Opera in Italy is part of the cultural fibre, we have just stayed in our favourite Lucca villa rental called La Collina del Sole set in the midst of holiday Villas in Lucca hub and, as we love Opera al fresco we drove to Torre del Lago where Puccini the famous Italian composer had a summer residence, Before we rent a villa in Tuscany we consulted the blog of La Collina del Sole full of useful advice. The Festival Puccini is a most for opera lovers who are staying in a villa for rent in Tuscany, the festival is held in the Gran Teatro all’Aperto Giacomo Puccini, in Via delle Torbiere, 55048 Torre del Lago in the province of Lucca tel. (+39) 0584 359322 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org The Festival stage and auditorium in Torre del Lago were renovated a few years ago, we had seen La Bohéme in the weeks before the grand renovation was scheduled so we were very curious as to what changes we might find since we had visited villa rentals in Tuscany last. There are improvements, the auditorium building is much larger with a well- designed space underneath that houses interesting art exhibitions, a café where you can get a coffee a sandwich or pizza slice, another great improvement is a Tuscan fare buffet which needs to be booked before the performance either on the day or beforehand for €23, it includes unlimited wine and water the buffet consists of a rich variety of light Tuscan food like local cold meats and pecorino cheese of different flavours, pappa all pomodoro [a cold tomato soup made with bread which sounds weird and tastes amazing], faro, cold rice with asparagus and funghi porcini, mozzarella and tomato salad and fresh fruit, this is all served in the garden opposite the stage. If you are on a budget you can buy a ticket for the opera with as little as €19.50 and bring your own picnic to eat on tables set out or the grass, if you prefer doing things in style there is a fabulous restaurant on the waterfront called Chalet in the Piazzale Belvedere telephone # 0584 359830 they are well known for their fish themed food, the prices are reasonable considering it is the top dining spot in the area, it has the most wonderful views and merits a visit on its own without the rush of a performance about to start. It took us a little longer to arrive as the signposts to the venue have not improved in over a decade showing tantalizing sporadic signs that disappear in the middle of a roundabout, next time we will allow a good 2 rather than 1 ¼ hours to get there in order to drink in the gentle beauty of the festival grounds. This year marked the 60th Anniversary of the Festival Pucciniano with Tourandot, la Bohéme, and Madame Butterfly, we chose La Bohéme as it seemed fitting to revisit the venue with the same opera that we had last seen performed before the grand facelift and importantly this production boasted a set created by Ettore Scole a famous Italian film maker. The stage is much larger now which allows for spectacular sets, however the charming backdrop of the lake is mainly lost. The singing was excellent the set spectacular with clever effects. There were a few drops of light rain that stopped the performance twice, the last one in the death throes of Mimi, exactly as had happened to us a decade earlier where poor old Mimi had to nearly expire 3 times with light rain stopping the performance, it is rather unusual to see the heroine get up in fine health waving and smiling straight after a death throw song… three times, the reason given was also strangely familiar as the instruments are very susceptible to light drizzle, I did think that an opportunity was wasted in not creating a cover for the orchestra pit, mind you I suppose it all adds to the charm of living “Italian style” where time is of little consequence, where performances and audiences saunter elegantly in, fashionably late, and where you can have the most magical lake side walks in the interval and watch Italian opera for as little as €19.50 for further information visit www.puccinifestival.it
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With natural soap! At Lucca Villa Rental we show you how to make all manner of beauty products using vegan ingredients. First up the handmade soap workshop held at La Collina del Sole will keep you smelling fresh well after you have returned from your holiday villas in Lucca Using olive oils from our region, you will be reminded daily of your villa rentals in Tuscany the fun you had and all the experiences you lived at La Collina del Sole for example making soap as though you were making cake! using the same recipe our ancestors used and making sure you don’t use the same utensils! Otherwise the lovely gifts you bring back from your villas for rent in Tuscany might be a little more interesting than you bargained for. It is always a treat to bring home a souvenir when you rent a villa in Tuscany and what better than a soap which has been perfumed with flowers and herbs from the very hills you enjoyed walking in!Natural soap does not strip your skin of its natural protective oils due to its high glycerine content which itself has a deep cleansing effect and high moisturizing qualities, as such it is the best soap for people who suffer skin allergies or have sensitive skin. Another bonus point for natural soap is that it uses only natural vegetable oils, no animal fat, no detergents, no chemicals like phosphates, sulphates, chemical colouring agents or petroleum hence natural soaps are high on the eco-friendly scale with no animal testing and by using ingredients that don't cause any harm to the environment. What I love about the natural soap that is made at the La Collina del Sole workshop is that the colouring and fragrance ingredients come from dry plants and flowers from the very hills that you enjoy walking in, it is so special knowing that as you bathe with these soaps your skin is absorbing the flowers, and beauty that surrounds you. The workshop normally lasts for 2 hours and your instructor will bring all the materials, equipment, and complete instructions for soap making in hard copy. Some theory will be covered like the basic chemistry principles of soap making, the difference between commercial soap and handmade soap and the different types of soaps available for specific needs. The practical side gets YOU making soap from scratch, using basic kitchen equipment in a procedure rather like cake making, but with special attention to certain details due to the chemical reactions that occur. Once ready the soap needs 7 weeks to harden and season, particularly as the first 48 hours it is jelly-like hence not very practical for travelling, however our instructor brings a variety of soap bars which are seasoned and ready to travel. Such a treat to know that with this soap what you see is what you get! So if you would like to make olive oil soap that is particularly suitable for those with sensitive skins following a traditional recipe then book our soap making experience and create delicate soaps, the cost for this workshop is €30 for a group, it includes all the materials needed, equipment and complete instructions for soap making plus information on the difference between commercial and handmade soap, the workshop lasts for about 2 hours. The group also gets to take three 100 gram bars of soap home ... unless you would like more!
Just a hop skip and a jump away from La Collina del Sole an enterprising young couple have started a vegan skin care line, very much in line with the principles of Lucca villa rental They have produced among other things vegan lip balm in natural and chocolate flavours using olive oil from the area surrounding our Villa rentals in Tuscany they have also produced toothpaste, face toner, hair conditioner, soap, healing burn infusion, hand and body lotion, bronzer and even soothing wax. Luckily we have convinced one of them to impart this age old knowledge to our guests so when you next rent a villa in Tuscany if you are interested in a once in a lifetime experience as you enjoy your villas for rent in Tuscany try our ONLY at La Collina del Sole "natural beauty case workshop" This way upon returning from your holiday villas in Lucca and using your new beauty products you will re-live your idyllic holiday and should you be inclined; armed with this secret knowledge you can continue to make allergy free beauty products for you and your loved ones … Now there is an offer too good to miss ! So for those with hyper allergic sensitive skin here is the answer to your prayers, in the "natural beauty case class" you can learn to make natural cosmetics for yourself and your friends using 100% natural ingredients, that are vegan and cruelty free with a “no chemicals” guarantee. The workshop held at La Collina del Sole usually lasts for around an hour and using basic kitchen equipment you can learn to make 5 items from the following list: toothpaste, deodorant, hand and body lotion, lip balm, face toner, hair conditioner, bronzer or hair removal wax Let’s describe some of these marvellous cruelty free natural cosmetics. HAND AND BODY LOTION: Its ingredients include olive oil, almond oil, beeswax and water. This lotion is a great moisturiser for the whole body; very rich in vitamins mainly due to the olive oil and almond oil content. It can be used as a facial night cream and is a particularly good face cream for very dry skin and mature skin. This lotion can be used as both eye and face make-up remover particularly for those with sensitive skin or prone to allergies. Due to the presence of water its shelf life is three weeks if kept at room temperature and if the jar is kept refrigerated it will last for three months. BLUSHER / BRONZER– with such wonderful ingredients such a cinnamon, corn-starch and cocoa, it is light and natural to give a healthy glow, intrigued? Join the “natural beauty case ” workshop and learn how to prepare it. HAIR REMOVAL WAX – Yep our grannies had hair removal products, in fact this wax recipe has been around since 1900 BC so it has been truly tried and tested. This recipe follows an ancient Arab recipe in which the sugar content in the honey attaches to the hair that needs to be removed rather than the skin, lemon juice is also an ingredient. NATURAL TOOTHPASTE: It is mainly made with white clay or Kaolin [ a fine white powder specifically used in cosmetics and pharmaceutics ] this is mixed with vegetable glycerine, some baking soda Is added for a light whitening action, tea tree oil for its antibacterial effect and peppermint essential oil for its freshening properties. The result is toothpaste of creamy consistency that can be used by putting some of it onto your toothbrush with a wooden spoon and brush as you would normally. Its shelf life is over a year and is particularly good for sensitive teeth and gums with high natural antibacterial, whitening and refreshing properties. Enjoy Beauty and Health NATURALLY
I don’t know about you, but all the delicious food and drink that I had over the Christmas period at La Collina del Sole the Lucca villa rental we stayed at during the festive season; where a home cooked feast from the suggested menu at the villa handbook was as easy as calling and waiting for it to be delivered and served. The extra kilos… yes kilos that were gained, despite the fabulous walks we had in the local places of interest coupled with the cold and rainy weather in England where I am writing from, has set me on a path to exercise and healthy eating which is easily kept up when you rent a villa in Tuscany as restaurants and food shops are bursting with fresh produce that comes from the area around villa rentals in Tuscany For recreation you can rent bikes to enjoy the hilly countryside - nothing quite like going up and down scenic mountain ranges near holiday villas in Lucca to get the heart beating and blood pumping ! So as you prepare to be stunningly healthy and fit by the time you enjoy your holiday in villas for rent in Tuscany Let me whet your appetite with suggested activities that you can do to continue feeling and looking great at La Collina del SoleFirst of all there is a comprehensive list of ONLY at La Collina del Sole and once in a lifetime experiences A fabulous range of suggested walks in the recreation section of Lucca villa rental to say nothing of the salt water infinity pool one of the many facilities of the villa where to get fit is a pleasure. There is one thing you have not heard us speak about before and that is a line of beauty products which are made LOCALLY with 100% natural ingredients and no chemicals, these products are cruelty free and are vegan…interested???
Ask our concierge where you can access these healthy and exotic delights such as NATURAL LIP BALM: This lip balm is made with honey, olive oil and beeswax or in the dark chocolate version for some colour … and great taste! All the ingredients are completely edible and they have high moisturising properties. They don't contain any chemical ingredients and will naturally last in a storage jar for up to a year, and on the lips…well that is up to you!
And how about the best ally in the kitchen that heals burns quickly and perfectly. It is the… SAINT JOHN'S WORT FLOWER OIL INFUSION: made from St John’s Wort flowers also known as Hypericum perforatum which grow spontaneously and abundantly in the locality of Lucca villa rental these flowers are well known for their antidepressant properties - that is why you hardly ever see a depressed Italian! St John’s Wort flowers within an infusion heal burn scars very quickly and well, The infusion is locally made following an ancient recipe with St John’s Wort flowers and olive oil. The secret in making it is that the flowers must be collected on … Saint John's day ! and then put in a jar in the sun with olive oil for two weeks. This will turn the olive oil into a deep red colour. The St John’s Wort flower infusion has been used for centuries for its healing properties specifically for burns and scars. It is a great ally in the kitchen as if it is rubbed on the skin as soon as you burn any part of the body, it will naturally heal the burn very quickly. So get healthy and beautiful … and join us at La Collina del Sole !
During New Year’s Eve the skies around Lucca Villa Rental are literally alight with Fireworks coming from all different directions the position of La Collina del Sole is exceptional as it has one of the most commanding views of Villas for rent in Tuscany and allows you to survey the valley below as every house party attendee, formal dinner guest and restaurant reveller let off thousands of fireworks of every description. A bonus when you rent a villa in Tuscany is to partake of the joys of life in the region and as many Italians visit their country cousins in the area of villa rental in Tuscany you get to really live the Italian Dolce Vita when you stay at Holiday villas in Lucca Apart from the riotous firework displays another particular custom in the remote parts of Italy on the 5th of Janaury is the visit by a Befana an old lady who walks from house to house in a village where children can be found if they have been good she gives them sweet and toys if they have been naughty she gives them a lump of coal, you can still find “lumps of coal” in provincial sweet shops that are made with spun sugar. Traditionally each home offers the befana and the befano if she is accompanied by her husband a tot of homemade grappa and some homemade biscotti called Befanini , plain sweet biscuits specially decorated for the occasion. Barga a beautiful town near La Collina del Sole is well known for its Befanini di Barga some have 100’s & 1000’s sugar topping others have icing sugar. Barga very close to Lucca Villa rental also plays host to the House of the Befana or casa della Befana where children post their requests through the letter box. Rather like posting requests to Father Christmas! At this time the household might also produce special homemade juices like RASPBERRY or BLUEBERRY JUICE for the children who accompany the befana or indeed for the Befana herself if she is a little worse for wear after visiting many homes. To make these juices, you clean the blueberries, or raspberries and put them in a pot with some water on a low flame long enough to soften them, then pass all the softened fruit through a fine mesh sieve and drain the juice, mix it with sugar according to taste no more than 300 grams per litre of juice. This recipe can be used with any berry or fruit.
During the festive season the area surrounding Lucca Villa Rental bursts forth with different homemade liqueurs, because where you find villa rentals in Tuscany you also find an abundance of home grown fruits! And as harvests are plentiful in the region where you find villas for rent in Tuscany the surplus fruit is used to make syrups and liqueurs, the recipe was given to us by the cook at La Collina del Sole it is simple and very effective judging by the feedback of guests that have stayed at this fabulous Holiday villas in Lucca they also have several experiences at this Lucca Villa rental with truffle and funghi hunting, the pizza experience, wine harvesting and cookery classes where you could make a stash of liqueurs to take home with you when you rent a villa in TuscanyMany fruits are made into liqueurs using the base of grappa, which can be bought or home made by distilling wine that is surplus to requirements.
For example to make BLUEBERRY LIQUEUR Clean the blueberries and put them in glass jars along with a couple of tablespoons of honey, then cover them with grappa and let them stand for a few days, gently agitate the glass jars from time to time, the liqueur will be ready when the grappa takes a bit of color from the blueberries.
Using this same recipe you can get creative and use many kinds of fruits such as strawberries raspberries, cherries, pears, figs, oranges and so on as long as you have a surplus. Herb Grappa is also very special you can use any aromatic herb. Add grappa to mint , juniper berries or gentian with honey in fact any other herb can be used as long as it is aromatic and you like the taste. Add a few sprigs to a liter of grappa and leave to fully infuse.
You can also make other fruit spirits with alcohol here is the recipe for ALCOHOLIC BERRIES Place 1 kg of various types of fruit ( redcurrants, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries , etc. ) in a glass jar and add 250 grams of sugar which has already dissolved in half a glass of water, fill the jar with alcohol at 45 ° Close the lid and leave for at least 3 months before consuming. There is a HUGE variety of fruits that you can prepare in this same way.
Ever wondered why the world goes wild over the taste of truffle? It is because it has a haunting taste, is expensive and cannot readily be found all year round. Tuscany is the home of Truffles so what better treat than to find some yourself as a pastime when you stay at villas for rent in Tuscany The area around La Collina del Sole is bursting with black truffles, one of the favourite restaurants of the guests at Lucca Villa Rental serve truffles as though they were as easy to find as walnuts, this is because the cooks father in law and his dog find a plentiful supply of black truffles in the area of villa rentals in Tuscany the best way to enjoy their full flavour is to savour the capellini [angel hair pasta] with truffles shaved on top at the Casa del Pescatore. When you rent a villa in Tuscany in the area of the Tuscan-Emilian Appennines you can request to experience truffle hunting which is no longer done with sows but with trained dogs, you need to enjoy this at the a special time of year at the Holiday villas in Lucca as it is only allowed between September and December, when you accompany the hunters using a tool shaped like a small spade to go truffle treasure hunting, the areas in which truffles grow, especially black truffles, can be identified due to the lack of grass. Nowadays there are approximately under 2000 registered truffle hunters and 9 truffle associations in Tuscany. They hope to institute a “garanzia di origine” or guarantee of origin for Tuscan truffles. Truffle areas exposed towards south generally grow earlier, followed by the ones exposed to east and west and finally by the ones exposed to north.. The truffle with its strong and pleasant smell, can vary in shape and can weigh over 1 kg. It costs more or less €2200 euro per kilo but can reach €5000 per kilo or €200 per kilo depending on its type white or black and size. If you would rather buy in bulk rather than spend hours rambling in a truffle treasure hunt then you could join the “International Tuscan truffle auction” held in the Medici Castle in Cafaggiolo, north of Florence towards Bologna, where the most prestigious truffles are found. The strong aroma is best enjoyed when shaved over warm pasta and butter, on a simple risotto, polenta or over scrambled or poached eggs. Truffles are found, not grown, and not transplanted. In an age where tomatoes, strawberries and mangoes are perpetually in season, this is the one food that cannot be grown in a greenhouse. Although there is no sign of flagging demand, there has been a steady decline in the truffles to be found, the weather has changed the autumn in Tuscany is getting warmer and this is not good for truffles and accounts for much of the decline. In addition, over the last 20 years, many trees in the area have been cut down to plant vineyards, so the traditional places where hunters looked for truffles are limited. “What is it that makes the truffle so special? It is the relationship between whatever is in the earth and the roots of a tree. Until you have smelt the real thing, you don’t know what to look for and the more you are exposed to it, the more critical you become.” A culinary conundrum! How about the latest addition to the “truffle recipes” of the world, we recently read Miranda Bryant’s article on “A fish pie billed as “the world’s most expensive ready meal” went on sale today for more than £300" on the 4th of December 2013. The dish - which contains white alba truffle and is sprinkled with 24ct gold crumbs - comes hand delivered by a security guard on a gilded tray in an aluminium case the hands of a security guard will be handcuffed to the meal until it’s been delivered to the correct person. Other ingredients include Balik salmon, Cornish lobster tail, salted oysters, wild turbot and lobster poached in vintage Dom Perignon 2003. It comes accompanied by an amuse bouche of Beluga caviar in two mother of pearl spoons. Even the potato mash is made special Yukon Gold Heritage potatoes to make the meal taste extra special and the salt comes from the Piran salt plains of Slovenia, the Olive Oil from El Mil Del Poaig with Montgomery Cheddar, Pecorino cheese and peppercorns. The chef said the meal was created to give people the opportunity to try multiple exclusive ingredients in one go and expects it to appeal to the wealthy and “curious”. Well if you are curious forget the handcuffed pie and join the most fabulous experience you will ever have in the late autumn truffle treasure hunting experience at La Collina del Sole and you will have the added satisfaction of having worked out and found your own truly tantalizingly tasty truffle …
white Christmas ! A roaring fire and a ponche al mandarino beckons. The local drink taken at Lucca Villa Rental consists of a sweet liquor made of mandarin fruit served in short glasses with hot water and a twist of lemon YUM ! For those enjoying villa rentals in Tuscany this festive season, the area around La Collina del Sole is full of surprises, first up on the 15th of December there is the Presepe Vivente a particularly Italian tradition done in the areas where you also find villas for rent in Tuscany where all the inhabitants of a particular village, in this case Trepignana enact the birth of Jesus. Trepignana is one of the Places of interest near Lucca Villa Rental and for those who enjoy the Excitement of opening up Christmas presents left by Santa if you rent a villa in Tuscany you can genuinely have 2 shots at this delight because on the 6th of January the Befana hands out toys and sweets to each child in the village and to those staying in holiday villas in Lucca However you had best be well behaved as you will get nice surprises rather than coal that gets handed out to the naughty children. A special kind of “Coal” is found in sweet shops and it is a block of Fluffed sugar in a hard lump and in Black, remarkably coal-like.If you would like to have a stress free Christmas experience our lovely Maria would be only too happy to prepare a Christmas feast from the suggested menu of a Christmas special which will include Roast Turkey, and Panetone a very light bread like sponge cake with candied fruit and raisins or Pan d’Oro which is very similar but without the raisins. The menu will also include Turrón with candied fruit, Torrone otherwise known as Nougat is either a very chewy or very hard sweet mixture of heated sugar and beaten egg white with almonds and candied fruit pieces. Vin Brulée will also be prepared with the organic wine of La Collina del Sole heated with orange, cloves, juniper berries, bay leaves, star anise, and cinnamon. To find all the requisite food and shops for presents in Castelnuovo have no fear ! Most of the shops will be open until midnight during the week before Christmas, don't forget to ENJOY the experience by checking out the best Ponche al mandarino in the various bars or the ice rink that is set up especially for these festivities and the cuisine at the truly fabulous restaurants that abound around Lucca Villa Rental. In Italy Christmas is mainly celebrated during Christmas eve, so make sure you get most of the shopping done before 5pm, as people start going “home to Mamma” to start celebrating. The church service for the young is midnight mass which starts at 10.30 pm in the church of our Santuario near Migliano it ends at midnight, if you miss that you can join the older crowd at 11 am also at Santuario on the 25th Start preparing for a BUON NATALE !
Chocolate ! YUM
CHESTNUTS Lupinaia the village above La Collina del Sole is hosting the Festa della Castagna this weekend. The humble chestnut is responsible for keeping the population alive in the area of Lucca Villa Rental during WWII as there was little else to eat. You can see the why in the Museo della Liberazione During WWII the chestnut trees of Garfagnana continued to yield their fruit. In order to eat the naturally sweet chestnut that continues to be so abundant in the woods above Holiday Villas in Lucca you first collect the chestnut or Castagne then they are dried gently over a ”Metato” for 40 days. A metato is either a two tier rustic building erected during the chestnut harvest in the Apennine area where you find villas for rent in Tuscany or sometimes the “metato” was an integral part of the house in the kitchen area which in the autumn and winter became a meeting place. Although nowadays when you rent a villa in Tuscany the most attractive feature is the scenery and sunspots a few decades ago the most inviting part of a home was the warm meeting place near the kitchen, where the chestnuts were placed to dry on reed scaffold or planks of wood or cane close to the kitchen hearth which ensured a constant heat. Not a normal feature nowadays in any of the villa rentals in Tuscany ! The chestnuts then dry up over 40 days in a gentle heat, once dried, the chestnuts were shelled with a vigorous beating that shredded the skin off nut shells inside sturdy bags. Nowadays “metati” have disappeared as they have been transformed into storage rooms or large cupboards.From the Middle Ages until the present day, the chestnut has been central to the nourishment of mountain dwellers, as evidenced by the numerous laws over the centuries, for the protection and regulation of the exploitation of chestnut trees. The Statutes of Gavinana of 1540 for example stipulate that the chestnut harvest by the owner of the woods ends with the month of November, after which the poor could freely reap the remaining nuts. Once dried the nuts would be taken to the mill to be turned into chestnut flour, as this flower is naturally sweet there is little need for additional sweeteners and is made into fried tranches of chestnut flower or castagniaccio, which is chestnut flour mixed with water, rosemary, orange peel, pine nuts and walnuts, raisins, milk and olive oil. Chestnut flour was also used for bread and polenta. Chestnuts could also be either roasted and called necci or eaten boiled and called balucci. Even the most mundane food when said in Italian has a special ring to it !
Celebrating a significant birthday? Or wedding anniversary? Why not rent a villa in Tuscany ? you can invite a select group of friends to join you at your chosen villas for rent in Tuscany For example you can celebrate at La Collina del Sole and have every meal catered for with themed menus and have the housekeeping team decorate the table with sumptuous splendour. Lucca Villa Rental specializes in making the most of your celebrations whenever the special date might be.Relax … the hardest decision you will have to make is to select the guests who will join you, and decide whcih bedroom you want from our floorplan on your holiday villas in Lucca the rest is as they say in Italy … FACILE. With delicious local Prosecco and food to ENJOY you can sit, savour the view and while all the work is done for you … be merry. You can even get married in the spacious Villa rentals in Tuscany with views that will make your wedding photos a delight to see again and again, you could also have your hen night here as suggested by Wedding Magazine.
For those who like to choose what they want and then relax while all is done for you we suggest you see the suggested menus and order to your hearts content, if you like to savour the local wine La Collina del Sole has its own organic wine which is delicious. For the celebrations that require themes we could suggest you have the Pizza experience which has been loved by all the guests that stayed at La Collina del Sole as you can read in the feedback
You could organize either beforehand or as the mood takes you Wine or / and Olive oil tasting sessions, with our concierge and discover ruined medieval fortresses in the places of interest around Lucca villa rental
For those who require serious exercise to celebrate what about a walk in the Apuane hills where Michael Angelo came to personally select each chunk of marble he required. There is a list of suggestions that you can consider each walk in the itinerary comes with a fully accredited guide.
For those whose Idea of heaven is to go shopping there are interesting food shops, and local handicraft shops including gilded frames in the area or you can visit Florence, the beautiful city of Fashion; you are welcome to contact us for a list of tried and tested Florentine restaurants and boutiques
If you are of an academic bent then we could suggest you engage the services of our Italian language teacher an experience that will help you all of your life, and to add a sense of competition you could make the forfeit of the worst learner a meal in one of the fabulous restaurants in the area, or if you are felling charitable you could make the forfeit a round at the fabulous bars and gelaterias For those who enjoy a bit of Va va Voom then an outing on your personal Ducati’s around the main roads in the valleys or the more sedate riding or mountain bike excursions in the chestnut hills surrounding La Collina del Sole all of these can be hired in the area Whatever the special date might be; consider making it a significant memory by sharing experiences with your nearest and dearest on a break you will never forget A LA ITALIANA !
One of the most beautiful seasons in the area around La Collina del Sole is AUTUMN the chestnut forests around Lucca Villa Rental turn rust read, deep burgundy and gold. The virginia creeper often found in villas for rent in Tuscany is a cascade of reds and burnt oranges, the walks you can access when you rent a villa in Tuscany are full of promise with black truffle finding, funghi porcini hunting, chestnut gathering, a delight for those who wish to have an active time while they enjoy Villa rentals in Tuscany and when you return home a log fire awaits you, you can put your feet up as you are served a glass of the home grown wine; the best treat while you relax in the holiday villas in Lucca and await a gourmet feast from the suggested menus at La Collina del Sole as the photographer for wedding magazine who stayed last year found having followed our suggestionThe weather is cooler and therefore ideal to go for long walks exploring the Apuane mountain range which attracts visitors from around the world for fabulous walks, at La Collina del Sole you can book the most wonderful accredited walking guide who can take you for short 3 hour walks or 4 day expeditions. If long walks are not your thing then how about seasonal food or autumnal shopping trips Fosciandora has delightful local shops and a bar or you could go to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana our local town or further afield to Lucca voted in 2013 the most beautiful place to live by Forbes Magazine or even Florence an important historical and fashion centre in Italy. You can sample the best local cuisine in the handpicked restaurants near La Collina del Sole with wild boar, truffle, porcini mushrooms and chestnuts taking centre stage in the menu, alternatively you can cook this fabulous dried Funghi Porcini risotto. A once in a lifetime experience as you can pick them and dry them in the superbly appointed kitchen at Lucca villa rental LIFE IS FOR LIVING !
RISOTTO AI FUGHI PORCINI for 6 people INGREDIENTS 300 grams of rice 100 grams of dried mushrooms 1 clove of garlic a sprig of mint a spoonful of butter extra virgin olive oil which is VERY GOOD FOR YOU salt and pepper
Soak the mushrooms in hot water for about 2 hours, drain and keep the water . Sauté in a pan with olive oil the crushed garlic and mint. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for few minutes, add the salt and pepper Cook by slowly adding the water in which the mushrooms soaked to the rice and keep stirring, once cooked add the butter and serve while enjoying the view out of the window as seen below !
At Lucca Villa Rental the Grapes have been picked and the organic wine production of La Collina del Sole has started, the 2013 vendemia is on its way. The Area around Holiday villas in Lucca is bursting with ripe chestnuts, wine grapes, Funghi Porcini Black Truffles and Ripe Olives so if you would like to have a different experience when you rent a villa in Tuscany we suggest you choose a once in a lifetime harvest during the autumnal Special dates at Villas for rent in Tuscany where you are guaranteed several exceptional only in Garfagnana and particularly only at la Collina del Sole experiences which are definitely worth sampling while you check out the Villa rentals in Tuscany Italy is known for its fabulous food which includes a olive oil rich diet, homemade pastas with a variety of sauces from Putanesca with tomatoes, olive oil, olives, capers and garlic, to the simple pesto made of crushed garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with olive oil and Parmigiano cheese to the even simpler black truffle steeped in Olive oil treat. A word of caution though ... do not buy truffle oil “off the shelf” as most of these oil have never been near a truffle but why not make your own ! buy a black truffle and finely chop the untidy hard exterior and leave them in extra virgin olive oil for 3 weeks and then taste the difference! Or if you are in Garfagnana go to La Casa del Pescatore one of our favourite restaurants and order the angel hair handmade pasta with truffle shavings, your will automatically be served with warm fresh bread liberally sprinkled with real truffle oil ! YUM Italian Wines have a worldwide reputation and they go from Super Tuscan labels like Brunello di Montalcino to the humble vino sfuso otherwise known as homemade wine like the organic wine produced at La Collina del Sole which is free from added chemicals so you can drink as much as you like [ till you are totally legless ] and it will not give you a headache the next day! If you would like to try the many varieties of Vino sfuso in Garfagnana the Festa del Vino will be held at our neighbouring village in Riana on the 3rd of October during a Festa, another great Italian tradition! Are you are mad about chestnuts ? one of the very garfagnese ingredients la Festa della Castagna is held on the 2nd of November at Lupinaia our neighbouring village going North where you can sample ll things made with the humble chestnut, from bread and pasta to jam and cakes. BUON APETITO!
Well it is official the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few! And if you love Funghi Porcini check Lucca Villa Rental as La Collina del Sole is surrounded with this delicacy, Funghi Porcini appear around the location of villa rentals in Tuscany and this year is a bumper crop! You can book your forestry guide for the experience of a lifetime foraging for Funghi Porcini at La Collina del Sole you can also read the feedback from past visitors who collected 3 kilos in one walk. Funghi Porcini are a delicacy worldwide and are used in the local cuisine of Holiday villas in Lucca year round. Funghi Porcini appear approximately 10-12 days after rainfall when there has been gentle wind for the dissemination of the spores to take place. It is such a special experience to have in the autumn when you rent a villa in Tuscany that we highly recommend it ! Particularly if you are dreaming of a holiday around the special dates of September and October in a villas for rent in Tuscany alternatively you could find them at the local delicatessenAnd after you have found kilos and kilos full you will need to either preserve them by drying them or keeping them in oil as seen in the collinadelsolewordpress blog or cook them in as many ways as your palate will enjoy, the secret is to have a base that will absorb as much of the Funghi taste and aroma as possible like Polenta or pasta, to help you on the way we share a few of our favourite recipes:
FARRO E FUNGHI or spelt with funghi porcini for 4 people INGREDIENTS 300 grams of barley or spelt 300 grams of fresh Funghi Porcini 2 cloves of garlic Fresh parsley 6 tablespoons of olive oil salt and pepper 1/2 cup of dry white wine 2 ripe tomatoes Broth either vegetable or chicken 1 knob of butter 6 fresh mint leaves Clean the mushrooms and cut into small pieces, mix with the chopped garlic and parsley and place into a pan with the olive oil to brown. Add salt and pepper and leave it to cook for about 10 minutes having added the wine, allow the wine evaporate. Add the diced tomatoes, and allow the flavours to mix together as they cook for about 6 minutes then add the spelt or barley which has been properly cleaned , stir for 5 minutes then begin to pour in broth until fully cooked , which will be about 25 minutes. Finally in the last minute add the butter and mint leaves.
PAPPARDELLE AI FUNGHI or “Butterfly” shaped pasta with Funghi Porcini for 6 People INGREDIENTS 400g Butterfly or “bow tie” shaped pasta 300 grams of funghi porcini 2 cloves of garlic 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil mint chopped 50 grams of grated Parmesan cheese Beef broth salt and pepper
Place the oil, garlic and chopped mint in a pan and fry, add the mushrooms well washed and cut into slices. Cook for a few minutes, add the broth, salt and pepper and let it evaporate over low heat. As you are cooking the funghi porcini boil the pasta in plenty of hot water, once cooked drain and dress with the funghi porcini sauce and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. This shape of pasta is preferred for this recipe as the openness of the shape will allow a generous quantity of sauce to be on it and as it is eaten the pasta will be more exposed to the taste buds and hence intensifying the flavour of the funghi porcini.
AND in case you wanted an alternative way of preparing Funghi Porcini in oil here it is: INGREDIENTS Per kilo of mushrooms: 2 cups water 2 cups of wine vinegar salt peppercorns fresh herbs like thyme and parsley garlic extra virgin olive oil
Clean the mushrooms and cut into medium-sized chunks, boil the water and add the vinegar, salt and herbs. When the water re-boils put the mushrooms in and boil for 3 minutes. Strain the mushrooms and place them to dry on a cloth for one day. Put the mushrooms in glass jars with garlic, peppercorns and thyme then cover with extra virgin olive oil close the jars and keep them in a cool, dark place. BUON APETITO !
At this very moment at La Collina del Sole situated in the heart of the villa rentals in Tuscany area with luxury holiday villas in Lucca there is the most extraordinary bumper crop of Funghi Porcini about to happen, this area is well known not just for its recreation opportunities, stunning villas for rent in Tuscany and beautiful scenery in which you can have some incredible guided walks but also for its prolific production of Black Truffles and Funghi Porcini whcih you can pick. This is because Lucca villa rental is situated at the foothills of a large expanse of chestnut woods and the weather conditions this year have been perfect for the bumper Funghi Porcini crop in many years, you can experience the thrill of looking for, finding and cooking your own Funghi at La Collina del Sole when you rent a villa in TuscanyFrom mid September the small family owned food shops in the area of Lucca Villa Rental will burst out in baskets full of dried Funghi porcini, this is the easiest way keep them for a few months, Funghi Porcini are easily dried all you need is a good serrated knife to slice the Funghi in approximately 3-4mm thick slices several clean cloths and a good expanse of protected and clean ground in the sun, leave the cut slices well spread out so they do not touch each other in the open air for about 2-3 days and as long as it does not rain you should have a good supply of funghi to last you at least half a year, OR you can take your freshly picked funghi to the newly opened food cooperative that occupies the old railroad station in Fosciandora just by our favourite local restaurant Il Ponte and for a small fee they will dry your funghi in a special oven that has been bought just for that purpose. The other way we suggest of preserving Funghi Porcini is to wash them, and boil then in a large pan of boiling water with a generous splash of wine vinegar for a good 5 minutes, the vinegar will not only keep their fresh colour but also enhance their delicious taste, Drain them well and fill preserving jars with a few whole black peppercorns and Olive Oil which incidentally is VERY GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH! Olive Oil improves your mental capacity and helps protect against and alleviate Alzheimer’s, then place the dried Funghi porcini in the preserving jars and seal the lids. This method of preservation will keep your funghi good for months. Or you can cheat and buy funghi porcini already in olive oil jars at L’Aia di Piero, along with several Funghi Porcini delicacies like Lasagna and pasta parcels Both methods of preservation will enable you to enjoy the taste of your hand picked Funghi porcini for months to come drive to this fabulous Lucca villa rental and like one of the guests of La Collina del Sole pick several kilos as seen in the feedback page, enjoy a fabulous walk in the woods, guided walks are best as the guide will explain where the best spots are and what is edible and what is not, then cook and feast on Funghi Porcini till you can eat no more and bring the rest home to enhance sauces, soups, meat roasts and warm salads ! A no brainer ... visit La Collina del Sole and enjoy funghi hunting !
While staying at our favourite Lucca villa rental called La Colina del Sole we were able to buy home pressed olive oil “di frantoio” from friends of the cook who prepared meals for our holiday villas in Lucca Her homemade cooking as you can see from her suggested menu uses liberal quantities of olive oil so with the knowledge that olive oil is excellent for your health and memory… I asked for the recipes of her bruschetta and her farro Delicacies that you must try when you rent a villa in Tuscany as they embody the Tuscan flavour you encounter when eating in at your villa rentals in Tuscany or enjoy the delights of the best regional restaurants near your villas for rent in Tuscany
The olive oil we bought has a strong sweet taste and a strong green colour, and the trick is to eat it raw to get the best out of its nutritional properties and its flavour.
To make the bruschetta use Italian bread, potato bread for preference that is one day old allow two slices per person. If you are serving 10 slices; just before your guests arrive, finely chop some vine tomatoes [a heaped handful will do ] and with their juice soak them in a bowl with a least 5 tablespoons of the best olive oil, add a pinch of salt. Then peel garlic cloves, and rub one raw clove at a time over the surface of the slightly dry bread, one clove will cover the surface of 2 to 3 slices of bread. Finely chop at least 20 basil leaves and add to the tomato and olive oil mixture, ladle the chopped tomatoes and basil leaves onto the bread slices allowing the fresh tomato water and oil mixture to ooze through the bread and … Presto one very delicious antipasto served up !
To cook Farro or spelt in the traditional garfagnana way for at least 12 people, cook the spelt as you would rice, with 3 cups of good stock to one cup of spelt, fry the spelt gently in a tablespoon of olive oil [ not the REALLY good freshly pressed olive oil but good extra virgin oil that has been kept out of the sunlight.] Fry the spelt in the hot oil until lightly golden add the three cups of boiling stock. Cook for about 15 minutes until most of the stock has been absorbed by the spelt, while it is cooking cut 5 to 8 vine tomatoes into rough cubes keeping the skin and all also finely chop at least 30 leaves of basil. When the farro has finished cooking and is still warm add the tomatoes and basil and at least 4 generous tablespoons of the best olive oil. This dish can be eaten warm or cold and can be kept for at least 3 days in the cool part of the fridge.
Buon Apetito !
People living in the Mediterranean have a much lower risk of contracting Alzheimer’s disease than those in other parts of the world. This explains why most of the elderly local population around villas for rent in Tuscany who eat a healthy Mediterranean diet similar to the one we ate at La Collina del Sole when we ordered the suggested menu from Maria the super cook of Lucca Villa Rental are in strikingly good form at a ripe old age, with alert minds and a quick joke - such a pleasure to encounter when you rent a villa in Tuscany and encounter the locals, whether in the local café to your Villa rentals in Tuscany or the restaurants near your Holiday Villas in Lucca , most local restaurants have a designated table for the older men who, for some reason, have no women to cook for them. They meet every day usually for lunch but sometimes for dinner too, they read the local press and have a jolly good chat. Researchers looking for an explanation found an association between extra virgin olive oil and low rates of Alzheimer’s. They attributed olive oil’s disease-fighting power to high amounts of monounsaturated fats. However, new research shows that oleocanthal - a natural substance found in olive oil is the real cause of Olive Oils remarkable quality Research has shown that oleocanthal decreased the accumulation of beta-amyloids—the amino acid–based plaques that scientists believe cause Alzheimer’s—in the brain and boosted production of the proteins and enzymes that researchers think play roles in removing those same plaques. Results also showed that oleocanthal from extra-virgin olive oil which is consumed in a Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias. When you buy olive oil it is worth bearing in mind that the terms “first pressing” and “cold pressed” don’t mean much on a bottle of olive oil that’s already labelled “virgin.” There is only one pressing involved, and it always takes place at ambient temperature and the difference between “virgin” and “extra virgin” is the percentage of acidity allowed - up to 2% and 0.8 % respectively. Italians consume about 3 gallons of olive oil per person, per year, but Greeks consume the most in the world about 5 gallons per capita annually, both countries are known for their “Dolce Vita” attitude Olive oil goes rancid rapidly when exposed to light and heat, so although it looks nice in brightly-lit displays or sunny shop windows, you shouldn’t buy those bottles, store most of your oil in a cupboard or better still the cellar and only keep a small container to hand for daily use. Be sure to clean that container before refilling each time, so you won’t end up adding good oil to rancid remainders. As if deliciousness and protection against Alzheimer’s were not enough to recommend it, other research has found that extra virgin olive oil helps to clarify thinking and improve memory. So if you would like to know where to get REALLY GOOD Olive Oil contact us
Recently when we were staying at La Collina del Sole our favourite Lucca Villa Rental a friend was told that unless he cut out all fats from his diet there would be trouble, which meant no egg yolk, no fatty meat, certainly no butter and no oils EXCEPT Olive Oil that is because Olive Oil is GOOD for you, it is a healthy source of monounsaturated fat and antioxidants. The best Olive Oil comes direct from the press, when you rent a villa in Tuscany it is a good idea to check out the area just north of Lucca for Olive oil farms, as they might sell to charming guests at Holiday Villas in Lucca some of the precious freshly pressed Olive Oil [only destined for home consumption] which is ripe, viscous, fruity and way too precious for cooking and best sprinkled on salads. An experience that we suggest when you choose villas for rent in Tuscany in the late autumn is to see the Olive harvest in progress, to do this you will have to be prepared to travel along winding roads in the sunny hillsides of Lucca to find a “fattoria” with Olive Trees, there are several near villa rentals in Tuscany in these fattorias at harvest time the young family members and grown strong men will be climbing gnarled old olive trees like monkeys, shaking the fruit into nets spread around the trunks, then the olive harvest will be taken to the local mill where it is converted into olive oil nectar. La Collina del Sole produces a minute quantity of Olive Oil, it is barely enough for a few meals but .. my oh my … its good along with the small Olive oil production of other villas and farms, this Olive Oil is a bright green in colour and is too perishable for export and cannot be found in supermarkets or delicatessens. To the palate it is liquid gold, it tastes of the sunshine of where it was grown and it is best when freshly pressed as, unlike fine wine it does not benefit from aging.
The colour of the oil reflects the maturity of the olives pressed. Darker oils usually come from riper olives and have milder flavours, whereas the unripe olives can make some of the most flavourful oils, which are bright, almost neon green.
At La Collina del Sole you can book one of our favourite experiences which is Olive Oil tasting at Il Vecchio Mulino as extra virgin olive oils like wines have differing tastes, each with its own subtle complexities of flavour, colour and body based on factors like the terrain, production methods, and the type and age of the olives harvested. There’s one big difference between wine and Olive Oil: wine improves with age, olive oil does not. It can lose its strongest flavours in a matter of weeks.
As a frequent visitor to La Collina del Sole we have been fortunate enough to visit many Italian Palazzos and Villas in the area of Villa rentals in Tuscany and Palazzo Piccolomini which is in Pienza a 2 ½ hours’ drive from our Lucca Villa Rental is a star among them all. It is Welcoming and cool, a hallmark of Italian Villa architecture which you would expect to see in all Villas for rent in Tuscany It is full of one of a kind treasures, a real treat to visit when you Rent a villa in Tuscany it is grand yet sober and unassuming and so we consider it a star attraction when you are in Holiday Villas in Lucca Palazzo Piccolomini was donated to the state by the last in line of the Piccolomini family, along with many of the family treasures, this family provided two Popes, Pius II who was born in the Palazzo and his nephew Pius III The Palazzo itself is marvellously simple and sober, most of the rooms are lightly decorated with a few very special items, like a small drawer cabinet decorated in Agate fronted panels that look like landscape from 1 metre away but in fact are the result of salt deposits on the stone, which has been cut in slivers. There are only 2 other such items of antique furniture in the world. There is a fresco painting of the family tree on a very large and impressive wall that depicted the family up to the 1800’s, and off the main reception room is a small alcove that was for the Duchess of Piccolomini, situated beside the fireplace, the alcove has decorated walls and a sitting area in plush red velvet with small portraits of the family and with a window, this is where the Duchess would retire to read as the Palazzo was very cold in the winter and this was the only way to keep warm while reading a favourite book.
At the entrance room there is a table called the “Arms rest” where all weapons aka arms would be placed upon as you came into the Palazzo, you can also admire family portraits, beautiful gold and silver inlay leather wallpaper given as a wedding gift by Catherine of Aragon, collections of arms and armour hanging on walls. The Pallazo houses the bedroom of Pius II with a portrait of him on the wall painted while he was alive, a very elaborate baroque bed which dates from a later time, and 3 items of furniture that belonged to Pope Pius II, one a 4 sided revolving bookstand, a short drawer armadio and a receiving chair with a very high back which also served as a commode [ talk about multitasking ! ] there were in another room many books some of them dating back to XIII and a few star gazing apparatus and treatises. The Palazzo has a terrace on the 1st floor with a commanding view of the Val D’Orcia declared a world heritage site and protected by UNESCO, and a simple garden, with Roses walled in by a box hedge. All had a wonderfully sober and uncomplicated feel. The Palazzo had been saved from looting during WWII as the German Commanding officer upon taking control of Pienza and the surrounding countryside during WWII issued a protective order for the Palazzo and its contents, the document can still be seen framed on the walls. On the way out and throughout the Palazzo you can spot the coat of arms of the family - a cross with 4 crescent moons which signifies the 4th crusade to which this family went to.