Posts Tagged 'tuscany vacation rentals'

Off The Beaten Track Tuscany: The Garfagnana

It is imperative that you adore Tuscany. I think there is a universal law scratched into a chunk of basalt somewhere, mentioned in some part of the Bible nobody reads because it also mentions Roman soldiers coming out of a brothel and that embarrasses the faithful throngs mightily.

In any case, hardly anyone knows the northern region, where the Apennines lend a horrible beauty and a hardness of life, giving rise to festivals called “sagre” that bring communities together over a good meal of local foods.

Garfagnana vacation rental

Garfagnana vacation rental

Yes, hardly anyone visits these regions, called the Lunigiana, where I spend half a year, and the Garfagnana.

We often get into the car and drive from the Lunigiana to the Garfagnana, no destination in mind. That’s because the incredible beauty of the landscape is the star of the tour. There’s also lots of good, rustic food available along the way as well.

On the left is one of the Garfagnana vacation rentals available on Vacapedia. Rustico la Moscella sleeps 10. (And sleep you will, because it’s quiet out in the countryside of northern Tuscany.)

From here you’ll visit Barga, no doubt one of the Garfagnana’s big treats that isn’t a natural wonder. Barga is known by some as the most Scottish town in Italy. The connection is that an inordinate number of folks left for Scotland during a famine and returned later with cash to fix up the crumbling village. Lots of them seem to have turned into painters, too. The town is loaded with art and home to Barga Jazz and other fine festivals.

Or maybe you’ll just get in the car and drive around like we do. I figure we need to use up the last of the fossil fuels until prices get so high that folks will cave in to the unthinkable pursuit of researching alternative energies.

Tuscany – A Budget Destination?

I’ve been traveling. First there was four days in Dublin, one of the more expensive places on earth. Mediocre food will cost you an arm and a leg. Then there was Provence in France, where the food was tasty, but the bills! Oh, my, the cost of a meal!

Luckily, we’re back in Northern Tuscany, where a gourmet three course meal with a bottle of good wine and some fizzy water and coffee, enough for a two hour Sunday Extravaganza, set the two of us back €50–about what a couple of ok main courses and a Guiness would cost in Dublin.

Traditional farro soup baked inside a round loaf of bread, followed by a big grilled Cinta Senese pork chop with potato and vegetables, followed by a chocolate bomb of a chocolate cake made up my meal, followed by one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had. All washed down with a red wine from the region. It doesn’t get much better than this.

That’s $78, tax and tip included, for a big Sunday dinner for two, even with the dismal value of the dollar. You couldn’t match it in the San Francisco, where just the wine would have set you back at least $30.

Anghiari Vacation Home - Tuscany The truth is, renting a vacation home like Casa Ori in Anghiari, a wonderful little hill town in Tuscany, then hitting the restaurants and nearby historic sites can be part of a very frugal vacation.

You see, tonight, after our extravagant lunch, we’re having a light supper at home. A little salad of endive and radicchio topped with that great tuna in olive oil they have here, some gorgonzola cheese, a slice or two of coppa, some bread–all bought at the local market. Oh yes, I have a glass of good white wine in my hand. The bottle cost €0.98. I kid you not.

Vacation rentals can save you a bundle.

Medieval Towers in Tuscany – Like Them? Stay in One!

There are lots of medieval towers in Tuscany. The rich liked to build tall, ostentatious ones because, well, that’s what the rich do. There are others, shorter and a bit stubby. They were the town’s guard towers, like you’ll find in gated communities these days.

Now that the notorious medieval brigands are under control and the only questionable hands rooting around for money in your pockets belong to the government, there is no need for guard towers like that. So, people have been buying them up and fixing them for vacation houses.

Medieval Tower in Tuscany vacation rentalEvery time I look at one I practically cry. That’s because I could have bought one outside of Perugia pretty darn cheap ten years ago. But never mind, you can stay in one fairly inexpensively in San Quirico d’Orcia in Italy’s fabulous val d’Orcia.

That’s Torre Giona over there to the left. Cute, eh? It’s near Montepulciano, where you can pick up some pretty nice wines.

Your friends will be amazed that you fit in such a narrow house. It’s got a full kitchen though. Unlike some vacation rentals, this one is right on the edge of town, 50 meters to the town center, close to stores.

Tired of cookie-cutter hotel rooms? Stay in a tower for less. It’s something to write home about, you gotta admit.

Barga – Stay on a Farm in Tuscany’s Garfagnana Region

If you think you know Tuscany, think again. There are two regions in the far north, the Lunigiana and the Garfagnana that are quite rural, and offer a different perspective on all things Tuscan. Tourists seldom go there.

The Garfagnana is just north of the town of Lucca. It is cooler in summer than southern Tuscany, especially at night.

Barga is the focal point of tourism in the Garfagnana. Lots of artists and craftspersons have settled there. In summer, you’ll find some sort of sagra or festival going on pretty much every evening. And, Barga has a Scottish connection. Yes, thousands of emigrants left this area in the last century to start a new life in Scotland. But now they’ve returned to Barga and the little villages that surround it, or at least come back for all the festivals in the summer, including biggies BargaJazz and OperaBarga.

Garfagnana vacation rentalLooking for a rural retreat for your vacation? Maybe travel around Italy for a week, then settle into an apartment or house in the Garfagnana, where you can catch your breath and wash your clothes.

The place over to the left is called La Fornace . There are two apartments and two houses on the property. You can mountain bike, horse ride, or walk around beautiful countryside. Ponte del Diavolo (the devil’s bridge) in Borgo a Mozzano is a mere 6 km away, Bagni di Lucca beaches 6 km, Barga approx 10 km, Lucca 31 km, Versilia beaches 55 km.

Imagine sitting down at one of those sagre. You’ll be at a communal dinner with all the folks around, many of whom speak English. In August you can celebrate the “Sagra delle pesce e Patate” (fish and chips dinner)  commemorating the Barga/Scottish connection. There’ll be music.  There’ll be inexpensive wine.

Now I wanna go.

Medieval Towers of San Gimignano

Imagine being immensely rich and powerful; powerful enough to control parts of a city. Of course, not everyone likes powerful people, so you form into clans and build defensive towers, the higher the better.

Height, of course, was a symbol of wealth–he who builds highest has the most money to burn–but it also means you can see your enemy’s movements over more of the city.  Power and paranoia marked the building of the medieval towers in Italy. San Gimignano in Tuscany is the place that has the most still standing. There are 14 of them.

San Gimignano vacation rentalThey’re darn impressive from a distance. You can rent a little place outside San Gimignano and pretend you’re looking at a medieval Manhattan. In fact, you can rent a place with its very own tower, and you can look at San Gimignano’s clot of towers from your window, or maybe from your shared pool. That’s Palazzo di Messerbrogio, just 3 km from San Gimignano over there on the right.

Vacapedia has lots of rentals around San Gimignano. You can also visit one of my favorite cities, Volterra, which is close by. Or, you can rent a cottage there.

Medieval Fantasy Rental With a View – Rometta in Tuscany

Rometta is a very interesting borgo in northern Tuscany’s undiscovered Lunigiana region. The village itself is made up of little stone houses packed densely around a small hill. Despite its small size, Rometta has lots of services, including a train station. You can get to Lucca and beyond via the little motorino that chugs through the Lunigiana and the Garfagnana on its way to the walled city of Lucca.

tuscany vacation rentalMedieval rental houses with vaulted ceilings like you see in the picture of Torre di Rometta on the left are few and far between. Romantic, eh? Plus there’s a terrace with views of the river and Apennines.

Here’s a place where you can roll out those medieval fantasies of yours. There’s a firplace in the living room where you can roast the wild boar you plan on shooting with your crossbow. Watch out for the tusks when you’re butchering it though.

Oh, and at the base of the hill upon which the borgo stands sits one of the most disappointingly ugly modern churches I’ve ever come across, an eyesore that medieval builders couldn’t manage to produce in a million years. You can’t have everything, they say wisely.

But your vacation rental is well above the church, so your medieval fantasies can remain intact as you gaze out over the Lunigiana landscape from your private terrace. And four folks can stay for just over 500 Euros. Check out the northern Tuscany vacation rental: Torre di Rometta

November Vacations in Tuscany

Ok, you’re thinking, “what the heck is there to do in Italy that I’d want to vacation at that time of year for?”

I have one word for you. Truffles.

Yes, on weekends in November you have the famous San Miniato truffle fair. San Miniato and the surrounding territory produces about 25% of Tuscany’s white truffles. They’re all at the fair, waiting for you to buy them, along with truffled salamis of all kinds, and restaurants wanting to grate fresh truffles over simple dishes like scrambled eggs or pasta.

In case you didn’t know, grating a truffle over just about anything–including quite possibly a fermenting sweat sock–makes it into an erotic and edible delight. Well, to some folks anyway.

San Miniato vacation rentalIf you were one of those folks, you could rent a little apartment outside San Miniato and just wait for the waft of truffle juices to overcome you in November. You can get one in that building over there to the right for a great price–under 300 Euros for a week in November for two people.

It’s called Vinaccia. It has a pool, which you probably won’t use in November. Although with this global warming thing you never know, do you?

I’ve heard 2007 isn’t a banner year for truffles, but you’ll save enough on a vacation apartment that you can splurge on the truffles. That’s the way I figure anyway.


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