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There’s a lot more to Tuscany than its wine-soaked villages, art-rich cities and medieval walled villages. Venture beyond to find new ways to experience the gorgeous Italian province – be it hot-air ballooning, cooking like a local, or tasting the finest wines of the province, Tuscany has a lot more on offer.

Learn how to cook like a local
If you want to cook up some traditional fare in true Tuscan style, consider turning your vacation into a cooking holiday! Head to the Toscano Saporita cookery school, based in a 15th-century Tuscan villa. The villa sits in a 70-acre hilltop farm devoted to corn, grain, cereals and livestock, and makes for a great setting for bespoke weekend courses in Tuscan cooking. Learn how to roast meats perfectly, make bread, focaccia and pizza in a wood-fired oven, and master the art of making gelato. The available courses cater to both beginners and professionals, and the small group lessons are taught in English. Since the estate lies close to the cities of Lucca, Pisa and Florence, as well as the Apuan Alps and Lago Massaciuccoli, you can choose to also indulge in wine, cheese and olive oil tastings and explore the vibrant local markets. The typical three-day course includes accommodation, tuition, breakfast and dinner with wines and an additional tour to Lucca.

Go hot-air ballooning over the hills

While most of Italy is a visual delight, Tuscany offers a unique fairy tale-like landscape that stretches over green, rolling hills, medieval towers and much more. The different shades of green, tangles of woodland, swathes of vineyard, and the plentiful supply of medieval towers, castles, and rambling villas make hot-air ballooning a visual feast. April to November is the best time to take a hot-air balloon ride and drift over the beautiful scenery, while enjoying the silence of travelling through the air without an engine. Family-run Tuscany Ballooning organises these trips that start just after dawn, after which a balloon pilot and his crew guide the flight, lifting off over the heart of the Chianti wine region. After landing, you will be served a champagne breakfast with local produce – a befitting end to an experience of a lifetime!

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Vijay Nanda

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