Beyond wine & olives: 8 Artisanal classes in Tuscany

Close your eyes.
What does your mind’s eye see when you hear the word “Tuscany?”
Winding drives on cypress-lined country roads through fields of
sunflowers and poppies?
Shopping for leather shoes or hitting up outdoor markets for fresh picnic
ingredients prior to nipping into a cafe for your morning cappuccino?
Wine and olives?
Well, there are unique ways to immerse yourself in your mind’s eye
dreams that perhaps you haven’t considered.
In particular, opportunities to learn Tuscan artisanal trades in hands-on,
fascinating and fun classes that will go down as some of your favorite
vacation memories ever.
Here are eight one-of-a-kind artisanal classes you can take to make your
time in Tuscany that much more meaningful and memorable.

1. Ceramics
Tuscany has been known for ceramics, particularly Majolica, from at least
the mid-14th century and likely from ancient times.
Though it’s no longer the trade it once was, shops in Tuscany and
throughout Italy sell beautiful ceramics for you to take home and enjoy.
But, instead of simply shopping for plates and platters, why not spend a
couple hours making your own? During a traditional Tuscan
pottery-making class you’ll learn how to work clay, fire and glaze your
own creation – and have a special souvenir to display back home.

2. Pizza and Gelato
Who doesn’t like pizza and gelato?!
What if, instead of just eating them, you cook them yourself, adding the
joy of eating delicious traditional Italian foods you’ve prepared with your
own hands?
And you won’t even have to do the dishes!

3. Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Tuscany is known for many traditional dishes like ribollita and ravioli al
burro e salvia (butter and sage ravioli), but one of its true culinary stars is
bistecca fiorentina.
This Florentine-style steak or veal comes solely from the Italian Chianina,
the largest breed of cattle in the world. It’s aged for at least two weeks and
grilled over a barbecue of oak or olive embers.
This impressively large beefsteak is cooked in a very specific way, and you
can prepare it yourself in the kitchen of a traditional trattoria during a
cooking class and 3-course meal, complete with Chianti, of course.

4. Paper
Many visitors return home from Tuscany with beautiful paper sets to
remind themselves of their holiday or to give as gifts. Paper-making is an
ancient art form in Italy, and Florence is particularly known for the art of
paper marbling initially used by the city’s bookbinders in the 1700s.
In this style of decoration, paper is placed on top of water with colors
floating on it. When the colored water is absorbed, the colors transfer to
the paper giving it the appearance of marble.
Taking a few quiet hours away from museums, churches and the hustle
and bustle of rubbing elbows with tourists from all over the world, to
learn this incredible art form at an artisanal workshop is something you’ll
always remember fondly.

5. En Plein Air
Painting classes are fairly common in Florence and are wonderful ways to
take home, not just memories, but a token of your vacation made by your
own hands.
A particularly special way to immerse yourself in the history and vibrant
colors of Florence is to take an ein plein air painting class. In simple terms
this means painting outdoors, perhaps next to the Arno or in one of
Florence’s famous gardens.
What better way to see through the eyes of all those famous Renaissance
painters like Ghirlandaio, Titian, da Vinci and Tintoretto? This is a truly
inspiring way to enjoy the wonders of Florence.

6. Fresco
If you want to take an indoor painting class while in Florence, but want
something slightly different than the typical watercolor or oil painting
opportunities, consider taking a class in fresco.
This famous Italian art form is accomplished by painting with watercolor
pigments on fast drying plaster. Renowned artists like Raphael and
Michelangelo mastered this difficult art form and their gorgeous walls and
ceilings can be enjoyed, not just in Tuscany, but throughout Italy.
During a fresco workshop you’ll join an expert in learning the same
method with the same tools and ingredients as those famous Renaissance
artists. You will prepare the surface, draw and transfer your “cartoon,”
and paint a work of art for you to take home and display.
Talk about a conversation-starter!

7. Jewelry
On the Ponte Vecchio in Florence you’ll pass many jewelry shops on both
sides of this famous bridge crossing the Arno River. Instead of purchasing
pre-made pieces, consider making your own.
Throughout Tuscany the workshops of goldsmiths hold classes in the art
of jewelry-making, a trade that passes from one generation to the next
and has for centuries.
This is another example of a hands-on artisanal class that doesn’t just
teach a tactile skill, but gives you a wearable work of art to remind you of
a wonderful few hours in the heart of Tuscany.

8. Winemaking
Tuscany is, of course, a world-renowned wine region, home to both the
robust red Chianti and the white Vernaccia de San Gimignano.
Tasting tours are de rigueur during any trip to the region, but visitors can
make their wine time more memorable by creating a personal blend,
complete with labels, cellar ageing and delivery to the door of your home.
Just think: The next dinner party you give could be accompanied by a wine
you made yourself!
So there you have it – eight ways to enjoy Tuscany with hands-on,
artisanal classes that go far beyond just viewing or purchasing to give you
truly Italian experiences unlike any other.