Casa Verde Blog

Visit Casa Verde website

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!

)))))O(((((

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

& 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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/

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

 

 

 

October 15, 2012

Cycling Mania In Tuscany

The UCI World Cycling Championships 2013 in Tuscany!

These run from September 22nd to September 29th 2013, with race starts in Lucca and Montecatini Terme

Here is the happy Canadian Fred McGuire, who stayed at Casa Verde this summer.  (Fred is that a bottle of Chianti on the bike frame?) He is happy for us to report about his cycling adventures here in the hillside and mountains that are a training ground for the world’s best cyclists.  Mark Cavendish is a local resident in the Pistoia area!  Every weekend there are hundreds of aspiring Bradley Wiggins in their multi-coloured tight-fitting lycra ascending the steep hills and bends up and around the Valeriana.

Fred hired his bicycle from ChronoBikes (www.chronobikes.com…….an excellent web-site by the way) in Lucca at what he described as a very reasonable rate (25 Euros per day) in the peak of the summer weather….brave guy.  I would probably manage about 100 metres up these mountain roads but to healthy enthusiasts these hills are perfect for a Tuscany cycling holiday.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

January 29, 2012

Winter in Vellano

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Darren Hackett @ 3:37 pm

 

We hope you all had as lovely Christmas and New Year, as we had here.  The weather was mild and sunny this year and there was lots to to do and people to see, including our friends and neighbours.  Aren’t Christmas decorations interesting in Italy!  There are lots of plastic Santa Claus’ flapping about precariously from chimney tops and climbing up traditional green Tuscan shutters.  Plenty of lights illuminating the trees in the road and one enterprising villager who is a big fan (tifoso) of the nearest Serie A football team which is in Florence, called AC Fiorentina.  He had a huge purple/violet Christmas tree surrounded by an arched doorway of violet lights.  Fiorentina incidently play in the colour violet (never seen in England you understand!).  This colour apparently originates from the original red and white city colours they used to play in.  The shirts were apparently then washed one day in the river Arno and the colours bled to form this particularly lurid and striking colour.  Fiorentina may not be Italy’s most successful team but they are the most beautifully equipped. What would you expect from Italy’s most stylish city.

(more…)

December 23, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas from Tuscany

We cannot believe that another wonderful year has gone by and nearly two years since we first moved to Casa Verde.  Here in the hills it is sunny again after a very fierce storm with high gusty winds last week, unlike last Christmas we currently have no snow.  This is just a little ironic as many of the regions of Tuscany have just introduced a new law that says all automobiles must carry snow chains or have snow tyres fitted between the middle of November and the middle of April.

(more…)

February 5, 2011

Paradiso

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Darren Hackett @ 3:29 pm

We are having the most beautiful winter here in Tuscany.  The weather has generally been dry and sunny ever since New Years Day and at times the temperatures have been warm, up to 17 degrees.  So the crocus and the mimosa are flowering and the air is filled with bird song on balmy afternoons.

Montecarlo is the other side of Pescia a few miles away from here.  It is a small town on top of a hill, that occupies the plain of Lucca and was fortified to defend Lucca against the Florentines for many centuries.  With its fortified walls and its small castle, and with its Olive tree-lined streets and pretty terraces is lovely at any time of the year.  It is also the local centre for the wine industry with both its red and white wines gaining a very good reputation in recent years.  We went to the Fattoria Cercetoio to buy some wine for my mother’s birthday.  The farm is owned by Angelo who lived for many years in England running a very popular restaurant and now he runs this establishment set in its own gorgeous little valley a few miles down the road from Montecarlo.  The house and land, pictured, is surrounded by vineyards, olive trees and fruit trees.  Also there are many animals, including, a lovely tan donkey that supplies Angelo with the necessary manure to help with his vines.

(more…)

Powered by WordPress