Posts Tagged 'tuscany vacation rental'

Siena: Top Quality-of-life in Italy

Italia Oggi reports that the province of Siena offers the highest quality of life in Italy these days, moving up from the number six slot last year.

Hey, the air is fresh (not many of those pesky factories about) and the nearby Crete Senese, the clay hills covered with grain, are worth exploring. And if you have an urge to get packed into the Campo with a zillion other screaming and sweating people, you can try to get a ticket to the Palio, the famous horse race run in summer.

But if you want to travel slow without the tourist hordes, you might want to consider an off-season vacation in the countryside. It’s beautiful, especially the area south of Siena already mentioned, the Crete Senese. Go a bit further south, and you’re in Brunello territory. If you care about wine, this is the place you’ll want to be–near Montepulciano and Montalcino.

Il Poggiolo Siena Province Vacation Rental

Il Poggiolo Siena Province Vacation Rental

Vacation rentals are numerous in this part of Tuscany.  Il Poggiolo, shown on the left, is one of the 3 apartments in a 17th century villa, situated in the center of a garden. It’s not so far from San Gimignano, you know, the tower place.

You might be surprised to see lots of columns with a she-wolf suckling a couple of infants while you’re strolling the center of Siena. You might suddenly think you’re in Rome or something.

It turns out that Siena was founded by Senius, son of Remus, who was  the brother of Romulus.

So that’s the connection. Just so you know.

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Pitigliano: An Odd Tuscan Paradise

You ever heard of Pitigliano? It’s “down there” in Tuscany, in the Maremma, near the Lazio Border. That border has some important implications. It used to be the border to the Papal States. Jewish people, fleeing the worst of the misbehaving Papals, settled in Pitigliano. There’s a 1598 synagogue to visit, although Pitigliano doesn’t have a significant Jewish population these days.

Outside the hill upon which Pitigliano is built is another interesting feature. Lots of rock-cut channels, said to be fashioned by the ancient Etruscans, run randomly through the countryside. Nobody knows what they are, although some, usually without basis, have strong opinions, just like politicians. So the whole area has this sort of mystical appeal. You can make up what you want about it. Like the ancients made this cool slot-car track and used to drive visiting Papals nuts with their little cars whizzing by all the time. This is a good story to tell in a bar. It almost guarantees an empty seat on either side of yours.

So I’d get me a partner who might laugh at my stories and we’d stay at Le Ortenzie to explore this extraordinary area. The kind folks that run the place say “Le Ortenzie is a small paradise midst in the beautiful landscape, near the towns Pitigliano and Sovana, which are famous for there ruins and discoveries from the etruscian time. Saturnia, with the wondrous water for the skin is 25km and the lovely sea by Monte Argentario is 60km away.” Ah, I’d forgotten to mention the wondrous water. Yes, a spa visit is recommended.

And really, Pitigliano is a wonderful walled hilltown with a fortress, called Orsini Fortress that you’ll want to visit for a day–or a week if you like ancient riddles.

Tuscany: Come for the Wine Harvest

I have a house in far northern Tuscany.  Today I walked to the next town over for some gelato  and was passed by several trailers full of grapes.

It’s wine harvest time.

What’s fascinating is how, in very regional areas, everyone makes their own wine. Barrels are all over the streets of my little village, filled with water to get them expanded and ready to take on the juice of the vine. In a few weeks it’s gonna smell mighty good around here.

So where are you? Worrying about your savings being tied up in derivatives? No? Well, for goodness sakes come to Tuscany then, preferably to a rural area, and get caught up in the season. There are lots of festivals, not only celebrating the grape harvest, but there’s also celebrations of truffles, chestnuts and other seasonal gifts from mom nature.

Pietrasanta vacation rental - Nonna

Pietrasanta vacation rental - "Nonno"

Now you could be sitting on the porch of that house over there to the right called “Nonno” and contemplating the fine art found in the nearby town of Pietrasanta, which is one of the marble towns so full of sculptures and sculptors that it’s hard to find a seat at a restaurant without a reservation. Did I mention the restaurants in Pietrasanta are darned fine places? Artists must be demanding eaters.
Go ahead and rent Nonno for a week or two. Lay in a good stock of wine but leave room for more. Head out to town, see the sculptures and come back to quiet. That’s the way to live. And it won’t set you back much.
The Euro is sinking right now, which should sweeten the pot. And you won’t have to spend your nights sitting in front of the tee-vee watching politicians sling mud at each other to avoid debating important things like the fate of the world’s economic systems now that the full effect of filthy rich people getting their way unabated has played itself out to its natural conclusion.
The food this time of year is wonderful. Soups are returning to the menus after a long absence, and roasting and braising meats give off a fragrance I can live with this time of year.
You are coming to Tuscany this fall, right?

Pienza: Small Town Tuscany (with Pecorino!)

Everyone loves Pienza. It’s in the Val D’Orcia between Montalcino and Montepulciano. It’s a small town–a Renaissance gem of a town. The folks of Pienza are quite used to tourists hanging around the bars and restaurants.

Pienza is known for its pecorino, that’s sheep’s cheese, expecially the ‘sotto cenere’ or ‘under ashes’ version. Of course, at the right time of year, there’s the truffled version.

I Cipressini Pienza Vacation Rental

I Cipressini Pienza Vacation Rental

The countryside is pure, uadulterated Tuscany. You should stay there for maximum effect. If I might be so bold, perhaps I could suggest something?

Look to the left. Those cypresses just scream Renaissance Tuscany, don’t they? And you live on the top floor, the bottom isn’t used, just like in the Renaissance, when your cows and pigs and sheep would be cavorting under there and providing free heat for you to enjoy.

This stately farm estate, called I Cipressini, is yours to rent. Pretend you’re a large estate holder in Tuscany. Gaze out at your cypresses while stabbing at a hunk of pecorino with your big hunting knife.

That’d be the life, eh?

Arezzo: Have a Golden Time in Tuscany

I like that there’s continuity between the distant past and the present in many Tuscan towns. Take Arezzo. Not too many people go there, but it’s a really nice hill town first settled, as far as we know, by Etruscans. The Romans noted the the inhabitants did lots of nice metal and ceramics, and now Arezzo is known for its gold jewelery.

Agriturismo Le Gret - Arezzo, Tuscany Vacation Rental

Agriturismo Le Gret - Arezzo, Tuscany Vacation Rental

Take a place outside of town and you can go do lots of things in the countryside. How about canoing in the River Arno? You know, the famous river that passes through Florence. The Arno Valley is beautiful indeed.

That’s the Agriturismo Le Gret over there on the right. Nice setting, eh? Imagine, they make wine, olive oil, honey, nuts and truffles at the Agriturismo. You can buy food right off the farm and sit outside in a lawn chair and eat and drink to your heart’s content.

Then you could go into Arezzo and buy some jewelry. If it’s antiques you lust after, each first Sunday a month and the Saturday before, Arezzo’s famous antique market takes place on the Piazza Grande and winds through the little alleys that surround it.

And you know what dish the folks from Arezzo are noted for? Acquacotta. Yep, that’s “cooked water.” That can’t cost much, can it? Your dwindling dollar is safe in Arezzo, or at least I think it is.

Compact Casa Between Volterra and San Gimignano

Tuscany Vacation Rental

Tuscany Vacation Rental

Everyone loves the city of towers, San Gimignano. I happen to prefer Volterra, the Etruscan city just down the road. If you squint, you can see the towers of San Gimignano from the outskirts of Volterra. But what if you stayed between the two of them?

You’d have some pretty nice views. Plus you’d have a lot of places to visit when you weren’t lolling in the sunshine in front of your little cottage that sits like a mushroom on a grassy slope.

The place over there on the right is called Marzia. It’s cute as a bug’s ear, isn’t it? And it’s just for two. You don’t have to invite the mother in law to share the expense.You don’t need friends or enemies. It’s all yours.

If you need internet services, there’s my favorite place in Volterra called Wine and Web. yep, a very civilized wine bar with computers.

So how about it?

Vacationing in Chianti: Panzano and Its Butcher

There is a pilgrimage that lots of people make to Chianti that doesn’t have anything to do with religious spirituality, at least not in its formal sense. People go for the meat. Dario Cecchini provides it. Dario Cecchini is the Dante quoting butcher of Panzano in Tuscany, who has made the entrance of his Antica Macelleria Cecchini into a sort of stage for tourist entertainment.

You can read about him in Bill Buford’s entertaining novel “Heat”. Buford worked with Dario for a while and got to know him and his quirks. There are many quirks. A plethora even.

But really, the problem is that tourists to go the Antica Macelleria Cecchini to be entertained but not necessarily enlightened by the message Dario is always going on about: fresh, local foods prepared with care. After all, what Dario sells is meat, and that’s not so easy to cart home freshly.

chianti vacation rental

chianti vacation rental

Unless you have planned to vacation in a home in Panzano that is. All the better if the property is a “13th century farmhouse in the gently rolling Chianti hills covered with vineyards, olive groves and woods” like Casenove (pictured).

Now you’re in the thick of things. You can get your meat daily at Dario’s. You can taste the things he sets out for people to taste. You can visit wineries.

Of course if your vacation includes a vacation away from the kitchen, you can always go to Dario’s new restaurant, ristorante Solociccia, which translates to “only meat.” Dario has just started serving his own version of hamburgers and fries, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat well. At the time of writing, the dish is 10 Euro.

Imagine yourself in the heart of Chianti. There are worse places to vacation.


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