Italian feasts

Have you been naughty or nice?

Lady with HatIn Italian folklore the Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children and fills their socks with candy and presents if they are good, or a lump of coal if they are bad. A jolly handy piece of information if you happen to rent a villa in Tuscany during epiphany which is a spectacular time of year to stay at holiday villas in Lucca as the air is crisp and bright and Italians love to PARTY, for example the village inhabitants near La Collina del Sole will gather and if they are alerted that young children are staying at this beautiful Lucca villa rental will visit with sweets and treats and a brass band - a unique lifetime experience to enjoy while you stay at villa rentals in Tuscany In fact La Collina del Sole is one of the few places among the villas for rent in Tuscany where guests will be so warmly and wholeheartedly welcomedLa Befana travels throughout Italy on the night of January the 5th, delivering presents in a similar way to Santa Claus. Attention children, stay at the Italian villa La Collina del Sole during January because in Italy children get both gifts from Father Christmas and the Befana! The Befana is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick wearing a black shawl, and covered in soot because she enters the children's houses through the chimney. She is often smiling and carries a bag or hamper filled with candy and gifts. The broom that she carries is not only a mode of transport but signifies the sweeping away of the problems of the year. It is suggested that one should leave a small glass of wine and a plate with a few yummy treats on it ; otherwise she may not leave any presents for you! Legend says that the Befana was approached by the Three Wise Men a few days before the birth of Jesus. They asked for directions to where Jesus was, as they had seen his star in the sky, but she did not know the answer. She gave them shelter for a night, as she was considered to be the best housekeeper in the village, with the cleanest home as she swept all the time. The Three Wise Men invited her to join them on the journey to find baby Jesus, but she declined because she was too busy with her house cleaning. Later, La Befana changed her mind and went searching for baby Jesus. That night she had no luck in finding Him, so to this day, La Befana is still searching for the little baby, leaving presents for good children such as toys and candy, and for the bad children that she meets along her way...coal.

Don’t get your knickers in a twist…

Image of girlItalians have managed to make the otherwise innocent New Year's Eve celebration a little bit naughty. Tradition dictates that everyone must wear red underwear on New Year's Eve - from boxer shorts to sexy lace panties - anything goes, as long as it's red. Shortly after Christmas, red underwear is stocked exclusively all over the country, so there is no excuse not to join in! When you rent a villa in Tuscany which we highly recommend as Italian New Year’s celebrations are legendary! With a great deal of feasting and fireworks that can be brilliantly overlooked in the valley below from La Collina del Sole one of the best located Villa rentals in Tuscany as it is placed overlooking the Serchio valley. This superb Lucca villa rental has a commanding view of the Apuane hills, where more fireworks can be seen from high altitude villages and refugios where long distance walkers have accomplished a once in a lifetime experience and trekked from their holiday villas in Lucca to the top of the Apuane range, with its beautiful Monte Forato a mountain that has a huge circular hole through the middle,  a highlight to view from the villas for rent in TuscanyIn Spain and Chile there is a similar custom of wearing unusual underwear in case you thought that it sounded a little odd, in Japan locals consume large amounts of a chewy, sweet rice cake, called Mochi, in order to guarantee a long and happy life. This sounds innocent enough, however this tradition has been known to lead to people choking to death – I’m not sure if it’s worth the hassle, to be honest…best to stick to red underwear! Italians also eat “cotechino e lenticchie” (pig’s feet and lentils) during New Years. According to tradition this bizarre ritual will bring good luck to the Italian’s finances in the coming year. The economical abundance wished for is symbolised through the hoof because the meat has a high fat content and a superior richness in flavour to other cuts of meat. Equally symbolic are the lentils, as their ovular shape is reminiscent of gold coins and the money the Italians hope to earn in the coming year. Needless to say, the more you eat, the better off you will be financially! The traditional recipe that you will come across in the surrounding area of la Collina del Sole will be pig’s feet in a tomato sauce. Nicely browned pig trotter will simmer in a sauce composed of sautéed and thinly sliced onion and chopped garlic, olive oil, tomato sauce, oregano and Italian seasonings. Chefs will cook the pig’s feet in the sauce for up to four hours until the meat in incredibly succulent and tender, and it falls off the bone easily – sounds pretty delicious to me!

LCDS Sunset from road leading to La Collina del Sole

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…

Winter evening sceneChristmas season begins in Italy on the 30th of November! In the cold winter weather of the northern Tuscan mountains where you can rent a villa in Tuscany Christmas fairs feature fireworks, bonfires, hot chocolate, sugary pastries and piping bowls of pasta. Near Lucca villa rental Christmas markets overflow with new figurines for the manger scene and Christmas baubles to decorate the Christmas tree. If you would like to savour the Christmas spirit earlier than most; we suggest you visit La Collina del Sole one of the few Villas for rent in Tuscany which is designed for both winter and summer living. With a welcoming living room complete with open log fire, high beamed ceilings typical of the best Holiday villas in Lucca and a plethora of speciality food shops bursting with truffles and funghi porcini and fabulously well priced restaurants that serve the best local fare all of them found near our villa rentals in Tuscany Nine days before Christmas it is traditional for Italian families to sing Christmas carols and re-create the manger scene in their homes (some families put life-size figures of Mary and Joseph in their front yard) where they will gather to pray every morning and light candles. Interestingly both the concept of manger scenes and Christmas carols originated in Italy! During the run up to Christmas, children will write letters to their parents wishing them a merry Christmas, promising good behaviour, and making a list of the gifts they hope to receive – much like we do in England. However, in Italy the parents read these letters aloud at dinner. Then they toss them in the fireplace! The children chant to La Befana, the Christmas Spirit, [who when she turns up looks like an old lady] as their wishes go up the chimney – this certainly makes it a little bit trickier for Santa or the Befana when remembering what the children asked for! Once the first star appears on Christmas Eve Italian families light candles in their windows to light the way for the Christ Child. They light candles around their manger and pass the figure of the Baby Jesus from person to person, kissing it, before finally placing it tenderly in its crib. Then they enjoy a lavish supper based on seafood, vegetables, salads, antipasto, bread, pasta, and sweets – no meat will feature in this meal. After dinner the town will gather at church for a midnight Christmas Eve mass. Christmas Day is reserved for church, presents, family, and – in true Italian style – feasting! Foods which feature heavily at Christmas are Pannettone, a yeast cake filled with fruit, and panforte, a dense honey cake spiced with cloves and cinnamon, and cassata, which includes ice cream and fruit. So in the words of a young man “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!”..