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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

June 8, 2014

Roads to Vinci

Pieve di Compito

It is quite possible to travel around the edge of the triangular valley that sits between three sets of hills and mountains.  These are the Appennines, where Casa Verde sits on the lower slopes; the Colle Pisani to the south west and the hills of Montalbano to the south east.  Between the lower slopes of these hills lies the flat-lands of the Valdinievole; the misty valley.  The valley contains the Padule di Fuccheccio but also larger towns, industrial areas and also the town of Montecatini Terme. In the lower slopes of the hills, around the valley there are many smalerl and larger hillside villages that many visitors may miss but are very worthy of further exploration.  The hills near Lucca specialise in March in exhibitions of exquisite and colourful Camellias.  Many of these villages take pride in the gardens and flower displays that make any visit between March and July a visual and fragrant journey.

Borgo Cecina

Borgo Cecina

We have travelled to pretty villages in the area close to Monsummano such as  Montevettolini.  It is here in this village atop it’s own small peak that the Medici’s could see all the Valdinievole before them,  any enemies that approached over the hills be it Pistoia, or from the south west  in the direction of Lucca and Pisa, from the south in the direction of Siena, all the approaches were covered from this lofty place.  For the Medici we imagine that they came here because the palace they occupied was also a quiet and beautiful escape from the intrigues and violence of the Florentine court.  Smaller villages such as Borgo di Cecina have such a charm to the peaceful passer-by, set as it is, among the most immaculate olive groves full of blood-red poppies and white daisies that thrive in the terraces that  borders these ancient villages.  In the hot weather you can hear a cat breath on the stone walls.  It is these rolling landscapes that make the hills of the Montalbano so picturesque and attractive to artists, at Anchiano near Vinci it produced one of the world’s most famous of these.  The small town of Vinci has its own attractions of course, but his two-building birthplace up the hill side has a magical and humble feel to it.  You can see why one’s sensory imagination is so heightened in such havens as these.

da Vinci's birthplace Anchiano

da Vinci’s birthplace Anchiano

 

December 29, 2013

Casa Verde: Artist’s Impressions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Darren Hackett @ 2:59 pm

Casa Verde Tuscany Italy

Above is an artist’s portrait of Casa Verde.  It has been painted by a Anne-Flore, a German artist who has lived in Vellano for many years.  She has actually completed three paintings of the house  but this one is the image that captures most the specific setting of the house, among the trees of the hill-side in it’s prominent position.  The colours she has used reflect perfectly the predominant green shades that are memorable to any view of the house, and which give the house it’s name.

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