Casa Vacanze La Farfalla
Via Cafaggio 5, San Miniato, Pisa, Italy
A visit to Florence - a city unique for its architectural monuments and the numerous art masterpieces kept in the churches, museums and palazzos; the cradle of the renaissance and an internationally important cultural centre - cannot but include a moment to admire the enchanting landscape views of the surrounding territory. Everything is close to hand: green hills, scattered with olive groves and vineyards, that welcome villages, castles, fortresses, all kept within walls that are real jewels of medieval military architecture; the parishes and the monasteries are the purest expression of Romanesque art; the numerous villas with their wonderful parks decorated with statues, fountains with waterworks, centuries-old plants, mazes, precious essences, all demonstrate how the territory around the Florentine domination has always been appreciated for the incomparable beauty of its natural ambiance and the sweetness of its climate. An extraordinarily rich territory, both for its historical-artistic heritage but also for its traditions, folklore and gourmet cuisine.
The traces of her glorious past as a Marine Republic are very present in the city of Pisa, that conserves thousand-year-old masterpieces: it is enough to mention the spectacular Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) with its Cathedral, Baptistery and Leaning Tower, all in the purest Pisan Romanesque style. The historical University is also very famous. A very varied territory: from the Pisan plains crossed by the Arno River in its final stages, to the inland valleys of the Era and Cècina where the enchanting city of Volterra rises, a city of Etruscan foundation and well-known for her treasures of art and architectures, as well as for the alabaster workings. Lardarello’s soffiones are characteristics that are unique to the hillside landscape that strikes the visitor with its many colours. Some places, like San Giuliano and Uliveto, were developed thanks to the exploitation of thermal springs. The history and the traditions are shown through the numerous re-evocative events, that are still celebrated today.
A largely uncontaminated territory that offers an extraordinary range of tones and shades, from the famous Chianti zone to that of the Crete Senesi, from the Val d'Arbia, and the Val d'Orcia, up to the Val di Merse. Striking and fascinating zones that roll around Siena, a city that keeps the atmosphere of the past alive, where walking along the Medieval roads we can relive centuries of history and tradition represented primarily by the very famous Palio, the horse race on tufo mud in the Piazza del Campo. The surroundings are fascinating, the sweetly sloping hills, decorated with famous cypresses, host centuries-old abbeys and enchanting medieval villages, such as San Gimignano with her famous towers and Monteriggioni with her town walls. A generous land of great oenological interest from which come the renowned wines such as Chianti, the Brunello di Montalcino and the Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Also well-known are the sweets of local production like Panforte and Ricciarelli, still produced today following ancient recipes.
Lucca, clasped within her well-preserved walls, encloses a historical, architectural richness of masterpieces from different ages. In the vast plains and on the hills that surround the city are scattered numerous splendid villas, characterised by parks and gardens rich in tree-lined lanes, statues, fountains and waterworks. The olive grove that colours the landscape with its typical silvery grey supplies an incomparable oil, famous throughout the world. The vine also contributes to the character of the landscape, especially on the hills, producing the famous Doc di Montecarlo and delle Colline Lucchesi wines. Moving towards the mountains, we go into the Media Valle del Serchio, and continuing we arrive in Garfagnana. A land of ancient traditions, this is a very interesting natural territory and diverse from the flora and fauna points of view. The principal cooking ingredients are spelt, an ancient cereal, and chestnut flour, with which the castagnaccio (chestnut cake) is made.
The particular geographical position of the Arezzo province has made it a meeting point for different civilisations and cultures. Crossed in a large part by the Arno River, which finds its source here, it is formed by four valleys: the Casentino, the Valdarno Superiore, the Valdichiana and the Val Tiberina. Illustrious characters were born in the area, such as Piero della Francesca at Sansepolcro, Petrarch and Vasari in Arezzo, Masaccio in San Giovanni Valdarno, Pietro da Cortona and Luca Signorelli in Cortona. Arezzo, a venue for important events such as the Saracen Jousting, the Antiques Fair and the international exhibition dedicated to gold-works, preserves important signs of ancient history from the Etruscan and Roman periods. The centuries-old woods and forests of the Casentino, the hills and the busy valleys host parishes, medieval villages, castles and the spiritual centres of Camaldoli and La Verna.
The Pistoian mountain, covered with woods of silver firs and beeches, in the highest parts leaves space for moors and plains. The nature offers many alternatives: in winter there is skiing, while in the summer it is possible to discover the wonderful views following the many pathways on foot. It is a land of beauty in every season: in winter it presents its most spectacular aspect with the snowy summits of the Abetone, equipped with ski-lifts and numerous tourism-hospitality resorts; at the first sign of spring it “explodes” in a sudden blossoming. The oldest traditions are still alive, and a life in full respect of the human dimension is possible. On the valley floor, Pistoia, a city of ancient traditions and rich in Romanesque monuments, that during the last century became a lively artisan and agricultural centre.
The Prato area has very ancient origins, shown by the presence of monuments from the Etruscan and Roman periods. Prato, rich in historical-artistic treasures, such as the Cathedral of St. Stephen – an example of Romanesque-Gothic architecture - is also a modern city that looks towards the future, with the “Luigi Pecci” Contemporary Art Centre, a reference point for the entire region. A land that has been able to make itself known throughout the world for the quality production textile industry. The Bisenzio valley, further north and confining with the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, is a hilly and mountainous area with places of unquestioned naturalistic worth. To the south on the Montalbano hills, splendid Medici villas and parishes rise in panoramic positions. The cuisine is simple, humble, using classic ingredients. The sausages are tasty, such as the traditional Prato mortadella. Of considerable importance are the wines of the hilly areas, among which the Carmignano red that can consider itself one of the oldest wines in Italy. The sweet Vin Santo wine is traditionally accompanied by the famous Prato biscuits called “Cantuccini”.
ELBA ISLAND & ARCHIPELAGO: www.aptelba.it
The island of Elba, or simply Elba is an island located between the Ligurian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea, located about 10 km from the coast. It is the largest of the Tuscan Archipelago, and the third largest in Italy (223 km ²). Elba and other islands of the archipelago (Pianosa, Capraia, Gorgona, Montecristo, Giglio and Giannutri) is part of theTuscan Archipelago National Park.
The island is divided into eight municipalities, all belonging to the province of Livorno,Portoferraio, Campo in Elba, Portoferraio, Marciana, Marciana Marina, Porto Azzurro and Rio Marina Rio nell'Elba, for a total of about thirty thousand inhabitants, which increaseconsiderably during the summer.
The Valdinievole is an original mix of famous thermal resorts, intact nature and ancient Medieval villages. It is found in the deep and secret heart of Tuscany, between Pistoia and Lucca and, for centuries, was a crossroads for culture, trade and meetings. Her hills conceal villages and castles that, from the “Swiss Pesciatina”, stretch out until Montalbano where the genius of Leonardo da Vinci was born. From the chestnut woods, passing through the landscape scattered with olives trees, we reach the valley where the precious waters of Montecatini Terme and the steam of Monsummano Terme’s grottos are born, and where the natural reserve of Padule di Fucecchio extends. The Valdinievole is the homeland of Pinocchio, the most famous puppet in the world.
Volterra, a haven of Etruscan, Roman, Medieval and Rennaissance art, dominates the Cecina Valley, 550 metres above sea level, affording a spectacular view as far as the sea. The city still retains traces of its majestic past which gradually unfurls as you wander through the narrow streets and explore the Etruscan Museum, The Art Gallery and Museum of Sacred Art. And yet Volterra’s charm not only lies in its historical patrimony but in the undefiled surrounding countryside, a slow traditional way of life and its age-old tradition of alabaster carving. This elusive stronghold requires careful and patient attention for it takes time to absorb its timeless atmosphere, treasured secrets, unique ambience and culture. One of the most unspoilt areas in the region, close to other important art centres and the coast, this is an ideal choice for a holiday in Tuscany.
MASSA CARRARA: www.aptmassacarrara.it
At the extreme north of Tuscany, this land presents a coastline with wide and well-equipped beaches between the cities of Massa and Carrara and a mountainous terrain, Lunigiana, that has an ancient history and preserves numerous examples of artistic treasures, having been the principal communication junction in the Middle Ages between Europe and Rome, via the Via Francigena. The Apuan Alps are also a place of extraordinary naturalistic beauty for the marble kept in their quarries, as well as representing one of the most important economical sources of the territory. The Magra River draws excursionists and those who practice water sports. Not to be missed: a visit to Carrara cathedral, Massa cathedral and, in Lunigiana, to the Ethnographic Museum of Villafranca and the Stele Statues of Piagnaro Castle in Pontremoli, seat to the famous Bancarella Literary Prize. The cuisine offers, as well as fish dishes, also much-appreciated typical products such as testaroli, Colonnata lard, honey and excellent quality wines, the most famous of which is the Candia.
Grosseto, enclosed in strong Renaissance walls, still preserves the charm of a city on a human scale. The numerous archaeological sites scattered around the surrounding territory, testimonials to the Etruscan civilisation that flowered there, are a source of continuous discovery for the visitors. The Maremma, closed in between the Monte Amiata, the Metalliferous hills and the Monte Argentario, was a hostile land; the work of man has transformed it into a land of incomparable beauty, and it is a place of exceptional environmental and landscape importance. The rocky headlands, the beaches, the hills with the ancient fortified villages all make up a strong calling to he who searches for the natural-cultural coupling. The ideal environmental conditions, together with an ancient tradition, are the secret behind the high quality typical products such as oil, cheese and the wines, the most famous of which are Morellino di Scansano, the Bianco di Pitigliano and the Sovana red.
The original construction of the castle, still dominant presence in Vinci, dates back tomedieval times and is known in folklore as "the castle of the ship" to the elongated shapeand the tower that refer to the shape of a sailboat. Around the year one thousand, the village became the possession of the Counts Guidi, who ruled the destinies until August 12, 1254, when Vince was subjected to Florence and became City. Located on thewestern border of the state, Vinci was disputed by the enemies of Florence and liveddirectly the turbulent events that plagued the political life of the capital. Below the castle walls alternated the troops led by Uguccione Faggiuola (1315), Castruccio Castracane(1320-26), Jona Hakwood, said Keen (1364), head of the British mercenary in the pay of Pisa. After many vicissitudes and changes to the original structure, the returned Castellloowned by the City in 1919. In Anchiano, April 15, 1452, Leonardo was born in Vinci, and spent the years of his childhood.
Golden beaches, tiny hilltop villages, mild temperatures and a vibrant nightlife: you will find all this and more in Versilia, an ideal vacation spot year-round. Impossibly long beaches are equipped with everything you need for sunbathing and summer dips and the inland areas, tucked in around the Apuane Alps are full of luxurious flora and excellent trails for hiking, biking and off-road excursions. From Forte dei Marmi to Viareggio, Camaiore to Massaciuccoli: Versilia is an area rich in natural beauty and experiences, from entertainment to culture with a variety which stretches from the Viareggio Carnival (famous around the world) to the Puccini Festival for opera buffs.
COSTA DEGLI ETRUSCHI: www.costadeglietruschi.it
A territory rich in historical and archaeological testimonies where different natural atmospheres alternate: wide pinewoods, kilometres of beaches and indented cliffs that conserve an intact nature. Livorno, an important commercial and touristic port, is the heart of the Etruscan Coast that consists in numerous, attractive coastal and hilltop resorts. The naturalistic and archaeological beauties are synthesised by the splendid Baratti Golf and by the Etruscan necropolises of Populonia in the Val di Cornia Parks. The cypresses whose praise was sung by Carducci are a characteristic of Bolgheri, still a place where prestigious red wines, just like those of the Val di Cornia, always a favoured zone for viticulture, are produced. The itineraries of the Wine Road wind through the countryside between villages, parishes, ancient farmhouses, cellars and companies. The cuisine is linked to those traditions that are based on local products that come both from the sea as from the inland hills, enriched by the fragrant olive oil.
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