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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.

((((((((((((((((((((((O))))))))))))))))))))))

 

 

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

 

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

April 6, 2012

Palm Sunday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Darren Hackett @ 11:00 am

 

In Tuscany we have been having some warm and benign weather after the chills of February;  indeed we are here in Florence on Palm Sunday.  Here, there is a quietly joyous feel about the city in the balmy sunshine,  everyone seems intoxicated and dreamy in the breezy spring weather, anticipating Easter (or Pasqua).  In front of the Pitti Palace there is a Palm Sunday parade, a priest leads a procession through the streets of choirboys and parishioners each carrying either a palm frond or a sprig of olive branch.  There is a sense of calm and peaceful solemnity among the crowds.  There are the tourists now beginning to throng the piazzas and museums.  There are locals carrying newly bought Easter eggs, great chocolate ovals wrapped in colourful shiny paper.  There are people carrying picnic lunches to eat by the Arno, watching their children play on the swings.  There are lovers kissing on the Ponte Vecchio or having their photographs with the Doumo in the background.  No rushing or shouting, no anxiety or strain just a quiet anticipation of summer.

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November 20, 2011

Autumn in Barga

Many of our visitors to Casa Verde head off for the great triumpherate Tuscan cities of Lucca, Florence and Pisa; all within an hours drive from Pescia.  However, there are some stunningly beautiful parts of our area that not all travellers manage to see.  One of these areas lies around 40 miles away from here over the hills and valleys of the lower Appennines to the Garfagnana and the Serchio valley.  The town of Barga is the jewel in its crown.  A lovely fairy tale place set on a hilly promontory overlooking the craggy marble magnificence of the Alpi Apuane hills, and topped by what I think is one of the most unique and glorious of Romanesque churches in Italy.

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