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December 23, 2014

The Shortest Days & Christmas Presepi

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Darren Hackett @ 5:17 pm

We at Casa Verde would like to wish all our readers, friends, visitors and customers a very Happy Christmas and New Year.
Presepe of Bread San Miniato

There is in Italy, at this time of year, the great tradition of building presepi or nativity scenes in many religious and public spaces. Here in the photograph opposite, a bakery has made this one with their own bread. In San Miniato, coincidentally, twinned with Bethlehem, there is a whole festival dedicated this week to artistic versions of the presepi made with all sorts of materials including old garden tools, sweets, metalwork etc.

The quiet town of San Miniato in the province of Empoli is the Northern-most town in the Chianti region. It is strung out along a low narrow ridge overlooking the Arno valley for more than a mile.  It’s main street is part of the Via Francigena, the road from Canterbury through France to Rome. San Miniato was fought over fiercely in July 1944 between the German and American troops, leaving the town very badly damaged, it is hard to believe that it has ever changed for over eight centuries.

The town is home to the November truffle festival and famous for it’s white truffles.  One of these sold in the US recently for around 50,000 dollars!!!!

Precepe San Miniato

Precepe San Miniato

Everything is gentle and slow, time to sit in the Cathedral square watching the mist billow in and out of the towers.  The church tower in typical red-brick splendor, it’s gothic clock beautifully; but oddly placed to one side of it’s square construction.  The giant medieval watch-tower on top of the hill placed as if in solitude in a pretty, well-kept park.

We visited San Miniato on the shortest day,  the 21st of December. One of those glorious winter days when the warm, strong sun creates such a soft light among the mists that rise from the river valley below.  There is little of the Christmas bustle and business that seems to be happening elsewhere.

 

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San Miniato

 

In the main square stands a beautifully curved edifice known as the Palazzo del Seminario. It’s facade painted and decorated elaborately and distinctively.  On the ground floor there a many doors with steps that look as if they could have been shops and stalls.  This is the main market square for San Miniato; on various days full of food stalls or antiques.

Market Square at San Miniato

The architecture always reminds us that such is the glory and quality of Tuscan architecture that every comune or local council, has had to somehow find a way to create distinctive style or look that is unique to it’s buildings.  After wandering around more of the presepi we enjoyed our favourite winter treat at one of our local cafes……a delicious hot chocolate topped with whipped fresh cream.  Boun Natale a tutti!!!.

December 5, 2014

Roads to Casa Verde

Filed under: Uncategorized — Darren Hackett @ 2:40 pm

There are many roads up and around the valleys above Pescia and Lucca and they are vital in maintaining peoples access to the main shopping and working centres  located on the valley floor. For the past 70 decades there has been a gradual shift in workers looking for jobs in shops, factories and other businesses in the area. Meanwhile the life style of the ‘contadini’, the country workers, in the mountains has been slowly eroded. It was unusual for people in villages such as Vellano to visit the nearest main town of Pescia more than once a month. There were supplies of what was needed all around them in the village. Any transported goods were carried by pack horse as late as the last war and Vellano did not have surfaced road until the 1950’s. Here is a photo of the labourers building the road at that time; the photo has been shared by our neighbour.

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Isn’t it such a beautiful photograph of these guys seemingly so happy in their work.  I wonder how many of them are still alive today. The road is of course particularly important as we move towards the heart of Winter with the threat of frost and snow.  The road is especially significant as it is one of the routes up to the ski resort of Abetone so it is kept open all year round.  This last year was a mild and damp winter followed by a lot of rain during the late summer and autumn months, this has led to a 40% drop in Italy’s olive harvest, probably with greater damage in the Tuscany region, other crops too have suffered in the unusual weather of 2014. Many coastal resorts in North West Tuscany and Liguria around Genoa have experienced floods and mudslides, with many losing their homes, roads and living from the land.

So this year we are all hoping for a drier and colder Winter season with lots of bug-killing frosts, and a necessary drying of the land for the Spring of 2015.

Talking of roads being built, those guests and friends who have enjoyed their visits to Casa Verde will know that there has been a small price to pay for the splendid view from the property; that is the ride (or walk) up and down our famous ‘strada bianca’.  It is not very long but was a bit bumpy and scary……well not anymore!!

HolidayDrive 051It may need a little more landscaping, and it is not quite the Yellow Brick Road, although it is the yellow required by the Florence authorities! However, it makes for a pleasant smooth, gentle ascent to the start of your holiday.  It is of course our new cement road.

A Pathway to Paradise?

A Highway to Heaven?

Well maybe those are too pretentious as names …so we can just call it…..

Una Strada pui Bello!!!

 

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No more muddy shoes when you dine out at the Ristorante Bistrot!

 

No more unloading of bags or passengers at the bottom of the drive!

 

No more fear of heart attacks as you ascend the hill!

 

A formal opening will no doubt be made for the Summer season of 2015.

 

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