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Jockeying for position: The Palio dei Somari, a race between disobedient donkeys, is full of funny moments. Photo: Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Alamy
Jockeying for position: The Palio dei Somari, a race between disobedient donkeys, is full of funny moments. Photo: Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Alamy
Events & FestivalsFood & Wine

What’s on in Tuscany in spring 2020?

By Simone Kane

Spring in Tuscany is a time of celebration, which means it’s festival time in the towns and villages as locals welcome the season of renewal. These are gentle events focusing on food, drink and, of course, family, as well as the serious business of paying homage to patron saints. Next, Easter arrives (9-13 April), a chance to enjoy the full spectacle of one of the most important religious festivals of the year (find out a little more about what to expect here).

To mark the end of the sombre build up to Easter (though there are some wild events, too, such as the Scoppio del Carro, or ‘the explosion of the cart’ in Florence, which sees a cart blown up in the cathedral square), La Pasquetta – or ‘little Easter’ – held on our Easter Monday, sees families get back in touch with nature as they head out to the countryside or gather in cities’ green spaces to picnic on a feast of traditional seasonal foods, such as pecorino cheese and fava beans, rustic bread, olives and red wine.

La Pasquetta sees families head to green spaces for a picnic. Photo: Mark Bolton Photography/Alamy

Three important Tuscan gardens will be opening to the public on La Pasquetta as part in the nationwide event Caccia al Tesoro Botanico Grandi Giardini Italiani, with fun and games such as Easter egg hunts for children to enjoy, as well as the chance to admire the blooming herbaceous borders. There are guided tours of historic buildings and gardens, too, at Giardino Bardini in Florence, Giardino Storico Garzoni in Collodi, and Parco della Villa Reale di Marlia in Lucca.

Spring is also the moment to catch a hilarious alternative to the great Palios di Siena, which takes place in the medieval town of Torrita de Siena, south of Florence (22 March). Instead of a horse race featuring gleaming steeds, Palio dei Somari sees neighbourhood jockeys in historic outfits competing astride humble, if disobedient, donkeys. The stakes are high and this race is taken very seriously, but it’s filled with funny moments as the stubborn animals ignore their riders, stop and even go backwards. A market, parades and traditional flag-throwing contests keep the weekend’s proceedings lively, too.

All aboard the Nature Train for day trips departing from Siena. Photo: Visit Tuscany

The popular steam-engine-driven Nature Train comes back into service after winter in the sidings, departing Siena for scenic day trips around the region, carrying passengers to local festivals and special events. The first trip of the spring season (29 March to 2 June) heads out to San Giovanni d’Asso for the Mazzuolo White Truffle Market, while other journeys include a ride out to the San Quirico d’Orcia Wine Festival (26 April).

The San Quirico d’Orcia wine festival offers a taste of Tuscany’s vineyards. Photo: Shutterstock

Whether or not you go there by train, the four-day San Quirico d’Orcia Wine Festival is a date for your diary (23-26 April). The long weekend is packed with organised tours of local vineyards on foot, on two wheels, and by bus, talks and tastings, and lots of cultural events, including opera performances and a short film festival.

It’s your last chance to see these Etruscan artefacts at the San Gimignano Archeological Museum

And there’s a last chance to catch ‘Hinthial – The Shadow of San Gimignano, the Offerer and the Etruscan and Roman Ritual Finds’ at the Museo Archeologico (until 31 May). The exhibition includes artefacts that have never been shown in public before that were unearthed in 2010 during an excavation of the slopes below the town. These historic objects – including a 64cm bronze statue, ceramic and brick fragments, coins and ointment vessels – are compelling evidence of an ancient Etruscan sacred site thought to have been in use for 500 years.

To Tuscany has a range of fantastic villas across the region.

Simone Kane combines PR and content creation, specialising in travel. Her career in journalism spanned more than 25 years, working for a variety of national publications including The Independent on Sunday, National Geographic Traveller UK and various consumer and trade magazines, as well as on copywriting and website projects. Simone also co-founded La Luz, a magazine for English-speakers living in and visiting the Costa de la Luz in southern Spain.

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