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Ochre, terracotta and any existing shade of burnt sienna are the colours that come to mind when thinking of the famous rolling hills. However, for a few months each year, the Tuscan landscape doesn't look like something coming out of a pottery workshop, but like Ireland in summer. Minus the rain. And the Guinness.  TUSCANY IN SPRING It won't last though. Unless Tuscany's warm season is unusally wet like the  incredibly rainy summer 2014 , the landscape will look like this by the end of spring.
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Tuscan olive trees waiting for adoption... Dreaming of an olive grove in Tuscany?  Forget the grove, it's going to break your back - I speak from first-hand experience  - but adopt a tree instead. Or twenty. Or more.  Olive trees in the park nearly ready for the harvest in October and November  A group of farmers in southern Tuscany are reclaiming 30'000 abandoned olive trees (yes, that's a lot of trees). These are all located in beautiful groves close to or right in Maremma's nature park . Also known as Parco dell'Uccellina, the nature reserve is a wonderful place to visit in person.  As an adoptive parent, you'll be taken for a private tour to the groves. However, you won't have to learn how to properly position a ladder to harvest or prune the trees. Instead, you can hug your adoptee and then spend the rest of the day hiking or swimming at my favourite Tuscan beach .  Souvenir shop in Marina di Alberese The project is under the helm of


San Biagio at night (with Montepulciano in the background) Day or night, San Biagio,  il tempio di San Biagio,  is always a looker. But it's a special treat to be able to visit the interior of the church all through the night.  As one of 150 churches in Italy, Montepulciano's famous temple church will stay open through the night for the ' La Lunga Notte delle Chiese' event. Concerts and various cultural happenings will take place during the long night of churches on June 7, 2019 from 9.15 pm.  Check the event website for details of the participating churches in Tuscany and all over Italy.  

INCONTRI FESTIVAL: 30 years of world-class music in Val d'Orcia

Incontri in Terra di Siena festival at Locanda dell'Amorosa (photo Paul Flanagan)  Stellar locations and classical music executed by with  world-class musicians is the hallmark of the Incontri in Terra di Siena festival. Cellist Antonio Lysy, grandson of writer Iris Origo, organized the first concert in the Val d'Orcia 30 years ago and since then the festival has become one of the backbones of Tuscany's classical music season. This summer Incontri celebrates its round birthday wit h an impressive line-up of musicians flying in from all over the world. Flutist  Emmanuel Pahud, pianists Leif Ove Andsnes, Lucille Chung, Alessio Bax (the festival's artistic director  who appears on the Oscar-winning soundtrack of 'Call Me By Your Name'), tenor  Ian Bostridge, violist Lawrence Power and many more reunite in some of the most stunning venues of southern Tuscany.  The concerts are accompanied by a dedicated program called 'Oltre La Musica' which includes

Book presentation, Palazzo San Niccolò, Florence: May 31, 2018

If you're in Florence on Thursday May 31, 2018 join me for a discussion about Italy, migration and other topics linked to Across the Big Blue Sea , my memoir about a Tuscan refugee home.  We'll meet at 6pm in the secret garden of Palazzo San Niccolò, my favourite new hotel in Florence (I reviewed it for The Telegraph here).  The event is organized by Florence Cultural Salon, a fabulous new initiative which showers the Renaissance city with inspiring cultural events and cocktail nights. Click through to the Cultural Salon website for more information about the organisation and their interesting events calendar in an around Florence.  Not in town on the day? You can get a copy of the book from Paperback Exchange and Todo Modo  in Florence (both great independent bookshops that deserve our support!).  Not coming back to Florence soon?  Download an e-book or order a print copy of ' Across the Big Blue Sea: Good Intentions and Hard Lessons in an Italian Refugee


Design hotels in Tuscany - they do exist! The Argentario Golf Resort & Spa excels with something not many hotels in Tuscany's countryside have managed to pull off - tasteful contemporary design.  Tuscan hotels are usually located in centuries-old villas, castles or farmhouses. In the best-case scenario, they will have been painstakingly restored and the interior design is a sophisticated mix of aristocratic joie-de-vivre or a romanticized version of Tuscan  peasant life.  In the worst case, the interpretation has gone awry with lots of velvet curtains, fake antique furniture and heavy-set four-poster beds in an international baroque style that has little to do with Tuscany but lots with a type of interior design invented to pimp up international hotel cha ins. It's a relief that the five-star Argentario resort de cided for a different approach . No more fake Renaissance architecture, but at last a well thought-through contemporary approach to holidaying in Tuscany

Storytellers at the Todo Modo bookshop in Florence

I may not be religious, but I totally worship the Todo Modo bookshop in Florence for its beautiful interior design, central location - a ten-minute walk from the station and Ponte Vecchio - and the cafè hidden among shelves and plants hanging from the roof. UqBar serves some of the best lunches to be had in Florence - especially for people who'd love to forego the usual Tuscan fare for a delicious miso soup . But Todo Modo does another thing well. The shelf-filled spaces in the back can be turned into a small theatre which makes for a great event space among all the books. I had my Across the Big Blue Sea book presentation there and was back last month for a Storytellers night - the first event of a great new series.   Linda and Steve, the team from the The Beehive Hostel in Rome have decided to take their storytellers nights to Florence, and Todo Modo has agreed to host them. Whether residents or just travelling through, English speakers will have great fun at these


Readers of my memoir  Aross the Big Blue Sea   know about the courageous Syrian family who after a horrendous journey to Sicily stopped over at our refugee home in the Tuscan countryside. The plight of Syrians at home and in exile is at the base of poet, dissident and journalist Rash Omran's work. Omran, who has been living in exile in Egypt since 2012, will present her recent work this July in southern Tuscany.  The reading will take place in the garden of beautiful palazzo Bracci in Montepulciano. The literary event is part of Montepulciano's longstanding  Cantiere Internazionale d'Arte , the Tuscan wine town's art and music summer festival which is in its 42nd edition.  DEFY SILENCE - SFIDARE IL SILENZIO :  Poetry, music and translation between war and exile Rasha Omran, Kim Echlin and Ashti Abdo in Montepulciano Monday, July 17, 2017 - 9.15pm Palazzo Bracci, via delle Case Nuove, Montepulciano.  Rasha Omran has been invited for the first  Writer t