COVID-19, a global challenge

Peccioli in Tuscany @FrancescoMazzei

In these days our worldwide community has been suspended for the challenge we all are now facing. For the first time ever, travelling has been put on standby for the health and safety of us all. An unprecedented event for our industry.

In these days of travel restrictions, we and our colleagues are united in giving you all some respite from the tensions and frustrations of living in lockdown, with your lives uprooted in ways we honestly could never have imagined.

Plaza de España in Seville @thechroniclesofwander

Daily I post photos and videos on our Facebook pages, Tuscany Holiday Rent, on Tuscany, and Not Only Tuscany Holiday Rent, devoted to Andalusia, Corsica, Liguria and Sardinia, to bring solace to our followers, to introduce colour and sunshine into their homes, to allow them to travel beyond their walls, but above all to celebrate the people and cultures that make this world truly magical. Welcome to the Era of Armchair Tourism.

Because we all deserve something to look forward, I suggest you use this extra time to start planning your first holiday when you can travel again after this compelled quarantine. Especially if you need a break to decompress or even to reconnect with one another after being apart for so long. Take a look at our website and read the articles in this blog. Visit our Facebook pages and the regions depicted in them and be inspired. And for the more daring wanting to already book a holiday, I remind that in case of natural disasters and disease outbreaks, our policy is total refund so go serenely  ahead and book now.

Double rainbow over the Cinque Terre @oldkyrenian

Someday soon, we’ll be snatching up our passports and bags and heading out to our next adventures. In the meanwhile remember, stay safe, stay well.

Pubblicato in Discovery, Senza categoria, World Tourism | Contrassegnato , , | Lascia un commento

Carnevale di Viareggio, the Tuscan seaside carnival

Carnevale di Viareggio, Burlamacco @Michaela Raffaelli

February and Lent Season in Tuscany always spell one thrilling word: Carnival. Among the most renowned, both in Italy and Europe, is the one celebrated in the coastal town of Viareggio. Celebrations, parades, street dancing, night parties and food and wine events animate the Versilia coast during a month-long fun factory of colour, music and waltzing, better known as the Carnevale di Viareggio.  

Carnevale di Viareggio, the 2018 edition

The Carnival of Viareggio goes back to 1873, when the wealthy youngsters frequenting the Casino’s café decided to organize a parade, some say to protest against the many taxes they were forced to pay and hence they showed up wearing masks. They continued to organize the parade and then towards the end of the century the first floats appeared accompanied by masked balls and costume parties. In the 1920s, when the gentlemen wore tuxedos, the nightspots along the promenade were venues such as the  Principe di Piemonte, the Royal Hotel and the café chantant Margherita. Today local street parties are held on the seafront by the four wards of town – Torre del Lago, Marco Polo, Darsena and Croce Verde – with excellent food stalls offering the traditional, local dishes and bandstands with various kinds of music.

Carnevale di Viareggio 2018, the Rolling Stones

Today the carnival’s main peculiarity is its parade of floats. Initially made of plaster and heavy cloths, the floats were later made of paper-pulp. Now gigantic papier-mâché ‘statues’, depicting caricatures of popular people, such as politicians, showmen and (obviously) footballers, ride down the seafront promenade while onlookers, generally masqueraded, cheer them on their way. Nowadays, thanks to new technologies, these monumental figures are able to accomplish complex movements and even have special effects. In 1931 the Carnival adopted an official mascot, Burlamacco, a clown-like figure depicted by Uberto Bonetti, whose name comes from the town’s river, the Burlamacca, whereas the red and white colours of his outfit were the traditional colours of the beach umbrellas.

La Cittadella del Carnevale, work in progress @Carnevale di Viareggio

Today, at every event, a special jury is asked to rank the floats, which are divided into two categories, as well as the costumed groups and the individual carnival masks. The last appointment is always a nocturnal parade, at the end of which the winners are proclaimed and a spectacular firework show follows concluding the whole month of fun and frolics. However, even outside the carnival period, it is possible to visit the Cittadella del Carnevale, the ‘Carnival Citadel, a specially built complex with huge hangars, inside which the floats can be built and kept inside. Created in 2001, here one can come see the craftsmen at work on their magnificent clay and paper ‘statues’. There are even a museum and labs where one may discover the tricks of the trade.

Carnevale di Viareggio, last evening's fireworks @Francesco Bevilacqua

The Carnevale di Viareggio is also a great opportunity to visit this town, known as the ‘Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea’, the second largest city within the province of Lucca. Viareggio is not only a well-known seaside resort but also an interesting cultural centre with literary events and awards as well as worldwide famous musical events. A walk along its avenues takes you back into time, going from the 1541 Torre Matilde, a defensive fortification against corsair incursions, to the beautiful Liberty-style buildings. If you’re considering a visit to this part of Tuscany come see our wide selection of holiday accommodations in Versilia.

The beaches of Viareggio @Carnevale di Viareggio
Pubblicato in Accommodations in Versilia, Events in Versilia, Festivals and feasts in Tuscany, Folklore in Tuscany, Tuscan lifestyle, Tuscan traditions, Tuscany, Versilia | Contrassegnato , , | Lascia un commento

Pontremoli and its Disfida dei Falò

Every year on January 17th and January 31st the town of Pontremoli in Lunigiana hosts a bonfire competition which actually re-enacts an old medieval rivalry. The Disfida dei Falò, the Bonfire Challenge, is held in the dry riverbeds of Pontremoli and sees the town split in two for the most blazing, tallest and long-lasting bonfire.

The making of San Nicolò’s bonfire @FalòdiSanNicolòPontremoli

The two factions represent the two patron saints of Pontremoli, San Niccolò, whose feast is on January 17th, and San Geminiano, celebrated on the 31st. Once a pagan ritual held at the beginning of the year to invoke the “god of fire” against the long cold winter months, the bonfires were later adopted to celebrate the Catholic patrons. Furthermore, during the early fourteenth century there was a huge antagonism between the factions of the Guelfi and the Ghibellini which brought to the building of the great bell tower to separate the two rival camps. 

San Geminiano burning high @FalòdiSanGeminianoPontremoliMS

Today both parishes pacifically commemorate these events with gigantic piles of wood, whose flames can even reach a height of 30 metres. The San Niccolò group lights its bonfire on the 17th on the dry side of the Magra river, whilst the San Geminiano clan builds theirs on the 31st next to the river Verde. Fundamental is height and how long they burn, but also how well they hold together during the celebration.

The town of Pontremoli

One of Lunigiana’s most distinctive towns, Pontremoli combines tradition with Tuscany’s most historical territory, a mountainous region covered with forests and with one of the highest concentrations of castles in Italy.

Pubblicato in Events in Lunigiana, Events in Tuscany, Lunigiana, Senza categoria, Tuscan traditions, Tuscany | Contrassegnato , | Lascia un commento

Celebrations for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s Death

2019 marks the quincentenary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci and museums and galleries around the world are honouring him with special exhibitions and tributes. As a result Tuscany, where the great Italian Renaissance master was born and where he lived for most of his life, couldn’t obviously remain behind in this commemoration. Let’s take a look at just some of the many events on in Tuscany this year.

The first to kick off the celebrations was Palazzo Achille in San Marcello Pistoiese up on the tall mountains of Pistoia. The Eco-Museum, in fact, inaugurated on January 11th an exhibition of Leonardo’s machines, recreating a vast selection of models. The intent is to present and investigate Leonardo’s studies in combination with this territory and the Eco-Museum’s itineraries. Furthermore, visitors will be able to test their own dexterity with wooden games made from Leonardo’s designs. The show closes on September 1st.

Likewise, Palazzo Vecchio in Florence started its commemorations by offering visitors a special itinerary dedicated to the Battle of Anghiari. Open from February 23rd to  January 12th, 2020, this multimedia event intends to retrace the story of how Leonardo failed to complete the painting of the Battle of Anghiari on the wall of the hall known today as the Salone del Cinquequento.

Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, instead, is hosting from March 9th to July 14th the exhibition “Verrocchio, Master of Leonardo”.  This exhibit gathers together the extraordinary masterpieces of painter, sculptor, goldsmith and designer Andrea del Verrocchio and those of his pupils, Leonardo da Vinci, Pietro Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Lorenzo di Credi. Verrocchio’s workshop in Florence influenced generations of masters during the 15th century, both in Italy and Europe. On show will be over 120 works, including paintings, sculptures and drawings, from important collections from all over the world: the Victoria and Albert museum of London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Uffizi Galleries of Florence.

From March 29th, Palazzo Vecchio will be hosting an exhibition celebrating the Florentine essence of Leonardo da Vinci. The show “Leonardo da Vinci and Florence. Folios chosen from the Codex Atlanticus.” will be held in the Sala dei Gigli, and offers a selection of papers on which Leonardo made a series of written or graphic annotations related to enterprises, memories and relationships with Florence in a period that goes from the 1470s to his death in 1519. On until June 24th.

Pontedera in the province of Pisa is to host from April 1st to May 4th an exhibition on Leonardo’s Mona Lisa especially dedicated to the visually impaired and to the blind. As part of the celebrations of the 500th death anniversary, Pontedera has organized a 1:1 scale reproduction of da Vinci’s most famous portrait in Sala Carpi. People will be able to discover the masterpiece by simply touching it. There will also be a descriptive text in Braille and an audio description.

The Casa Rodolfo Siviero Museum along Florence’s Lungarno is hosting from May 18th to September 29th the exhibition “The Leonardo of Giorgio Castelfranco and the 20th-century Cult of Genius”. On display the archives of Giorgio Castelfranco, today conserved at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. Castelfranco was an art historian and one of Leonardo’s greatest and above all most passionate scholar, who also happened to be director of Palazzo Pitti during the two WWs as well as a resident in Casa Siviero. Most importantly, this is undoubtedly a unique chance to see the documents and photographs of this archive while grasping the chance to admire the objects of art which are a permanent exhibition of the house.

Still in Florence, the Complex of Santa Maria Novella, will be hosting from September 13th to December 15th an exhibition on “Botany and Leonardo: Synthesis between Art and Nature”. On show the original scripts of Leonardo’s investigations on the shapes and structures of plants and their relationship with art and science. Many of the implications he made then are today still very valid and it is certainly a privilege to visit this show and witness his acute spirit of observation.

Keep your eyes on this article because it will be continuously updated as the year goes by.

Pubblicato in Events in Florence, Events in Tuscany, Exhibitions in Tuscany, Florence, Masterpiece's of Tuscany, Museums in Tuscany, Tuscan art, Tuscany | Contrassegnato , , , , , , , | Lascia un commento

Tuscany and its Christmas dinner traditions

Straight from the best Tuscan cuisine traditions to the table. What’s in store for Tuscany at the Christmas dinner table? Well there’s certainly going to be a mouth-watering display of antipasti Toscani: the traditional mixed cold cuts, Pecorino cheese and my personal all-time favourite the crostini bread with chick liver pâté.

Pasta cannot be missing from the Christmas table so there will be ravioli. Depending on which region of Tuscany you’re staying in, the ravioli stuffing varies from ricotta cheese and spinach to meat or fish. Likewise the sauce accompanying it will conform from the classical meat sauce to a simple melted butter with sage leaves. The more rural areas will also be dressing their pasta up with wild boar or hare sauce.

Hence the main course, shouldn’t it yet have been enough. A delicious roasted Florentine-style pork sirloin, arista, with aromatic fennel and apples will be a big favourite, while in the Casentino region it will be the stuffed neck of a chicken, previously used for the Eve’s broth. Probably down on the coast around Livorno they will prepare a tasty cacciucco, fish stew, but in other areas it will mainly be a roast chicken, guinea-fowl, pigeons or even thrush. Vegetables in these occasions are more an optional.

The choice of wine is almost embarrassing with all the excellent wines Tuscany has to offer. Of the over 70 DOCG wines in Italy, 11 are produced in Tuscany: Super Tuscans, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Rosso della Val di Cornia, Morellino di Scansano, Montecucco, Chianti Classico, Chianti, Elba Aleatico passito, Carmignano and Suvereto.

To conclude, the dessert. The meal ends with the traditional Sienese panforte or panpepato, a selection of traditional Christmas biscuits, like the rhomboidal ricciarelli and the cavallucci, plates full of sticky nougat and bowls overflowing with dried fruit, nuts of all shapes and forms and dates. Before ending with your classical caffè espresso, you just have to have some cantuccini biscuits dipped into a glass of home-made vinsanto.

No one keeps up age-old traditions, especially food ones, like the Italians.

Pubblicato in Italian food and wine, Tuscan food and wine, Tuscan lifestyle, Tuscan traditions, Tuscany | Contrassegnato , | Lascia un commento