Thursday, April 9, 2015

Discover the Art of Tuscan Living

What is it that draws people to Tuscany? For many it is a combination of qualities that are present in this beautiful region of Italy: the natural scenery, with postcard perfect landscapes of rolling hills covered with vineyards, olive groves and cypress trees; the excellent wine and food; the extraordinary art and history; the stunning architecture and monuments… but perhaps what tilts the scale is the mystique of the Tuscan Lifestyle. This intangible element is really the underlying attraction that seems to unite everyone in their love of Tuscany. 

In the collective imagination, Tuscany is somehow synonymous with “good living”. In many ways this is true. Here you are surrounded by beauty, which is probably why  Italians tend to take things slower - their meals, their encounters with others, their walks (known as strolls called passeggiate), but can you blame them? History permeates everything, making it easy to get caught up in the past - when things were less frenetic. Also, it is a reality that rushing down a cobblestone street can be downright dangerous! One false step and you risk breaking a leg (I speak from experience!) - so it’s best to slow down, even if you are a few minutes late reaching your destination. Other characteristics that surely interfere with speed are the quaint shops lining the streets (constantly inviting you to glance in their windows); the cafes everywhere, beckoning you to pop in for an espresso or a pastry; the beautiful architecture, where even the doorways and courtyards will catch your eye as you make your way through town. 

Yet, despite all the distractions, the locals do actually manage to live and work in Tuscany. In fact, it is one of Italy’s most productive regions. As a result, often they themselves forget to look up and appreciate their surroundings - because they are in a hurry to get to an appointment, catch a bus, reach the office, or whatever else normal residents do on a daily basis in the 21st century. However, fortunately most Tuscans do still recognize their good fortune of living in such an incredible place. They are the ones who proudly carry on the traditions of this land - despite all the obstacles (and there are many!) Among them are the artisans, farmers, shopkeepers, winemakers, and those who have restored ancient homes both in the city and the countryside, saving them from ruin and disrepair. 

You will also find a great number of passionate Tuscans working in the tourist industry, proud to show off their home and culture to visitors. They are the ones who do their job with integrity and a smile - making you feel welcome. Having looked behind the scenes, I can honestly say that for many it is truly a calling, as the effort required to do their jobs well is much greater than what one would expect. Italy still doesn’t support its local economy enough. Small entrepeneurs are faced with so much red tape and a mountain of challenges, making success very difficult. It is important to mention this aspect, because sometimes Italy’s tainted reputation clouds the general perspective on the existence of its honest hard-working population.

So my suggestion is, when you visit Tuscany, allow yourself to feel its vibe. Take time to enjoy the good life - even if it means not being able to do and see everything on your bucket list. Don’t rush or over-schedule, otherwise you’ll miss the best part of what this wonderful place has to offer. Leave room for the unknown, be spontaneous and love the journey as much as the destination. Chances are, no matter what, you will be left with the desire to return… that’s the magic of Tuscany! 

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