COMPULSORY Tuscan Travel Tips - Car & Communication

Reflecting on our recent long weekend at our favourite Lucca Villa Rental the tranquil La Collina del Sole an idyllic place when you Rent a Villa in Tuscany We congratulated Diving into the Infinity Pool LA Collina del Sole ourselves on our forethought of booking a rental car from home, having learnt our lesson a few years back [when we had been charged 15% of the cost of a new car for an impulsive weekend rental] so upon our arrival at Pisa and collecting the car in order to reach our Holiday villas in Lucca  We had a bit of a shock when GOLDCAR rental wanted to charge a surprise non-refundable €120 diesel charge and a €90 insurance charge or a €1,600 deposit for the car even if the print in the English booking service said insurance was included, we refused to proceed, and La Collina del Sole viewas we were looking forward to putting our feet up in our choice Villas for rent in  Tuscany  we brushed up on our Italian,  rented a Smart car from Avis who were very decent on their rates and we zipped  off to our Villa Rentals in Tuscany Moral of the story: rent a car from a reputable and well known dealer, we had fun and found the following phrases to be useful: You must be joking !   Stai scherzando   Staee Scare-zhan-doh Do you speak English?   Parla Inglese?   Par-la Een-glay-zay I don't understand   Non capisco  Non Ka-peesk-koh557779_3360581848740_16050715_n I'm sorry     Mi dispiace Mee Dees-pee-yat-chay How much is it?    Quanto costa? Kwan-toh Cost-ah That's too much  É troppo  Ay Troh-po car     automobile  Ow-toh-mo-bee-lay gas     benzina     Ben-zee-nah diesel     gasolio   Gah-zoh-lee-oh Fill it up, please     al pieno, per favore Ahl Pee-yay-noh, Pair Fa-vohr-ray Where is...     Dov'é     Doh-vay396817_3360556408104_736038112_n ...the highway     l'autostrada     Lout-oh-stra-dah ...the state highway  la statale [written "SS"] Lah Sta-tahl-eh ...the road for ...      la strada per ...     Lah Stra-dah Pair ... to the right     à destra     Ah Deh-strah to the left     à sinistra     Ah See-neest-trah straight ahead     dirito  Dee-ree-toh keep going straight     sempre diritto     Sem-pray Dee-ree-toh thank you     grazie     Grat-tzee-yay please     per favore     Pair fa-vohr-ray yes     si     see no     no     no Have a great journey      buon viaggio        Boo-on Vee-ah-gio

What IS it about Tuscany?

Is it the light?    The beautiful rich terracotta quality to the sunsets that you perceive when La Collina del Sole viewyou rent a villa in Tuscany ?    Is it the View? That reminds you a still serene moments as you savour your holiday villas in Lucca ?      Is it the Tuscan food?  That brings the tinge of pleasure as you remember your beautiful Villas for rent in Tuscany when you next taste Funghi Porcini in your home town?     Is it the culture? That surrounds you at every step when you get acquainted with the surrounding area of your villa rentals in Tuscany ?  Is it the kindness of all the help you get when you stay at La Collina del Sole ? is it the amazing experiences you live when you stay at Luca Villa rental ?Well we would like to think it is a combination of all the above, without doubt Tuscany has Evening  light on Pool La Collina del Solethe most amazing colours for those who are artistically sensitive you cannot fail but to appreciate the crisp morning light so beautifully captured by the gifted photographer Rebecca Jenson on her last visit,  to the deep terracotta sunsets pictured by every guest at La Collina del Sole  the surrounding heritage is also astounding from the most amazing ruined fortresses surrounding  La Collina del Sole to the seat of civilization in Florence and the home of pageantry in Sienna.  From the delicious Funghi Porcini and Black truffles that are indigenous to the countryside around Lucca Villa rental brought to your table at the A Feastexcellent food found at Boninni’s  or at Casa del Pescatore  to the fine Tuscan dinning  found both at Ristorante Millevini in Siena [Fortezza Medicea, 1, 53100 Siena, Italy  tel +39 0577 247121] our new favourite with specifically Tuscan cuts of Beef and Tuscan vegetables they have one thousand wines on display in their excellent event cellar below the restaurant, the wines here are wonderful and the food is to die for, and in one of Pavarotti’s favourite eating stops Antica Locanda di Sesto in Via Ludovico in Sesto Moriano, telephone 0583 578181  & 0583 406 303 where we can guarantee you an unforgettable meal with excellent wines. The friendliness and inclusiveness of the Tuscan people and in particular the people around Gina the SheperdessLucca Villa rental is exceptional, this warmth is testified in the tripadvisor feedback whcih La Collina del Sole has attracted, where with one halting Grazie you open the doors to the special Tuscan smile, and their extreme goodwill, it is not unusual for people to accompany you miles out of their way to make sure that you arrive at the right place, and this they do sharing their knowledge and love for the area, and then of course there is the views…….. which are outstanding, peaceful and have a historical charm about them When you are in Tuscany you are WELCOME indeed !

Sunset View from La Collina del Sole

Alternative Christmas Presents …

How does the idea of Chocolate hammers or truffle sausages grab you? Well when you stay in a Holiday Villas in Lucca tChocolate Horseshoe & Spannerhe chances are that you will be close to these delicacies, all are available in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana which is very close to La Collina del Sole the “star” among Villas for rent in Tuscany. Castelnuovo is located in the middle of a variety of Villa rentals in Tuscany where FOOD is an essential ingredient to “good living”. We at Lucca villa rental believe that food is an essential part of enjoying life and we hope that you enjoy our discerning list when you rent a villa in Tuscany  First up Chocolate is always a favourite! at the Antica Pasticeria the owners make their own chocolate you can buy a very realistic hammer, scissors, and other tools for a humorous treat to all those DIY enthusiasts.Chocolate Gingerbread Man .

For those who just love Chocolate but do not want a tool kit to devour then how about a gingerbread man in pure chocolate or for the purists out there pure plain chocolate by weight.

For those who prefer truffles, garfagnana where La Collina del Sole is conveniently located is right in the heart of truffle growing woods, and the locals have invented a thousand and one things that can be made with the delicious truffle aroma. The is the expected Truffle sauces, and truffle sausages, truffle pasta, truffle paste, truffle oil and Aia di Pieroeven Truffle salt all available at the magnificent Aia di Piero located by one of the main stone gates into Castelnuovo, they are open almost every day at normal working hours, and you will find amazing cured meats, delicious pre-prepared meals and all things made from Chestnut another staple of the Garfagnana area, from chestnut flour to chestnut marmalade …

Now for the truffle salami our favourite spot is the husband and wife run vegetable store which is in the heart of Castelnuovo, La Piazetta a stone’s throw away from Aia di Piero going into the town, has all La PiazzettaFruit&Vegsmanner of delicious home grown vegetables and fruit and a great assortment of Marmalades, and sauces and Dried Funghi Porcini another local delicacy … Have a VERY BLESSED Christmas !

Ten vital ingredients for the perfect Tuscan Holiday!

  1-    LOCATION  is vital when you rent a villa in Tuscany so while browsing through the villas for rent in Tuscany make sure you have a good view and a little seclusion although a nearby town to do gentle shopping is important, at La Collina del Sole the view is of the Carrara marble hills and the villa is close to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana.

2-    FACILITIES is the second ingredient like mosquito nets, enough sunbeds and shaded areas, salt water swimming pool so your eyes do not sting, soft and plush towels BBQ not easy to find this all under one roof when looking at Villa rentals in Tuscany

3-    GREAT FOOD and WINE is the next essential criteria for Holiday Villas in Lucca …who wants to cook on holiday !  at Lucca Villa Rental we have a handbook with over 50 excellent restaurants very close by, a few of which are on the Lucca Villa rental we love restaurants tab or you could try our highly rated outside catering 4-     LOCAL SPECIALITIES like Black truffle which is found in abundance locally and how about a plate angel hair homemade pasta with tons Truffle shavings on top which costs £15 at Da Gabrielles as opposed to £80 in central London … that is in itself is worth the trip.

5-    UNIQUE  EXPERIENCES like visiting disused marble caves, Pizza cooking lessons or full on Italian cooking lessons, or perhaps Olive oil or Italian wine tasting sessions at Il Vecchio Mulino

6-    GOOD CLIMATE temperate … hot in the day and cool at night … BLISS

7-    ENTERTAINEMENT -  walking through the Apuan hills, Funghi Porcini hunting, Festas galore with the whole of rural Italy literally exploding with parties, feast days and local produce markets at all times of year

8-    PRESTIGE like a swim whenever you want at a salt water award winning infinity pool

9-    UNIQUE MOMENTS which are irreplaceable and UNIQUE to that Special place like watching swallows swoop down onto the pool to drink at sunset or the firefly discotheque in May / June

10-     And finally HAPPY MEMORIES these only happen in special places, check out  La Collina del Sole Tuscany Facebook albums and Luca Villa Rental feedback section for a little taster... Arrivederci

Fabulous Funghi !

The Funghi are there waiting to be picked at La Collina del Sole your favorite Lucca Villa rental, so if you like eating Funghi Porcini while you rent a villa in Tuscany , here are a few Funghi Porcini serving restaurants, near our Villa rentals in Tuscany , an area where Porcini mushrooms are plentiful and succulent.  We will also be letting you into a little secret for of eating the best Funghi while you eat at Holiday villas in Lucca the cream of the crop among Villas for rent in Tuscany First up,  how about restaurants set among the Apuane National Park in Garfagnana ? There is La Ceragetta west from  La Collina del Sole towards Arni their telephone number is  0583 667004. Located in the heart of the Marble hills, high up with lovely views. One hours drive from  your favourite Lucca Villa Rental . The antipasto is extensive, good food, they have Funghi Porcini with practically everything you can eat and it is moderately priced. Closed on Mondays. Then there is il Sassone  in Fobbia   about a 50 minute drive up into the fresh woods from La Collina del Sole, As it is set in the woods Funghi eating feels particularly appropriate, it is also great for a hot summer’s day, with wonderful  alfresco eating. It is also popular with the young in the summer as it has an outside disco, being in the middle of nowhere there are no neighbours to disturb, their number is 0583 760426.

Then deep in the Apuane hills is Bettula in Alpi di Sant Antonio their number is  0583 760380.  A very picturesque drive out, about 1 ½ hours from “ La Collina del Sole “ driving directly…however it is the drive and views of the hilly countryside getting there and back that make this day trip special. Great food with all manner of Forest delights.

If you would prefer eating Funghi with an amazing view then there is il Volpino in Calomini a real favourite with locals is their telephone 0583 760177  with stunning views from this town, it is a good hours drive from “ La Collina del Sole “ . It is closed on Tuesdays. For more stunning views … at the Terrazza in Albiano their number is 0583 766175 it has down to earth cuisine.  Closed on Wednesdays

The best way to eat Funghi Porcini when fresh is lightly sautéed in Olive oil, adding a little garlic, salt pepper and add it to freshly cooked pasta … enjoy

For Opera Buffs

Do you feel like a spot of Opera while you stay in La Colllina del Sole the top choice within Villas for rent in Tuscany ?  We have discovered quite a few places which might delight you. From the little known and extremely cosy Opera in Vetriano, to the Arena in Verona.Vetriano is the smallest historical public theatre in the world at 71 sq. metres it’s first performance was in 1891. At present it is protected by FAI which stands for Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano which is the equivalent to the National Trust of Italy [ a private not for profit organization], it dedicates itself to protect elements of Italy's physical heritage which might otherwise be lost The "teatrino" in Vetriano was built in 1890, when an engineer called Biagini donated his barn to build a theatre at the time the town had a population of 400 people. This is not unusual,  Italians have LOVED opera  for centuries and most small towns had an Opera house. Two Opera house towns near La Colina del Sole  the jewel among  Holiday villas in Lucca  are Barga and Castelnuovo both of whom have recently restored their “Teatros” and which were historically mainly used for Opera. The founding of Vetriano started when a village group of 18 people bankrolled its construction with a deposit of two lire up front and then fifty cents per month until the work was completed, Sounds like a pretty good deal to me ! and puts Glyndebourne debentures to shame. The "teatrino" became an important cultural center for the village, however after WW II, the theatre started to fall into disrepair, the Town Hall tried to do restructuring work in 1983 with little success. In 1997 the Biagini inheritors donated their share of ownership of the theatre to the FAI, and a year later, restructuring work was taken up again,  the architect was Guglielmo Mozzoni and the "teatrino was officially reopened on the 28th September 2002. To find out what Operas are being performed you will have to contact FAI directly as there is a very small number of seats available,  around 25 spectators allowed only.

As described earlier if you are staying at the beautiful La Collina del Sole the beauty among Villa rentals in Tuscany you could hop over to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana where if you are quick you can see La Traviatta by Giuseppe Verdi on Saturday 12 of May at 9pm at the Teatro  Alfieri di Castelnuovo. Or another town near La Collina del Sole is Barga which has an Opera Festival during the month of July, performances take place in the late 18th Century theatre, Teatro dei Differenti which seats 289, The main artistic aim of the festival is to perform works from the Baroque era - in addition to operas by Vivaldi and other modern operas . Just over a month ago it was announced that the production featured at the “Opera Barga Festival 2012” will be the opera “Gli equivoci nel sembiante” by Alessandro Scarlatti composed in 1679. Do not be put off if the link to the Festival Opera Barga still has the productions for 2011 up, be persistent,  call them and be patient  … you are in Italy.

If you are both wanting to see World Class Opera and Rent a villa in Tuscany during the summer then we suggest you visit Torre del Lago, or go to the Arena of Verona,  if you are visiting in October  then see  Parma for the Verdi Festival  during the month of October .

So for world class Opera Closest to La Collina del Sole and if you would like to be assured of a place go to the Opera in Torre del Lago, which specializes in operas by Puccini, who is considered by some the father of Italian Opera, lived and composed many of his masterpieces in Torre del Lago. The Puccini Festival Opera 2012 season starts on the 20th July with Tosca and ends late in August. Alongside Tosca other operas showing are La Traviata, La Boheme and Madame Butterfly. We visited  when the Opera was very much in the open air with light rain interrupting arias frequently which added a touch of difference to the experience, however the auditorium is now re-built and is much improved  and very popular so if you are interested we recommend, you book early and you get there at least 3.5 hours before the performance to soak up the atmosphere and have a meal beforehand.

Next in distance is Parma where this year the 2012 Verdi Festival starts on the 1st of October and ends on the 28th they are showing Othello and La battaglia di Legnano . The festival is held in October as this is the month in which Verdi was born, in the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza. THE most spectacular Opera experience has got to be the Arena di Verona. Verona is 4 hours drive North East from La Collina del Sole going through Parma. However the season starts in June and ends in early September so if you were hoping to catch both seasons it is impossible, you will just have to visit your favourite Holiday villas in Lucca for both seasons ! The Arena di Verona is most amazing venue for Opera as it is held in a funtioning Roman Colliseum in the centre of Verona with its yearly season one of the most impressive operas to see there is AIDA as they havemany live animals in the production including at times elephants ! Another well known site in Verona is “Juliet’s balcony” reputedly the balcony where the love struck couple Romeo and Juliet met in secret…. Romance ... Opera ... Italy it all fits perfectly together !