Tuscan Dreaming

By the end of February, winter starts to get old. The first crocuses are poking their heads above the soil and the air is starting to soften. The end is in sight but it can't come soon enough. When seed catalogs and gardening manuals fail to raise my spirits, my thoughts turn to the trip I took to Italy last May. The destination was an area of Tuscany called the Casentino, south-east of Florence in Arezzo province. The region is as beautiful as the rest of Tuscany, with castles, charming towns, monasteries, great hiking, and fabulous restaurants, but with one conspicuous difference: there are no crowds.

We stayed just outside of Poppi, considered one of the loveliest towns in Tuscany whose centerpiece is its well-preserved thirteenth century castle.

We spent our days exploring the countryside and some of the enchanting towns within striking distance like Stia, Anghiari, and Lucignano and even found that towns further afield like Assisi, Cortona and Montepulciano were perfectly manageable as day trips.

And of course there was the food - a never-ending procession of salumi, fine meats, great produce and amazing wines and cheeses.

Well, that cheered me up immensely - it's amazing the way that a few photos and some wonderful memories can change your mood.