuscan countryside of Italy and is on the regional train line.  There are two parts to Certaldo: medieval Certaldo Alto (high) and modern Certaldo Basso (low); connected by a funicular.  The Sagra del Cinghiale Certaldo takes place on Viale Matteotti in Certaldo basso.  It starts Lunch is served at 12 noon on the weekends and dinner is at 8 pm every night of the festival at Certaldo also has a famous street art festival called Mercantia in July each year.

Cinghiale Indiano

Map Location Certaldo, Tuscany, Italy

Saga del Cinghiale Certaldo

Pro Loco Certaldo

Photo Credits:

Road to Palazzo Pretorio, Certaldo bongo vongo via / CC BY-SA
Palazzo Pretorio (close-up) natureandevents via / CC BY
Mercantia Celebration (July) Certaldo francesco sgroi via / CC BY
Cinghiale Walter Saporiti via / CC BY
Pici with Wild Boar Ragu Pug Girl via / CC BY
Pappardelle al Cinghiale karen_neoh via / CC BY




500 Years of Florentine Fireworks

Oxen Decorated with Flowers

Daytime fireworks, pageantry and excitement surround the centuries old Florentine tradition of Scoppio del Carro.  If you’re in Italy during “Holy Week” you will encounter Easter-related activities in progress in cities and small towns.  Of the many traditions that take place this weekend, the 500-year Florentine Scoppio del Carro is one of the most well-known.  “Scoppio del Carro” literally means explosion of the cart.  A 30-foot-tall antique cart called a Brindellone, also several hundred years old, is hauled by a team of oxen decorated with garlands of spring flowers.  150 people in 15th century dress escort the cart from Porta al Prato to Piazza del Duomo every Easter morning.

Costumed Procession for Scoppio del Carro

Easter Mass is held inside the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence’s Duomo) and at 10:00 AM a fire is lit using three flints brought back from Jerusalem during the First Crusade.  While the ceremony continues inside, the Brindellone is loaded with fireworks and staged outside the door of the cathedral.  A wire from the altar inside is connected to the cart and at 11:00 AM the ceremony reaches its crescendo.  Gloria in Excelsis Deo is sung, a mechanical dove is lit on fire and then it flies down the wire into the cart, igniting the fireworks.  The fireworks display lasts approximately 20 minutes and a successful execution guarantees a good harvest and business in the coming year.

Exploding the Cart in Front of Florence’s Duomo

Official Florence Tourism Website – Event Information <p><a href="">Scoppio del Carro</a> from <a href="">Storm Nylen</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>” target=”_blank”>Scoppio del Carro Video

Photo Credits:
Oxen Decorated with Flowers via / CC BY-ND
Exploding of the Cart in Front of Florence’s Duomo   moniko moniko via / CC BY-SA
Costumed Procession for Scoppio del Carro   Erica Schoonmaker via / CC BY-ND








Viareggio’s Carnevale by the Sea

8689955524_8d87d508c3_bIf you didn’t make it to Mardi Gras in New Orleans to celebrate Fat Tuesday, hop over to the Tuscan Coast of Italy for one of four remaining carnival parades. Multiple carnival celebrations take place throughout Italy at this time each year. What makes the 143 year old #CarnevalediViareggio special is its size and artistic pageantry. Over 200,000 spectators attend the month-long series of events showcasing fabulous floats along 3 kilometers of the palm-tree lined promenade by the sea.

Since 1873, when the parade began with decorated carriages along the Via Regia, this carnival parade entertains with effigies of (in)famous people, sports athletes and politicians who are sometimes in attendance to view the spectacle. There are a total of five masked parades; the next three Sundays and the first Saturday in March are the remaining dates in 2016. In addition to the parades filled with larger than life floats, there are daytime and nighttime festivities including parties and masked balls. On the final day judges award the best floats and cap off the event with a large fireworks display.

Preparing for this $5 million event involves a lot of planning and preparation. “La Cittadella” is a building and event complex housing 2 museums and 16 warehouses; the warehouses are utilized by masters of paper-mâché to create the gigantic floats. One museum displays the history and pageantry of the carnival celebration, the other, ”Carnevalotto”, displays a collection of valuable works of art.

Viareggio is located north of Pisa on the Tyrhennian coast and is a relatively short train ride from Pisa, Lucca & Florence. Daily tickets are 18 Euros for 12 + over, 13 Euros for ages 7-12 and children under 7 are free. Reserved seating is available for an additional 10 Euro per person.

Carnevale di Viareggio Official Website

#CarnevalediViareggio #carnevale #viareggio #lisalovestotravel @travelwithlisa

Photo Credits:

Carnival Float Heads: alexandraalisa via / CC BY
Carnival Float Clown: joolia. via / CC BY
Carnival Float Pig: joolia. via / CC BY
Carnival Float Faces: via / CC BY
Carnival Float Dinosaur Skeleton: via / CC BY
Carnival Float T-Rex: Lorenzo Bl via / CC BY-ND
Carnevale Enthusiasts: Visit Tuscany via / CC BY
Burlamacco: HHA124L via / CC BY






Four Weekends of Fun: Truffles in the Heart of Tuscany

Tagliatelle with Truffles
Tagliatelle Pasta with Shaved Truffles; [Photo credit: jit bag / / CC BY]

This is the second of four weekends of fun in San Miniato. During the “45th Mostra Mercato Nazionale Del Tartufo Bianco Di San Miniato”, you can sample food designed to highlight this expensive fungus. Shaved over pasta, infused in oil, truffled pecorino cheese, truffle tapenade; the variety of truffle products and dishes available practically ensures there’s a truffle in your future.

These precious white truffles command quite a price; approximately $1,200 per pound! They pack a punch of flavor in every bite and it doesn’t take much to flavor a dish. In addition to the restaurants and street food showcasing these tubers, there are cooking demonstrations, a market and parades (consult the program at the link below for schedule and locations).

San Miniato Buildings
San Miniato Buildings
[Photo credit: <a href=””>Michela Simoncini</a> / <a href=””></a&gt; / <a href=””>CC BY</a>]

Even if you aren’t a fan of these fabulous fungi, the drive to San Miniato is a scenic treat and convenient to other places you might like to visit. Sitting atop three hilltops of Tuscan fall splendor, San Miniato traces its origins back to the Paleolithic area. The Romans knew it as Quarto and has a strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes: Pisa to the West, Florence to the East, Lucca to the North and Siena to the South. The FONDAZIONE SAN MINIATO PROMOZIONE has produced and excellent brochure outlining the various attractions and highlights of San Miniato; a link is included below.

San Miniato Area Landscape
View of San Miniato Area Landscape
[Photo credit: <a href=””>anniejay</a&gt; / <a href=””></a&gt; / <a href=””>CC BY-SA</a>]


San Miniato Information

45th San Miniato Truffle Fair Brochure

San Miniato Brochure

The Fabulous Feast of the Thrush – Montalcino, Italy

Photo Credit: ViaggioRoutard / Foter / CC BY
Trumpeter in Costume During the Parade Procession Sagra del Tordo, Montalcino – Photo Credit: <ahref=””>ViaggioRoutard / Foter / CC BY

Since 1958 the last weekend in October is marked with pageantry, camaraderie, competition and food in the southern tuscan hilltown of Montalcino.  I attended the Sagra del Tordo (Feast of the Thrush) in October, 2011 and was not disappointed.  From the first drumroll and blasts of trumpets, through the parade of about 150 locals and the archery competition, there wasn’t a dull moment.  It is evocative of hunting traditions of the past when hunters and falconers would go into the woods, bring back their spoils and everyone would feast, noblemen and commoners alike.

Piazza del Popolo, Montalcino - Photo credit: yashima / Foter / CC BY-SA
Piazza del Popolo, Montalcino – Photo credit: yashima / Foter / CC BY-SA

Surrounded by the golden, late fall sunshine and colorful leaves that mark autumn in this region we established our place on the parade route and watched as participants paraded through town making various stops along the way to the fortress.  It was the first (and only) time I have ever been up close and personal with two ghostly Chianina bulls; they dwarfed me as they walked past pulling a cart, I don’t even think I came up to their shoulders!  The Chianina produce the Bistecca Fiorentina, a massive steak served throughout the region and Italy.

Chianina Cow & Calf - Photo credit: Monica / Foter / CC BY
Chianina Cow & Calf – Photo credit: Monica / Foter / CC BY

Montalcino is split into four neighborhoods (quartiere) each with their own tribal colors: Borghetto (white and red), Pianello (white and blue), Ruga (yellow and blue) and Travaglio (yellow and red).  During the celebration two archers from each quartiere compete in an archery competition.  The losers suffer insults and jokes of the winning team for the next year.  Each quartiere also has a food booth in the main park “Giardini Impero” outside of the Fortezza serving several courses of food; you can pick and choose what you buy from each and eat at the picnic tables provided.  The food is great, inexpensive and best of all, local.  Let’s not forget, this is the home of the famed Brunello di Montalcino, a hearty Tuscan red that’s produced with 100% sangiovese grapes.  Try the wine at one of the food stands or venture into one of the many tasting rooms located around town and at the Fortezza.

Photo credit: mava / Foter / CC BY-SA
Fortezza, Montalcino – Photo credit: mava / Foter / CC BY-SA

Pro Loco Montalcino Tourism

Sagra del Tordo 2015 Full Itinerary