Episode 3: Enchanted by Tuscany - Renaissance art & culture | Behind The Bucket List
This is how I imagine wine experiences to be in castles you know, and it never lives up to it, but this lives up to it. Wow! Tuscany, the birthplace of the Renaissance, giving us the art, ideas and architecture that even today inspire people across the world. As those that redefined high culture itself, it’s clear the Tuscans know a thing or two about quality and when exploring what makes Tuscany so popular it soon became clear their dedication to it has an important part to play. From their farming processes to the quarrying of the terracotta that adorns the roofs of some of the regions most iconic buildings. This Tuscan dedication to quality is present every step of the way. But why? And why does this quality make Tuscany a name that appears time and time again on people's travel bucket lists? I'm not entirely sure but I'm excited to find out, so join us on this journey not just into Tuscany but into quality itself.
It's a fact, Europe is home to incredible bucket list destinations & experiences. You know, those moments that no life feels complete without. I’m Luke and I’m a professional tour guide from England. I've been showing people around Europe with tour company Expat Explore Travel since early 2019 but it’s time to leave the land of high tea, little red phone boxes behind and Hugh Grant behind and do something a bit different. We asked
our travellers for their top bucket list destinations and experiences and I’ll be discovering what it is that makes them so popular. Joining me is fellow explorer and Australian cameraman Jamie, when he heard what we were doing he didn’t take much convincing and together we’re hitting the road to explore what it is that defines a bucket list destination. We’ll see the iconic sights, but also venture off the beaten track. We’re on a mission to discover some of Europe’s biggest and best when it comes to travel experiences and then go deeper. Are you ready? Let’s go Behind the Bucket List. Now on this adventure we're not just exploring your bucket-list experiences but also a few of my own and it turns out our good friend Carl, co-founder of Expat Explore Travel, has had Tuscany on his own bucket list for a while now, so he’s driving down from Switzerland to join us in our explorations! Not only that, we’ve also enlisted the help of local guide Titziana, who we’ve been working with for many years, and when it comes to Tuscan knowledge is rivalled by none and where better to meet them than Tuscany’s shining capital, Florence? Florence, the city that showed us the light at the end of the dark ages. Founded as a Roman garrison around 100 BC, it’s been celebrated as a republic, a seat of the duchy of Tuscany, and even the capital of Italy itself. Yet it was between the 14th and 16th
centuries that Florence truly flourished. We call this period the Renaissance. A time of resurgence of Greek and Roman culture, once lost to the West after the fall of Rome but returned to Venice from the islamic east through rapidly growing trade to the great minds of Florence. This resurgence of the classical arts, ideas and philosophies sparked the movement known as humanism, one that emphasises the value and agency of human beings and led to the great art and ideas of this period. The art of Michaelangelo, Da Vinci and Botticelli, the writings of Dante who literally created the Italian language, and the architecture of Brunelleschi. These masters who embodied humanist ideals through their creations are a huge part of why millions of people flock here each year, but what about the art of today’s Florence? Is this legendary dedication to quality still present? We’re heading to a local art studio specialising in a rare form of marble mosaic founded in Florence in the 16th century to find out more. This is incredible for us to see, because we’re trying to learn a bit more about the importance of the Renaissance period and the way it’s influenced the rest of Europe and a big part of that is the artistic culture that this inspired as well, so when they come here, some people don’t realise who’s preserving the pieces, who’s restoring them, and we get to see here that you guys, you’re the people keep that alive for the people to come and appreciate and that’s amazing! The mosaics here are created using original techniques dating back to the 16th century, which highlights the natural colour of every stone, of which they only use the highest quality. Every piece is cut with a simple saw made of an olive tree branch bent in the
form of a bow. This is an original table top, it was made in 1716. This is a reproduction, kind of a copy. It was made at the beginning of the 1900s but they took fourteen years to complete it.
For example in this case in the middle this black marble is one piece and they must cut to leave empty space and the coloured parts were perfectly inlaid. It will never fade, it’s immortalised in the art they leave behind. If it takes a year to make this and you have to sell it to a buyer, I mean the time to put into this already only to pay for the time to make this will make it very valuable. You’ve just highlighted the whole birth of the renaissance there haven’t you, because without financial backing, patronage from the rich families, from the bankers, you wouldn’t have the time or resources to create these. You can understand why the reason I’m very attracted to this work, because for example yes it’s a very big, it's very beautiful as a whole but you can take a closer look at this stone now, my husband found the perfect shape for the toenail.
It’s already a toenail! Yes, it’s a toenail! So the stone was already a toenail. That's a single piece. Marble isn’t the only material that’s special to Florence. There’s one that serves a much more practical purpose that Florentine’s have been working with since way before the renaissance period. Leather, the highest quality of which is said to come from here and we just happen to have some old friends here who’ve been working with the stuff for generations. Our old friends over at Leonardo’s leather. As well as the leather we’re also surrounded
by history here at Leonardo’s. What we have created here is, what we call an 'Interactive Lab'. So people can come down here and create their own leather garments.
No way! At their own pace, taste, of course with the full assistance of a member of our staff. The Florentine leather is so popular worldwide. Not mainly because of the leather itself because leather itself is more or less the same one wherever you go in the world. It is very famous because of the leather tradition and the tanning process we have achieved in techniques over these centuries. So yeah. You have come in, you have chosen your stock, your own buckle. - Well it was a hard choice to make because there are so many fine pieces to choose from.
- Squeeze very hard and push through, excellent, you heard the right click! And so you would attach this, and then I guess you’re gonna screw in the piece here... Yes, precisely! Then you’re gonna go in the back there. And look at that! Bravissimo! Well thank you so much, you did a great job and now of course... I had a good teacher! Now people don’t just come to Florence to buy leather, it’s become a mecca for those hoping to become leatherworkers. The city’s renowned leather school, Scuola del Cuoio, provides students with a fully immersive experience in the traditional craft of leatherworking. Founded in 1949 Scuola del Cuoio is the leading academy, not just in Florence, but all of Italy for leatherwork.
One of our first clients was actually President Eisenhower, so from that moment each United States president was one of our clients because we always provide a desk set for them for the Oval Office. So that’s how he makes the decoration. He punches these designs with the tools that he puts on fire, he tests the temperature on the water and then he punches on the leather. So the gold leaf is permanently imprinted on there now because of the heat? Exactly! Leather has always been really famous in Florence, let's say, and that’s also why the Franciscan friars decided to...erm...the Franciscan friars and my grandfather decided to open a school
of leather. We’re here in Florence looking at the importance of the renaissance on the world we live in today and that a big part of that was money and riches. Such a huge part of what that money influenced was the religious establishments of the time yet many of these religious establishments rejected the wealth.
And this is all the school, as you see it’s not that big, that’s also why we accept maximum 20 students per course. Would you always be to full capacity? No, usually maximum 20 we never accept more. I imagine you guys as well, you want to train to the highest level of quality? Definitely, yes sure. I love the smell of the workshop, any workshop, whether it’s wood, leather, metal, just workshops generally, the aromas are just ahhhh! It wasn’t only leather working students we met here. Whilst out exploring the sculptures of this magnificent city we came across a student of sculpture here on a special quest to unlock the secrets of the city through his study of its art.
Why is Florence an important place for sculpture for you? Architecture and sculpture both came out of the same time, and this is Florence’s special element, in Florence I think. And this intensity I let come out only emotionally but this emotion I want to make the form as a space. This clue is hidden in this city to me. Obviously I’m not an artist, but I appreciate art and through making this documentary we’re trying to get a little bit closer to understanding the secret of Florence. - I appreciate that. And so, thank you so much. After a delicious Florentine steak lunch it was time to learn about Tuscany’s cured meats.
Italian cured meats are arguably the best of the best, but when it comes to quality, Tuscany out shines all other regions. And to taste them for ourselves we were recommended a local delicatessen, Alimentaria Uffizi, just behind the world famous Uffizi museum. So for people wanting an authentic Florentine experience when it comes to food, this is somewhere that they can come and experience this? We are a little shop, but I think that all the experience, because my father, my grandfather and my son is very fantastic for cold cuts. This place has left an impression on many. You just have to look at all these Post-It notes covering the walls.
The cold cuts are all from the farm. Also the olive oil is biologico (organic). Small but very big quality, I think is the winning combination! We came in for a quick chat about Alessandro’s shop. Next thing there’s wine and pasta in front of us. In this episode I don’t need to talk, I’m just here to eat and drink. He certainly wet our appetites, but we want to do more than just taste these quality Tuscan treats.
We wanted to see where they come from so he invited us to visit him and his son on their organic farm. Where better to learn what it is that makes Italian food so delicious? Alessandro’s son, Pietro, showed us around his farm and how here at Bio and Brado they are contributing to Italy’s organic farming culture. Italy has the most organic farms and largest organically farmed area in Europe and is at the forefront of biodiversity conservation. The country made the decision not to cultivate genetically modified organisms, GMOs, and have 40,000 farms committed to storing and preserving seeds and plants at risk of extinction. As well as various endangered species of livestock,
one of which is the Cinta Senese, Italy’s oldest farmed breed of pig but nearly lost to extinction due to being high in fat and needing a lot of space to exercise. Characterised by floppy ears, black fur and a white band around their shoulders, these guys were so cute even Carl had to get a photo! Wow ok, this is the big daddy! So this is how big they will get? This is huge, this is actually the biggest pig I’ve ever seen! And that’s fully grown? Ok good any bigger and it’s a problem. So I have a very important question. You’re a farmer but you have white shoes, and they’re so clean! How is this possible? It’s amazing to see the organic experience up close and to see a farm in such harmony with nature. Oh I have a special relationship with donkeys. In Greece and Santorini for part of the video,
I had to take the donkey up the cliff to ride. I mean these might be the happiest donkeys I’ve ever seen! Aw this is a much better experience than we had in Greece with the donkeys. You guys look MUCH happier! So I feel like for anyone who wants a true experience of the Tuscan countryside, not just the eating, this is somewhere they can come and have this. Mhmm a little work is good to experience! Tuscany has some of the most nutrient rich soil in Italy, meaning their produce thrives and grows with intense flavours that are reflected in their dishes. No wonder these olives look so vibrant and tasty! Every time you know we bring people here as groups, they always say we can’t wait to try some olive oil with some bread, we want to experience the italian olive oil but this is my first time seeing part of the process.
Farming is a pursuit of many challenges, one of which is dealing with predators. One way they protect against this is with the help of these menacing looking guys. They make me miss my dog so much! I haven’t seen her in two months. Awww! Ok so they aren’t that menacing. They’re damn right adorable! Ah it’s electric, ok it’s electrified. Exploring the farm was hungry work and to complete the visit, Pietro’s mother prepared us a true farm to table lunch experience.
Can we just acknowledge something? The world’s largest sausage I’ve ever seen. Look at that! This is a particular salamied Cinta with liver and a prosciutto Cinta aged three years. Pancetta, salami and another little salami dry. This is my first time rubbing the garlic, wonderful.
This is the real bruschetta. Absolutely amazing! Castello di Verrazzano was once an Etruscan settlement, the pre-Roman civilisation that gave Tuscany its name. And after a long and winding history eventually fell into the hands of the Verrazzano family. The castle was the birthplace of legendary explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, the fourth explorer to come across America and discoverer of what is now the bay of New York. The castle is now run and managed by the Cappellini Family, who’ve been fully dedicated to producing high quality Chianti Classico wine since 1958. Their vineyards extend from the woodlands here to the whole underlying valley, within boundaries unchanged for centuries.
To help us learn more about the wine production here at the castle, local wine expert and guide Maria has agreed to give us a tour. Here we do not produce a common white, here we produce, look, the sweet dessert wine, Vino Santo. I love how you’ve kept the original architecture intact and it looks like if you were to walk in here 300 years ago and see the grapes drying you feel like it would look the same, minus the fan. Yeah and you have to imagine that after that you make the manual selection because even if you have a ventilated room you have to select them, then we press in a very soft way and the wine is aged in here. Oh wow. Inside, for three years minimum.
Three years minimum! In Italy you find wines such as they call Passiti, it’s a dry grape wine, but this Vinsanto, it’s typical here from this area with specific varieties that are very local varieties. This is how I imagine wine experiences to be in castles you know and it never lives up to it but this lives up to it. And never have I actually experienced it quite like this and this is the stuff of dreams! Oh Wow! In different kinds of parts of Italy you know exists this tradition of when the first son of the family was born parents and the relatives added a private birth collection for him. So this is the birth collection of Mr Luigi Capellini and some of his cousins so you find here the first sons of the Capellini family, ‘62 and some other harvest years of his cousins. The Capellini family now run and manage the castle and its grounds, producing great wine but also providing touristic and culinary experiences for visitors. In the past some people used it for special occasions, some people keep it from one first son to the next to the next, now it’s common to even do it for everybody and they drink it during when they will be 18 or for special occasions.
This is Italy, this is Tuscany, this is the Chianti Classico region. Chianti Classico to say Classico for us it’s important because Chianti was born in 1716. It was the first officially named wine area and this was Chianti in 1716 but it was expanded with time and that’s the reason because later it was introduced the appellation Classico. We are here in Tuscany, the birthplace of the Renaissance, in a winery, in a wine cellar and this wine is still being created, manufactured using an invention of Leonardo Da Vinci. It all comes together, everything is connected.
Allora (ok), 100% Pino Bianco, the grapes that we take them in this case are from the lower part. This one is done in just steel tanks so it’s light, easy to drink for everyday. 2019 11.5% of alcohol. In all the barrels, look at those please, they have the green stem for organic things because we are an official organic winery on the label. It isn’t enough to be produced within the Chianti region alone for a wine to be called a Classico. The wine has to meet strict criteria. It must contain at least 80% Sangiovese and
a maximum of 20% of other red grapes so when you see this black rooster you know you’re getting the best of the best. Inspired by our stay at Castello di Verrazzano, it was time to explore one of the main attractions for visitors here in Tuscany, its medieval hilltop towns. When it comes to these nowhere rivals the Tuscans and whilst there are hundreds to choose from, each more beautiful than the last, there’s one that is always at the top of travellers Tuscan bucket lists...
San Gimignano. At the heart of Tuscany, midway between Siena and Florence, it’s considered one of the best preserved medieval towns in all of Italy. With dozens of Gothic and Romanesque towers, it has earned itself the fitting name of "Medieval Manhattan''. It blossomed during the middle ages due to its demand as a resting place for pilgrims and other travellers making their way to Rome, and even today acts as a resting place for tourists making their way across Italy.
But why so many towers? Initially built for defensive purposes, the towers became a measurement of power and wealth. Can you see it looks like a leopard with tentacles? That’s mad isn’t it? The more luxurious the merchant, the bigger the tower. Such competition became so rife the city government had to introduce a limit on the height of the towers! Because things were getting a little out of hand.
But you’ve also got some graffiti, some teeth drawn on, but you’ve got some graffiti etchings here as well and I wonder how much some of these date back to? I’ve finally been locked in a medieval prison, it’s a dream come true but also a little scary and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to escape. When exploring the beautiful views of the Tuscan countryside, or Florence itself, one feature that stands out, giving us those deep reds and oranges that inspire artists and tourists alike is the terracotta of its rooftops. Something that may sound trivial but no Tuscan skyline is complete without. But where does this terracotta come from? And what makes it so special? Tiziana is taking us to Impruneta, an ancient town south of Florence and the most renowned producer of Terracotta in the region. This terracotta owes its success to the peculiar properties of the clay found in the area. You know there is a lot of clay but this clay has a great quantity of iron oxidants so iron, so when you bake the, you bake the clay it becomes very strong, very very much resistant and it is baked around 1,000 degrees. What was more popular we can say, made with terracotta?
Were old artifacts made for the home use or farms, I mean jars for the olive oil. Over the centuries, it came to be used for roofing and decorating the facades of local houses. It was even used for what is arguably the most famous roof in the world, that of Florence’s Duomo. The fact that the father of Renaissance architecture himself, Brunelleschi, sourced his materials from here is a true testament to its high quality.
Brunelleschi didn’t want to use just any terracotta, he wanted to use this one because he had to cover something that was outside, that needed to be very resistant so he didn’t want low quality and that is the reason why he chose this place. This is super important I think because when people come to see these structures they need to know where it came from, where the materials came from, the fact that they can come here and see the origin of the source of these materials that have created the buildings that they dream of seeing, I think that this is a special experience. The tradition of making terracotta in this area goes back 700 years and its production has defined the area’s landscape, architecture, urban design and economy.
Having sampled its meats and wines, seen its views of rolling hills and cypress trees from its hilltop towns, the bucket list moments just keep coming here in Tuscany but there’s one more that Carl has always wanted to try. Bucket list done, finally! And has been on my bucket list since I was a child; Horse Riding. And it just so happens it’s meant to be one of the most beautiful ways to experience this glorious landscape. So I put my foot here and then I swing over? Yes! Ok so Carl’s getting on his horse first. The smaller horse for Carl but that’s fine, he’s a more experienced rider. We’ve got the tiniest horse in the centre here.
This horse is called Il Gato (The Cat) because it looks very much like a cat. Your foot here and you just... - Step? -Yes. Perfect. Grazie Lugano! Not only are horses a fun and different way to explore the Tuscan countryside, but they also give you a taste of how people would have travelled these lands during the medieval period, as well as the golden age of the Renaissance. Exploring the deep and complex relationship between man and horse as I slowly connected with the mighty Lugano who kindly let me ride him through these rolling hills I was overcome by an intense wave of awareness of not simply observing the beautiful landscape around me but becoming a part of it. Maybe it was the lack of car engines, the smell of the woodland
or the fact that I was riding a horse. But during the ride I felt a deep love and appreciation for the beauty of this land wash over me. Tuscany has so much to offer those who visit. The endless heritage sites of Florence,
the castle towers of San Gimignano, the vineyards of Chianti. There’s a lot going on! But when exploring the region it became clear that Tuscany isn’t about ticking boxes of specific sites, it’s not about this hilltop town or that vineyard, it’s about the quality behind these experiences and the consistent beauty found in all that it offers that makes Tuscany such a desirable location. Every sip of wine, drizzle of olive oil and hilltop vista, oozes a quality that is impossible to put into words and can only be experienced in the here and now. A quality that is the result of a long standing dedication to maintaining the high standards defined by the Renaissance period. A period that may be over in the eyes
of history, but come here and let your own perceptions of quality and beauty be redefined by Tuscany and you’ll see that the renaissance is still very much alive today!