Did you know...
The cypress tree is the symbol of Tuscany's countryside and can be "male" or "female". The cypress has always been very important in Mediterranean cultures, and played a particularly important role in the "Cult of the Dead" rituals, where it was believed that the cypress's spirit could calm and console the soul of the dead. According to another Chinese legend, rubbing resin from the cypress tree onto your heels will make your body feel so light that you could walk on water.
PECORINO CHEESE WITH HONEY
Pecorino cheese is one of the oldest types of cheese, dating back to ancient sheep-farming times. Pecorino cheese from Pienza is particularly famous for its excellent taste. Local cheese connoisseurs hold cheese tasting parties and taste the countless varieties with honey or jam. The origins of this cheese-tasting tradition go back to 1719, when this cheese was served with jam for the very first time in Siena.
RICCIARELLI & ORIENTAL SLIPPERS
The spicy flavour of Siena's Ricciarelli is due to its oriental origins. According to a local popular legend, it was Ricciardetto della Gherardesca from Siena who, upon his return from the Crusades, first introduced these little pastries to his country. Because their shape recalled the curly shape of Eastern style slippers, they were named "Ricciarelli" (from "arricciati" which means curled).
THE FRANCIGENA ROUTE
Bagno Vignoni and Cassia are names of roads that form part of the ancient Via Francigena (Francigen Way) one of the most well-known pilgrim routes from the Middle Ages. This route connects Canterbury with Rome and therefore played a fundamental role in the intercultural communication between the two cultures. Nowadays, we can still see the signs of the passage of these people. The route, for which we still have a detailed description by the Archbishop of Canterbury Sigeric, was declared as a "Cultural Itinerary" by the European Council in 1994.
THE ROOTS OF TUSCAN OLIVE OIL
Tuscan people are rightly proud of their high quality olive oil. They were actually the first people to cultivate this precious fruit in Italy. The olive tree, which originally came from Iran, Syria and Palestine, first appeared in the Mediterranean region around 5,000 years ago. In Italy, the Etruscans, who had been cultivating olive trees since the 6th century BC, used to offer olive oil to their gods they worshipped. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Tuscan olive tree cultivation came to an end, and only a few Olive groves survived, thanks to local monks. Slowly but surely, olive tree cultivation began to flourish and soon became one of the most important economic resources of the region thanks to Lorenzo de Medici and the Medici family who granted territories for cultivation only to olive growers.