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January 26, 2019

Some Things Change in a Timeless Landscape

Some Things Change in a Timeless Landscape

I suppose this, our 10th year at Casa Verde in Vellano, is a story about all the work we have completed on the land.  It is also a story about the whole of the local landscape here and the most obvious features that any guests and visitors will notice when they stay here.  Essentially this landscape is part of a very hilly past medieval world, fortified over the centuries to protect people from invasion and conquest (usually from armed local neighbours from Florence, Lucca or Pisa!).

Manero or ‘La Tosca’ with Casa Verde visible on the Hillside

They are also places of sanctuary from what was the dangers of flood, pestilence and starvation from the underdeveloped Arno flood plain below; with it’s dangers from malaria and typhoid. The Etruscans first drained the Valdinievole and then the Romans. Here in the mountains, water, woods, plants, rocks and trees provided food, shelter and heat in the winter. Our first winters here were a surprise and joy with it’s unexpected dry weather and bright sunshine, however it could also be incredibly cold with the sweeping Tramontana winds (northwind) but only for short periods of time.

 

Before

After!

Today

Restored 200 Year Old Terraces

On the lower slopes of the hills that is the Valleriana are covered in hand-made terraces.  These are south/southwest facing and benefit from the heat of the sun, and are sheltered from the wind.  Ideal for olive trees and oil production.  In the higher part of the hills traditionally, the chestnut and walnut trees provide an abundance of essential food. Chestnuts can be milled to make flour, which is sweet, great to crumble! As well as food from the forest, such as wild boar (cinghiale), deer, rabbits and wild fowl.  In January, as I write, the main activities of the valley are the hunting of wild boar and the cutting and felling of trees. 

These men built the Strada di State to Vellano & on to Abetone

These are activities that go back centuries, and mean that the local communities are very used to a sense of self sufficiency that is long gone in other parts of Italy and Western Europe.  Indeed many young people, frustrated through the lack of employment in towns and cities, are returning to more traditional rural activities.  Of course there are now modern methods of food production that are less physically demanding.  However, you may use electric machines to tease the olives from the trees, but there is still something elemental and pleasurable about using a long cane to tap, shake and stroke the precious  olives from the trees.  This agrarian traditional culture means that there is always something fresh and local on the menu at anytime of the year; artichokes in April, fresh asparagus in May, figs in July, and chestnuts in October.

Stone Works at Vellano

Local Skills on Display

 

 

 

 

 

Another element of the local landscape are the local quarries this produce one important local stone. This is known as Pietra Serena, a hard and durable stone from which many of the local houses have been constructed.  Casa Verde, like many others has in it’s grounds, it’s own small quarry, from which we assume that much of it’s stone came to build Casa Verde and our neighbours house. Neighbours remember stone being ‘sledged’ down the paths behind Casa Verde in the 1940’s. It is also a stone that is easy to carve and sculpt and there are a number of highly talented sculptors (scalpellini) who have produced a number of art works around the village.  In the summer they also hold an international exhibition of sculpting in the Nardini Quarry in Vellano.

Vellano Santi Martino & Sisto 1900?

In the 9 years we have been in Vellano at Casa Verde we have completed a lot of work restoring and improving the steep terraces.  Discovering and planting new olive trees. Clearing and cleaning the terraces that were covered in overgrown briars, ivy and out of control acacia trees.  We have cut down many of these to reveal long lost olive trees. There were a number of large fir trees that were planted, we think, during the Depression and also after the last war as a cash crop. Thesetrees are actually very unsuitable for these steep slopes with their shallow roots.  They were planted to provide a quick reforestation of the hills, but these are gradually being replaced and the wood used at power stations to make electricity. This is making way for more traditional plantations of chestnut and mediterranean oak trees.

New Olives at Casa Verde

New Olive Tree at Casa Verde

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we now have some 60 olive trees and another 20 to plant later this spring.  The views from the house have become, as a result of our tree felling, even more dramatic and extensive. We hope this will be a legacy for the property for ourselves and others for many years to come.

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We, as always, welcome visitors to Casa Verde in 2019, to explore this fabulous landscape.

Malcolm & Darren

See Casa Verde Here: www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com

The Bell of San Michele Vellano

January 6, 2019

Casa Verde Holiday Apartment 2019. Our 10th Year!

Casa Verde – Our 10th Year! – 2019

Welcome to 2019 and this our 10th Season providing holiday accommodation in our Tuscan Apartment.

Casa Verde

The Walls are Coming Down

Decoration – Winter 2009

Without doubt over the years we have had fantastic guests from all over the world and with the internet this has meant that we are now accessible to more and more new places.  In 2018 we have had visitors from South America, Russia, Mexico and Indonesia, new international boundaries in the life of our house in Vellano.  650 people from 23 different country’s have stayed at Casa Verde ranging from Peru to Portugal.  Yet the village remains the same timeless, peaceful and sunny escape from the troubles of the world.

On the Move 2010

Florence

At Casa Verde we have developed our own special features for those who choose a destination, which while not being at all distant from the main Northern Tuscan attractions of Florence, Pisa and Lucca, also seems to attract those that wish to explore and relax in the peace and history of rural Tuscany.  Spectacular and beautiful at any time of the year.

What have we achieved in these last nine years? Well we have been rated as No 1 by Trip Advisor for most of these years for the Pescia region in the category in which we feature.  We have rented our Apartment for 160 weeks for those years.  We estimate that this means more than 800 people have laid their heads at Casa Verde, and probably having the most peaceful sleep possible in the mountain air of Vellano.

Vellano from Casa Verde

Ponte Vecchio

We are both very keen walkers who have explored and learnt a lot about the trails and tracks of both our local area in the Valleriana, the hills above us, but also those in the higher Appenines and the other areas of  Tuscany.

So many fantastic ways to discover the history and classic scenery of this part of the world.  Also many visitors come just to sit read and relax on the terraces with it’s wonderful outstanding views down the valley towards the Pisan Hills. Listening to the sounds of the birds, the swifts dipping and diving from roof to roof, the falcons and buzzards gliding serenely on the warm air currents above the villages of the valley, this is far away from the urban noise.  This is a place to be still as well as explore Renaissance wonders.

Luca Della Robbia

Lucca

We have, we hope, also become a trusted destination for visitors.  The way in which travellers book their journeys across the world has changed; many now use well known, booking and travel sites, as they feel their booking and money is more secure. We hope that you will visit us and celebrate our 10th year. Try our site at www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com you can pay safely via credit card with PayPal. Its the cheapest way to book with us.

We look forward to meeting you, or meeting with you again!

Here’s hoping you have a very Happy New Year in 2019.

Malcolm & Darren

Casa Verde

Vellano

1st January 2019

 

December 1, 2018

Pistoia – A Jewel in Our Regions Crown

Filed under: Uncategorized — Darren Hackett @ 1:57 pm

Pistoia – A Jewel in The Region’s Crown

 

 

Many people visiting Tuscany are naturally dazzled by the glories of the Renaissance at Florence, Siena, Lucca and Pisa. I would suggest that you can spend a day of your holiday discovering the wonders of a lesser known city like Pistoia.

According to one theory, Pistoia lent its name to the pistol, which started to be manufactured in Pistoia during the 16th century. Today, it is notable for new industries such as the building of trains and for the extensive plant nurseries surrounding the city, producing plants and trees delivered around the world. Pistoia is also famous for its flower markets, as is at our nearby city of Pescia.

Catiline & His Slain Men

Pistoria in Latin other possible forms are Pistorium or Pistoriae and was a centre of GallicLigurian and Etruscan settlements before becoming a Roman colony in the 6th century BC, sitting along the important road Via Cassia:

Via Cassia

In 62 BC the demagogue Catiline, not a nice chap it would seem, but very popular with the poor and his fellow conspirators were slain in a battle near Pistoia. From the 5th century the city was a bishopric, and during the Lombardic kingdom it was a royal city and had certain privileges. Pistoia’s most splendid age began in 1177 when it proclaimed itself a free commune, or city state: in the following years it became an important political centre, erecting walls and several public and religious buildings such as it’s hospital, cathedral, city hall and baptistry.

Cathederal.

City Hall at The Palio

Baptistry

The river that ran through the city was converd over and the dry riverbed can now be visited beneith the city streets and acient buildings. It is an interesting Tour with quite an insight into the city’s workings and history. A wheel that would have pressed olives can seen which used the water as a power source.

As was very common, a war in 1254 saw the taking of ‘Ghibelline Pistoia’ by Guelph Florence, it good to ‘hiss’ here as Florence is not part of our Region! Pistoia remained a Florentine holding except for a brief period in the 14th century, when Castruccio Castracani captured it for Luccaagain ‘hissing’ is good because Lucca is a regional rival, but a great Tuscan city to visit.

Water wheel that would have pressed olives.

Dante mentioned in his Divina Commedia, the free town of Pistoia as the home town of Vanni Fucci, a thief who is thrown into the Inferno tangled up in a knot of snakes and burnt to death. Nice!

 

 

One of the most famous families of the city was that of the Rospigliosi, cloth and wollen  merchants and owners of agricultural estates. The Rospigliosi family provided a pope in 1667 with Giulio Rospigliosi, who briefly reigned as Clement IX (1667–69), and gave several cardinals to the church. One cardinal Rospigliosi named “Il bambino Rospigliosi”.

Pope Clement IX

The 11th Prince Rospigliosi, Filippo, is the present (12th) Earl of Newburgh in the peerage of Scotland. The family have palaces in Rome and Pistoia, which can be    visited. The current Earl & Price Rospigliosi live in Milan.

‘Il Bambino’

 

 

 

11th Prince Rospigliosi

 

 

 

 

 

Eating in Pistoia is a delight. Its a relaxed afair with fantastic local food businesses who have a great pride in making such delicious food for locals and visitors alike.

Image result for Resaurants and streets in Pistoia

 

 

 

 

 

There are many fantasitc places to visit in Pistoia not least the Cathedral and the Baptistry. However smaller churches have fantastic works by Pisano for example at San Andrea.

San Andrea with Pisano Pulpit

Della Robbia at San Leone

We hope you will visit Pistoia and Casa Verde its a joy to see.

www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com

www.pistoiaturismo.it

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May 21, 2018

Restoration at Parco Villa Reale Lucca

Visit ParcoVilla Reale & Casa Verde

www.tuscanyholiday-casaverde.com

An Hour from Lucca Florence Pisa & the Coast

A visit to the Park of Villa Reale will surprise and delight you. A chance to immerse yourself in an ancient past with roots stretching back to the Medieval age. The extraordinary history of the Villa Reale estate has unfolded across the centuries with a series of transformations, witnessed by illustrious figures and royal dynasties. The first building was formed from a fortress, where the Duke of Tuscia lived during the early Medieval age.

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

Arno & Circio At Villa Reale

 

 

 

 

 

The property subsequently passed to the Avvocati family and then to the Buonvisi, a noble Lucchese family of merchants and bankers who transformed the fortress into a magnificent building. After their downfall, the Buonvisi sold the majority of the family properties, including the Villa in Marlia near Lucca.

The historic residence was bought by Olivieri and Lelio Orsetti in 1651, who carried out modifications to the Villa and recreated the Park in a baroque style with the creation of courtyards, avenues and spectacular gardens, including the Green Theatre and the Lemon Garden. 

 

marlia orsetti

 

During the 18th century, the Orsetti brothers also constructed the elegant Palazzina dell’Orologio, with its pillared loggia situated above the portico.

 

Palazzina dellìOrologio_Villa Reale

It was around this time, in 1806, that Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister and Princess of Lucca, bought the property. From this point on, the Villa took the name “Reale” (Royal) from Elisa’s title as Queen of Etruria. The Princess had a strong bond with the residence in Marlia, proceeding with major works which transformed the structure of the building and the gardens. Shortly after the purchase, the Princess incorporated the Villa del Vescovo into the estate, and modernised the façade of the ancient Orsetti Palazzo in a neoclassical style. The entrance to the property was moved laterally, along with the creation of an impressive semicircular space, flanked by two small matching buildings designed by the architect Lazzarini. The Park was also partially redesigned in line with the 18th century fashion for English gardens. The most significant change was the elongation of perspective in the space in front of the Villa. This is characterised by a slight incline to highlight a sense of movement, as per the Romantic taste. The Park of Villa Reale was also adorned with statues and vases created with precious white marble from the Eugeniana Academy of Carrara.

Carrara Marble

The Lemonia with 200 Citrus

 

Elisa had to leave the kingdom in February 1814, after the fall of Napoleon. The Princedom of Lucca was transformed into the Duchy, assigned to Carlo Ludovico of Bourbon, and to the mother of Maria Luisa Infanta of Spain. Villa Reale then became the summer residence of the new court, who delighted in organising splendid dances, often hosting distinguished individuals, noblemen and royalty. In 1847, Carlo Ludovico of Bourbon abdicated, bringing an end to Lucca’s political autonomy, when it was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In the second half of the 1800s, the historic residence passed into the hands of the King of Italy, becoming the property of Vittorio Emanuele II, who decided to transfer it to Penelope Carolina, the widow of Carlo of Bourbon, Prince of Capua. When she died in 1882, the estate was passed to the two children, Vittoria Augusta and Francesco Carlo, whose mental illness earned him the name “The Mad Prince”. When his sister Vittoria died, the prince was aided by a guardian who dealt with the management of the family property. The Villa Reale estate was put up for sale. Many items of furniture were sold at auction, and many trees within the Park were cut down for timber.

 

Teatro Verzura_Villa Reale

 

The Count and Countess Pecci-Blunt bought the estate in 1923. The next year they commissioned the famous French architect Jacques Greber for the restoration of the Park and gardens, with the aim of uniting tradition and innovation. Woodland, streams, a lake, and other bucolic features were created to complete and enrich the existing romantic picture created by the classic Italian gardens.

The Villa Reale Lucca

Almost a century later, in 2015, a young Swiss couple bought the by then neglected estate, having fallen hopelessly in love with it. A mere two months later, a terrible storm hit the estate and uprooted many centuries-old trees, complicating the ongoing renovation of the park. Despite the numerous difficulties, the owners decided to accept the challenge of bringing the Villa Reale back to its former glory, initiating significant restoration.

 

 

 

 

Visit us & Villa Reale www.tuscanyholiday-casaverde.com an Hour from Lucca Florence Pisa & the Coast

See Villa Reale @ www.parcovillareale.it

Entry to the Park 8 Euros’ (The Villa is not open to the public at the moment.)

 

From CASA VERDE near LUCCA

Casa Verde Vellano near Lucca

February 2, 2018

A New Look Around Casa Verde Apartment, Vellano

A New Look Around Casa Verde

Here are some photographs showing the changes we have made to our lovely Apartment here at Casa Verde in recent times.

Sitting area with log fire (stufa).

These photographs will soon be updated on our own website, www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com , however we have already been changed on other sites where Casa Verde is advertised and listed. We are so looking forward to another great holiday season with guests from around the world. It is a great pleasure for us to greet so many interesting people and helping to provide them with a home-from-home and to enjoy the fabulous visitor attractions at Florence, with its art culture, Pisa with the astounding Leaning Tower, Lucca and its medieval center and stupendous walls , Viareggio with the beach, at the foot of the Massa-Cararra Mountains. All this here in Tuscany within an hour of Casa Verde.

Remember it is always costs you less to book with us direct from our own website.

Twin Bedroom

Chestnut Room

Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Also:

Vinci the Home of Leonardo

Da Vinci’s Birthplace at Anchiano

 

 

 

 

 

 

Viareggio Carnival

 

 

 

Pescia near Vellano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volterra

 

 

Montecarlo near Lucca

 

 

January 1, 2018

Vellano Summer 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Darren Hackett @ 7:18 pm

The summer of 2017 in Tuscany will be recorded as one of the hottest and driest on record, however a memorable one at Casa Verde.  Here for the New Year is a record of the summer 2017 and we look forward to your visit here to Vellano and to our website:

www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com.

Vellano has had a very festive Summer too with 10 days of the local Ferragosto event at the local village center with dancing both traditional, contemporary and ever so slightly crazy.  Plus an entertaining and very popular evening with a very plausible Freddie Mercury impersonator that we all enjoyed singing along with.

 

‘Freddie Mercury’ at Ferragosto

Several Friday evenings in the Piazza at the top of the village were filled by visitors and locals alike for Pizza, music and catching up with friends and local Vellanese. Darren won first prize in the tombola, salami and cheese selection, fantastic!

Pizza in the Piazza at Vellano

The Vellanese crowd in our local Piazza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tuscan coast shimmered in the summer haze and a visit to the peninsular near Bocca del Magro, and the local town of Sarzana on the Tuscany/Ligurian border was a delight. This area provides us with outstanding vistas and views of charming villas and coves around the coast Lerici.  A Roman Villa near Lago Massacciucoli is the ancient backdrop to the lake as it looks over towards Torre del Lago and the coast, again walking in the area provides the best insights into what this location has to offer.  Walking is the theme again as we ventured to the rocky edges of Tuscan and Emilia Romagna and just over the Appennine ridge we climbed the mighty Monte Cimone, at 2165 m it is the highest peak hereabouts and mighty long climb up from Abetone through forests and then along the mountain ridge.  Most walking here, be it short or long, eventaully takes you through a beautiful olive grove somewhere, and this warm year has provided us with a bumper olive harvest at Casa Verde to savour and remember.  This olive oil is to keep us stocked maybe for several years and marks the end 0f 2017 as a long hot season that has been mightily fruitful.

Monte Cimone

 

Massaciuccoli

Bocca del Magro, Tuscan Coast

Casa Verde Olive Oil 2017

Olive Grove

Casa Verde can be seen on the hillside of this old photo

 Happy New Year from Casa Verde.

June 22, 2017

Cappuccino Rules! Early Summer in Tuscany & The Francigena

That Cappuccino !

The thorny issue of drinking a Cappuccino! When you arrive in Italy this is an issue to consider seriously. Firstly there are very few of your ‘favourite’ coffee haunts; you are unlikely to find the regular high street coffee bars found, for instance, in the UK. A bar in Italy is a community facility used by every Italian, so listen up and think about the ‘regulations’. Do not expect a Cappuccino with the extras of straws, cream, cocoa, chocolate chips, strawberries or whatever…..they do not exist.  A Cappuccino will only cost you 1.20 from the bar (most bars do not have waiter service and based and our experience from long ago taking a seat and waiting for one is fruitless); collect from the bar and take a seat.  In some tourist areas of Lucca and Florence they will charge you for taking a seat, but it is not usual anywhere else. Do as the Italians do if you wish and just drink it at the bar, take your pastry in a paper knapkin and dip it in the froth if you wish.  Remember a cappuccino is a breakfast drink here, so Italians do not take one after 11 am.  Indeed the drinking of milk in any form is considered bad for the digestion after lunchtime..uhm!  Other coffee varieties are simple and few, an espresso (anytime of the day), an americano (a large coffee with milk), a macchiato (an espresso with a small amount of steamed milk) taken up to lunch and that is about it, it is cheap, functional, simple and a pleasurable ritual….join in!

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The Second Stage – Via Francigena – The Alps

Meanwhile the next stage of our Via Francigena walk continued in the spectacular Valle d’Aosta and the Italian Alps, from Great St.Bernard’s Pass to Ivrea.

This was an exacting stage of our walk to Rome but also one of great and varied scenery albeit that the back drop was always the snow topped mountains with the stunning and rugged alpine villages that we walked through on the way down to the Piedmonte valley near Turin.

Bourg St Rhemy

Scaling the final part of the mountain up to St. Bernard’s Pass (the road was still closed for the winter and we could not begin the walk from the top), we were met by an 8 metre wall of snow at the Pass in misty freezing temperatures 500 metres from the Italian border.

Road to Nowhere!

We then began our decent and spent the last few days climbing steep hillsides in 30 degree heat with a 10 kilo pack…what wonderful madness; exacting but rewarding. We walked through many of the steep terraced vineyards that line the Aosta valley as it descends from Aosta itself, fountains in small quiet squares ensured a plentiful supply of water for the thirsty journey.

Window boxes full of spring flowers added to the colour of the journey, goats and cows with bells around their necks providing the soundscape to our footsteps on this ancient road. The central point of the valley is the old Roman staging post of Aosta with a number of Roman remains still demonstrating the importance of the town at the point where three alpine passes descend into the valley. The town is often by-passed by travellers on the motorway down form Mont Blanc, but is definitely a town worth visiting. Along the valley there are also numerous romantic-looking castles and forts that guard and protect the entrance to the Italian peninsula.

Looking Towards Monte Bianco      )))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

 

Pont St. Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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& in Vellano?

Meanwhile back in the Village in Tuscany and the lovely hills of the Pesciatina Svizzeria the weather is hotter and drier than usual for early summer but we have still enjoyed the perfumes of the plants at this time year, the jasmine and the lilies in particular.

The villages and hills already seem quieter and sleepier as the terraces change from green to light brown and the cutting, strimming of grass and vegetation begins to decrease.

Casa Verde – www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com

The lovely nearby villages are wonderful for an early morning stroll in the incredible light of the rising day, among the olive groves and narrow streets before we pause and take in our pastry and cappuccino at the civilised hour of 10 am precisely.

 

 

 

 

All Hot & Dry at Casa Verde

 

 

 

 

Olives a concern as they may drop their olives if the dry weather continues!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The River Pescia Running Low!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 31, 2017

Pistoia Italian City of Culture 2017

The city is small but has a number of wonderful historical features.  In particular the splendid romanesque ‘duomo’, with attached to it one of the loveliest baptistries in Italy.  The grand piazza in which the cathedral stands in it’s unpretentious corner will be host to many as the summer events on offer this year.   This includes the annual Pistoia Blues Festival, with the band Jesus and Mary Chain, as well as opera and ballet.  Outdoor concerts include The Chorus of Maggio Musicale of Florence, The Royal Philaharmonic Orchestra and British singer Tom Odell. Here is a link to the many events on offer here through the year….www.pistoia17.it/en/.

Pistoia City of Culture 2017 This year our provincial capital Pistoia is celebrating it’s status as Italian City of Culture 2017 www.pistoia17.it.  This is a highly prestigious event  for our local city that sits in the shadow of it’s much more famous neighbours Florence and Pisa.  Pistoia is only a 40 minutes drive from Casa Verde, either by the beautiful mountain route across Svizzeria Pesciatina above Vellano; or otherwise down the valley to Pescia and a quick run along the Autostrada.

Pistoia has many good restaurants in the old city centre, a great place to wander and explore with some fine Gelaterie. In the summer along the many old side streets the dining tables outdoors create a special, friendly and intimate atmosphere to enjoy your evening passeggiata, followed by delicious local food.

The other highlights of the city also include the lovely Romanesque church of San Bartolomeo, with a splendid carved pulpit from 125o by Guido da Como.  The Ospedale del Ceppo with a famous tiled frieze above the colonnaded portico by Andrea della Robbia.  Close by the Ospedale marks the entrance to the Pistoia Sottoterreneo– these are the underground passages under the city.  These vaults and cellars existed for the purpose of protecting the city from flooding due to the large river beds on which it was built, so they provided storage, warehouse, workshops, a sewage system and perhaps escapes from invaders even.

Underground Pistoia

Underground Pistoia

They even hold concerts in the vaults from time to time!

The Fondazione Marino Marini celebrates the work of the local artist and contemporary sculptur Marino Marini, who has a museum in Florence but is a native of the city.  Pistoia is a city of flowers and plants and all to the south in the flat marshlands, there thousands of acres of plants nurseries selling plants to all over the world.  To the north of the City there are the lower and higher Appenines reaching all the way to walking paths and the ski resorts at Abetone.

 

 

The Apennines Pistoia

If you have been to Tuscany before and missed this quiet neighbour to the more famous places in the area then now is the time to go.

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Pistoia City of Culture 2017: Click Here: www.pistoia17.it

Open Week’s great video: Click Here: Open Week

December 28, 2016

2016 A Year of Walking

2016 A Year of Walking

Walking is a very special way to visit and discover the hidden parts of Tuscany, a way to explore the pine, chestnut and oak covered hills, otherwise by-passed by tourists.  It is a pleasure to wander through classic olive groves and vineyards, a long way from the main roads between the major Tuscan cities and towns. There are ever more popular walking paths, ‘sentieri’ that are being used by Italians and travellers from abroad, these are often centuries-old tracks or ‘strada bianca’, those wide tracks criss-crossing the landscapes so beloved by photographers. Thanks to the popular Via Francigena that we have written about before, walkers are discovering the many trails across the region.

The Arch of Monte Forato

The Arch of Monte Forato

We have been exploring these areas very much over the past year and also wish to encourage our visitors here as  Casa Verde to make the most of their stay in ‘Bel Paese’.  In the Alpi Apuani we have discovered the amazing and vertiginous rock arch on Monte Forato (1223m) with it’s spectacular view through the stone of the Versilia coast near to Viareggio.  These mountains are very steep and rocky but offer landscapes as dramatic as any in Tuscany.  On the other side of the Garfagnana valley, above Castelnuovo is the highest peak entirely in Tuscany, called Monte Prado (Meadow Mountain 2053m) metres).  It lives up to it’s name too Monte Prado because despite it’s height it is a quite gentle climb to the top and there is a large grassy mound from which you can view most of the three main ridges that make up the Appennine chain in this Northern area of the region. There on the top we met a number of different groups of walkers from all over the world, including a group who were walking some of the long distance mountain routes such as that which runs from near t0 Genoa to Umbria called the Grande Escursione Appenninica (GEA).  There is always a lovely camaraderie that surrounds the meeting of people at the top of a mountain.  You may never see another soul on the climb up or the saunter down the hill but there is always, it seems, someone else at the top, eating lunch, taking photographs and relaxing with the happy satisfaction that a stern challenge has been met.

The Ridge Way to Monte Libro Aperto

In winter the ski resorts of Abetone and Doganaccia have many visitors there for the white stuff and from Cutigliano there is a slightly scary funivia (cable care) that runs up to Doganaccia.  The resort lies just below the route ’00’ which is the ‘mainline’ footpath along the top of the Appenines.  The route is well above the tree line here, hovering between 1500 and 2000 metres and much of it is a distinctive ridge that separates the region of Tuscany from Emilia Romagna and the province of Modena.  The route from above Doganaccia along to Abetone is especially distinctive with a ridge of a few metres wide in places, and steep falls down either side into two very distinctive regions of Italy.  These regions have very different vegetation, trees, climate and landscapes.  The trick is not to fall down either side and explore the greenery too closely!  Always choose a summer day when the temperature below may be 35 degrees and the temperature above is a refreshing 21, and the air is still and clear with views over the roof top of Central Italy.  The view here along the ridge has it’s highest peak (seen in the top right of the picture at Monte Libro Aperto….Mount Open Book) so named because of it’s double peaked top.

On cooler days there are walks by the sea and by lakes, when the olive harvest is season and the shadows lengthen among the forest and the sun sparkles in your eyes. By Lago Massaciuccoli on the west stands the small Puccini town of Torre del Lago, and the other side stands the low hills of the Massarosa with splendid views over the lake as it rises to the East and of the coast beyond.  By the lake there are interesting ruins of a Roman Villa and of Roman baths with some pretty mosaic floors.  The woodland walks climb towards some beautiful villas with excellent views over the western landscape of flood plains, rocky escarpments and vineyards.  Lunch on the sunny November terraces complete the joy.                                                                                                                   Roman Villa by Lago Massaciuccoli

So many possibilities at all times of the year for walkers and those that want a bit of Tuscany all to themselves ….with a little effort and a packed lunch of course.

 

See Our Website @ www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com

Other Links:

doganaccia2000.it

http://www.abetone.it/

June 13, 2016

Via Francigena: Towers and Castles

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Darren Hackett @ 7:27 am

As we leave San Gimignano behind it’s towers keep coming back into view as we climb the undulating valley to the South East in bright sunshine.  We clamber up and down a couple of steep wooded valleys crossing some streams then climbing up through vineyards, the newly formed clutches of tiny grapes appearing on the vines. There are some significantly sized estates here and many of them provide attractive accommodation for visitors who wish to experience life on a working ‘farm’.  These are called Agriturismi  and we stopped at delightful one for a superb cappuccino with a friendly ginger cat.  Our next stop was the large town of Colle Val d’Elsa, the old part of town is a place missed by tourists on their way to San Gimignano and therefore is quiet and majestic, well worth a visit to feel the old atmosphere of a Tuscan town dedicated to wine and food. We stay the night here and then leave across cornfields before The Via Francigena then climbed up to a beautiful medieval village called Strove with it’s winding village streets and window boxes and then down to Abbazia di Isola, an ancient Abbey and rest stop for pilgrims so named as it is situated on an island in the poppy filled meadows.

Piazza del Campo, Siena

Piazza del Campo, Siena

 

 

Abbazia di Isola

Abbazia di Isola

It was then easy then to see ahead the white road towards the distinctive castellated crown of Monteriggioni, where we stayed the night near the Piazza in a delightfully spacious and luxurious B&B, with a fine breakfast.  This tiny but incredibly busy little place is tranquil in the evening when the tourists seep out of the southern gate to their hotels.

Monteriggioni

Monteriggioni

There was a crowd of ‘Pilgrims’ leaving the town in the morning. It felt as if we should all be wearing 15th century dress, so quiet in the morning, so perfect a place in it’s time and barely changed in it’s appearance for 600 years.

We are now on our final leg to Siena and as we left the gate at the other end of square from which we entered, we descended back into the valley, across a busy road on up the wooded hillside to a lovely small village, La Villa, with a castle…and a house that served it’s own coffee and biscuits to walkers as they passed by their property.  This was served in what looked like their lean-to garage but it was delightful and a sure sign of the welcome that people give to people all along this road.  The man and his elderly mother kept a record of the travellers that called at their little house over many years a line of walkers from the whole world down their small country lane on their journey to Rome. Another great reason to travel on foot!

The road to Monteriggioni

The Road to Monteriggioni

Through woods and marshland now for while until we climb up a tarmac road to a more suburban landscape and then, first heard by the roar of traffic and then looking out at the main Siena to Florence motorway…and beyond our goal:  the slender elegant high tower of Siena’s main square is visible to us all.  One more climb up to the main gate of the city and we are there!  Our friends were in the Piazza del Campo to greet us. We check into our hotel with prosecco on the terrace, eat well and then catch the bus home.  All this with a renewed determination to walk the whole stretch of the VF in Italy from San Bernadino to Rome in the next few years.  Watch this space and please share your thoughts and comments with us on this Blog.

 

 

 

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