Tuscany for the Shameless Hedonist by Ariela Bankier, a book review
When Keryn and I decided to try this crazy Two Moms Travel to Italy thing, I started dusting off everything I knew about Tuscany and Cinque Terre. However, it’s been 15 years since I visited Cinque Terre – and 12 since my last stay in Tuscany. I figured I should pull out a guide or two, just to get the motivation roaring for some off-the-path options that would be fun for two moms and their kids. Via some pretty spot-on google algorithms, Tuscany for the Shameless Hedonist popped up in my search. Well. Doesn’t that sound perfect, I thought. With a few clicks it was ordered, and within a few days I dove in.
When it arrived, I decided to pour a glass of wine, draw a bath (accented with dead sea salts of course), and dive in. My inevitable Instagram post drew the following comments in a variety of forms: “Was this book written exactly for you?”
Yes. Yes it was. Sadly, it was not written for my wallet (luxury villa rentals running in the thousands per night? not this trip…); nor was it written directly for parents (side note: kid-free luxe trip to all the vineyards of Tuscany coming up next….)
However, there are so many different things to do that appeal to a hedonist like me – while I may not opt for the sensual midnight hot springs visits with my little one in tow, there will be plenty of dining, gelato, wine, and views – may as well sign up for the best!
Written by Ariela Banker, a lucky woman who has been exploring the depths of Tuscan delights for over a decade, Tuscany for the Shameless Hedonist reads like the advice your dear friend would give you about the places they keep hidden to themselves – the perfect apertivo, fabulous shopping, marvelous trattorias on out-of-the-way piazzas frequented by the locals.
Organized by regions within Tuscany, the author details a wide range of delights, from the esoteric, to the aesthetic, to the culinary. It’s very tempting to pick just one section of Tuscany and try to do all the listings within that specific area; it’s even more tempting to think one might try to hit EVERYTHING within the book!
We ultimately used the book for its refined options within towns that we already had decided to visit. Based on traffic, nap schedules and drive times, we wound up visiting Lucca for an afternoon, with the intention of lunch, and a walk. The book offered a number of fantastic tips: fashion shops, the Laudree macaroon cafe, antique stores down hidden alleys. We arrived between storms and dodged the rain to find lunch, arriving just in time at the highly recommended Gigi’s Trattoria – next to the public market and marvelously empty for a high season lunchtime. Despite the rain and quickly-deteriorating attitudes amongst the kids, we received a friendly welcome, an abundant table and high chairs with a smile. We quickly ordered – house white, inslata caprese, some pastas and a roast chicken. The gnocchi with saffron sauce was spectacular – air-light yet suffused with flavor, and quite literally finger-licking delicious, as my daughter dug in for gnocchi after gnocchi. The recommended tagliatelli with ragu di nonna was rich, tomatoey and satisfying – slurps heard from all the kids!
Tuscany for the Shameless Hedonist is NOT a comprehensive guide to the area – rarely does it focus on must-do tourist sites like the Uffizi Gallery or the piazza of Siena. What it excels at is providing that 2nd or 3rd layer for a traveler that seeks the unexpected, the refined, the delightful. While many of the selections would be best enjoyed as a single traveler, an adult couple, or kidless-travelers, there are numerous suggestions that appeal to travelers of all ages and groups of any size – abandoned monasteries, unusual views and hidden casual restaurants. It’s the kind of book you want to read well before your trip, to prepare you for the delights you might encounter- and still keep handy throughout your travels, to justify that extra half-mile detour for the best finnochiona ever enjoyed.
I highly recommend your initial reading take place when you have plenty of time to spin out into the daydreams of what your trip might be……
(It should also be mentioned that Ariela is the author of Florence and Tuscany with Kids – a book we did NOT read in advance of our trip!)
Publisher’s Synopsis: With over 130 tips and detailed recommendations, suitable for various tastes and budgets, Tuscany for the Shameless Hedonist is a hugely useful resource for anyone visiting this region. Find out where to enjoy a romantic aperitivo with a spectacular view and how to book a dinner in a real, active jail; read which spa resorts offer the most indulgent pampering, which historic mansions shouldn’t be missed, and where the best accommodation in Florence is; discover hidden restaurants favored by locals, the very best wine tours and tastings, and where to buy award-winning bottles of Chianti, Brunello and the Super-Tuscans. Learn where to find authentic hand-made souvenirs, hot Italian fashion (at outlet prices!), glorious olive oil, and delicious prosciutto; and, naturally, read all about the top recommended cooking classes, festivals, antique markets, B&Bs and guided hikes in the region. In short, Tuscany for the Shameless Hedonist is the one guide you need to build not just a good vacation, but an incredible one.
Title: Tuscany for the Shameless Hedonist: Florence and Tuscany Travel Guide
Author: Ariela Bankier
Publisher: Ariela Bankier (1st edition)
Publication Date: May 26, 2014, $15.29 paperback
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 272 pages
For ages: adults who are looking to eat very well in Italy