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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 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

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