Tuscany in Summertime: Calcio Storico Fiorentino

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The city of Florence is known for its beautiful art, delicious food, and eclectic mixture of events.  It's easy to see why so many people choose to reserve their luxury Tuscan villa rentals in the city, it seems like there's always something going on in the region.  Sports fans would love visiting the city in June where a very unique sporting event takes place.  Calcio Storico Fiorentino is a celebration of history and sportsmanship, and like many traditions in the city, this all started during the region's ancient days.

Roman legionaries had a unique method for training their warriors.  They would play a game the ancient Greeks invented called "Sferomachia", a game that's like a mixture of wrestling and soccer.  Two teams of equal numbers would play on opposite sides of a field, and the goal was to bring a ball over to the opponent's field by any means necessary.  Players would engage in head-to-head combat, and the Roman people enjoyed the game so much that soon everybody in the empire wanted in on the activity.

By the 16th century all of Florence was in love with the game.  The game used to be played exclusively by the aristocrats of the city, but the game's popularity spread among every citizen in the city.  Young Florentines practiced the sport in nearly every street and town square, and there are even a few popes who played the game.  Soon the games were organized during every Carnival season, but eventually because of changing times and opinions the game fell out of popularity for a few centuries.

Organized matches didn't begin again until the 20th century, and in 1930 the first official game in centuries was played.  Now the games take place during the 3rd week of June in the Piazza Santa Croce.  Four teams participate in the games and each one represents the city's four districts, the team members can be identified by their colors: Santa Croce wears blue, Santa Maria Novella wears red, Santo Spirito wears white, and San Giovanni wears green.  The modern version of the game eliminated some of the more dangerous aspects of the original game, but the approved tactics are still pretty rough.  Players are allowed to head-butt, punch, elbow, and even choke others, but sucker-punching and kicks to the head are forbidden. 

The winners go on to play during the final tournament on June 24th, the day of Florence's patron saint San Giovanni (the saint we know as St. John the Baptist).  The final match isn't the only thing to see in the city on the 24th.  Each year there's a parade full of people in historical Renaissance clothing, and they march from the Piazza Santa Maria Novella to the match in the Piazza Santa Croce.  The night ends with a breath taking fireworks display that's launched from Piazzale Michelangelo. 
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Celebrate Tuscany- Luminara June 16th

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Italy's Tuscany region is known for its celebrations and festivals, and during the spring and summer months both residents and visitors have an array of events to go to.  If you want to experience a festival that's both beautiful and traditional, you should consider coming to Pisa to witness the Luminara.  The Luminara takes place every June 16th, and with all of the Tuscany villas that are available for rent you shouldn't have a problem finding a place to stay.

The Celebration

La Luminara is a festival of lights that the entire city participates in.  The center of the city lights up when 70,000 candles are lit when the sun starts to set.  The candles are placed in white wooden frames called la biancheria (a phrase that literally translates to "the linens"), and they're hung on the facades of the Palazzi of the Lungarno, bridges, and river banks.  The end result is breath taking, and is more than worth the money and time spent to see the event.  The La Luminara is topped off every year with a massive fireworks display from the Cittadella Vecchia.  Many people line up along the river to watch it, and you get a small glimpse of the display here.

The Celebrated Saint

The beautiful La Luminara celebration is done to honor Saint Rainerius (commonly known as San Rainieri in Italy), the patron saint of the city of Pisa and travelers.  Saint Rainerius was born as Rainerius Scacceri in 1115 in Pisa to a family of wealthy family.  Throughout his youth he was a traveling minstrel, and he spent much of his later life traveling as well.  According to the Catholic Church Rainerius met a holy man named Alberto during his travels, a nobleman from Corsica who left a lasting impact on Rainerius.  Despite being a nobleman Alberto wore a cloak make of rough animal hair, and he joined the monastery of Saint Vitus in Pisa and became known for his work with the poor. 

Rainerius was so impressed by Alberto's story that he became a devout Christian, gave up most of his wealth, and journeyed to the Holy Land in 1146.  While he was in the Holy Land he lived as a hermit and beggar, he did penance for seven years and reportedly experienced many visions and revelations during his time.  Rainerius returned to Pisa in 1153 and achieved fame and acclaim for his preaching skills.  He was treated as a saint during his lifetime because of his alleged performance of miracles and exorcisms.  When he died in 1160 his body was carried through the city streets and was laid to rest in the Duomo of Pisa.

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Activities For Children In Tuscany

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Image source: www.anticadelizia.it
Tuscany is a great option for a family holiday. Not only is this beautiful city rich in History with beautiful sights to see but it also has lots of unique activities for children to take part in. Family holidays are all about balance, and Tuscany offers some great days out and activities for all the family to enjoy.

Creativity In Cuisine

Tuscany is well known for its delicious food. Not only are there thousands or traditional restaurants to choose from but there are also opportunities to get involved in the making of the foods that Tuscany is famous for-

·         Making Cheese In Pienza- Pienza is famous for its strong Pecorino cheese. Visit the Cugusi dairy here to see how the cheese is made. It’s a great opportunity for the children to learn the process. They can also see the sheep and feed them whist on the tour. There is also the opportunity to taste the cheeses and buy some to take home. 

·         Make Ice Cream In Castellina- Delicious traditional ice cream is sold at the Antica Delizia ice cream parlour in Castellina. Here the chef Simone welcomes people into his kitchen to learn how to make (and taste) the ice creams.

·         Make Traditional Dishes In Chianti- Tosca Mia cookery school offers family classes in whipping up traditional Italian dishes. The cookery school even has specially made low tables so children can get really involved. At the end of the class you are welcome to tuck into your dishes. It’s always a winner with children as they look so pleased as they eat the meals they made themselves.

Outdoor Activities

Whilst in Tuscany when the weather is good you’ll almost always want to spend all of your time outside. Here are some great outdoors activities for adults and children-

·         Spa And Golf Centre In Saturnia- Enjoy massages and pampering while your children swim in the outdoor heated pool and play in the waterfall here. This is a great opportunity for the children to have some fun splashing around while you get some well deserved time to relax.

·         Pinocchio Park In Collodi- This park is themed around the famous story of Pinocchio. The park consists of beautiful gardens and an amusement park with games and rides for the children. There are also puppet making classes and puppet shows so there is plenty to get involved in.

·         Prehistoric Park In Peccioli- This amazing park consists of huge models of dinosaurs, cavemen and volcano’s. It’s always a winner with young children and makes for a great day out. 
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A Guide To Enjoying Tuscany With Children

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Image source: parksmania.it

With its diversity and ‘something for everyone’ nature, Tuscany is a great place to spend your family holiday and while some people jet off to escape the daily routine of family life, others like to take their whole family with them so that they can all enjoy the Italian sun, sea and sights together. There really is something to satisfy everyone’s tastes and everyone’s thirst for adventure and that makes this delightful region of Italy the perfect location for that family vacation.

Some older children may feel that they are too old for a family holiday and that they are too cool to be spending an extended period in close proximity to their parents. However, choosing one of the many luxury villas in Tuscany as your base will give them their own space, their own piece of independence and you still get to enjoy your holiday as one family.

So what does this beautiful area have to offer for the younger holiday maker? There is definitely plenty to keep even the oldest mind young.

Mondo Bimbo – This indoor soft play area is perfect for children that want to run around and use up all their energy. Located in the Piazza della Liberta in Florence, there is plenty of space for parents to watch their kids enjoy the inflatables and ride-on toys and plenty of refreshments to refuel them with afterwards.

Family Friendly Museums – The great thing about museums is that they are for all ages, especially the Palazzo Vechio which can also be found in Florence. This museum has three parts which are sure to cater for people of all ages.

There is also the Museo del Bosco in Siena which houses a collection of stores from a culture of people that used to live in the nearby woodlands. Children will enjoy exploring the walks and trails and spotting different kinds of flora and fauna.

Behaving Like Animals – Children are always excited by the prospect of getting to see different types of animals up close and Tuscany offers plenty of chances to do just that. There is the Zoo in Pistoia which is home to many different species from snakes to stick insects and axolotls to African elephants. There’s also the European fauna park between Arezzo and Florence which is more of a nature park than a zoo.

Alternatively, if you prefer your animals a little more extinct then why not visit the amazing prehistoric park in Peccioli, Pisa. Share your children’s enthusiasm as you explore a park that is littered with life-size replicas of dinosaurs, cave men and even a volcano.

Get Taken For A Ride; On Land And Water – Tuscany is home to some great amusement parks so whether you like your fun to be wet and wild or dry and diverse, there is plenty to keep you entertained.  If you’re one for water based adventure check out the water parks in both Cecina and Fallonica. There are a range of flumes and slides at both parks and various refreshment opportunities to keep you and your children going all day.

Also water based are the thermal baths in Saturnia, Massa. These pools, first built by the romans, will sooth any aching limbs with temperatures at a constant 37.5 degrees.

For something a bit drier but equally as fun, there is the amusement park in the province of Livorno called Cavallino Matto. This immensely popular family destination will provide thrills in all shapes and sizes and includes a 4-D cinema screen, mountain roller coasters and much, much more.

A Great Way To See The Sights – One thing that any parent will find frustrating is if halfway through your lovely family day out, the kids start to become agitated and get tired of all the walking. Luckily there are other ways to get around and see the sights that will put less strain on younger legs and will provide a more exciting tour of the area.

A perfect example of this is the holiday train in Pietrasanta, Lucca. This colourful locomotive runs along part of the west coast of Italy through some beautiful, picturesque areas and then back to Pietrasanta again. Another fun way to get around is via horse and cart. There are extended city tours available via this mode of transport in Florence which will keep the children interested in the beauty of their wonderful surroundings.

Italy has always had a great children’s culture and you will see examples all over the Tuscany region of how children are integrated and not forgotten about. It is not unusual for you to be stopped in the street by a lovely Italian family as they graze admirably into your pram or pushchair and you will soon see how much children are cherished and celebrated in this breath-taking holiday destination.

For more information on opening times and prices for the zoos, theme parks, museums and many more fun activities for children visit our Tuscany for children page on our main site.
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