Salad days: Now is the time to sow those delicious cut-and-come-again crops

For vegetable gardeners there is a flurry of mouthwatering firsts in July: the first shiny truncheons of courgette, the first slim, sweet carrots, the first early potatoes, the first shiny tomatoes. Perhaps even a cucumber. You can bet that somewhere, some smartypants will be saying airily, "Oh! I had those in June". But will that fantastically irritating paragon have remembered to sow more cut-and-come-again salad crops? Or a second row of French beans to crop under cloches in autumn? Or chicory, choy sum, endive, kohlrabi, komatsuna, mibuna, mizuna, oriental mustard and spinach leaf? Seed sowing is always more in our minds in spring and successional sowings of crops tend to get forgotten later in summer.

Florence and the Machine: Meet the sound of the summer

Florence and the Machine's dark, dramatic and downright sexy music has already made her pop's hottest property

Take your seats for this summer's top six classical music festivals

Leave the wellies behind. You won't have to traipse through the mud to enjoy these elegant seasonal spectaculars. Adrian Mourby rounds up the highlights, from Verdi and Rossini in Italy to Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn in California

Injuries on Kercher's body 'consistent with attack by more than one person'

Wounds were from two different knives, Perugia courtroom is told

Hunt for the Monster of Florence

When two writers tried to look beyond a bizarre murder investigation focused on Masonic rites and a psychic, the police turned on them. Their account is now coming to Hollywood, thanks to Tom Cruise

Lippi declines to talk about Cassano snub

Italy coach Marcello Lippi declined to give reasons for his decision to again omit in-form Sampdoria playmaker Antonio Cassano for two World Cup qualifiers.

Sting sends out message in a bottle of red

For a musician whose vocal cords sound in need of cough mixture, Sting's latest commercial venture could prove most soothing. The singer and occasional lutist plans to sell red wine made from grapes grown on his organic farm in Tuscany later this year.

The Complete Guide To: Tuscany

Start with the exquisite art, museums and churches, then relish the cuisine and epic countryside. Jonathan Buckley highlights the best of the quintessential Italian region

The Monster of Florence, By Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

After moving to Florence to write a novel, the American crime writer Douglas Preston made contact with Mario Spezi, a celebrated local crime reporter, to help him understand how Italian policemen tick. The novel went nowhere, but thanks to his friendship with Spezi he found himself with an inside track on the investigation into the horrific "Monster of Florence" murders.

Best for rural retreats: Tuscany

From high-level trekking in Morocco's Atlas Mountains to rubbing shoulders with A-listers on Hollywood Boulevard, and from rural retreats off Tuscany's beaten track to jet-set hang outs for Moscow's super-rich, our writers have been to the ends of the earth to find a world of inspiration

The Complete Guide To: Palatial Italy

Historic palaces across the country have opened their doors to guests – and you don't need a princely budget to experience some atmospheric Italian splendour.

The Enchantress of Florence, By Salman Rushdie

We know that Rushdie will never pick up a full deck of positive reviews for anything he writes, but the predictable divisions that greeted this spectacular fantasia should not mask its sheer panache and pace.

Album: Haydn, Italian Arias – Quasthoff et al, (Deutsche Grammophon)

First of the inevitable anniversary year releases, Thomas Quasthoff's recital focuses on the least well-known area of Haydn's work.

24-Hour Room Service: Four Seasons, Florence, Italy

Some first-time visitors to Florence have been known to suffer from Stendhal syndrome – often referred to as Florence Syndrome – which is named after the 19th-century French novelist. As a result of prolonged proximity to such "sublime beauty", he was overcome with an extreme case of nerves and palpitations.

Madama Butterfly, Floria Tosca – they all came from Lucca

Visit this Tuscan city as it marks the 150th birthday of its son, Puccini, says Adrian Mourby
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

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What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
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24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

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'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

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How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital