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May in Tuscany: food, wine, crafts and flowers

Maggio, Maggio canto i colori,
riempio i giardini e i prati di fiori;
tutto è più bello e profumato
ed anche il bosco si è risvegliato.

The Tuscan tradition praises the colors and blossoms of May, and while the weather can still be temperamental, that doesn't stop all the fun and activities throughout the region of Tuscany: along the coast, in the hills, from small town to small town there is somethinng for everyone.

If you happen to be in Tuscany during this period - which is one of the best times of the year for visiting Tuscany - you’ll find long daylight hours, warmer temps and lots of outdoor activities for everyone. You’ll be challenged to decide between all of the food and wine festivals, antiques and handicrafts exhibits, and adventures!

Many of the events taking place throughout the month clebrate the region's traditions and ancient customs... are you ready to find out the most important among them?

Pisa and province: Seasonal Fruits' Flavours

Lari, a charming village in the countryside near Pisa, will be home to the Farmers Festival (Festa dell’Agricoltore May 1-2) in its fraction of Usigliano: parades with people dressed up in traditional farmer costumes or evoking the ancient local crafts like corn reaping, a museum exposing everything about rural activities, a photo exhibit. Exclusive protagonist of this event is, obviously, FOOD which visitors will have the chance to taste and eventually buy.

Lari is commonly referred to as the town of cherries: it is the most renowned and important place in Tuscany for cherry production: from 26 - 27 May and again on from 2 - 3 June it will be housing the Cherry Festival, a delicious event dedicated to this tasteful fruit, abundantly cultivated amidst the rolling hills that surround the town of Lari.  It wouldn't be spring without strawberries and the Festa della Fragola at Terricciola on the 7 & 8th of May.

On May 8 there will be the Gioco del Mulino in Calci (Mill Game), traditionally held every second Sunday of May. The rioni (quarters) of the town will compete against each other pushing a mill’s wheel towards the river. The wheel, once established at the arrival point, will decide the winner (and loser), who will be thrown some wheat.

Every second to last Sunday of May (May 22 this year) Cascina is home to the Palio di Santo Stefano, commonly known as the Palio of the Bridge, even if this is not as famous as the one which takes place in Pisa in June. Eight groups - with 8 members each - push a large cart set up on the bridge on rails. The aim of the game is to conquer the enemy’s side and win the competition.  And don't forget to stop and taste the local specialty at the Sagra of the Eel, held at the same time.

One of the most outstanding theatre events in Tuscany is represented by the Maggio di Buti. The tiny streets of the quaint village and the green hills that surround the Buti skyline will be the enchanting backdrop to some of the most touching dramas ever played. (the dates are to be confirmed).

Discovering Casentino on Dante's Traces

Another event which will guide you in a discovering tour amidst nature will be taking place on Sunday May 1 (or, in alternative, on the 22nd): On Dante's traces throughout Casentino. A whole day guided excursion through the National Park of the Foreste Casentinesi to reach the Arno's spring, retracing those tracks once walked by the famous Tuscan poet Dante Alighieri. The excursion can be done by adults and children as well, it won't be too difficult since its aim is to bring together the wonderful nature of the Casentino valley and part of the Tuscan culture and history. Costs will be 15 euro for adults and 10 euro for children, more info (and more dates) on the official Facebook page.

Being in its 40th year, the Mostra Mercato dell’Artigianato della Valtiberina Toscana - the Market Antiques exhibition of the Tuscan Valtiberina - will be held in Anghiari until May 1. Focusing on health and well-being, this will be an exposition of local ancient crafts excelling in Tuscan and Italian manufacturing, including leather, ceramics and precious metalworking as well as health and wellness products.

The Maggiolata Lucignanese, takes place the last two Sundays in May and has been doing so for the last 80 years. with music, dancing, singing and a parade of farming carts decorated with flowers and more in the antique tradition.

Grosseto and the Local Tradition Triumph

Maremma welcomes the arrival of May with the Festa del Maggio in Braccagni on May 1, where “May” actually refers to the traditional local itinerant song about the rural world of Maremma. Groups of singers coming from locations spread out all over Maremma - and commonly referred to as maggerini - will compete against each other singing to the beat of local traditional music. Typical local product tastings and interesting photo exhibitions will complete this event that draws many of visitors every year.

Dating back to the 18th century, the Corsa dei Barchini (literally, the Luggers’ Race) is a traditional event taking place annually in the Orbetello lagoon: it’s a row boat race involving the 5 rioni (quarters) of the town which compete against each other surrounded by the backdrop of extraordinary beauty that the lagoon presents (May 27).

From 6, 7 and 8 May, the quaint location of Porto Ercole - situated on the Mount Argentario in front of the Orbetello lagoon - will be home to Sant’Erasmo Festival, offering inhabitants and visitors entertaining concerts, dances, shows, a row boat competition (regatta, called the Palio delle Quattro Fortezze), a suggestive luminara that preceds the traditional night parade where all boats guide the relics of the patron saint toward the lagoon.

Mushrooms are in celebration at Montieri where there is the Festival of the "Prugnolo", a treasure amoung "funghi" severed in cheese, liquors, pasta and delicious meat dishes on the 14th and 15th of May.

Livorno: The Flavors of the Earth

Verde Oro: Olio d’Oliva e dintorni (Golden Green: olive oil and surroundings). This is the name of the festival taking place in Rosignano Marittimo in May. A whole weekend dedicated to the best of Tuscany's olive oils, with tastings, conferences, guided visits to olive oil mills and much more, an event aimed at celebrating one of Tuscan's greatest of culinary wonders.

Castagneto Carducci and Campiglia Marittima host every year events, festivals and traditional celebrations throughout the whole month of May: in particular, Castagneto a Tavola (Castagneto at the table) is a food-and-wine festival held in Castagneto Carducci which also gives everyone the chance to visit a special exhibit dedicated to a collection of the prestigious wines produced in the area. This area is well known for the production of high quality wines such as Bolgheri and Sassicaia, symbols of Itlay's famed wine tradition spread worldwide. The events taking place during the manifestation will be revolving around the relationship between wine, territory and food.

Costume parades, reenactments of ancient local crafts, entertaining events, concerts and parades will be alternating throughout the whole month during the Maggio Campigliese in Campiglia Marittima (pictured above).

Massa Carrara & the Treschietto Onion

The locality of Bagnone will be home to a culinary festival dedicated to a particular variety of onions which have been cultivated in this territory for many years: the Treschetto onion, very appreciated for its gentle flavour. Typical local recipes prepared with this ingredient will be offered to visitors for tasting. (30 April - 1 May and again on the 7 & 8 of May)

An exposition (TuttoCasa) dedicated to the latest home furnishings trends will be housed in Carrara until May 1, including experts and interior designers who will present their projects and offer free consultations.

Siena: a Jump Back in Time

Castiglione d’Orcia will be home to an event dedicated to a traditional local itinerant song: a singing welcome to the new season with music bands coming from the town and its surroundings that will wind their way through the tiny streets of Castiglione to the rhythm of these rural songs (Maggiolata, April 30 and May 1).

Have some fun on the historic steam engine as it heads towards  S.Angelo Scalo with the advent of  Treno della Maggiolata (on May 1; further dates available on this site). In the morning you will visit the wine celars of Cantine Banfi and in the afternoon you can stroll the market. Reservations are obbligatory

For those who are enthusiatic about vintage and sport, then L'Eroica Primavera, which covers the enchanting landscape south of Siena is the event for you. 209 km where you can enjoy the magnificent views, small towns and some serious excersice. (28 Aprile - 1 Maggio) Click here for the full program

Lucca: a three-days Street Music Festival

Included in the annual calendar of the town events from many years by now, the Palio dei Micci takes place every first Sunday of May in Querceta, a fraction of Forte dei Marmi in Versilia. It’s a donkey competition during which the first donkey that surpasses the others will win the race (every donkey represents a contrada of Querceta). Every year, this hilarious show draws lots of people who eagerly await to see the stubborn and disobedient animals trying to win the race. A historical parade with more than 2000 people dressed up in costumes will winds its way through the town streets.

Save the date for the Festival di Musica Classica (and more) which takes place on the  6, 7, 8 May.  More than 60 events over a course of three days in theaters, "palazzi", museums, the streets and in the squares of Lucca.  These events are desiged to delight the young and old alike...even for those just dabbling in music and especially those who are passionate about music.

Florence and its one-of-a-kind Craftsmanship

Highlights on some of the events taking place in Florence and province throughout the month of May; you can find a more complete list by reading the dedicated article.

Besides the traditional opening of the Iris Garden in Piazzale Michelangelo which takes annually when the flower is in full bloom, the Cricket Feast will welcome both Florentines and tourists in the Cascine Park on the day of the Ascension. Even if this event - deeply rooted in the city culture - has lost its original sheen, it keeps on attracting lots of people who eagerly await the sun to spend a bit of time outdoors in Florence's "green lung".

Finally, Florence will be housing the exhibit Artigianato e Palazzo (Craftsmanship and Palace) in a backdrop of suggestive beauty: the garden of the XVIIth century Corsini Palace (May 12 - 15) and the International Craftsmanship Festival at the Fortezza da Basso until May 1.

Just outside of Florence, the green hills of Chianti will be invaded by bikers on the 2016 Giro d'Italia on May 15th.  The Chianti Classico Stage is 40.4 km (25 mi) long in the form of a triangle, starting and ending in the same place for a closed race.  It starts in Radda in Chianti and encompasses many places in the Consorzio Chianti Classico such as Castellina in Chianti, Sicelle, Panzano in Chianti and  Greve in Chianti, before it finishes in Radda, piazza Matteotti.

Wine everywhere...

Finally, I would like to remind you of an event that actually is not limited to the Tuscan territory, but involves all the Bel Paese: Cantine Aperte is going to take place during the end of May. An annual date with Bacchus’ gold and wine cellars spread out all over the country, in a wine tasting path from North to South. All Italian wine farms taking part in the manifestation will be opening their door to visitors and experts to taste their local specialities; a chance I strongly recommend not to miss out for traveling around marvelous landscapes guided by inviting perfumes and aromas, and trying out the best Tuscan and Italian wines.

Enjoy!


Author: Chiara Ricci

Always interested in experiencing everything that attracts my curiosity (or almost everything!!), I’ve traveled around Europe looking for some place that could offer something different from my home... The result? Failed attempt, there’s no better place than home, especially if it’s Tuscany! My passion? To swim, as it helps people stay in touch with the side of nature that humans have not yet been able to conquer!



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