Cinghiale or wild boar Pappardelle recipe… Good things take a long time coming

PastaThis recipe is a speciality of the local area for La Collina del Sole an outstanding Lucca villa rental situated in the heart of the chestnut wood area of Garfagnana a region rich in experiences and activities, with beautiful places of interest that you can explore while enjoying your holiday villas in Lucca The mountains afford world class climbing, and mountain recreation like walking; a real treat in the heat of the summer when you rent a villa in Tuscany as the usual villas for rent in Tuscany have flatter surroundings. Here you find a rich landscape that changes with every passing hour … ideal to just sit and “chill” at your villa rentals in TuscanyThe recipe for cinghiale sauce requires time and skill and can feed 10 to 25 people. Whether you try your hand at it, get one of our chefs to cook it for you, or just order pappardelle al cinghiale at a local restaurant, this recipe reveals the work that goes into this seemingly simple Tuscan treasure. The sauce: start with a fresh cut of wild boar, and leave to age for at least three days at O degrees Centigrade. Bone out the leg parts and cut off what little fat you will find. Cut the ribs into chops and set aside to make the stew. Cut half of the meat into large squares and place in a big pot with lots of sprigs of freshly picked rosemary, sage, bay, peppercorns and parsley stalks. Dice up vegetables in the same manner: red onions, the white part of some leeks, celery, and a small quantity of carrots and add to the huge pot. Add lashings of good Tuscan red wine until it covers the cinghiale. You should work on 2/3 meat, 1/3 vegetables ratio, and for every two bottles of wine add one cup of olive oil. Leave the stew to rest in the fridge for two days, stirring when possible to help marinate all the flavours. Throw in a few peppercorns and juniper berries for good measure. After a couple of days drain off the liquid and set aside. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and throw in a good amount of olive oil-then double it. Sautè the cinghiale and vegetables. This step can be done in stages, so you don't stew the meat, but brown it. Once all the meat has been browned, throw everything into the pot, adding the liquid marinade and a small amount of tomato pulp. Bring to a boil and simmer very slowly for at least four hours. Season with salt and taste for flavour and then smother you chosen pasta with the sauce. To accompany go for an aged pecorino cheese (not parmesan) and a bottle of Piastraia Bolgheri Rosso DOC Michele Satta which beautifully accompanies the rich, intensely gamey taste of the wild boar.If you would like other wine suggestions contact us and we or our freind Andrea at il Vecchio Mulino will be deligthed to help Enjoy! 360DegreefromPool

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

Time to eat some more !

As you enjoy the autumnal feel of the Garfagnana while you Rent a villa in Tuscany  … I don’t know about you but my mind turns to food, and close to La Collina del Sole   the very special Lucca Villa Rental there is a pocket of lovely small restaurants. Fifteen minutes drive from your chosen  Villa rentals in Tuscany  is La Vecchia Lanterna in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. Another favourite restaurant is in Silico, and can be seen from the horizon as you look north from La Collina del Sole your very special Villas for rent in Tuscany, it is run by 2 sisters whose cousins run La Credenza , in  Castelnuovo one of the best Pizzerias in the local town of your Holiday villas in Lucca   a.k.a. Lucca Villa rental here are our suggestions : Vecchia Lanterna, on the corner of Via Nicola Fabrizi and and Via G Pascoli in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Telefone 0583 62643 They are on the South West part of town, on the outskits going towards Arni and the Carrara Marble Hills , roughly a 8 minute walk from the centre of town – Good food, well priced with a homemade Ice Cream Bar.

Then there is The restaurant at Silico, there is only one …. Run by Roberta e Clara, their number is 0583 662173, Located just outside the town of Silico, 30 minutes drive from “ La Collina del Sole “ It has really good  home cooked food, is well priced,  with tables out of doors. Closed on Wednesday.  DO walk in the lovely medieval town of Silico afterwards, it was written about earlier as it hosts many medieval festas from June through to September. If you feel like a trip to Lucca on the 14th of September there is the festivals held in honour of the Virgin Mary’s Birthday and the “Santa Croce”.

On September 9, the town of Seravezza holds the  "Fiera del Nove o dei Becchi"  , on 16 of September the gastronomic event of  " Norcini al Castello " happens in Ghivizzano (Correglia Antelminelli ) Soon it will be time for the festas dedicated to truffles and funghi ...

OK we're hungry now … !

There is nothing quite like a great Pizza and when you Rent a villa in Tuscany it is only right that you either learn how to make the best Pizza in town whcih you can do at La Collina del Sole with our Pizza Experience or hunt down a great Pizzeria … or two within striking distance of your Lucca Villa Rental so we thought we might share a few special places near  La Collina del Sole    the exclusive,  award winning salt water infinity pool, Villa within the Holiday villas in Lucca . Pizza tends to be eaten in the evening in traditional parts of Italy, especially near Villas for rent in Tuscany , which means that Pizzerias tend to open only in the evening as the Pizza oven needs to be warmed up a few hours in advance. So a word of advice enjoy the sunshine when you are in your Villa rentals in Tuscany  and  then venture out in the cool to either learn how to make the best pizza in town or hunt a  pizzeria for a delicious wood baked Pizza. Our FAVOURITE is  “ Il Centro “ in Via Vallisneri, Piazza delle Erbe, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. their Telephone  numbers are 0583 644550 and 0583 66 20 32. Il Centro makes the thinnest wood oven pizza in town, DELICIOUS.  This Pizzeria is run by a family, Mamma, Papa and several children, just as well as it is usually very busy. You can eat there or order a take away, best to call ahead as waiting time for take away varies from 20 to over one hour, it opens late afternoon and evening only, closed on Wednesdays year round except in August.

Our other favourite is Pizzeria Clary, situated on the corner of Via O. Dini, by the gelateria Fuori dal centro,  Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. Their telephone number is 0583 65 198. Clary opens late afternoon and evenings during the week & from noon on Thursdays. Pizzas are GOOD and very reasonable. Pizzas are cooked in a wood oven. The base tomato sauce they make is slightly saltier than in other places. Do try the Bruschetta Pizza and the Vegetable pizza, they are delicious and refreshingly different!

Another great Pizzeria in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is La Credenza, which is very central on Via Farini 2, their telephone 0583 63 9332. This is a Pizzeria and Rosticceria, – with a wood oven, they make the richest of all the Pizzas in town, also delicious roast chickens, beef and pork. Located next to ”Castelli” Supermarket just after Piazza Umberto, which is the main piazza in Castelnuovo. Open late morning through to late evening. They are related to the wonderful cooks from the restaurant in Silico, clearly cooking delicious food runs in the family.

For a smarter if equally delicious Pizza in a restaurant setting then we recommend Il Pozzo in Pieve Fosciana, on Via Europa 2 /A, you have to book their telephone number is 0583 66 63 80. Il Pozzo in Pieve Fosciana is a 20 minute drive from “ La Collina del Sole ” it does great pizza although only for supper. This is also a great restaurant with the best antipasto [mixed starter] dish in the area. Giordano and  Maurizio the owners of “Il Pozzo” have formed part of the “Slow Food” movement from its inception, this relates to Good food eaten well rather than food taking forever to come to the table, they are passionate about properly grown and reared food and have won several awards. Usually busy and fairly capacious, they close on Wednesdays apart from August when they open seven days a week.

This week 11 -18 of August encompasses FERAGOSTO which is as important a holiday as Christmas and is the reason why Italy closes down for a couple of weeks every August. Our region literally explodes with Festas so we will concentrate on one only the one in our area, from the 11 to the 16 Fosciandora hosts Ferragosto Insieme or the Sagra dei Cigerani which night after night of feasting on homemade food, dancing to several different orchestras, and being part of Italy.

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 !

Glorious Italian Food - VA BENE !

If you are anything like us, food and festas are an important component to daily pleasure,  for a comprehensive listing of the festas in our region check out the list at the end of our Blog and if you are looking for Great Italian Food when you look at Villas for rent in Tuscany then  La Collina del Sole will not dissapoint, and if you are looking for typically local food while in your Holiday Villas in Lucca then yet again you have struck gold ! For the Best Italian food we suggest, Trattoria di Bonini Pier in Via Monteperpoli 147 – Monteperpoli   55032 their telephone is  0583 639 425 and  0583 62210, This Trattoria is  HIGHLY RECCOMENDED. They are just completing a total refurbishment of the exterior and interior [ to a stone and bick finish ] They have an excellent and amazingly reasonable lunch menu for approximately € 10, including house wine ! There also have the most amazing a la carte dinning which is best appreciated in the evening in the downstairs restaurant. A handful of our favorites are homemade Linguini with Truffles when in season, Tagliatta of Beef with Grilled vegetables, all the game dishes are exceptional. The owner has an impressive list and knowledge of wines which are also well priced. The cost of an a la carte meal is approximately Euro 25, plus wine. It is closed on Tuesdays.  To get there allow 20 minutes drive from the best Villa rentals in Tuscany you very own La Collina del Sole drive towards Castelnuovo, however just before the bridge into town and just after the FIAT garage, turn sharp left towards Paleroso and Monteperpoli, keep left and driving uphill towards Paleroso, you will see it on your left, it has a limited car park.

For an accessible “ Slow Food” experience only a 20 minute drive from La Collina del Sole  when you rent a villa in Tuscany we suggest  Il Pozzo in Pieve Fosciana, Via Europa 2 /A, their telephone is  0583 66 63 80. It has the BEST antipasto [mixed starter] dish in the area. Giordano and Maurizio founded Il Pozzo in 1985 and have formed part of the “Slow Food” movement from its inception. Their Menu Degustation has home-made pasta, home grown vegetables and herbs. Their list of approximately 120 Italian wines includes some from Lucca, Tuscany and further afield. They are passionate about the origins of the food they prepare and have won several awards. Il Pozzo has great food and good ambience any time of year, usually busy but capacious. They close on Wednesdays apart from August when they open seven days a week.

For a Fantastic experience of Local specialties in a truly local and very charming setting we suggest Trattoria del Pescatore in Lago Isola Santa, their Telefones are  0583 639408 &  333 709 5763  which is a mobile. Set in the heart of the Marble Hills a 50 minute drive from La Collina del Sole . Gabrielle Matzei set up his own small restaurant in Isola Santa a small village part of which he has restored and brought back to life. Specialties include local truffle which is sold very reasonably and Funghi Porcini, for mushroom lovers this restaurant is a must. He also has a permit you will need to buy if you want to fish for the succulent local trout of the lake. He is one of the most gifted cooks of the area and has had extensive write ups in gastronomic magazines including “Bon Apetit”. For his website check out www. anticoborgoisolasanta.it

Buon Apetito ! and now for festas ... Gallicano is hosting the gastronomic event called Il Pane e le Rose from the 14 to the 24 of June. San Romano hosts the tradicional "throw of Cheese rounds" on the 17th of June in Orzaglia San Romano Trassilico is hosting on the 17th of June a cultural and musical, street artist filled astronomy related gastronomic event;  the mind boggles ! Pieve Fosciana has a Gastronomic feast in the historic centre of town on 17th of June For something different you could join the 31st Alpine pilgrimage on the 17th of June at Monte Argegna in Minucciano. In Silano however you have the festa of their patron saint Sant Antonio on the 17th. Also on the 17th you can visit the house of the Befana in  Pegnana , Barga and if you are late for that,  fear not,  on the 23and 24there is a Gastronomic delight in the same town Pruno in Stazzema hosts from the 20 to the 24 of June  the "sentieri di Pietra" event with more culture, music, astonomy and ... you got it FOOD Piazza al Serchio hosts a musical event entitled "Notte Bianca" on the 23rd of June On the 23rd of June you can also visit Gramolazzo in the region of Minucciano and join them in their yearly festa, dancing food and fun guatanteed OR go to Pian di Correglia in Correglia Antelminelli and join a "western" themed festa ... the choice is yours!

Keep on Walking !

The Idyllic walks surrounding La Collina del Sole are worth exploring at your favorite, Villa rentals in Tuscany as discovered by Rachel Graham our first guest this season!  Do check her photos on the Facebook page La-Collina-del-Sole as well as their fabulous Pizza making! We would recommend walking north to La Villa and Ceserana which belonged to the Este dynasty from Modena in the 1452; although they both belonged to the same principality they have long had an amicable rivalry going on.

LA VILLA With lovely views and a central plaza which many of the houses look onto. Both La Villa and Ceserana can be walked to by road going from La Collina del Sole to Fosciandora, then dropping down and right at the Casa Rosa, a bright pink house and following the well-trodden “Sentieri“or walkways which travels behind houses, down a ravine and up to the back entrance of La Villa follow through the village going down and left and you behold ….

CESERANA Of particular interest in Ceserana is the Rocca di Ceserana or the Fortress of Ceserana; You have a gorgeous view of it from La Collina del Sole the jewel among Holiday villas in Lucca, the Rocca di Ceserana is a Romanesque church of Saint Andrea, built on a stone outcrop, the fortress was an important Military garrison and stronghold in the XIII and XIV centuries, it was used to combat the “Salt Pirates” who inhabited the Apuane hills and in particular had their HQ in Fornovolasco. Salt whcih is used to purify our pool water [ whcih means you can open your eyes underwater with no stinging sensation !] was a very precious commodity in the middle ages as it was the only way of either preserving things or keeping them cool and therefore fresh for longer, Gelato which was invented in Florence durign the Renaissance, was dependent on the cooling properties of Salt. The fortress of Ceserana built on a stone outcrop, includes a cave which housed the locals during air raids in WWII and was re-opened in 2008. Going South just below La Collina del Sole  one of the  Villas for rent in Tuscany with great charm and character is Riana and Trepignana  both of which belonged to the principality of Lucca.

RIANA & TREPIGNANA A lovely afternoon walk about 2.5 hour there and back, with lovely views. There is a tiny cafe and small shop in Riana. To get there walk down the sentiero on the South side of La Collina del Sole  and keep walking down until you get to a tarmac road, depending of which path you took you might find yourself very close to the ….

SANTUARIO “Madonna delle Stelle”  which has newly been reopened as a monastery in May 2012. On this site,  stood a place of worship to the Virgin Mary in 1167. It is said to have been destroyed by an earthquake. The ruins were found in 1798 with a Fresco of the Madonna which dates back several centuries. On this site a new church was built and consecrated in 1827 and attracts pilgrims from many miles around.

Once you have passed the Santuario keep heading South to Riana entering via the car park make sure you have a good walk around it is a very unspoilt village,  Once you are ready keep heading South upwards towards Trepignana on the tarmacked road, you will pass a very large building full of the bullet scars inflicted during WW II, keep going you will reach the very quiet and solitary village of Trepignana,  From there you can take the road back or go cross country and go past a desolate stone garrison, and the hidden German HQ at the bottom of the ravine just by La Collina del Sole however please make sure you have a guide with you as it is very easy to get lost in the woods …………… like Little Red Riding Hood !

So we suggest you have Francesco to guide you the best way to contact him via his girlfriend Alina + 39 331 39 85 869  at   alinadamelia@gmail.com

If you wish to have long leisurely walks when you Rent a villa in Tuscany,   Check out La Collina del Sole !

Head West Young Man ....

… and Woman specially if you have children ! If you are lucky enough to be looking at Villas for rent in Tuscany or Holiday Villas in Lucca and its surrounding mountains then we urge you to  entertain the thought of staying at La Collina del Sole whose views are due West and my ... what beautiful views they are !

The main view of this jewel among Villa Rentals in Tuscany is Paleroso

PALEROSO Village is just across the valley from La Collina del Sole and has lovely walks plus THE spectacularly delicious Bonini Restaurant on the outskirts. Within Paleroso itself opposite the church, you can explore up a steep path to a beautiful View Point.

Our next favorite walk and breathtaking view is CASCIO Cascio is a delightfully small and characteristic town, with a tiny garrison, a small square and church which is lovely and cool although not often open, there is also a bar with a nice veranda. You cannot drive in and must park in the square outside. I would thoroughly recommend it if you have young children in your party so they can have a good run around after eating at the most delicious Bonini restaurant and safely play at “fortresses”

Following the road and still very much part of the View from La Collina del Sole where hopefully you are staying at, having decided it is the best choice when looking to Rent a Villa in Tuscany we find MONTE PERPOLI

Monte Perpoli is a small walled town with a park outside the town, if you go to the furthest point within the town you will see the most amazing views towards Barga. During WWII this was the German observation point for the Gothic Line, its strategic position was one of the reasons why it took so long to rout the German army from this region. From the conversations we have had with our neighbors it appears that German troops on this lookout used mirror reflections signals to kept in touch with their troops on our side of the valley and hills. The impenetrable hideout was literally over the hill from La Collina del Sole in an old Mill aptly called il Mulino, our children used to roam down and play WWII games when young, however nowadays the pathway down to is has become impassable due to briars and saplings along the path.

Further afield but still going west we find the GROTTA DEL VENTO to get to the Grotta del Vento go past Gallicano [pretty town at night from the house, not much to see in it during the day except the main church] and turn left, the Grota del Vento is owned and run by Mr Verole. It is a wonderful set of caves, which connect two mountain ranges. It has a vast array of tunnels, galleries, stalactites and stalagmites. The deepest part of the cave has been used to recuperate children with severe breathing problems as the air is constant in temperature and is very clean, Mr Verole is a keen Speleologist and Geologist who in his spare time has written several guide books One of which is called “Discover Garfagnana “ He also loves to collect different specimens of stones, of geological interest and prehistoric fossils, some of which are on sale in the shop at the Grota del Vento. From our guests be they young or "older" boys,  who have visited this site all have thoroughly enjoyed it. It gets VERY busy in August.

Hunting Fortresses North of La Collina del Sole

If while you Rent a Villa in Tuscany you fancy a spot of adventure and fortress hunting, we list below a few of the highlights north of La Collina del Sole the jewel among Villa rentals in Tuscany The largest town near us is Castelnuovo di Garfagnana which  could be translated as "NewCastle of Garfagnana".

Ariosto spent a few years posted in what is now the Comune of Castelnuovo. He considered this posting rather a trial as to him the rugged seclusion of the location was "the back of beyond". Castelnuovo is full of delicious home grown food shops, artisanal gelaterias and workshops you can also visit the original Fortezza whcih was situated in an excellent defensive position at the top of the hill, to visit this newly restored Fortezza head towards the carabinieri HQ and turn left up the hill … and keep going, up,  up and away !  it is situated at the top of the hill above the town.

If you love walking, biking or cycling there are many fantastic country paths, small or even tiny roads and great wood expanses in this region, here are a few of our favourites

Sillico is a medieval town with trully breathtakingly spectacular views over the valley. It also boasts of a a lovely restaurant at the entrance, called La Terrazza where you can eat a glorious meal very reasonably indeed while admiring the  expansive valleys below. From May through to September it holds midieval feasts and exhibitions of bygone tradicional weaving, land husbandry and cooking.

San Pelegrino in Alpe demarcates the confines between Modena and Lucca,  is it situated a steep drive up towards Pieve Pellago, to the outpost of the Apennine hills, it almost always has snow in the winter, it was a hermitage and is fairly rugged with a museum and the mummified corpses of the hermits of the area San Bianco and San Pellegrino, whom it turns out was Irish! The chapel where they rest demarcates the boundary of Modena and Lucca. If you are feeling incredibly fit and energetic you can cycle up to it, a feat fo sure but very satisfying !

A beautifuly restored fortress is the the Fortezza delle Verrucole, with imposing views and a very good sense of what it must have been like to live in medieval Italy, The town of San Romano is nearby and worth a visit.

Torrite is HOME to our favourite Chocolate Torta, a small very picturesque village in fact a “picture postcard” village with an abundance or red geraniums in terracotta window vases. This village has the Ginestri Chocolate Torta makers in the heart of it. When driving it is best to be in a mini sized car, or you can walk into it and take in the rustic beauty of the houses. and well tended Balconies. If you are interested in Hydroelectrical plants Torrite hosts a rather dramatic looking one in its outskirts

For Nature lovers the entire region abounds in walks, secluded villages, lakes, woods, phenomenal mountain and cliff walks, however if you like cool walks but would rather get there by car and even wander inside the park by car then the Orechiella National Park is perfect for you as it is always cool when the sun is scorching the rest of Tuscany.  Go past Castiglione di Garfagnana, a very picturesque fortified town, then Villa Collemandina and Corfino about 1.45 minutes drive from La Collina del Sole The park has fresh cool walks for those hot days, if you have children or babies in a pram it is easy to get around. It has a sanctuary for bears and a huge pond with the most amazing amount of tadpoles in it at the correct season.

Keep going north and see Parma whcih is definitely worth visiting. A charming town with beautiful architecture – not touristy and very unspoilt. The Cathedral is fabulous. A good day out. The famous theatre here is definitely worth a visit they hold an annual Verdi festival in the autumn.

Easter Beauty in Garfagnana

If you are looking at Villas for rent in Tuscany may we suggest that you consider Holiday villas in Lucca or to be precise Garfagnana during Easter time?  And in particular La Collina del Sole as at this time there are impressive Easter processions for many days; Italy is still steeped in Catholicism, many evening torch lit processions abound. In Fosciandora there is one on Maundy Thursday.  If you are feeling energetic and happy to travel, the Easter processions in Via Filungo, Lucca are definitely worth the trip. If you are looking to Rent a Villa in Tuscany in the summer then let me share a little secret: The area around  La Collina del Sole is steeped in history ! if you are traulling round looking for Villa rentals in Tuscany with interesting surrioundings look no further ! Let’s start with the small village where La Collina del Sole is situated :

FOSCIANDORA Fosciandora’s first inhabitants date back to Etruscan times. This area was fiercely fought over by the principalities of Lucca, Pisa, Florence and the Este dynasty from Modena, in the 15th century. In 1452 Lucca ruled over Lupinaia, Riana and Trepignana, and the Estes of Modena ruled over La Villa and Ceserana.

During WWII, this area was again subject to a great deal of fighting, the famous Gothic line [ the line that divided the Germans from the Allied forces of USA and UK, which was fought over for well over a year ] passed through “Le Lama” which is very near Trepignana, the main Intelligence HQ of the Germans were located in the old “Mulino” located in the ridge just south of La Collina del Sole , if you get to see it, you will see that its secluded and well protected position was ideal as HQ especially as the intelligence was passed via mirror reflections code from Fiattone. The Allies were based in Barga, when you visit it you will see the many scars of bomb craters on the main church at the top of the hill which is completely built in marble.

LUPINAIA  - Situated Just above La Collina del Sole ! Its fortified walls date back to 1616 with amazing views it is a lovely walk on the road and cross country. Above Lupinaia are the Prade Garfagnine which can be reached by foot by local Sentieri, these Prade are the home to many Funghi Porcini, and many visitors come from afar to collect the precious mushrooms. You will notice that the cuisine of the area has Funghi as a central ingredient. The Prade has wonderful views and quiet meadows. Should you wish to drive to the Prade by car you will need to start off from “La Villa” village to the north of us,  we highly recommend a 4X4 car to arrive there.

LA VILLA -With lovely views and a central plaza which many of the houses look onto. Both La Villa and Ceserana can be walked to by road going from “ La Collina del Sole ” to Fosciandora, then dropping down and right at the Casa Rosa and going through the “Sentieri “ or walkways.

CESERANA Of particular interest the Rocca di Ceserana or the Fortress of Ceserana; a Romanesque church of Saint Andrea, built on a stone outcrop, the fortress was an important Military garrison and stronghold in the XIII and XIV centuries, it was used to combat the “Salt Pirates” who inhabited the Apuane hills and in particular had their HQ in Fotnovolasco. Salt was a very precious commodity in the Middle ages as it was the only way of keeping things cool and therefore fresh for longer, Gelato which was invented in the Renaissance was dependant on the cooling properties of Salt. The fortress of Ceserana built on a stone outcrop, includes a cave which housed the locals during air raids in WWII and was re-opened in 2008.

RIANA & TREPIGNANA – Just below La Collina del Sole a lovely afternoon walk about 2.5 hour there and back, with lovely views. There is a tiny cafe and small shop in Riana.

SANTUARIO “Madonna delle Stelle” On this site stood a place of worship to the Virgin Mary in 1167. It is said to have been destroyed by an earthquake. The ruins were found in 1798 with a Fresco of the Madonna which dates back several centuries. On this site a new church was built and consecrated in 1827 and attracts pilgrims from many miles around.

Fancy a Walk … ?

If you are looking to walk while you Rent a villa in Tuscany, be it a gentle stroll through vineyard fields or a rugged mountaineering, La Collina del Sole is situated in a part of the world which is well known not only for its Villa rentals in Tuscany but also for its wonderful walks, people come from all over Europe and internationally to enjoy the fantastic scenery that is on offer.La Collina del Sole one of the jewels within the Holiday villas in Lucca is surrounded by extremely beautiful walks of all kinds, we have rugged mountains, the Orechiella  National Park nearby, the Tuscan Emilian Apenine National Park, the Regional Park of the Apuan Alps which is the view from La Collina del Sole Also this particular area with few excellent Villas for rent in Tuscany you find Carrara marble quarries both disused and in use, and many picturesque walks with “Refugios” to eat at or stay in. you will always find small reminders of Italian culture whether in derelict villages, shrines off the beaten track or remote churches.

We have very close to La Collina del Sole home, a fully accredited guide who can take you on walking tours in our immediate vicinity as well as longer tours in our marvellously rugged mountain ranges and valleys.  You can visit Ceserana, La Villa, Fosciandora and Lupinaia, Riana and Trepignana all beautiful medieval fortresses whcih until very recently were the crucial outposts of 5 principalities, the reason they were so crucial was that for many it was the route to access salt,  used in preserving meats essential in the middle ages through to very recent history, and for keeping things cool, Gelato [ ice cream] invented by the Italians would never have kept cool without the help of salt !   Francesco is an expert in the local plants, habitat and animals,  his partner Alina speaks perfect English.  To contact Francesco Pierotti call Telephone +39 320 41 31 901, if you only speak English then call Alina D’Amelia  Francesco’s English speaking girlfriend at + 39 331 39 85 869 their  e-mail is   alinadamelia@gmail.com

You could visit wonders further afield like Isola Santa walk around the area and take advantage of the yummiest restaurant in the area with Gabrielles cooking, or choose to REALLY go climbing and reach the heights of Mount Sumbra   or Pania della Croce .  or the Alpi di Sant Antonio and eat at la betulla.

There is the most awesome variety of walks and beautiful locations. For recent history fans you can visit WWII  disused bunkers pointing to the sea or sections of the famous Gothic Line  which kept the Germans separated from the Allies for one year.  To walking the old walkways or thoroughfares whcih date from medieval times if not before ! and criss cross this beautiful region linking old abandoned villages and thriving villages, disused  Frontier points , garrisons, churches and monasteries, A lovely Hermitage which can be visited AND does Amazing food is the Eremo de Calomini

For further information on Trekking you can contact the tourism coordinating centre [Centro di coordinamento de Turismo ] in the Piazza delle Erbe 1, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. Tel 0583 65169 www.turismo.garfagnana.eu Open from 9AM – 1PM and 3-7PM from June to September and 9-1AM and 3 - 5.30PM from October to May. They have a good selection of maps both free and for sale, which will show the local towns, the official footpaths and Refugios where you can eat and stay, plus a list of guides and recommended routes.  A different contact is Antonella Polli at Telephone 0583 65 169 of Garfagnana Vacanze located on Piazza delle Erbe #1