Christmas In Tuscany

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Torretta Barbischio
Although the rolling hills are not quite as green and the blazing sunshine is not quite as strong; Tuscany has just as much to offer its holiday-making guests in the winter time as it does throughout the busy summer period. And what better time to visit this beautiful and cultured region than Christmas?
Many families jet away for the holiday season every year in order to experience what the festivities are like in other countries, and anyone who has made the decision to spend a few days in one of our luxury villas this Christmas will not be disappointed.
So what can you look forward to in Tuscany at this time of year?

Beautiful Festive Scenes –
It’s not unusual for towns and cities to deck their respective halls as we head into December, but the people of Tuscany, and Italy in general, seem to do it better than most. Traditional, understated and magical are just three words that you could use to describe the lights and shop window displays that can be seen throughout the towns and cities of the region.
Perhaps the most heart-warming of scenes are reserved for the different churches around the area, though. It is a tradition that each one displays its own nativity scene, or presepio, for everyone to enjoy and this is usually the main focus of the decorations. As you take a stroll by the many churches you will realise that these nativities often go much further than just portraying the scene around the manger and are usually beautifully elaborate in nature.
Perhaps one of the most stunning of these presepios can be seen in Manarola, a small town to the north-west of Pisa, which uses over 15,000 solar powered lights to create a scene along the hillside and overlooking the sea.

Markets Galore –
Anyone who loves to explore a good Christmas market at this time of year will not be disappointed by what’s on offer in Tuscany. Lucca, Pisa, Arezzo, Siena and Montepulciano all have brilliaHYPERLINK "http://goitaly.about.com/od/christmasinitaly/a/christmas_2.htm"nHYPERLINK "http://goitaly.about.com/od/christmasinitaly/a/christmas_2.htm"t markets that are littered with local food, drink and gift ideas; meaning it’s impossible to leave without feeling that Christmas tingle all over your body. Why not rest your tired feet with a hot chocolate in hand before you continue your adventures?

Winter Warmers –
There may not be many grapes on the vines at this time of year but Tuscany still has plenty of food and drinks to warm your heart in the winter. It’s truffle season and so you are likely to find dishes that use these all over the restaurant menus. It’s also wild boar season and so if you have never tried this meat before then perhaps this is the perfect time. There is no end of hearty dishes available in the many restaurants that will fuel you for more winter exploring, but why not pick up some supplies from the Christmas markets and attempt to cook up your own seasonal concoction in the kitchen of your villa.

If you’re looking for something delicious that the whole family can get involved with then why not have a go at making your own panHYPERLINK "http://www.itchefs-gvci.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=258&Itemid=655"eHYPERLINK "http://www.itchefs-gvci.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=258&Itemid=655"ttone – a traditional Italian dessert eaten around Christmas.
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Key Dates For Your 2014 Tuscan Diary


Villa Buonvisi
The chances are that many people will have decided where they are heading on holiday next year and for a large number of tourists, the destination is sure to be Tuscany. Some may have even already booked their luxury Tuscan Villa from our wide range of options. Other’s may be still weighing up their options or waiting to see what the best deals are offering, but either way this beautiful region of Italy will be the perfect choice for families and romantic couples alike.
So what can you expect from this delightful place if you are to visit in 2014? Here are just a few events that you should make a note of in your diaries for the coming twelve months.

January –
The biggest event in January, and one of the biggest during the whole year in Tuscany, is Epiphany. This occasion on January 6th marks the twelfth day of Christmas and the revelation that Jesus was indeed the son of God. It is cause for mass celebration across Italy as children wait for the ‘good witch’ Befana to visit their homes with sweets and other gifts. They also dress up as the aforementioned old woman from folklore and go door to door singing, like a sort of trick or treat.

March –
In 2014 Easter Sunday will be on April 20th and that means that one of the biggest events in Tuscany, Viareggio Carnevale, will be celebrated around March 4th. This annual tradition is a celebration of the forthcoming Lent and is the Italian version of Mari Gras. Giant, papier-mâché floats will travel along the streets of Viareggio, a town in the north-west of Tuscany, and will be watched by thousands of spectators. Don’t worry if you’re in Tuscany before this time though as Carnevale celebrations usually start a few weeks prior to the actual event.

April –
If there’s anywhere that knows how to do Easter properly then it has to be Tuscany. There are sure to be events and festivals going on all over the region during this time, but perhaps the best (and most exciting) of the bunch is the Florentine tradition of Scoppio Del Carro or explosion of the cart. Just the name should be enough to intrigue you into visiting the city on Easter Sunday (20th April 2014) to take a look and, if you do, you are guaranteed to not be disappointed. An 18th century cart full of fireworks is lit by a dove-shaped rocket released from the nearby cathedral; it really is an amazing spectacle.

June –
Throughout the summer there are a wide range of festivals in the various towns and cities of Tuscany known as Palio. During these events, the different districts of the town or city compete against each other in a race in order to earn the bragging rights for the next year. Pisa’s Palio takes place on the 17th of June in 2014 and is staged in honour of their patron Saint, Saint Ranieri. The race takes place on a two mile stretch of the river Arno, as teams from the four main districts compete in rowing boats.

September –
The biggest event of the year in the Town of Lucca happens on the 13th of September and is called Luminara di Santa Croce. During this festival, a wooden, holy figure is carried through the street on a crucifix. It travels from the Church Saint Frediano to the Cathedral of Saint Martin and its journey is lit up by thousands of candles along the way. The occasion is then rounded off with a concert from inside the cathedral and a breath-taking firework display on the bank of the river Serchio.
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Three Reasons Why You Should Take a Vacation Today

Monday, December 16, 2013



Are you feeling a little worn out? Do you feel like each day is just another burden to add to the sizeable load that is already on your shoulders? Are you testier with your children or spouse than usual? If so, you might want to look into taking a vacation. This is the time of year that is often the most stressful. There are holidays to prepare for, presents to buy, long hours at work, and terrible weather. A vacation can reenergize you, help you restore relationships, and even help you live longer. Let’s take a look at three reasons why you should take a vacation today. 

You will live longer
If there is one thing you can do to help yourself live longer, besides not smoking, it’s using up your vacation days. Many people do not take their vacation days, and this only makes them more stressed. Vacations are a great way to relax and lose some of that pent up stress. Stress has been linked to a host of conditions and illnesses. From daily aches and pains to more severe conditions like cardiovascular disease and depression, it’s best to overcome stress anyway you can. A vacation is the best way to lose the stress quickly to live longer.

You will do better at work
Speaking to that idea of not taking your vacation days, many people don’t use their days because they feel they’ll fall behind at work. This is counterintuitive because the less you vacation, the more likely you’ll feel overwhelmed. Everyone needs a break, and a respite from work can help you come back more focused, balanced and ready to go. We guarantee that if you rent a villa in Tuscany, you will certainly feel more energized to handle the daily grind when you get back. 

You will have a family memory that will last a long time
Ask anyone what they got for Christmas last year, and most people probably won’t remember. Ask them about the last vacation they went on and prepare to stay for a while. People are more likely to value experiences over physical things, and a family vacation is a great way to reconnect and have a memory to take with you long after you return home. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be hard to connect with those you love. A vacation can help you catch up and remember how much your family means to you. 

For more information on villas in Tuscany, contact us today!
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Exploring Historic Tuscany: 3 Hidden Gem Towns You Must Visit

Friday, December 13, 2013


Tuscany is, without a doubt, one of the most popular places to visit in Italy. With its breathtaking scenery, beautiful vineyards and historic cities, it's no wonder that millions of people from around the world make their way to this part of the boot-shaped country every year. Whether you're staying in a Tuscany Villa rental for a few days, a week or for an extended period, experience the culture of Tuscany by visiting these three small historic towns.





Pitigliano

Built on a promontory and surrounded by vibrant green valleys, Pitigliano is a town that takes a lot of pride in its heritage. The town has weathered many eras, all of which are reflected in the city today: the Etruscan period produced many tombs that have been found in caves and buttes around the city, not to mention some of the walls ; the Roman period gave the town its name (derived from Gens Petilia, a prominent family of the time); and the thriving Jewish population that existed in the town from the 15th century until WWII gave rise to the nickname "Little Jerusalem," as well as the famous Jewish ghetto and Synagogue.

The town has several highly regarded local vineyards, the fruits of which you can enjoy on your stay. In addition, there are several defensive structures to tour, the most impressive easily being the Palazzo Orsini, a 14th Century fortress that now holds regional art and artifacts from several different eras. Also, be sure to visit the Christian cave chapel, which dates back to 400 CE.

San Gimignano

Located in the province of Siena, this walled medieval hill town offers visitors and locals much to see and do. The town itself is completely contained within the original city walls and is home to 14 historic towers that are still standing, making it world-famous. Walk along the narrow lanes lined with limestone houses, where you can visit wineries (the town is known worldwide for its white wine) and jewelry stores, or indulge in Italian sweets, cheeses, breads and more.

You can also climb the hundreds of steps of the Torre Grossa, the tallest tower in town, which was built around 1300 and stands at a commanding 54 meters (about 178 feet). From there you will be able to see the most picturesque Tuscany countryside and even the Apuan Alps.

Lucca

Situated on the river Serchio, this oval-shaped city is located in a valley surrounded by fully preserved Renaissance stone walls. The town dates back to the Etruscans, and is well-known for its various churches, including the Duomo di San Martino (The Cathedral of St. Martin), which was built in the 13th century. There is also the Orto Botanico Comunale di Lucca, a botanical garden dating from the 1820s, the Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi, a 15th century palace that has been converted into a regional museum, and a yearly Puccini opera festival dedicated to the famous composer who hails from the town.

In addition, the town is full of various dining options, including pizzerias, traditional Italian and coastal restaurants, and bake shops and coffee bars, as well as various entertainment venues. Window shoppers can spend the day gazing in astonishment at art exhibits and fashion boutiques.

There is so much to do in Tuscany, but don't miss out on getting a little culture in by visiting these beautiful towns!

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Six Reasons Why You Should Choose To Stay In A Tuscan Villa When Holidaying In Tuscany

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Il Faggeto

Tuscany is the perfect setting for a summer trip. Whether you are travelling as a family, with friends or with your partner Tuscany has something to offer everyone. The region of Italy is on many people’s holiday hit list due to its beautiful scenery, warm weather and famous food. The perfect way to experience Tuscany is to stay in a traditional Tuscan villa, here’s why-
Peace And Quiet
Looking for a relaxing holiday? Get away from the hubbub of the city and stay in a traditional Tuscan villa in the country side. Benefit from deadly silent nights, clear skies, privacy and most importantly relaxation. Many villas in Tuscany are set apart from one another so it’s not often you will find one in a busy neighbourhood. A villa makes for the perfect get away.
Traditional Accommodation
When we go abroad all too often we want our home comforts and don’t make the most out of experiencing a different culture. Rather than staying in a modern city hotel why not opt for a private villa this year and experience Tuscany like it was supposed to be experienced.
Luxurious Swimming Pool
Tuscany can get very hot during the summer and the perfect way to cool down is with a dip in an outdoor pool right on your doorstep. To most of us having our very own swimming pool is luxurious and this is how holidays should feel, relaxing and luxurious. Just imagine being able to wake up on a sunny morning in Tuscany and start your day off with a gentle swim in the pool.
Beautiful Scenery
Tuscany is known for its stunning scenery. Rather than staying in the city and going out of your way to visit the beautiful sights why not surround yourself in the Tuscany countryside by choosing a hill side secluded villa. Villas range from being located in quaint Tuscan villages to the secluded countryside and hillsides.
Get To Know The Locals
The Tuscan locals are very welcoming to tourists taking them under their wing wanting to ensure you enjoy staying in their country. If you stay in a local Tuscan village the locals are often of a tight knit community and will welcome you like one of their own. Enjoy dining with them in local restaurants and don’t be shy to ask for advice on where to visit, what markets to go to and what to see.
Alfresco Dining
Something we often can’t experience in the UK due to the typically cold and temperamental weather is dining alfresco. In Italy eating outdoors is a regular occurrence with the locals sitting down to dinner in the warm evening outside. Most Tuscan villas are complete with peaceful gardens and patio areas so take advantage and dine alfresco whilst holidaying in Tuscany.
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Eight Reasons To Take A Trip To Tuscany

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Image source: To Tuscany photocompetition 2012 - Maciej Stronski
Tuscany is a region located on the west coast of Italy. It is a popular holiday destination for thousands who visit the region every year. Tourists fall in love with the culture and there are many reasons why they find themselves returning year after year. If you’re considering travelling to Tuscany this year here are ten reasons why Tuscany is the perfect place for a summer trip away-

Festivals

Festivals are big in Tuscany and many of the festivals that are still held here today date back to medieval celebrations. Along with festivals such as the Pailo horse race in Piazza del Campo and the Viareggio Carnevale there are regular markets and food and wine festivals held across the region. Tuscany has a festival to suit anyone, look up a list of all the local festivals and see which interest you.

Historic Sites

One of the driving factors for people to visit Tuscany is the impressive historic sites it boasts. From impressive architecture, ancient cathedrals and monuments to museums and ruins, Tuscany is a hub of history. When in Tuscany visit- The leaning tower of Pisa, the Sienna Cathedral, the hill top town of Volterra and the Uffizi gallery.

Cuisine

Italian cuisine is one of the most popular foods across the world so where better than to sample in than in Italy it’s self. The region of Tuscany has some stunning traditional dishes to its name and some tourists return just to sample the dishes cooked traditionally with local produce again. Local dishes include- Liver crostini, Pappardelle pasta, the famous Florentine steak and tripe and lampredotto.

Traditional Accommodation

A great attraction to staying in Italy is the idea behind staying in a traditional Tuscan villa. Experience living like the locals and rent a villa for the duration of your stay. Enjoy open airy spaces, tradition Tuscan kitchens, swimming pools and sunny terraces.

Art

The most famous piece of art work found in Tuscany is Michaelangelo’s statue of David that is said to be a representation of the biblical figure David. It can be found in Florence and was created between 1501 and 1504. Along with the statue of David Tuscany boasts many galleries with local art work

Stunning Beaches

Tuscany has some beautiful beaches perfect for relaxing or running around with the kids. Choose from private sandy alcoves or beaches that stretch for miles complete with bars, restaurants and chairs for relaxing.

Sunshine

During the summer months Tuscany reaches high temperatures with long days of sunshine. Get away for a while and enjoy the heat in Tuscany. One of the most attractive factors of Tuscany is that whilst the sun is strong and the weather warm it’s never so hot that you are unable to spend a lot of time outdoors due to the heat being unbearable.

Relaxation

Lots of spas and areas of relaxation can be found across Tuscany including natural spring spas.  Visit the Saturina springs near Siena and the thermal baths in Bagno Vignoni for a truly relaxing and natural experience.
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Your Guide To Tuscany On A Budget

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Capanna di Camporata - Gaiole in Chianti
Such is the situation across most of the western world at the moment; the chances are you will be looking to get away this year without breaking the bank. As the economy continues to stutter families are finding it harder to splash out on their summer holiday and are instead looking for something that will give them just as much stress-free fun and luxury but without the mammoth price tag. You shouldn’t let this stop you from contemplating a trip to Tuscany this year though as there are plenty of reasons why this region offers beauty and luxurious bliss on a budget.

So how do you go about ensuring your Tuscan adventure doesn’t cost un braccio e una gamba (that’s an arm and a leg to you and me)? Here are a few hints and tips.

Make It A Family Affair –

With our Tuscan villas that sleep between 4 and 8 people starting at just over £400 you can afford to say ‘the more the merrier’ in order to keep the cost down. By getting multiple family members and friends together you can split the cost to drastically reduce the price you each have to pay. For example some of our luxury villas that can sleep ten people are around £1000 for the week, which only works out at £100 pounds per person for a seven night stay in beautiful surroundings.

Book Your Favourite Attraction In Advance –

Many of the most popular sites in the towns and cities around Tuscany will allow you to book your tickets in advance and this could save you a lot of money in the process. By deciding which attractions you definitely want to visit and booking them before you come away you will find that in most cases you are offered considerable discounts.

Steer Clear Of The Tourist Prices –

Restaurant and shop owners in the busiest areas know that they can afford to charge higher prices because they have the footfall to warrant it. Many people will just accept the prices in these places and assume it is standard for the whole of the area, but this may not be the case. By buying your souvenirs, eating your lunch or doing a bit of shopping away from the bustling tourist areas you will be able to find a bargain much easier. You won’t be compromising on quality either as these establishments will be just as good as the mainstream ones but just without the price tags that holidaymakers usually don’t think twice about paying.

Sit Indoors –

You may feel like it is a crime to hide yourself away from the glorious Tuscan sunshine but if you really want to save money then this could be a worthy sacrifice. Restaurants and cafes know that people will want to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful weather and therefore the cover charge will be more if you choose to sit on the balcony or terrace. Take a seat indoors and save yourself some cash while you cool off a bit.

Avoid The ‘It’s OK, I’m On Holiday’ Attitude –

Although you will obviously want to enjoy yourself while you are away; you can still do this and skip those needless purchases in the process. Do you really need that plastic replica of the leaning tower of Pisa or that key ring that just says ‘Tuscany’ on it? It’s so easy to have the attitude of ‘I’m on holiday; it doesn’t matter if I spend a little more’ but you may regret that when your Tuscan escape comes in over budget. Restrict yourself to things you definitely need and be mindful of how much you are spending. It’s a good idea to split your spending budget evenly over however many days you are away for and if you have anything left over from one day it can be rolled over into the next day’s budget.
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La Vita è Bella: Relax in Arezzo

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Image source: eventi-arezzo.it 
With the heat of the Italian summer and the culture rich atmosphere, thousands flock to Tuscany for their summer breaks, which may be off-putting for those looking for a quiet getaway. During July and August, Florence and Pisa become hotbeds of tourism, with visitors from all over the world, and whilst these cities are worth a visit year round, the influx of people may make you feel like avoiding Tuscany all together.

Finding accommodation outside of Italian cities is the easiest way to avoid the crowds and for many, the peaceful surroundings of your Tuscan villa and a good book can be enough to satisfy relaxed holidaymakers. But, if you also want to spend some time soaking up the atmosphere and culture of a Tuscan city and don’t want to be overwhelmed, then head east to Arezzo.

Famed as being one of the wealthiest cities in the region, Arezzo attracts fewer visitors than its famous Tuscan neighbours, offering a more relaxing getaway. So, picking a villa near the beautiful historic city, means that if you get bored of lying poolside, there’s plenty to do and see in Arezzo.

La Vita è Bella Tour

Film fanatics will love Arezzo, with Roberto Begnini’s Oscar winning film La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful) being set in the city. With Begnini being an Arezzo native, and the film an international success, buildings are dotted with signs of film stills in the location that they were filmed. Grabbing a guidebook, or map, and spending a couple of hours taking a walking tour of the city, trying to spot all the signs is a perfect way to spend a hazy Tuscan afternoon.

Basilica di San Francesco

Walking the streets of Arezzo will show you a copious amount of religious buildings for you to visit, each with their own historical importance, but don’t let the exterior of the Basilica di San Francesco fool you-it is well worth stepping inside. The basilica’s Cappella Maggiore houses Piero della Francesca’s most famous fresco cycles, The Legend of the True Cross, which is a masterpiece of Italian Early Renaissance style.

Fortezza Medicea di Arezzo

Built under the orders of Cosimo de’Medici, the fortress that came into the city’s possession in 1893, is now used as a public park. Although, a steep climb like the rest of the city, a trip to the top of San Donato hill, gives you a stunning panoramic view of the city and the Arno river valley that Arezzo rises out of.

La Fiera Antiquaria

The largest square in the city, the Piazza Grande, used to be the central marketplace and is still host to La Fiera Antiquaria.  An Arezzo tradition, every first weekend of the month, antique traders take over the square selling a variety of wares, from furniture to jewellery and everything in between.  Although you may not be looking to make any purchases, a wonder around the stalls to take in the atmosphere could lead to you buying the perfect, possibly expensive, souvenir. 
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Four Great Apps For Learning Italian

Tuesday, November 12, 2013



If you’re planning on staying in our Tuscany villa rentals, there are a few things you need to do before you start your vacation.  You need to do the usual pre-vacation planning like figuring out your itinerary, packing, and scheduling your plane tickets, but there’s something else you should do that could end up helping you a lot during your vacation: learning some Italian.

Nobody is going to expect you to become an expert in Italian overnight, but you should try to learn a few key Italian words and phrases before your vacation.  If you take some time to learn the language you’ll have a much easier time communicating during your trip, but don’t feel the need to sign up for language classes.  If you have a smartphone or an iPad, you already have all of the tools you need to help you learn a language.  If you want to learn how to communicate before your vacation, here are some of the best language learning apps available.


In terms of language learning apps, Duolingo is one of the most acclaimed and widely used apps around.  The app is free for download, and has been proven to show results.  The app uses flashcards, games, and repetition to teach users their language of choice.


Do you just want to learn a few important words before your vacation?  If so, the Learn Italian Flash Cards for iPad is the app you need.  This app is free to download and it contains over 5,000 common Italian words for you to learn.  Each one comes with audio so that you can learn how to properly pronounce the word, and it comes with difference spelling and grammar exercises to help you along your way.


AccelaStudy makes apps for learning a variety of languages, and their Italian language app can help you pick up the language fast.  Their award winning AccelaStudy Italian app can be used on your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and even comes with an audio feature that can gauge how correctly you’re pronouncing a word. 


The Learn a Language With Michel Thomas app is available on a variety of platforms, and this language learning series has gotten rave reviews from people that have used it.  This app is free to download, but you do need to purchase certain special lessons if you want to excel at the language.  This language learning program teaches you your language of choice by first having you listen to the language being spoken, and then having you try to speak it after being immersed in it. 
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