A trip to Pistoia

Friday, August 25, 2017

A trip to Pistoia
Posted by Sonia (25/08/17)
Just 19 miles from Florence is the beautiful city of Pistoia. Much like other Tuscan comunes, the city is filled with breathtaking medieval architecture and rich culture. If you like the idea of a more relaxing break, then a villa near Pistoia is the perfect destination. But, what to do while there?
Aside from relaxing by your villa’s pool, here are some of the best things to do and see while visiting Pistoia.

Battistero di San Giovanni
While the baptistery in Pistoia has the same striped green and white marble façade as many other religious buildings in Tuscany, its shape is what makes it truly stand out. Built during the fourteenth century and designed by Andrea Pisano, the baptistery is octagonal and can be seen in the Piazza del Duomo.

La Fondazione Marino Marini
If you like modern art, head to Pistoia’s La Fondazione Marino Marini. The museum is dedicated to the works of Marino Marini. There, you can see sculptures and paintings by the artist who was born in Pistoia. During his lifetime, Marini’s work was displaying in New York’s MOMA and he was awarded the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale.


Pistoia Sotterranea and Ospedale del Ceppo
For an amazing historical experience, head to Ospedale del Ceppo. This medieval hospital has a stunning exterior and plenty of history inside. Those visiting can go underground to see all of the 13th century hospital. In the Pistoia Sotteranea (the underground section of the hospital), you can see old surgical equipment, learn about the history of the building, and even see underground rivers.

Pistoia Blues
If you’re planning your next summer holiday, and are a music lover, then you may want to stay in Tuscany during Pistoia Blues festival. 

We have a beautiful range of Tuscan villas in the Pistoia region that make the perfect accommodation for your Italy trip. Take a look at our website to browse our hand-picked luxury villas.
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Then and Now, A Brief History of Florence

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Then and Now, A Brief History of Florence



Posted by Dympna (10/08/2017)

Birthplace to the Italian Renaissance, Florence is an amazing city. Situated on the Arno River, it is the capital city of Tuscany and famous as a modern city with plenty to do, whilst also having a rich history.

If you are fascinated by history and like to visit cities with a colourful past, then Florence should most definitely be on your bucket list. Its streets are filled with secrets from earlier times, and there’s artwork and history woven into each of the city’s mesmerising buildings. Here is a brief insight into the history of this intriguing city.



Birth of a city
During the period around 700 B.C. the Etruscans settled in Tuscany, giving the region its name. The Romans were the first to populate the actual city of Florence, around 59 B.C. It was during this early period of Florentine history that work began on famous landmarks such as the church of San Lorenzo.

Rise of the Medici
In 1458, Cosimo de' Medici became the ruler of Florence. The powerful Medici family had a massive influence on Florence during their three years in power, including the creation of the now world-famous Uffizi Gallery.

‘The Uffizi Gallery is a creation of the Medici family: we owe the construction of the building to Cosimo I in 1560, the creation of the museum to his son Francesco I in 1581 and to the last of the Medici, Anna Maria Luisa, the eternal inheritance of its contents to the Florentine state in 1737.’ Uffizi.org

A story from this time involves Michelangelo who had sided against the Medici in a coup against them in 1530. The Medici eventually won meaning Michelangelo had to hide in a small room in the Cappelle Medicee until being pardoned.


The Renaissance
Many members of the Medici family dedicated much of their lives to collecting art from around the world. They turned Florence into the home of the Italian Renaissance. Known as an open air museum, the city contains many wonderful statues such as the reproduction of Michelangelo’s David.

Florence is also famous for its world-class architecture such as the stunning Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (or Duomo). Engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi, the dome of the church is a joy to behold.

Florence – 17th Century to modern day
At the beginning of the 17th Century, Florence was given to the Lorraine family. They eventually left and King Vittorio Emanuele rose to power as ruler of Florence. Echoes of the Renaissance period can still be found throughout Florence. It is also a renowned centre for education, housing the University of Florence and the Polimoda fashion school.


Tips for Visiting Florence
It’s worth keeping a few things in mind to make your visit to Florence as enjoyable as possible:
1. Pick up a Firenze card – this is a great card to pick up when in Florence. It is valid for 72 hours, gets you free entrance to the important museums and free bus rides.
2. Dine at Il Latini – this is one of the most popular restaurants in Florence. Here you can enjoy a delicious, authentic Tuscan menu.
3. Make a plan – it is worth making an organised plan of what you want to see and where things are before you set out to explore the city. During peak season, the city can get very busy with large queues for the main galleries, so be sure to arrive early and allow yourself plenty of time.

Rest assured, a visit to Tuscany and Florence is one you will treasure. As the author Jennifer Coburn noted, ‘Visiting Florence is like attending a surprise party everyday’. Click here to take a look at our excellent collection of ideally located villas in and around Florence.
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When & Where To See Tuscany’s Most Famous & Colourful Flowers

Thursday, August 3, 2017

When & Where To See Tuscany’s Most Famous & Colourful Flowers


Posted by Mikolaj (03/08/2017)

The brightly coloured blooms that cover Tuscany’s countryside are synonymous with the region’s world-famous landscapes. Not only do they attract huge amounts of visitors every year, but they have also inspired scores of Italian artists from across history.

We are often asked when the best time is to see this natural spectacle. However, since many of Tuscany’s flower species bloom at different times and depend on different environments, this is a complex question to answer. It’s certainly worth getting your timing right, because witnessing these flowers in their full glory is nothing short of breath-taking, not to mention ideal for unique photo opportunities. With pink cherry blossom trees lining the vineyards, rich green olive groves and lush fields of yellow rapeseed flowers by the country roads, it’s hard not to be blown away by these extraordinary scenes.

To help you discover these scenes for yourself, we’ve provided a guide to some of the most beloved and popular flowers of the region, as well as where and when you can see them.



Poppies
If it’s striking red hues you want to capture on camera then you won’t want to miss Tuscany’s poppies in bloom. As with most of these flowers, the best time to witness them can vary, but generally speaking, they start raising their heads towards the end of April and into the first few weeks of May.

Some of the best places to see poppies include the fields of Maremma and the Crete Senesi in the Val d’Orcia. The poppy fields initially begin with a few flowers rising up here and there, but by the end of May, these fields are in full bloom, every square inch of them bathed in a rich red.

Sunflowers
Next up we have a common sight in Tuscan art and paintings. Many people travel from all over the world just to experience standing in a Tuscan field surrounded by enormous yellow sunflowers.

The sunflower season in Tuscany begins in early June and runs through July and August. However, catching them looking their best is not quite as predictable, since they are easily affected by the weather. They may be in spectacular bloom on a certain date, but may fail to show up on the same day a year later. It’s a good idea to ask the locals if you aren’t having much success.

It’s certainly worth driving around a little to find the best sunflower fields, because when you do stumble upon one, the dazzling sight is not easily forgotten.


Cherry blossom trees
It’s hard to imagine a more romantic scene than a gorgeous cherry blossom tree. If you want to get married in Tuscany, you may want to coincide your wedding with the bloom of the cherry blossom. These trees line fields with pretty pink and white flowers. The best time to see them bloom is in the spring, and the first local cherries can be eaten in mid may.

Orchids
A lesser known flower by tourists, Orchids are also a spectacle to behold in Tuscany. In fact, there are over 40 different species of orchid that are native to Tuscany. Orchids can be found in and around the vineyards and beautiful fields in the Chianti region, but there are also some growing high in the Apuan Alps.

One of the species found here is famous for looking like an insect, so much so that male insects like bees try to mate with them. This isn’t too much of an inconvenience for the orchids though. In fact it’s beneficial for the species because it helps them pollinate.

Rapeseed flowers
Though they may trigger hay fever symptoms for some people, rapeseed fields are beautiful to look at from any distance. These little yellow flowers light up the landscape.

They are often described as fields of gold, and it’s easy to see why. The rapeseed flowers are one of Tuscany’s most striking sights, and they can be seen spreading across the horizons in early spring. They contrast wonderfully with the lush green grass of the surrounding trees and meadows.

As well as all of the above, other attractive flowers to look out for in Tuscany include lupinella selvatica (French honeysuckle, which grows wild from April to June), daisies, hyacinths, cyclamens and primrose flowers.
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Why Does Tuscan Olive Oil Taste So Good?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Why Does Tuscan Olive Oil Taste So Good?

Posted by Kiri (14/07/2017)

When we visited Tuscany last year, we went to a wine and olive estate. The owner said, a lot of people say our olive oil is the best they have ever tasted. And she wasn’t over exaggerating. After just one taste of their freshly made, local olive oil I was hooked. It’s just got such a distinctive flavour that once you taste it, you can’t go back. The awful olive oil you buy from supermarkets simply can’t match up.

I have heard that a good olive oil from Tuscany should scratch your throat slightly. We bought back as many bottles as our suitcases would fit, and when I was devastated after I poured the last drop onto my salad. Thankfully, we recently got sent some more. And after surviving on supermarket olive oil for a while, I forgot how strong Tuscan oil tastes, and caught the sharpness at the back of my throat. Hello old friend.

Contrary to popular belief, olive oil, unlike many wines, does not get better with age. The fresher the oil is, the more exquisite the taste. The oil in Tuscany is often made on farms and vineyards where excellent wine is also produced.

The flavour changes slightly depending on what part of Tuscany you are in, because the scenery, soil and trees vary quite a bit. The quality is consistent throughout the region, but the limited single estate extra virgin oil from the Chianti region is considered the best.

 Here’s why Tuscan olive oil tastes so good.


In Tuscany, olive isn’t just an ingredient, it’s a lifestyle
This is a key factor in why the olive oil tastes so amazing here. It’s because it’s a huge part of the Tuscan culture. For the local people it’s a part of their everyday life, and they see it as a key ingredient in most meals.

You won’t find much butter in this region, as people here prefer to drizzle oil on their bread instead. The locals grow up with olive oil and its taste reminds them of their childhood. Olive oil, along with saltless bread, has been the core of the Tuscan diet for centuries. It’s used in cooking, but also as a dressing for salads and bread.

This lifestyle and love for olive oil goes into its production, and that’s partly why it’s so delicious. The people here know what a quality olive oil should taste like and won’t settle for anything less than perfect when it comes to the oil they shower their food in.

It has to meet high standards
Extra virgin olive oil is not allowed to have an acidity level of less than 0.8%, and it should not contact any chemicals. These rules help to maintain the high standards of oil produced here. The process of picking the olives from the trees and turning it into olive oil shouldn’t take over four to six hours.

Another reason why the oil is so good here is when you taste it, it’s been made and bottled locally, keeping the fresh flavour. When olive oil is shipped its quality can drop, especially if it isn’t kept at an optimum temperature.

The conditions are ideal
And lastly, but most importantly, the conditions for growing olive oil are favourable. Tuscany has the right climate and fertile lands, which helps the locals to create some of the finest oil around. The right sort of trees also grow here (including the Leccino, Pendolino, Frantoio and Moraiolo).

Plus, the techniques used when picked and making the oil have been passed down and perfected through families for generations. The olives are usually picked by hand so that the fruit doesn’t get damaged which can impact the taste. The most skilled part of making olive oil is knowing when to harvest the olives, as this determines the flavour and acidity levels.
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Three Artistic & Creative Holidays In Tuscany

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Three Types Artistic & Creative Holidays You Can Enjoy In Tuscany


Posted by Virginie (06/07/2017)

It’s not just romance that can be found in Tuscany. Beauty can ignite romance and passion. but it can also inspire creativity. What better place to get your creative juices flowing than amongst the breathtaking countryside in Tuscany? It’s no wonder the author of ‘Under The Tuscan Sun’, Frances Mayes found such inspiration here.

Tuscany is also a magnet for culture and art, with Florence being the artistic hub. So, if you are after more than time away to unwind, and want to escape somewhere to complete a project or find the creative motivation you need, hide away in Tuscany for a few weeks. Here are some creative activities and holidays you can enjoy in Tuscany.


1. Painting holidays
There are plenty of painting classes and workshops you can attend throughout Tuscany, including courses for complete beginners. The magical and awe-inspiring vistas across Tuscany have been transformed into spectacular paintings by artists for centuries. There’s just so many beautiful views and interesting things to paint throughout the region.

Combine a few days of painting, with adventures to medieval hilltop towns, and visits to enchanting cities like Florence and Siena where you can admire Tuscan artistic masterpieces in the art galleries.  Florence Art School is a wonderful place to visit, they run courses in traditional Italian decorative arts. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to paint, Tuscany is quite simply an artist’s dream.

2. Cooking courses
There’s an endless selection of cooking classes and experiences to choose from in Tuscany. Attend a cooking class at a local family run restaurant where you can learn how to cook dishes from scratch. Then, head back to your self-catering apartment in Tuscany and test out some of your new skills. Our self-catering apartments come with a fully equipped kitchen.

If you feel like being extra creative, visit the local food market and pick up some fresh ingredients, and rustle something up based on what you find. Fresh, local ingredients are a crucial part of Tuscan cooking, the locals will make dinner based on what vegetables and foods are in season.

We have put together a list of all our favourite cooking classes and schools in Tuscany, click here to book one. Or, if you would prefer to be wined and dined, why not give yourself a night off and book yourself a private chef?


3. Photography holidays
If you are passionate about photography, you can put your skills to the test in Tuscany. There’s literally something to photograph around every corner. Make the most of your time in Tuscany and take a photography class where you will learn how to photograph some of the region’s hidden gems. Take pictures of everything from vineyards and wine cellars, to olive groves, Chianti farms and classic Italian gardens. You will return with some absolutely stunning pictures of Tuscany that you can treasure forever and use for your photographic portfolio.
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