The guide is loaded with maps, photographs and drawings. Maybe that makes it not so different from other guides. But what it does have are insider tips for what I call “deep travel,” the idea of staying a long while in a place and examining closely the differences in food and culture. In Authentic Tuscany I can go to the “Hams and Salami” section to learn about cured meats that are exclusive to Tuscany. Then I’ll learn exactly where to shop for these specialties, and where to have them in a restaurant. Way cool.
So this summer I know I can take the slow train from Aulla to Lucca and stop in the Norcineria Artigiana Coturri and get all sorts of specialties from the Garfagnana, a beautiful area north of Lucca.
The guide is heavy on local folklore and festivals as well. You might not get this information otherwise unless you drive around in your car looking at posters.
And the small pleasures you might never find without this guide? The book lists Amaro Clementi Elixer di Fivizzano in the liquers section. It’s a bitter (amaro) made by a tiny pharmacy in the little town of Fivizzano, not far from where we live. I always keep some on hand. You never know when you’ll need an elixer.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited about a guidebook. If you’re planning an extended visit to Tuscany, and want to know all about the little places and the small, interesting museums, this is the guidebook.