Tis the season to be harvesting tra la la la …

At Lucca Villa Rental the Grapes have been picked and the organic wine  IMG_4968production 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 TuscanyVINO ! at La Collina del Sole 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 ! Black Trufflebuy 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 haveLa Collina del Sole Wine Label 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 LA COLLINA DEL SOLE SideTerraceabout 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! LCDS SUNSET winter Composite

Olive Oil is GOOD for YOU

Recently when we were staying at La Collina del Sole our favourite Lucca Villa Rental a DSCN1654friend 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” Oliveswith 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. San Pellegrino from La Collina del SoleLa 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 DSCN1661from 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.

Pure Palazzo Piccolomini Pienza

As a frequent visitor to La Collina del Sole  we have been fortunate enough to visit many La Collina del Sole - Rebecca JensenItalian 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 DSCN1761Palazzo Piccolomini was donated to the state by the last in line of the  Piccolomini family, along with many of thDSCN1677e 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 DSCN1755the 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. DSCN1756The 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.

Palazzo Piccolomini

As Time Goes By …

In the midst of enjoying our Holiday Villas in Lucca we have come across a most IMG_0233wonderful antique timepiece exhibition curated by one of the neighbours of La Collina del Sole the exhibition is called “COREDÉ” {che ora é]  and is just a stone’s throw away from the Lucca Villa Rental It is held in the village of Sillico, and showcases antique cuckoo clocks, mantelpiece clocks, watches and all manner of time keeping instruments, a welcome “break” from sunning yourself by the salt water infinity pool at La Collina del Sole a gem among Villas for rent in Tuscany  The exhibition COREDE is open on Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer.  Other fun things to do when you rent a villa in Tuscany in the Garfagnana region is go to a Medieval Feast which is also in Sillico a region of choice Villa rentals in Tuscany La Collina del Sole - Rebecca JensenThe Medieval Feast season starts at 6pm from the 27th of July and runs every evening it is called “ I Banditi del Sillico al tempo dell’Ariosto… all’ora di cena ” and is a very well thought of Feast serving local foods which are typical of the time. The entire village of Sillico is transformed with medieval costumes into a bandits lair  the most famous of which was “Il Moro”. The medieval town inhabitants serve a delicious medieval meal in various nooks and crannies of the village, the church also hosts an exhibition with tools of the various local crafts. This Feast is held as a commemoration of the time that Ariosto an Italian nobleman and literary star who was mayor of the town of Castelnuovo de Garfagnana was taken prisoner by the feared bandit Il Moro.

The area of Garfagnana where you can find La Collina del Sole was the through road for Gina and La Collina del Sole ViewSalt from the sea for many of the dukedoms and principalities of Northern Tuscany, and as salt was a precious commodity to preserve food and to help keep things cold, by default Garfagnana became a magnet for all manner of bandits and “salt pirates” who would lie in wait for convoys and extract any valuable item from their hapless victims.

Other fun pastimes in Garfagnana over the weekend is antiques shopping which Fornovolascocan be enjoyed in the historic town of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana on the  1st Saturday and Sunday of each month, in the medieval jewel of Barga every 2nd Sunday of each month and in Lucca every 3rd  Saturday and Sunday of the month. Lucca by the way was recently voted the most beautiful place to live in Italy by Forbes Magazine !

Serchio ValleyIf you love old traditions then you will LOVE the   Festa dei Pastori alle prade garfagnine or the feast of shepherds in the meadows of Garfagnana held on Sunday 4th August, it is a true  gathering of locals in the cool of the meadows high up in Garfagnana hills guaranteed to be fresh a blessing in August a great day out. Yee Haaaaaaaaaaa

La Collina del Sole

Even more press exposure for La Collina del Sole !

Wedding.18.03.13.image SMALL 2The jewel in the crown of Villa rentals in Tuscany  - La Collina del Sole is featured again ! this time in the latest issue of wedding magazine  which as you can appreciate in the feature, commands a view to rival most villas for rent in Tuscany from any vantage point in this lovely Lucca villa rental  you get the most glorious views, which are described in the guest feedback. You can also just glimpse the award winning salt water infinity pool; a unique feature within the Holiday villas in Lucca So when you look to rent a villa in Tuscany and enjoy tranquil mountain views consider this beauty!Wedding.18.03.13.image SMALL 1 La Collina del Sole which recently joined the ranks at Tripadvisor and has already received 4 reviews from past guests is set in one of Italy’s National Parks where tranquillity and natural beauty are outstanding.  As enjoyed by many of their guests you can stroll to the local bar and general shop or drive 20 minutes to medieval market towns with all manner of tempting local food produce or within 1.30 hours you can enjoy sophisticated Florentine shopping or be at Pisa Airport.

The wonderful facilities and experiences at La Collina del Sole were also highlighted in The Lady magazine  and the Villa Collina Del Sole WED Mag Full Article. WEBSITEin-depth look at aspirational destinations in the world in the January /February issue of wedding magazine.  Splendours mentioned were the award winning infinity pool, spacious out door eating areas, one of which is within the main veranda and the other set in pergola dripping with wisteria and virginia creeper on the side terrace complete with fountain. The wonderfully equipped kitchen whcih is a delight to cook in, the deliciously comfortable bedrooms complete with mosquito nets if required, the fabulous BBQ and state of the art wood burning pizza oven where most guests have chosen to learn how to make a Pizza from scratch with the pizza experience to the many experiences available atThe Lady Magazine Website image.Small.15.02.13 this fabulous Lucca Villa Rental like wine and Olive oil tasting where coincidentally the fashion team also shot a feature, a stroll in Ceserana one of our local towns featured alongside il Vecchio Mulino, walking along the mountainside, learning to speak Italian join the vendemmia, hunt for funghi porcini, to cook like Mamma, or simply to chill and watch the swallows enjoy a drink at that AMAZING pool.

So if you are thinking of having a wonderful and restful  “get-away from it all”  holiday, have a little look at what guests have written regarding La Collina del Sole on the independently verified Tripadvisor website it is well worth doing your homework in order to get the very best out of your Lucca Villa Rental holiday ! See you next week when we will bring you hot off the press news of what’s on in Garfagnana Arrivederchi !

OK enough FOOD let’s see the SEA [ Part One ]

When you rent a villa in Tuscany if one of your aims is to get a decent tan, you will know that salt water and constantly hydrated skin plays a big part in obtaining the perfect sun kissed look. At your favourite Villa rentals in Tuscany a.k.a La Collina del Sole  the pool is a salt water pool…so not only are you able to open your eyes underwater with no stinging but also get a golden colour into the bargain.  Having established that one of the requirements when you are looking for Holiday villas in Lucca or Villas for rent in Tuscany  is the sun and salt water and having sunbathed in luxury with marble sunbeds and no crowds in Lucca Villa Rental  if you fancy a change of scene we recommend … FORTE DE MARMI The English translation for” Forte de Marmi  “is “Marble Fort” and is west of La Collina del Sole , at the foothills of the Carrara marble hills, it is on the sea and marble is the material of choice, Armani has a villa here, as do many politicians, Andrea Bocelli lives here. A few years back the main Agnelli house on the beach with its underground passage was bought by and annexed to the Augustus Hotel Resort to provide further accommodation, a great place to have a drink or delicious meal. If you like the beach, then look no further than this beach resort town. As the Augustus only lets paying hotel guests take the sun here, if you are passign by you can find a very small public beach, or better still it is best to pay to have your spot in the sun There is a particularly nice Beach spot called Sud Est, run by the same family for years now, the current owner is Flavio Giannotti they also cook delightful food and delicious salads.  Please call and book beforehand, 0584 80 846 as smart Italian families take their spot for a whole week, and you might be able to book for a slot between one family and the next. If you prefer to travel further afield ther is:

LERICI The nearby Ligurian coast is absolutely stunning and well worth a visit. The Golfo dei Poeti (the Gulf of Poets) is where Byron and Shelley both lived. The main town, is delightful with its fish market, castle and excellent fish restaurants.

From Lerici you can take a boat to Portovenere across the bay and walk around this gorgeous town. Portovenere which is translated as the Port of Venus due to its beauty, is where you can walk through the town to the ancient church and castle and Byron’s grotto – a good place from which to swim and picnic.  There are also boats from here to the famous Cinque Terre.

Round the corner from Lerici on the road to Tellaro, there is a public beach at Fiascherino – there are steps down to this charming little beach with a café / bar where you can rent sun beds etc. Tellaro, a charming picturesque fishing village hosts as you would expect many excellent fish restaurants.

The Festas to look out for this week are: On the 23 of July the yearly Photographic exhibition starts in the nearest main town for La Collina del Sole in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. Barga on the 24 to 25 July just south of us has the celebration to its patron saint San Cristoforo Sagra dei Maccheroni  from 25 to 29 July in Sillicagnana north of La Collina del Sole.

Sagra delle Crisciolette traditional bread made with are made with hard and soft wheat flour, this festa is held in Cascio where there is a tiny garrison as the centre piece of the Piazza. From 27 to 29 July. Shopping in the evening and other singing entertainment at Fornaci di Barga  “ Fornaci in Canto “ on the 27-29 July, this is quite fun to relax in the cool of the night after a relaxing day by the pool at your favourite Lucca Villa Rental A very special and unusual festa is one given for the Madonna dei cavatori   or the workers in the marble quarries, it is held in Minucciano from the 28 to 29 of July, people often stay the night in tents, the “miners” have historically lived a dangerous profession, there used to be many deaths a year, thankfully that is no longer the case, but MInucciano ‘s homes use marble as if it were gravel ... Silico  hosts I Banditti dell’Ariosto all’ora di cena on 28 July  this is a medieval themed evening with the town and inhabitants “dressed up” as a bandits lair in the time of Ariosto, a fun meal is to be had. If you are too tired to go you can always see the town brightly lit up from the Pizza Oven terrace at La Collina del Sole Camporgiano starts its folkloric festival with Mexican dancers and tango dangers on 29-30 of July The Festa del Baccala in OUR OWN village Fosciandora on the 28 of July, it is just a few minutes walk from La Collina del Sole If you prefer Pork Chiozza is hosting the Sagra della Porchetta from the 28-29 of July If you have a sweet tooth then Sagra della Torta is for you in Molazzana, 28-29 July For a traditional Festa check out Camporgiano on the 29 of July for the Fiera di Sant’Anna More seaside and partying next week Arrivederci !

Schools are out in Italy it is time to play !

This week brings great excitement to the region both gastronomically and musically, just a stone’s throw away from La Collina del Sole the beautiful Holiday Villas in Lucca you find Trepignana which hosts a musical evening with brass bands on the 24 of June, a little further away from your glorious villas for rent in Tuscany you will find Pegnana in the region of Barga hosting a gastronomic evening also on the 24th.  Other activities on the 24th of June to amuse you while you enjoy your Villa rentals in Tuscany are the traditional Fair of San Pietro in Piazza al Serchio, for the more adventurous canyoning in Pescaglia, a sedate musical evening in Ghivizzano part of Correglia Antelminelli. From the 29th of June when you rent a villa in Tuscany  like La Collina del Sole you will discover daily musical evenings in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, as it kicks off its Summer International Academy of Music program, or nearby in Mologno – Barga the Local Festa gets under way on the 29th, we highly recommend these as  it is when the whole town  comes out to chat, catch up, dance, eat and have fun.   Also on the 29th  if you drive 25 minutes from la Collina del Sole  you will get to Ghivizzano in Correglia Antelminelli when they will be celebrating the feast days of their patron saints Pietro and Paolo, again a highly recommended festa as you will see Italians in their element. On the 30th of June the local “Big” town near La Collina del Sole called Castelnuovo di Garfagnana hosts a philharmonic concert of Giuseppe Verdi. On the 1st of July the Feast of the Ravioli gets under way in Pieve Fosciana just 23 minutes’ drive north from your glorious Villa rentals in Tuscany , or you could attend the Mountain Festa in Pianiza in the area of Molazzana, whci is highly regarded.

Now if Festas are not so much your thing but food is then we recommend a place to eat that you could practically tumble into from the jewel of villas for rent in Tuscany  this is our very own local restaurant Il Ponte downhill from La Collina del Sole, it is in Ponte di Ceserana, 15 Loc Ponte di Ceserana, Telefone 0583 66 20 05

Located at the entrance to our area from the main Lucca – Castelnuovo Road. The owner/cook, Claudio, comes from Ayr in Scotland, he produces amazing locally produced grappas of different flavours at the end of the meal. His wife Clementina and children help run the restaurant and bar.  A good hours walk from the  La Collina del Sole , uphill coming home ! so you can enjoy the drink and work off the feast. Claudio speaks perfect English with a wonderful Scottish accent, closed Mondays, booking preferred. ENJOY !

Let the Music Begin !

Following on from last week’s look at Festas in Garfagnana next to your favourite La Collina del Sole a handpicked jewel among Villas for rent in Tuscany, you will find many Music festivals not only with Opera as seen in our blog for Opera buffs  in May but with Jazz, Worldwide Folkloric Music and Contemporary music, even music competitions so when you next pick your Villa rentals in Tuscany   we suggest you check out the menu of musical choices available. If you rent a villa in Tuscany close to Barga you can partake in the Jazz Festival competition, whereas if you chose holiday villas in Lucca you would do well to check the latest itinerary of the Lucca Summer Festival in Piazza Napoleone, Lucca, held in July each year it attracts a star studded guest list for example: Elton John, Liza Minelli, BB King and Jamiroquai, Paul Simon and Oasis. In 2012 the list of performances are : Tom Petty and the Heartbrakers on 29 June BLINK -182 on 4th of July Norah Jones 14th July Gossip 19th of July Duran Duran on 21st of July Toto on 29 of July

If you prefer something closer to La Collina del Sole then Barga has an amazing Jazz Festival Contest, Barga is a beautiful town full of history that hosts Painters, Artisans, special food events and this unusual Jazz contest.

Or for a TOTAL change of scene how about Camporgiano which hosts the International Folkloric Festival with Argentinian Tango and Mexican dancing among others livening up the sultry Tuscan skies. Most villages in Garfagnana will have some music festival whether, modern, classic, jazz, children singing or local opera, Pontecosi a very picturesque village by a Lake just North of Castelnuovo it is a fabulous backdrop  for fun music filled Festas. Tango evenings also feature here

In Fosciadora our area you can dance under the stars durign the few days at either side of Santa Maria [ the virgin Mary’s birthday ] on the 15th of August, so whatever music you choose a live concert or a relaxed listening session at La Collina del Sole watching the sunset while listening to your favourite CD … enjoy