A Day Trip to Stunning Siena

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Day Trip to Stunning Siena

Siena is a wonderful city settled in the heart of Tuscany. World renowned for its biannual Palio (a fast-paced horse race), Siena is steeped in history and makes the perfect location for a day trip or two if staying in a villa nearby. Somewhat quieter than neighbouring Florence, a day in Siena can be a relaxing excursion for any Tuscan holidaymaker.
If staying in one of our Tuscany villas, and are thinking about visiting the walled city of Siena, then why not take a look at some of our favourite places in the city to help you plan your trip.

Watch Passers-by and Tourists Stroll in the Piazza del Campo
Siena’s Piazza del Campo is a-buzz with action during the famously quick 90 second Palios, but once the excitement dies down and the horse racing is over, the piazza becomes the perfect space to sit back, relax, and watch the world go by.
The sloped piazza is incredibly popular with tourists and students during the warm summer days and evenings, with popular bars, cafes, and restaurants surrounding the edge. For beautiful view of the Palazzo Publico and Torre del Mangia, and to catch a glimpse of everyday Sienese life, take a seat at one of the outside tables of the many cafes, or perch near the top of the shell-shaped piazza. Those who aren’t afraid of heights may even want to take a trip up the Torre del Mangia for panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside.

Siena Cathedral
The stunning Duomo is a must see for visitors to Siena, even if it is simply to admire the bold stripes of the exterior. Those who step inside, will see that the striping continues and that it is a hub of wonderful artworks from the likes of Donatello, Michelangelo and a pulpit designed by Giovanni Pisano. Take a look inside the Piccolomini Library to view some amazing frescoes by Pinturicchio that depict the life of Pope Pius II, and a dramatically vibrant painted ceiling.  

Learn about the Contrade
A large part of Sienese culture revolves around the ancient rivalry between the 17 Contrada, which visitors to the city can learn about by visiting the Museum of Contrada. The museum holds artefacts from each Contrada, including flags, Palio outfits, and trophies.
The ancient rivalry that revolves around the Palios has become relaxed over the years, but those in Siena in the lead up to, or just after the Palios (2nd July and 16th August) can expect to see flag displays, parades, and marches as Contrades build hype or celebrate their wins.  

If you’re planning a trip to Italy, then why not take a look at our selection of Tuscan villas, and see if there is one that suits your needs. For more information about the services that we offer, or a particular villa, then why not get in touch with a member of our team by visiting our contact us page.

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Five Great Holiday Reads Set in Beautiful Italy

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Five Great Holiday Reads Set in Beautiful Italy
Image source: mygoodbookshelf.wordpress.com
It can be inspiring to read a novel or story set in the country in which you are holidaying, so we’ve picked a selection of our favourite novels set in Italy! Pick one, or a couple, and relax in the warm Tuscan climate with one of these good books.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
A story that begins with despair and ends in hope, Eat, Pray, Love tells of Elizabeth Gilbert’s personal journey after the breakdown of her marriage. Although only the first section (Eat) is set in Italy, it is still a worthy holiday read. Feel inspired by Elizabeth’s journey through heartbreak and food in the Italian third of her autobiography, religious in the Indian section, and fall in love with the tales of her time in Bali, Indonesia.
Reading this book will make you eager to find your own adventure in Tuscany and Italy, and may even see you jetting off elsewhere in the near future.

A Room With A View by E.M. Forster
A classic romance tale depicting the inner struggles of a young Edwardian woman, A Room With A View takes readers to early 20th century Florence. Protagonist Lucy Honeychurch takes a trip to Italy with her older cousin Charlotte and it is there that she meets George Emerson when his father offers to swap rooms so that the women have a view of the Arno River. Facing a changing society, Lucy is has to choose between true love and an appropriate marriage of convenience.
Relaxing with this book by your Tuscan villa’s pool will have you excited to get exploring the spectacular streets of Florence.

The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato
In this historic novel, we are taken back in time to Tuscany’s golden age. Set in 18th century Renaissance Siena, the story revolves around the internationally famous Sienese Palio and the rivalries of the city’s Contrades. Pia Tolomei, a Siena native, falls in love with a Palio rider from a rival Contrade but is being forced into an arranged marriage.
This tale will show you the intricate culture of the Tuscan city of Siena, whose history is still very much alive in its biannual Palio.

 I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis
This novel is a fictional depiction of the life of the lady in the world’s most famous painting. Visit 15th century Florence and view the impact that the murder of Giuliano de’ Medici has on the city in this riveting tale. The story then moves forward a decade, and we see an unhappy city and heroine Lisa di Antonio Gherardini coping with love and loss.

Inspired by the life of the mystic woman in Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, this story set against the backdrop of a troubled Florence highlights the artistic flourishes and strength of the Tuscan city.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
In this 1950s psychological thriller we meet Tom Ripley, a young man struggling to make ends meet in New York City. Given the chance to travel to Italy, Ripley and readers become embroiled in a story of murders and stolen identities. Partially set in Mongibello and Sanremo, the story unfolds against a beautiful backdrop as we read about the lives of the wealthy.
As part of a series collectively known as the Ripliad, readers will no doubt look forward to reading the four subsequent novels.

We hope that this selection of novels set in Italy have got you inspired for what book to take with you as your holiday read!
If you are interested in Tuscany villa rental for your Italian holiday, then please check out our website, or get in touch via our contact us page.
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Boardless Games You Don't Need to Pack

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Boardless Games You Don't Need to Pack

At some point on holiday you’re going to want a night in and what better way to get everyone together and having fun than with a game? Obviously you’re not going to want to sacrifice your new sarong to find space for monopoly, so we’ve put together a list of great games you can play without a board. They’re great to play in your Tuscany villa and you can even play some of them in the queue to the Uffizi!

Four Fourths of a Ghost
This is a spelling game where each player has to add a letter to the word. Player 1 picks a letter, for example ‘L’ and then the next player adds any letter which could spell a word, such as ‘O’. Player 3 must then add another letter being careful not to complete a word. If player 3 adds another ‘O’ they will have lost the game by spelling ‘LOO’, so they must find another letter, such as ‘N’ passing the buck to player 4.
Players can try and bluff it by saying a letter where they can’t think of a word that it could lead to. However if they are challenged and can’t think of a word then they lose and become one fourth a ghost. If the player is challenged and can produce a word then it is the challenger who becomes one fourth a ghost. For instance if Player 4 said ‘D’ and was challenged and they said ‘LONDON’ the challenger loses, but if they say ‘LONDIFUL’ the player loses. The ultimate loser is the person who becomes four fourths a ghost first.

How’s Yours?
With this game a player is selected to be the questioner and leaves the room or covers their ears whilst the others decide on an object or thing that they all have, for example a car or a telephone number. Then the questioner returns and can only ask individuals the question “How’s yours?” to which people must answer with a detail that doesn’t give a lot away, but also isn’t so vague that the game can’t progress. The questioner must overcome their growing frustration and work out what the object is! Then a new questioner is nominated and the game continues.

When I went on my holidays…
This is a memory game where players take it in turns to add an item to a list that must be recalled before adding your item to the list. For example, player 1 could say “When I went on my holidays I brought with me some flip flops” then player 2 could say “When I went on my holidays I brought with me some flip flops and a game of Tetris” and player 3 “When I went on my holidays I brought with me some flip flops, a game of Tetris and my sense of dignity!”…And so on. If you make a mistake you’re out and the winner is the last one standing.

Fortunately Unfortunately
This storytelling game is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Each player takes it in turns to add a sentence to the story, alternating with either fortunately or unfortunately to start the sentence. For example:
Once upon a time there was a frog sitting peacefully on a water lily.
Unfortunately his feet were stuck to the leaf and he couldn’t jump off.
Fortunately a wave came along and the frog realised he’s a rather talented surfer.
Unfortunately the leaf split in two and he discovered he wasn’t quite as good at water skiing…

Wink Murder
Gather everyone together in a circle and decide who is going to be the investigator. Get them to leave the room and nominate somebody as the murderer. Bring the investigator back in and the game can begin. The murderer must wink at people to signal their death. The person being winked at must then die in as dramatic a fashion as possible for extra fun! The investigator then has three chances to guess who the murderer is.

Hope you have fun playing all these brilliant games! Have a look through our Tuscany villas and find yourself the perfect place to get all your loved ones together and start the hilarity!
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How to Take Holiday Photos that will Impress

Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Take Holiday Photos that will Impress

Have you recently purchased a new camera, ready for your holiday in the beautiful Italian countryside? You might be looking to take some decent, high-quality photos, but you’re still uncertain about some of the camera’s settings. We’ve come up with some tangible, sensible advice to help you shoot some truly spectacular holiday snaps.
Some of the following ideas may seem fairly obvious, but these are some very real issues that most amateur photographers should be looking to avoid:

Firstly: What are you shooting?
Your photographs should be interesting, relevant and aesthetically pleasing. You want to capture a beautiful scene so that you can keep it forever. Unfortunately however, there are some scenes that just should not be captured. The secret behind good photography therefore, is knowing when to shoot and when to just admire the view.

Portrait Frames
The secret to a good portrait is the positioning. Imagine there are 9 squares in a photograph, like in this well-positioned image below:

To start off with a classical portrait style, your subject should be centred on the middle square. This can take practice in aiming and framing your shot correctly, but once you have this clear in your mind, your portraits will suddenly stand out and look more professional.
Have your model look away from the camera to smile before turning back in time for the ‘click’. This method can lead to the most natural shots, reducing the risk of an overly exaggerated pose.

Always try and keep the sun’s position in mind when taking a photo. Try and keep the sun behind you when taking a quality photo, as your camera will overcompensate for its brightness. This will lead to darker photos with less detail.
The best landscape shots are taken at dawn and just before dusk. This time of day produces the optimum lighting in which to take a good photo. A good sunset photo should be taken when the camera is steady, meaning that you either need to purchase a tripod, or position your camera on a steady wall.

Select and Edit your Slide-Show in more than One Sitting
The importance of selecting the right photos to show others cannot be overstated. Your friends may be polite and not say anything whilst sitting through an interminable display of your recent holiday snaps, but someone needs to tell you: No photo-show should last any longer than seven minutes.
If you have two images that are even slightly similar, select the best one and delete the other. Place more importance on photos of people and interesting, quirky images than pictures of buildings.
Always remember that a photo should tell a story. If you need to explain the story behind the photo a little, that can be interesting. If you have to explain why the photo is even there in the first place, you should probably remove it.

Contact Us
We hope that you enjoy taking excellent shots of your holiday in your Tuscan villa rental. If you have any questions about any of the local history in your villa’s area, please don’t hesitate to ask us. You can call us on 0121 286 7782 or e-mail us here.
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Who else wants to go Kitesurfing in Tuscany?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Who else wants to go Kitesurfing in Tuscany?

Image: tourkese.com
There is so much to do in Tuscany it can be hard sometimes to make an itinerary. If you are planning your holiday in Tuscany this summer around your love of water sports, please do beware that most in-land lakes in Tuscany belong to protected national parks. As a result, most water-sports are banned from these areas.

For more advice, intermixed with some useful leads on where to go, read on below:

Charter a Yacht            
You can find sail-boats in the south of Tuscany, positioned idyllically on the beaches, waiting to be chartered. The coastline off Tuscany is famous the world over for its crystal clear Mediterranean waters and its stunning sea-food. You can see some of the most beautiful islands in Europe, including Elba and the Ponza islands within a few hours of leaving the mainland.

Please do note that certain areas of this coastline are protected by law and all fishing is illegal. Please check local maps and with the local authorities if you are looking to go fishing on your boat.

Windsurfing and Kitesurfing
Almost all of the Etruscan coast could be considered a water-sporting dream. Head to the beautiful white-sand beach at Rosignano for some excellent kite-surfing, before taking the train down to Follonica beach for much of the same. Talamone beach is particularly famous for its strong thermal winds, making for excellent kite-surfing conditions. To check up on the latest conditions, please see Kitesurf Tuscany’s Facebook page.

Canoeing and Kayaking
There can be no finer way to see some of Italy’s stunning maritime areas than in a canoe. Paddling gently up stream or along a coastline, you can be assured of a better view by staying closer to the water-level. With the right water-proofing, it can be one of the best ways to take a stunning photo.

One of the best locations to go kayaking is at Lake Roffio, near Pisa. There is a rowing club, which also holds rowing regattas every year. You can hire two-man canoes and take them out for day-trips.

Scuba Diving
If you like to view fish and other sea-dwelling creatures close-up in their natural habitat, you must go scuba diving. The Etruscan coast has many diving centres which can take you out on excursions and also hire equipment. For a full list of scuba centres in Tuscany, please follow this link.

If you are looking for Tuscany villas to rent, we have the perfect accommodation to fit your water-sports holiday. Please e-mail us with any questions you may have; we’d love to help.
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