Tuscany’s Odd Mascot: Il Cinghiale

When someone says Tuscany (Toscana, for you Italian speakers) what comes to mind?

The rolling hills – check! Or the iconic cipressi (cypress trees) – certo! The world renowned wine (vino) – of course! And the fields of sunflowers – you bet! A squat, 300-pound tusked animal that wreaks havoc on the idyllic countryside? Not quite, eh?

Meet Toscana’s unofficial mascot: il cinghiale. The wild boar. Carino (cute), no? Sure he is. This little cartoon can be found all over Tuscany – on t-shirts, mugs, dishcloths, notebooks, you name it! I even found a sweet little cinghiale in peluche (a stuffed one!) to bring back to Canada with me.

These guys (the real live ones) exist in many parts of  the world, but I’m here to tell you in a weirdly proud sort of way, that the biggest ones are often found running around the Tuscan countryside. What do they do? Well, they eat the grapes that had been earmarked for wine. Dig up peoples’ gardens. Run out into the road and cause traffic accidents. Aren’t really wary of humans. Can potentially harm someone who gets in their way.  And to top it all off, they maybe gobble down an expensive truffle or two in their spare time…

On the up side, they taste delizioso on your plate…

Pici al ragu di cinghiale

If you ever get to Tuscany, be sure to indulge in one of my favourite pasta dishes which features the cinghiale: Pici al ragu di cinghiale. Pici pasta with wild boar sauce. Mmmm, buona! You can also get Pappardelle al cinghiale, but since Pici are Siennese and I’m slightly biased, I’ll tell you to forego the Pappardelle and  hold out for the Pici.

The ever-famous cinghiale also appears in places other than on your souvenir t-shirt or your dinner plate. Meet Pietro Tacca’s bronze cinghiale statue in Florence. The original is stored in the Pitti Palace, but this replica lounges proudly outside the Mercato Nuovo in Firenze. Note the odd coloured nose on this guy; when passing, tourists and locals alike believe that rubbing its bronze nose will bring good luck.  Needing all the good luck I can get, I too, patted the well-worn snout:

Il Cinghiale – Amico mio!

My worldly cinghiale friend also popped up in la Musee du Louvre in Paris. This time, he’s made from marble:

My friend the Cinghiale in the Louvre

So, if you’re ever in Tuscany, don’t be surprised to see cinghiale on the menu, cinghiale on the t-shirts, cinghiale in the countryside and cinghiale statues in the cities. The cinghiale is, for all intents and purposes, Tuscany’s odd little mascot.


On Saturday I had the pleasure of spending the day in the “Birthplace of the Renaissance.” I felt that my blog has been a little light on travel photos lately, so I figured I’d share some recent ones with you. Enjoy!

What comes to mind when you see this emblem?

Fleur-de-lis in Firenze

Probably France, right? Or for us Canucks, we think of Québec. But right now I’m nowhere near Québec, and I’m still pretty far from France, so what’s with the the Fleur-de-lis floating around?

The Fleur-de-lis has been used as an emblem by many cities and families since, like, the Middle Ages. Firenze, or Florence for you anglophones and francophones, also adopted the pretty little flower emblem. Some say that Florence adopted it because the city was first founded in a flower-filled valley, or maybe simply because one of Italy’s favourite rivals, France, was using it too.

So what else comes to mind when you think of Florence? Probably this guy, right?

Michelangelo’s David (Replica)

Good old Michelangelo Buonarroti really outdid himself with this one – the David.

David, with his perfectly-sculpted physique is the representation of the ideal man in Michelangelo’s time. Finished in 1504, the statue of David originally stood in Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Now the Galleria dell’Accademia (one of the most famous museums in Italy) is where the original David stands, towering over the floods of admiring tourists, aspiring artists, and lovers of the Renaissance who come to visit.

This picture was taken by yours truly on Saturday, outside of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio where a replica of Michelangelo’s work still draws lots of attention.

The first time I went to see David, 8 years ago, they had set up a computer system in the Accademia that let you zoom in for a closer look at Michelangelo’s mastery. It was while I zoomed in on David that I realized that Michelangelo must have been a bit of a softie at heart.  Because although he gave his manly statue perfectly sculpted muscles, wonderfully proportionate limbs, and a full head of slightly tousled hair, Michelangelo gave his David heart-shaped pupils through which to survey the world. The thought just makes me smile.

But let’s forget about flowers and statues. Another symbol of Florence is undoubtedly the Ponte Vecchio, or the Old Bridge. Sounds more noble and important in Italian, doesn’t it?

The Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River

This bridge, one of many crossing the Arno river in Florence is special for a couple of reasons. Reason #1: It is lined with shops that sell exclusively gold and jewelry. Reason #2: Along the tops of the shops runs the Vasari Corridor, a secret passageway dating back to the 16th century that joins the Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti and lined with priceless works of art. Although the jewelry is expensive and the bridge is often very crowded, it’s certainly worth a stroll.

Let’s not forget the city’s impressive Duomo, (cathedral) which my dear friend Amanda and I visited this weekend. The massive structure was started in the 13th century but not finished until the 15th, and obviously not by the same people. We opted for the grand tour (go big or go home, I always say) so we climbed the 400-someodd steps to the top of the cupola, the Duomo’s dome. Yes, we griped and grumbled and some of us (me) suffered a bit from a phobia of heights, but in the end it was very worth it. Not only did we burn off in advance the delicious treats we’d consume later that day, we also got to see some breathtaking views of the city, as well as the amazing frescos that adorn the inside of the Dome.

Frescoes in the Cupola of the Duomo


View of Florence from the top of the Duomo

Like I said, in the end it was worth all those stairs.