#TatlerTravels: Explore Tuscany with insider tips from a regular, Cristina Cu.

As a freelance marketer and newbie entrepreneur with my first start up, www.heythreads.com - travel is the ultimate luxury treat that I look forward to. I love to sneak in a trip whenever I can find the time! While I love travelling to new countries, there are some that you can just never seem to tire of.

One of the places that has grown to be a special place for family and I is Tuscany, Italy. After over 10 years of spending holidays and sharing the place with countless friends and loved ones, it still never ceases to surprise us with its beauty and new interesting discoveries. A region filled with simple life pleasures - wine, rolling hillsides, leather and pasta - it's impossible for one not to enjoy. The area has a rejuvenating power and time seems to slow when you are here. Below is my curated shortlist of some of our favourite things to do in the area:

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Inherently intertwined in the region, not only as decorative rows on the beautiful hillsides, wine continues to resonate in its the culture and history. The region has long been notable for some of the best grapes and you will no doubt come across these 3 typical types of wines: Chianti, Brunello di Montecalcino, Vino Noble Montepulciano. All of which are primarily use Sangiovese grapes. One or our favorite activities is to spend the day driving around Chianti or Montalcino and going to wineries or enotecas (wine shops) we might find. You'll easily go home with more bottles than you anticipated so pace yourself. Some of our favorite wineries are Antinori, Ciacci Piccolomini di Aragona and Castello Banfi

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Bistecca Fiorentino

Tuscan food is homey, bright and seemingly simple yet filled with so much flavor. What I love most about it is how they allow the ingredients to truly shine in every dish. You can not leave the region without having a fantastic Bistecca Fiorentina and The Butcher of Panzano definitely does one of the best. Visit the eatery at Via XX Luglio, 11 50022 Panzano in Chianti. Order some all you can eat meat alongside delicious sides, it’s a fun experience you’ll no doubt enjoy!

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Truffles come in abundance in Tuscany. You absolutely can not leave without having one fresh truffle dish! One of the undisputed capitals of the world of Truffle, is the medieval town of San Miniato. Every winter they host the white truffle festival which is host to every truffle product imaginable. Should you find yourself in this town, try Ristorante Pepenero Gilberto Rossi for an amazing pasta with fresh white truffles or fried egg and truffle. 

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Medieval Towns

Driving around Tuscany is not only essential but the winding roads are part of the adventure of the region. While Florence is a must visit while you are in the region, I will speak of some of the slightly lesser known towns that are worth the drive. Scattered along the endless rolling hills are little towns nestled and preserved in original condition. Some of our favorites we enjoy to visit are Siena, San Gimignano, Civita di Bagnoregio. Each with their own assortment of boutique shops, homey restaurants and beautiful architecture.

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As an avid shopper, no trip to Tuscany is complete without a day at the Luxury Outlets.  As any experienced goer will tell you, The Mall ranks at the best. With everything from Prada & Gucci to YSL, Moncler & Burberry to name a few, you can get some fantastic finds without the typical luxury price tag. Located about 30min outside Florence, it’s an easy drive and well worth the trip.

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Foodie finds

Food is half the reason I look forward to the trip every year and there are endless restaurants to pick from. Some of which have shined for us over the years are the following; Sostanza, Firenze- A hard to get restaurant as it seats only about 20 per seating, do not leave without trying the butter chicken. Caffe Casolani, Casole de Elsa- Set menu created around what the local market has to offer for the day, everything is cooked by the original owner and served family style just as every great italian meal should be served. Last but not least Le Logge, Siena is a quaint restaurant that does a slightly more modern take on local flavors and ingredients which always delivers a fantastic experience.