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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 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

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

 

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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May 12, 2011

Buggiano Castello Garden Festival

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Darren Hackett @ 5:10 pm

Every two years the pretty village of Buggiano Castello asks many of its residents to open up their garden gates to the general public.  Buggiano Castello  lies between Pescia and Monticatini and it sits on it’s own little hilltop with excellent views of the plain of the Val di Nievole that runs between Lucca and Pistoia.  This valley plain with it’s many streams and rivers that feed into the Arno, provides the wet marshland that is ideal for the growing of a wide of range of plants, trees and flowers that makes this area famous worldwide.

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