Tuscany has captured the imaginations of people for centuries. A land of tightly knit olive groves, sun-drenched vineyards, and Medieval towns perched on top of rolling hills. A place where life, seen through the golden Mediterranean light, really is beautiful.

But it’s also a place where taste reigns supreme, and if there’s one thing that ties together the people of this region it’s food. The seasonal flavours that are delivered from the Tuscan soil every year are awaited with almost religious fervour. The spicy olive oil, the sangiovese grapes that make their way into the precious bottles of Chianti Classico, the fragrant porcini mushrooms and truffles. And of course the tomato or pomodoro, that captures all the flavours of the sun.

These ingredients find their way into delicious recipes that have been cherished and passed down unchanged through the generations. Of course it all starts with fresh, quality ingredients, and behind all that idyllic beauty is a land that has been cultivated to provide it. Every season has its specialities and you can always tell the time of the year by what’s on the table, the food mirrored by the changing colours of the seasons.

It’s a place where local is best, and for anyone that really wants to get a feel for Tuscan food, and how it’s made, you need some serious local knowledge.

This is why we were so excited to find out about Vitalia Tours. These fully escorted tours, run by Catherine Bruno, give visitors the chance to experience this region up close. The groups are small and intimate, not taking more than 12 people, and they give their guests a chance to see a more authentic side to Tuscany and Italy.

Being a bit of a foodie, there are two tours that particularly caught my eye. The Farm to Table Tour and the Fall Festival Tour. Both of them take place during the beginning of autumn when the grape harvest has just finished and the woods are alive with the scent of chestnuts and mushrooms. These are not your average tours, but more like hands-on gastronomic experiences.

Both of them celebrate the flavours and delights of Tuscany, and give you the chance to experience first hand where these precious ingredients come from and how they are prepared.

As Catherine tells us “they give people the chance to immerse themselves in the culture and delights of Tuscan food and wine.”

These tours take guests to the heart of the food and wine experience, from olive mills where the olives are pressed, to a day out with a real Tuscan truffle hunter. You’ll be able to shop at local markets, meet food specialists and visit a boutique winery. You’ll go to local food festivals. You’ll be wined and dined with multi-course dinners, and you’ll learn how to prepare them yourself on a custom cooking course. Imagine being able to watch a local truffle hunter and his dog at work, and visiting a farm where they make pecorino cheese. Sold.

The Farm to Table Tour happens between Sep 22 to Oct 2 2018. If you can’t make that one but love the feeling of fall, you can join the The Fall Festival Tour (October 12 – 22 2018) which promises all the tastes of autumn and gives you the chance to do a bit of guided chestnut hunting. As part of this tour you’ll get to attend a few authentic “sagre including a chestnut festival and a Medieval festival too.

Both tours give you the chance to explore the multi-layered cultural life of Tuscany, from the hidden corners of Florence, city of the Renaissance, to atmospheric Cortona and Arezzo where Roberto Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful” was filmed. They also take in the Chianti wine region, with its endless vineyards and woods, and the scenic landscapes of the Val d’Orcia, where you’ll have time to wander the streets of Montepulciano and see the romantic city of Pienza.

On the Fall Festival Tour, you’ll stay in a real Tuscan farmhouse with a scenic view of the surrounding hills and valleys. Meanwhile with the Farm to Table Tour, accommodation includes 3 nights in Florence, 2 nights in the Chianti and 5 nights at an agriturismo in the Tuscan countryside.

These mouthwatering tours give you a wonderful chance to get personally involved in the ancient traditions that make Tuscany one of the culinary capitals of the world. Bookings can be made directly through the Vitalia Tours website.