Eat, Pray, Love… A Tribute to Hidden Tuscany

Eat, Pray, Love… A Tribute to Hidden Tuscany

Tuscany is by far the most famous Italian region among foreign travelers, still it is mainly identified with Florence, Siena, and the Chianti hills. There are many hidden treasures in the Serchio Valley, an area comprised between Pisa and Lucca. Less glamorous but more authentic, it can make you feel living like a local.


Casa Gentili, in Avane (PI)

I just spent a few wonderful days in this part of Tuscany which I knew very little and was charmed by its understated beauty and the unique hospitality of the people. There’s so much to tell but, for now, I wished to pay a first tribute through images to the Serchio Valley and three of its main characteristics: Food, Art, Hospitality.  Or in other words, Eat, Pray, Love


Don’t ever think of staying on a diet. Believe me, it is absolutely im-pos-si-ble! Food is awesome, and there are plenty of cosy places where you can find local organic products of great quality and wonderful taste. Want to see a few examples?

Pizza con il lardo di Colonnata (pure pork fat!) is one of the most popular at Lo Zenzero, a lovely wine bar in Vecchiano (about 8 km North of Pisa). Once you taste it, you won’t be surprised: it is delicious!


Pizza with Lardo di Colonnata. One of the Top Hits at Lo Zenzero (Vecchiano – PI)


Brigidini are traditional Tuscan biscuits, owing their name and recipe to a nun named Brigida.

One day, Brigida messed up the batter to make hosts and to avoid wasting the batter the nuns decided to flavor it with anise and other flavors, thus creating a new kind of biscuits. We cooked them in the fireplace at Casa Gentili using a very old tool similar to a long pincer with to flat metal dishes at the end where you put small balls of batter. The best way to taste Brigidini? With a good glass of Vin Santo, the traditional dessert wine!


Brigidini at Casa Gentili


Gelato… Ice Cream and granita at Gelateria De Coltelli in Pisa are simply sublime. They are handmade following the ancient tradition and recipes, using only local organic seasonal products. And the taste is… there are no words to describe it. You just have to taste it by yourself.



A journey in Italy wouldn’t be complete without pasta. I will remember for a long time the delicious Tortelli with ragù sauce prepared by Cuoche in Vacanza during their lovely show cooking at Casa Gentili. Not to speak of the Tagliatelle with artichokes.


Tortelli! By Cuoche in Vacanza


Another Tuscan specialty that should not be missed is the Zuppa di farro, a thick soup made of red beans, spelt, rosemary and served with local extra-virgin olive oil. I tasted a very good one at Ristorante La Cecca, a well-known place in the outskirts of Lucca.


Zuppa di Farro, Ristorante La Cecca


Most traditional dishes are very simple, and their taste is all about the quality of the ingredients. You can taste exquisite organic olive oil, cheese, honey and jam at Agriturismo Spazzavento, while enjoying the stretch of olive trees and the view over the valley.


Local Organic Products at Agriturismo Spazzavento


The proximity of the Vatican and the Pope can be found everywhere in Italy: Churches, Monasteries, Convents, Religious paintings and sculptures are disseminated throughout the country. The Calci Charterhouse (Certosa di Calci, 10 km from Pisa), is an extremely well preserved Carthusian Monastery dating back to 1366-67 whose beauty will leave you speechless.


The Calci Charterhouse

Our excellent guide from Pisatour introduced us to the extremely austere life of the monks living in total seclusion and to the wonderful frescoes decorating the refectory and other public spaces.


The Calci Charterhouse, Frescoes


The old Nicosia Monastery, dating back to 1267, has been abandoned in the 1970’s and since then has undergone a progressive deterioration. In 2004, a few volunteers of the area established an Association called Nicosia Nostra with the objective to preserve an important piece of the local historical heritage. Thanks to the impressive work by the volunteers, the monastery has been partially cleaned and the cloisters have been reconditioned and today it hosts several events, the most famous of which is the Festa delle Camelie celebrating the blooming camellias in the cloister.


Nicosia Monastery (Nicosia Nostra)


Despite the clouds and the rain, visiting Lucca the day Italy was celebrating its 150th Birthday (March 17, 2011) was a unique experience. Everywhere the city was decorated with the tricolored Italian flag and there was a wonderful sense of joy among the people filling the small streets and the old squares.


Lucca, Flag Wavers. Celebrating Italy’s 150th Birthday

The most memorable moment was the show by the flag weavers, wearing the traditional medieval costumes. I couldn’t stop looking at the graciously dancing flags, an enchanting performance.


Proud to be Italian. Italy’s 150th Birthday

This trip was all about sharing experiences and discover off-the-beaten-path itineraries. Emilio and Serena from Eco-guide guided us on a lovely bike tour on Lucca walls and along the old aqueduct in the outskirts and we were rewarded for the effort with an excellent ice-cream.


Biking along Lucca Aqueduct

Having a good time around the table, savoring the fresh local products and sharing the love of the locals for their land and traditions is one of the things that makes a tour in the Serchio Valley such a beautiful and enriching experience.



Featured image: Massaciuccoli – Oasi Lipu. Photo by David Gemignani

  • Pingback:The Sanctuary of Monte Senario in Tuscany, Wallpaper
    Posted at 17:02h, 29 December Reply

    […] how much there is to see in Tuscany besides Florence, Siena and Pisa, as it happened when I visited the area between Pisa and Lucca, discovering hidden treasures like the stunning Calci […]

  • Charu
    Posted at 16:46h, 01 October Reply

    So beautiful! I need to spend a lot more time in Tuscany and thank you for the foodie highlights!

    • Simon
      Posted at 09:58h, 02 October Reply

      I particularly like Tuscany off the beaten track, in areas that are not yet overflown by tourists. I guess you should spend more time in these parts of the region 🙂

  • crazy sexy fun traveler
    Posted at 21:59h, 12 April Reply

    I loved that movie and the Italian cuisine is my favorite 🙂

  • Dream Travel Vacation
    Posted at 00:45h, 09 July Reply

    Big mistake to read your blog while I am hungry. The pictures showing each dish or sweets in Tuscany looked absolutely delicious and mouth watering! 🙂

  • Jeff Titelius
    Posted at 21:00h, 12 June Reply

    Great overview on this overlooked region of Tuscany. I had no idea it existed until your article and appetizing images brought it life for all of us. Amazing food pics…I am craving Italian, authentic Italian from Tuscany!!!! Ciao!!

  • The GypsyNesters
    Posted at 20:26h, 20 April Reply

    Always love seeing more of Italy. Thanks for the photos.Tuscany is wonderful but I don’t think I can choose a favorite region. Love the Piedemonte, Calabria, Lombardia… etc. Going back in June and can hardly wait.

    • waitinginthedark
      Posted at 21:03h, 21 April Reply

      Where are you going in June? If you happen to stop over in Milan, let me know! 🙂

  • jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World
    Posted at 19:11h, 23 March Reply

    Beautiful shots. It reminds us that we’ve never had a bad meal when we were in Italy. I honestly don’t know how the people there manage to stay slim and beautiful.

    • waitinginthedark
      Posted at 20:40h, 24 March Reply

      Er… I am neither slim nor beautiful 🙂 Now I understand why…

  • Zablon Mukuba
    Posted at 17:11h, 22 March Reply

    i would be stuck on eating, the food and ice cream looks delicious

    • waitinginthedark
      Posted at 08:47h, 23 March Reply

      Indeed they are. Exquisite food and sublime ice-cream…

  • De' Coltelli
    Posted at 18:52h, 21 March Reply

    Thank you so much for your review! We’re really glad that you appreciate our ice-cream! Kisses from Pisa!

    • waitinginthedark
      Posted at 23:37h, 21 March Reply

      I loved your ice cream!!! Can’t wait to come back to get some more! 🙂 Cheers from Milan!

  • Abi
    Posted at 13:53h, 21 March Reply

    Wow – love the photo of the two flag wavers. A really good contrast of colours…

    • waitinginthedark
      Posted at 23:38h, 21 March Reply

      Thank you Abi. Couldn’t say how the picture came out. It just… came out! 🙂 But nothing comparable to your wonderful pictures!

  • KathrynTravels
    Posted at 10:25h, 21 March Reply

    Wow – what gorgeous photos Simon! I feel like I’m really there…and have to admit I kind of wish I was 🙂 Looks like it was a wonderful experience!


    • waitinginthedark
      Posted at 11:20h, 21 March Reply

      Thank you Kathryn, glad you liked the photos. And I have so many more that I will post in the future! The trip was a great experience. We’ve seen s many different things and had so much fun. More to come soon so… stay tuned! 🙂

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