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May 30, 2016

Via Francigena – Haunts of Ancient Peace. San Minato to San Gimignano

A pilgrim signBeside the garden walls,We walk in haunts of ancient peace.
At night we rest and go to sleepAmong the Olive Groves and Flowers
In haunts of ancient peace.
The love and light we seek,
The words we do not need to speak,
Here in this wondrous way we keep
These haunts of ancient peace.

Lyrics by Van Morrison

We began Day 4 from San Miniato early on a beautiful morning.  Leaving behind the town (after coffee and pastries….necessary fuel) for our longest stage of the journey; a hefty 24 kilometres in very warm weather.  However, it is strange that the very best and most varied of the scenery between Lucca and Siena should be reserved for this most isolated of stretches to Gambassi Terme.  The ease of travel was due very much to the distractions of rolling meadows, glittering arcades of tree-lined woodland and the lengths of poppy-lined gravel track among shimmering grasses.  Here and there a glimpse back to the buildings of the town of San Miniato that we had just left.  Here and there a small cemetery or chapel to take water and food, to listen to the noises of birds, and to ease our hot feet.  I wish we had taken voice recordings as well as pictures on this trip, because what appeared to be quietness was in fact a fantastic range of sounds both natural and mechanical along the way, the low hum of a tractor mingled with the simple chorus of the birds.

Pieve, a country church

Pieve, a Country Church

Moving on to GambassiThere was  an ever changing scenery, mainly walking upon high ground until a last long climb up to Gambassi Terme which required a lot of ice-cream to sooth and cool the skin and body on a long but invigorating day.

Covent of Santa Maria daCellole

Covent of Santa Maria at Pancole

Small church now a sumptuous house

Small Church Now a Sumptuous House

On and up the following day after a splendid breakfast took us through farmland and on up to high ground where we passed an fabulous agriturismo property, then on past a small church converted into a highly desirable Tuscan residence and then to the imposing Santuario di Pancole and the Convent of Santa Maria, a white church and a shrine to a young girl cured of her deafness by the appearance of the Virgin Mary. These are the memories of this stretch of the Via Francigena, the images and sounds of peace, of ancient shrines and chapels, of convents and monasteries.  Such an old road where the Pope once walked to meet his gift from Switzerland of guards to protect his Palaces in 1506, a road of pilgrimage and pleasure.

Approaching San Gimignano

Approaching San Gimignano

As we approached San Gimignano we walked through a wonderful monastery, with a simple but gorgeous Romaneque church, the Pieve di Cellole, that echoed with reverent and soulful silence.  The atmosphere was accompanied by the slow, constant and rhythmic drip of water into the font.  It was a place that begged you not to leave and if you did that one day you will return and you soul healed by what was present, human and spiritual there.  This place was the Monastero di Bose, and led to the busy main road into San Gimignano and the throng of tourists and also gentle the splatter of rain.  Taking a beer and a sandwich on the road up the hill.

Next Stage: San Gimignano to Monteridggione coming soon.

The Monastery at Bose

The Monastery of Bose

May 20, 2016

The Via Francigena

LogoViaFrancigenaBetween May the 7th and May the 15th, and in honour of lost friends, relatives and pets we made a spiritual journey on Europe’s most famous walking route after the Camino di Santiago; The Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome. (Please see previous post)  At least we tackled the 140 kilometer section from Lucca to Siena in the heart of the region of Tuscany.  It was a journey of friendship, of good health and of recognition of those that have died in the past year. It was also a profound connection of our feet on the earth of this most beautiful land, of castles, flowers and the people of Europe. So important in these most concerning of times, when we witness the profound miseries of conflict, displacement and migration.   The Via Francigena was all about travel across a continent in the name of meeting others in the world with the aim of companionship, exploration and spiritual/personal fulfillment.

Days One to Three – Lucca to San Miniato – Lanes, rivers and meadows

There is always a buzz about beginning an adventure like this one, especially when you leave a place as magnificent as Lucca on a Saturday morning with it’s buzz of people; weaving on bikes, walking around the market, seeing the tourist, maps and guides in hand losing themselves among the ancient narrow streets.  Today, in brilliant sunshine, it is fantastic walking along the road out of town and out of Porta Elisa headed for Siena in a week’s time.  We were wondering whether we would see another traveler along the way, but within a few meters of the fat red walls of Lucca we meet two French walkers on their way to Rome from their home in France in one continuous journey.  Still as full of joy and pleasure as we are even after traversing Switzerland and the Alps……we are just beginners I think!

Leaving Lucca

Leaving Lucca

Fellow travellers from France

Fellow travellers from France

 

The Timbro di Credenziali

The Timbro di Credenziali

 

Out through the suburbs of the city and across the plain to Altopascio.  Here the joy is that local people are tending their suburban gardens, already full of tomato plants, artichokes and salad.  The jasmine is in full perfume in the hedges, the people so friendly to passers by and wishing us a ‘Boun Viaggo’.  This is the slow way to grow food and the slow and fruitful way to make a journey.  The VF sign (Very Friendly)

These are the signs that keep us on track, the sign says to us ‘Very Friendly’, they are regular sentries on the footpath that tell us we are where we belong and where we need to be; on the road that will be a joy and a delight to us and will hopefully take us to special places.  Altopascio is the end of day one and has a very old church and hostel for pilgrims at it’s centre. It also has the most fantastic ‘Timbro’.  A Timbro is a stamp that says you have completed a stage of the Via Francigena successfully and you can put it into your ‘Credenziali’, your book detailing your journey from wherever you start to whenever you arrive in Rome.  If you complete this book with its stamps and you begin at least 100 kms from Rome you are officially a Pilgrim to Rome. The next day we continue our journey from Altopascio to Ponte a Cappiano, through meadows and along streams.  Here the VF is quiet and somehow a little lonely.  A small chapel here, and through quiet woods there. We spend a little time walking on a piece of road that is cobbled and is the original 13th century road to Rome. You can almost see and hear the carts and horses rattling along the stones, the ancestors in their medieval clothes, with their loads of merchandise for the next town, or their worldly goods as they travel to somewhere new, ancient refugees from a plague or another war perhaps.

The Ancient Road

The Ancient Road

Altopascio

Altopascio

Here too as we head to Ponte Cappiano the scenery changes.  Across the ‘spooky’ woods’ of a ancient heathland called ‘The Sammartina’ (the land of the lost).  For those without the VF signs on the route, you can imagine being lost among these small woods. We then trek down to the village surrounded by lovely villas. The town of Cappiano gets its name from the covered bridge that crosses a river here.  The walk from here the next day runs along side the watery meadow and swamp land of the plain below San Miniato.  We accompanied on our walk by the distinctive raucous bellows of the mating frogs in the little ditches below our feet.  We notice the fields of wheat and wild flowers as we climb up to Fuccechio for lunch in the square.  We then climb up to the familiar serpent length of San Miniato, by now we have walked 50 kilometres, and begin to look beyond to the famous Tuscan Hills of the Val d’Elsa and Chianti hills.

Near Ponte di Cappiano

San Miniato

San Miniato

April 5, 2016

Springing into Life and the Road to the Via Francigena

Spring up Via Francigena. April 2016 013

Spring Blossom at Casa Verde

Waking up to Spring, that is the theme for the season here at Casa Verde, and it is also time for us to prepare for our walk along the local part of the Via Francigena from Lucca to Siena soon.  The Via Francigena is the pilgrim’s footpath all the way from Canterbury to St.Peter’s Church in Rome.  In AD 990 The Archbishop of Canterbury Sigeric collected his cloak of office by walking with his band to and from Rome! (And he wrote about it).  Whether it is the notion of Pilgrimage with it’s spiritual intent, the challenge of the road for days on end and the sense of achievement when you arrive at your destination, or just long days in the ‘wilderness’ attempting discover something more of yourself, then the long walk has great appeal to many thousands of travelers.

The Hills Near Vellano

 

The Via Francigena through Italy begins at the San Bernadino Pass and goes down the Aosta Valley below Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) towards Ivrea, the Po plains, Pavia and Piacenza.  Then over the Appenines to the coast at Luni, down to Lucca, through San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Siena; crossing Chianti, then Lazio into Rome. It has become an increasing popular walking route but much less well used than the Way of St. James in Northern Spain.  There has been recent publicity to promote the Via Francigena through advertising and celebrations.  Also by improving signage; and providing good safe walking through maintaining tracks and by-ways.  It is a problem that some of the original route had become busy main roads, and the route has had to be diverted in parts to make it safer to walk.  Still there are significant sections on side roads and busy roads in some towns and cities; however the route does have a romantic and ancient history and one which we all hope to enjoy and promote to tourists and keen walkers.  Please watch this space in the coming months for pictures and reports of our adventure.

Spring up Via Francigena. April 2016

San Michelle Vellano Tuscany Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring up Via Francigena. April 2016 005

Agrumi at Casa Verde

 

It is easy to love Tuscany at this time of the year, when suddenly the temperatures escalate from 12 to 22 degrees centigrade.  Within a few days every plant in the garden and in the many folds of the valley comes to life with fresh green leaves, blossoms and flowers.   It is as if a magician has swept a wand over the earth and changed it’s colours, it’s smells and it’s air into fans of warm breezes and raised up the volume of the singing birds.  In Britain spring can be beautiful too but it never seems to happens so quickly and with such a force that you feel so transformed by it’s energy.  It is the perfect time to explore the hills and valleys of this landscape and we cannot speak too much of the opportunities for walking and for any explorers of life, nature and culture in this part of the world.

Winter in The Padule near Vellano & Lucca Tuscany Italy - www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com

The Padule near Vellano & Lucca Tuscany Italy

Written and Published by Malcolm Coward – www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com

 

 

 

January 2, 2016

Happy New Year 2016 – The Feast of Epifania

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Darren Hackett @ 2:31 pm
Bifania old woman who, in Italy delivers presents at Epiphany

Befania old woman who, in Italy delivers presents at Epiphany

 

In Italy Christmas does not start in October and end on New Years Eve. It really seems to begin on the public holiday of the Immacolata Concezione on the 8th of December and ends one month later on the feast of Epifania or Epiphany (Twelfth Night) an the 6th of January. This is also the feast of La Befania; one of Italy’s many public holidays. La Befania is an old woman, who looks like the classic version of a witch. She is, by legend a woman whom the Three Wise Men passed; on their way to Bethlehem to visit the new-born baby Jesus. She was sweeping her house when they asked her to join them. She told them she was busy with her sweeping. When she had finished her sweeping she looked for them but they were gone. Every Epifania Eve she takes to her broom flying about he skies of Italy leaving gifts for all the children; who have left their stockings for her. The gifts are usually sweets but she also leaves coal or garlic to indicate all the times they have been naughty as well.

The Three Wise Men asked Befania if she wanted to go with them but she was busy seeping!

The Three Wise Men asked Bifania if she wanted to go with them; but she was busy sweeping!

 

At Casa Verde we have enjoyed a very fine, warm and dry November and December with little sign of cold or snowy weather to come.  This has been headline news here as there have been smog warnings in Milan and the Emilia-Romagna. Linked to this an alarming lack of snow on the Alps and higher Apennines so that thousands of enthusiastic skiers are having to dry grass ski on the slopes of the mountains!  The trees have been reluctant to shed their leaves, grass is growing in bright green swathes across the hillsides and the Camelia shrubs and Mimosa trees are budding seven weeks early. However you can be sure that winter will have it’s say sometime in the next few weeks and sprinkle some white frosting in the Valleriana where Vellano sits.

Snow on Snow but not this year, as yet!

Snow on Snow but not this year, as yet!

 

At Casa Verde we look forward to whole new set of interesting guests from around the world in 2016 as well as some old friends too.  Many things change in the world but here the world changes, thankfully, very slowly.

 

 

 

 

www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com HNY

Wishing you, your family and friends a very Happy New Year 2016.

Malcolm & Darren

July 12, 2015

Walking in Sunshine

Pian del Grande

Pian del Grande

 

At the beginning of June we hosted a group of Staffordshire walkers for the first time here at Casa Verde and elsewhere in Vellano.  It is becoming an important feature of our time here in the Valleriana near Pescia, that we are walking more  as we have other friends who are equally enthusiastic about exploring the hills on foot.  I think we are gaining more confidence in finding our way about the valley and if we are not then we have discovered some great guides who know their way around.  There are some fantastic places to explore here.

 

Resting at the Refugio

Resting at the Refugio

The walkers completed a series of excursions, all varying in length and environment.  We went twice around the local area, among the hills.  A beautiful picnic atop the Castello at Lucchio and an historical and environmental exploration to the lost village of Lignagna (both of these places have featured previously in the Casa Verde blog).  Throughout the steep trail up to the lost village, our guide Andrea spoke of the many botanical features of the hillside; the rock roses, other unique plants, the different birds, lizards etc that thrive in these hills.  He also gave us a picture of how the valley had changed over the centuries in the type of plants and trees that have been cultivated here.  From the chestnut trees, to the vast amounts of imported pine trees, to the encouragement of the smaller Mediterranean Oak.

We had an excellent guide, Donatella, who took us high up to the Alpi Apuane, above the coast near Viareggio.  It was a fabulous treck around the Pian del Grande, one of the highest peaks in the area at nearly 2000 meters (over 6500 ft!).  After a trail along a quarry road with great views out over the chain of mountains running North West, where many of the peaks have been dramatically despoiled by the rich quarrying of the marble industry.  We entered lovely beech and oak woodland before suddenly emerging in a splendid, colourful and dramatic valley where the meadow was still filled with forget-me-nots and poppies.  A stunning scene of delicate and delightful beauty.  Standing over us here was the

Top of the World

Top of the World

huge bulk of the Pian del Grande itself; a rocky beast with a double peak connected by a razor sharp edge (or so it seems) by the name of ‘Omo morto’ (deadman).  This name is also a warning, as many climbers and adventurers have died on this precipice. In the midst of the valley is one of the many ‘rifugi’ that you find in any of the mountain tracks in Italy.  It is a vital resource for mountain walkers and fulfill three main needs of the ramblers; sleep, food and shelter.  Here our group dined at a long table on pasta, veal and wine….what a dream it was to recover and rest in fantastic late spring sunshine under the shadow of the mountains!

Our wonderful group then finished their week around the little wine town of Montecarlo; walking through its vineyards and olive groves, this was very different experience for the group.  In the shimmering heat among the Jasmine and roses, we all had  a taste of Tuscan life familiar to readers of the tourist brochures.  A cappuccino in the cafe. An Italian wedding, the bride and groom posing exotically on the town walls. And to round it all off wine tasting at a local winery, where several wines where gulped, and several where purchased, making ‘La Signora’ , our wine hostess very contented.

Lunch at the Refugio

Lunch at the Refugio

Pondering Each Others Thoughts

Pondering Each Others Thoughts

Restful in the Shade - www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com

Restful in the Shade

 

March 7, 2015

The Way of St.Francis

St.Francis, one of the patron saints of Italy (St.Catherine di Siena is the other), was a rebel. He rebelled at the wealth and extravagance of the Church, he divested himself of his clothing in a city square as symbolic of all his worldly possessions. He founded an order of poverty and devotion in his home town of Assisi.  We have visited Assisi several times, now packed with visitors of course, but you can imagine the place, strung out on a hillside above the Tiber valley as a place of wealth and peace in the middle of the 12th Century, a quiet market town with wool merchants and farmers at the heart of it’s activity.  St.Francis was born in 1182, the youngest son of a wealthy family, as Giovanni.  He was renamed Francesco (the Frenchman) because his mother was from Provence and he was taught to speak French.  After his wild boyhood and his time fighting in local battles he denounced and denied his family wealth and moved outside the walls of the town to San Damiano and founded his own group of religious followers devoted to a life of poverty; risking as he did the anger of his family, friends and more seriously the ire of the Roman Catholic church. The popularity of St.Francis (he was canonized in 1228, two years after his death) grew gradually though the succeeding centuries and many images of the saint appeared.Face of St Francis www.tuscanyholidays-casaverde.com

St Francis

St Francis

Reputedly one of the oldest images of the Saint resides in Pescia, Casa Verde’s local town which the Saint visited in 1211.  Painted in 1235 by Bonaventura Berlinghieri, from a famous Lucchese painting family, the altar piece is thought to give us a pretty accurate likeness of Francis as it was painted only nine years after his death.  It also tells the story of his life in six painted side panels.  The life cycle of Francis has been depicted frequently, most famously by Giotto in the Cathedral of St.Francis at Assisi and explains to generations of devotees the importance of his religious experience.  The Giotto frescoes there portray wonderfully St.Francis’s love and view of nature, the fantastic colours of trees and flowers in shades vivid and vibrant so true of much of the Umbrian & Tuscan countryside.  It is this beauty in the natural world that most residents of these hills truly appreciate whatever else may be happening in the world, and which is portrayed so truly by Tuscan artists.

The icon is in the lovely church of San Francesco at Pescia and can been seen there every day.  This church is of a simple Romanesque style with a few more ‘modern’ baroque features though the  have  building remains essentially unchanged in atmosphere from it’s original feel. The lovely wooden roof beams are beautifully carved; the archways above the main body of the church are frescoed in the most fabulous natural colours, their lucidity owes much to the intricacies of the original design and also that they were only recently restored at the end of the last century.  It is genuinely a place of peace and must give great comfort to visitors across the road at the town’s main hospital. It is also an important treasure for Pescia, a city not so well known compared to San Gimignano, Volterra and other famous Tuscan cities nearby, but a town that has has it’s own medieval heritage, and it’s own charm and beauty nestling as it does under the Appennine Hills.

Chiesa di San Francesco, Pescia

San Francesco Pescia

To all those who booked for Casa Verde this season we look forward to meeting you.  To those who haven’t, take a look at what we have to offer in the land of the way’s of St.Francis.

As churches ready themselves for the busy Easter season, we at Casa Verde ready ourselves for the new holiday season and the spring growing season.  Olive trees are being pruned, ground made ready in the Orto for the vegetables, land being cleared for strimming.  Also the first warm sunny days have appeared as the fresh green grass sparkles framing the first spring flowers that appear on the terraces.  The vivid blue of Italian crocuses and the lovely violet of bluebells that a previous owner has planted at Casa Verde are a find.

 

http://www.comune.pescia.pt.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/1076

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi

Photo 1 courtesy of Suckale, Weniger, der Gotik & Verlag

Photo 2/3 courtesy of Sailko

January 21, 2015

Orange & Lemons at Vellano – Candied Peel Recipe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Darren Hackett @ 1:29 pm

Oranges & Lemons Said the Bells of Vellano!

The Scent is Fantastic

The Scent is Fantastic

Some readers will be familiar with the song, ‘Orange and Lemons Said the Bells of St Clement’s’. St. Clements’s may be St Clement Danes or St Clement Eastcheap in London both of which are near the wharves where merchants landed their citrus fruits. The tune is also reminiscent of change ringing or bell ringing and St Clement Danes rings out this tune to this day.

I had forgotten it is a singing game or dance where you were ‘out’ if the arc of hands came down on you and you were then ‘out’ to the words, ‘And here comes a chopper to chop off your head‘. The game was sung on festival days, on which bells would be rung.

This leads me to my problem as there are so many oranges and lemons on our citrus plants this January I wondered what to do with orange skins.

We have had orange juice, orange fruit cocktail and ice cream, zest in cakes and one idea was to make candied peal with the skins. Instead of composting it all, which is not advised as it can make you compost acid and thus your soil acidic. Very difficult to put right!!

So below is a method for making Citrus Candied Peel

4 Oranges

4 & a half cups of water

2 and a half cups of sugar

Sugar for coating

1. Cut the orange peel with the pith taken away with a knife into 6cm by half a cm strips. Do not worry if there is a little pith left on the peel.

Cut into Strips

Cut into Strips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Add water, sugar and peel strips in a wide pan and bring to the boil.

Simply add water & Sugar

Simply add water & Sugar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Simmer for 1 hour or so until the mixture of fruit and sugar syrup goes a little bit golden but before it turns to caramel!!

Simmer for 30 - 45 Mins

Simmer for 30 – 45 Mins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Remove from the syrup and place on a bed of sugar. Leave for a few minutes to cool. Then sprinkle with sugar and roll the candied peel in the sugar with the flat of your hand.

Dry over night or in  a warm oven

Dry Over Night or in a Warm Oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper and then put in a warm oven to dry. If you leave them on the kitchen table over night they dry just the same.

6. Keep in a air tight jar.

They are delicious.

Keep In an Air Tight Jar

Keep in an Air Tight Jar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Tip: You can also dip half of each strip in chocolate! Enjoy.

 Links:

Oranges and Lemons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oranges_and_Lemons

St Clement Danes: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Clement_Danes

St Clement Eastcheap: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Clement%27s,_Eastcheap

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.

 

Ipad  Photos 2014 097

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.

IMG_20140106_0003

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!!!

 

HolidayDrive 054

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.

 

September 8, 2014

Festival Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Darren Hackett @ 6:10 am

Festival Time

The Vellenese crowd in our local Piazza

The Vellenese Crowd in Our Local Piazza

Well we have all heard of the Gunfight at the OK Coral……..this is the bunfight at the local Piazza!

This is a traditional event, a cake festival at the beginning of August, as part of the Ferragosto celebrations.  Local people bake the most delicious and beautiful array of cakes, displaying them in the square and there is a competition.  I assume that the prize is for the best looking cake….or perhaps for who gets to taste them first in the frenetic cue for pieces of this delicious fayre.

(I had a piece of the grand white cream cake, with icing and pistacchio, the one at the bottom of the table…in case you might be interested!)

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This picture was taken at around 10.30 in the evening as to display cakes outside on a warm August evening would have been very difficult earlier in the day.  The small piazza at the top of our village of Vellano was crammed with people at this time and music was provided by our local crooner Liscio.  He also provided all the music for our 50/60th Birthday Party in June this year and very entertaining it all was….part Italian country songs and part Karioke.

Whilst the weather in Tuscany has been strange and unusual for us all this year other normal summer activities and festivals continued on.

The Giusti Garden's Verona

The Giusti Garden’s Verona

 

 

 

We visited Verona in the Veneto in August, for another of Italy’s more famous festival, the Verona Opera Festival in the Roman Arena.

Where gladiators once fought with Lions and Tigers opera goers now vie for seats at one of the most spectacular theatres in the World. The audience of about 12000, dressed in a range from the most glittering to tourist casual began the spectacle with the overtures and a sea of traditional candle light……then after about half an hour of the performance…..rain! After waiting 2 hours for the showers to peter out the performance was abandoned.  So now we must wait for another twelve months for the next years round of Verona performance to begin and another chance to see the fabulous Aida emerge from the artificial but beautiful stage representation of Memphis (this time not waiting for Elvis).

There are other delights in Verona of course to sea and we took a meandering walk and climb around the lovely Giusti Garden’s, with it’s great views over the city.

The Giusti Garden's

The Giusti Garden’s

 

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