Italy has launched a global campaign promoting wool, inspired by the "Live naturally, choose wool" moto. In these winter months, villa rentals in Tuscany can get fresh so… what better way to keep warm in your Lucca villa rental than a beautiful hand knitted woollen sweater, like the ones you get in Marias shop just down the road from La Collina del Sole where the sweater will be made for you within a couple of days - another unique experience and service when you rent a villa in Tuscany !! At La Collina del Sole a warm and welcoming addition to villas for rent in Tuscany skiing is just 1 ½ hour away, a visit to the sea shore is the same distance, and Milan well ... that is just over 3 hours - hence it is perfectly placed as a holiday villas in Lucca to enjoy Tuscany in all its natural splendour.Italians are promoting wool as a natural, biodegradable and renewable fibre, launched in Milan, the celebrations have united the textile community, the fashion industry and consumers all together for the first time. A flock of traditional Italian sheep were left grazing in a pen in front of the Duomo to highlight the natural origin of wool and offer consumers an unexpected wool experience. This campaign for the promotion of wool has caught the attention of Italians because, as the Prince of Wales explains: "You do not have to look too far back in history to see that wool was once the mainstay of the global economy. In recent years however, wool has been fighting to compete with man-made fibres. For too long we have managed to forget what a wonderful fibre wool is. Wool is empowered with exceptional natural elasticity so not only will a wool garment offer superior drape and handle, this elasticity also gives the wearer a durable and high quality garment that will last for many years. - Simply put, wool looks good for longer! One of the highlighted aspects of wool was the natural beauty of Merino wool. The Merino is an economically influential breed of sheep prized for its wool as the Merinos are still regarded as having some of the finest and softest wool of any sheep. Although ‘fluffy’ in appearance, the fibres of a merino wool product are lighter than any other sheep’s wool, reducing the scratchy, heavy sensation that many people associate with a thick woollen jumpers. Therefore merino wool can be spun into a huge snuggly jumper or for “next to the skin” clothing such as socks, and underwear. Italians have a mission to convince consumers that opting for wool as opposed to synthetics in fashion and lifestyle will make a positive contribution to environmental sustainability around the world - give me the opportunity to snuggle up in a Marino wool jumper in front of the fire at La Collina del Sole with a cup of hot cocoa and I am sold!
In 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.
Everyone loves hot chocolate, it’s one of the best things about winter. It’s just so amazingly warming and comforting, like a big snuggly hug in a mug! What hot chocolate does for me is bring back my childhood memories…like autumn holidays spent at La Collina del Sole our very favourite Lucca Villa rental . Where among the many experiences we enjoyed like walking in the chestnut woods funghi hunting and visiting places of interest or checking out the locations where wedding magazine had taken the press shots in the area… Happy memories of holiday villas in Lucca with fabulous feasts brought in by Maria - surely the best outside catering found in any of the villas for rent in Tuscany So with such fond memories I thought today we could investigate how to make the Italian version of this comforting drink. Italian hot chocolate is very different to the hot chocolate that we English are used to. Italian hot chocolate is rich, thick and decadent. It has an almost pudding-like consistency with an incredibly bold chocolate flavouring. It’s made with just 4 simple ingredients (4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate which is 70% or higher, 1 1/2 cups of whole milk, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of corn starch) and takes less than 5 minutes to whip up on your stove. It will warm you from head to toe and make your smile wider with every sip – why not add a twist to your hot chocolate by complimenting it with rosewater, orange blossom or a sprinkling of chilli peppers… I personally enjoy drinking a healthier version, which is equally so perfectly thick and creamy, and as sweet and chocolaty as ever. This is a super-food hot chocolate which not only tastes incredible, but will leave you feeling fantastic afterwards…The two main ingredients are almond milk (which you can buy at the Coop in Pieve Fosciana the closest health food providing supermarket to La Collina del Sole the best among villa rentals in Tuscany ) and cacao powder. Cacao is full of disease-fighting antioxidants, as well as lots of the hormone serotonin, which acts as a natural mood booster and anti-depressant. Almond milk and almond butter give you lots of energising plant protein, heart healthy fats, and an incredible dose of vitamin E, which is amazing for healthy hair and glowing skin. You will need: - 1 cup of homemade or bought almond milk - 2 tablespoons of maple syrup - 2 teaspoons of raw cacao - 1 teaspoon of almond butter Simply place all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently whilst stirring to ensure all the ingredients mix together and the almond butter doesn’t get stuck at the bottom. Enjoy whilst you snuggle up in front of the wood fire at La Collina del Sole a jewel among the welcoming spots when you rent a villa in Tuscany !
Tiramisu literally translates into "pick-me-up" and is one of the favourite desserts requested from our suggested menus for in house dinning at La Collina del Sole our favourite Lucca villa rental. Some claim that this title refers to the dish being so delicious that the taste of it makes you weak at the knees; hence needing a “pick me up” in order to recover from the taste explosion. Another explanation could be the caffeinated ingredients in the dish; espresso and cocoa. When you rent a villa in Tuscany in order to pay this ancient pudding the respect it deserves particularly while you are staying at your holiday villas in Lucca, what better than to have it freshly made for you at La Collina del Sole by our team of expert chefs. This service is provided through the in-house dining experience. In Italy a meal usually concludes with fresh fruit rather than dessert. Therefore, the addition of a dessert marks a special occasion This may explain why Italian desserts are particularly memorable, presenting lavish arrangements of indulgent ingredients and truly unforgettable flavour combinations, such as those found in Tiramisu. Although having tried the dish once, food lovers may find the battle to resist indulging once again a difficult practice, particularly if you taste Marias Tiramisu when ordering your feast from the suggested menus as you enjoy the delights of villa rentals in Tuscany
Every Italian dessert is mindful of one distinct rule, which is to create a dish that provides pleasure above all else. A consequence of this rule came Tiramasu; an elegant and rich combination of lady finger biscuits, espresso, mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar, Masala wine, rum and cocoa powder. Though you might think that the grouping of these diverse and powerful ingredients may not work, an intense yet refined dish emerges. The delicate flavour of the mascarpone contrasts with the robust presence of espresso and the sharpness of cocoa powder. These flavours fuse nicely, creating a velvety texture that provide for a luxurious treat. If guests are gluten or lactose intolerant, our chefs are more than happy to tailor the dish to your needs, as they provide entire meals tailored to food allergies and preferences, at La Collina del Sole we believe that we might as well give you the BEST experience you have ever had while staying at Villas for rent in Tuscany and if the feedback of our guests in anything to go by … we are succeeding and will continue to do everything in our power to offer an unforgettable holiday rather like the unforgettable Italian desserts !
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
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.
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 !
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 !
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!
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 !
A Tuscan summer is about sun, bravado, parties, pageantry, great food and great restaurants While you enjoy your villas for rent in Tuscany we suggest you visit Siena which embodies all these. The 16th of August marks the 2nd and final Palio of 2013 - a dramatic event to watch when you rent a villa in Tuscany Good and affordable restaurants are a must when you visit from your villa rentals in Tuscany First up and a favourite with guests at La Collina del Sole the very special Lucca Villa Rental is La Corte di San Giorgio, in Via di Pantanetto close to the main piazza with pretty outside tables and a fun interior décor with modern caricature art with a hare jumping from frame to frame or vegetables jumping off a boiler. These paintings are mixed in with period photos of interesting looking people. The food is SUPER and well priced with stuffed zucchini flowers, saffron and asparagus risotto, special Sienese pasta called Pici with meat sauce and an unusual tiramisu partitioned into its different ingredients and tastes. A real treat when you stay at holiday villas in LuccaSiena has a fondness for “Osterias” and they ALL look really good, one we loved is, Osteria le Logge Due, Via Porrione 33, Siena, tel +39 0577 48013 They have tables both outside and a fun dish is tempura battered chicken in a garlic mayonnaise sauce. Many locals and visitors eat here, the menu is very tempting and it is easy to over order! The “cool” eatery in Siena is called “Morbidi 1925 Siena” in Via Banchi di Sopra # 73 Siena, tel +39 0577 280 268. For breakfast they have a table full of cakes and various inviting breakfast items like scrambled eggs, Croissants, chocolate and vanilla cake, muffins etc. For lunch or dinner they have salads and cold meats. The bar is decorated very much in the “loft NY style” with concrete beams still bearing the marks of the wooden planks that were there when the concrete is poured in Morbidi is also a delicatessen where smart local Siennese buy their pre-prepared delicacies. Another very good, well priced restaurant and wine bar is called Zest, [ on Costa di Sant’Antonio 13, Siena 53100 +39 0577 47139 ] It is set on the steep incline of a side street, all the tables and solid bunk chairs are on uneven legs so that every table has a view of swallows swooping in the sky calling to each other with the large Church of San Domenico as a backdrop. The menu has lots of fish and shellfish dishes, non-fish items are also available like caramelised gorgonzola cheese and onion tart, or cold beef salad. For those who have a sweet tooth we recommend being adventurous, one of the options when we went was chocolate torta, which was described as “it is chocolate torta”, it was in fact a delicious melting hot chocolate sponge cake with a lovely cool cream. If you sit in the bunks outside you will notice a large number of visitors emerging from a covered walkway which leads into St Catherine’s home which has been turned into a shrine. It is off the beaten track and is cool as you go through a lovely Cortille of arches to a beautiful patio ... perfect to snooze the excess calories off !
The sun has been glorious at La Collina del Sole ! As expected when you rent a villa in Tuscany and my … what a treat when expectations are met as you stay in your villas for rent in Tuscany Should you wish to check out the weather we suggest www.meteo.it as having lived in Italy and specifically in the mountainous area of Lucca Villa rental in Italy for over 24 years we have found it to be very accurate, a huge help when you are on Holiday villas in Lucca Now for the FANTASTIC NEWS that Lucca the main town closest to our villa rentals in Tuscany has been voted by Forbes magazine the best place to live in Italy and in 2nd place within Europe !The Tuscan inhabitants of Lucca have charm, fashion sense, antiques [more on that later] and are unspoilt what more could you ask for. Here we share a few words from the article which can be seen on the Collina del Sole Facebook stream. “Of course, the people of Lucca have always thought their city was the best in Italy and now it has been confirmed by an official source. First place on the Forbes list goes to the small island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea (aka the “Holy Greek Island of Patmos”). Third place in the Forbes ranking is Saignon, a peaceful little village on a cliff in Provence, Southern France. Below are excerpts from the Forbes article written by Parmy Olson: “To create our list of the most idyllic places to live in Europe, we asked a panel of experts in the fields of travel and relocation to choose their five favorite simple, unspoiled and near-heavenly locations to take up residence. Many of them will seem unfamiliar because they have yet to be pounced on by hurried, mass-market tourism… Following Patmos at a close second on our list is Lucca, a medieval city within a city in the region of Tuscany, central Italy. It has "all the Tuscan charm of its neighbours Pisa and Tuscany but without the crowds," says Gillian Pearsall, marketing manager at Intrepid Travel. Tour busses are not the norm here: It's "blissfully cut off by its perfectly preserved Renaissance walls," says Schultz. "This is a quiet, though classy town, with lawyers and housewives peddling the narrow cobblestone streets past thousand-year-old churches and made-in-Italy fashion boutiques," she says, adding that you can visit the outdoor antiques market every month to furnish your Tuscan farmhouse. The larger city of Florence is just 45 miles to the east; both the beach and skiing in Abetone are about an hour away, in opposite directions. Foreigners who buy into the area tend to be professionals from Britain or other parts of Europe, and some of the most sought-after properties are within the walls of the medieval city. An apartment in the epicenter can set you back between 300,000 and 500,000 euros ($428,700 and $714,320), depending on how much restoration needs to be done. It's difficult to find a house there, so a good entry point is to find a property within the walled city for the winter, where you could be sheltered from the cold and not worry about electricity outages. Though if you can find it, a house in the hills just outside the city for the spring and summer would be appealing, but prices range from 500,000 to 800,000 euros ($714,320 to $1.1 million).
A couple we know own the top flat in the house where Puccini lived within Lucca … oh to be there in the sunset !
For Antique hunting while you enjoy villa rentals in Tuscany and in particular Garfagnana we suggest you visit Within the centre of Lucca an antiques market is held every 3rd Saturday and Sunday of each month Castelnuovo di Garfagnana - There is an antique market every 1st Saturday and Sunday of every month Barga There is an antique market every 2nd Sunday of every month
When you rent a villa in Tuscany there are several treats you can look forward to as a “only in Villa rentals in Tuscany experience” like a RELAXING TREAT picture yourself relaxing in the jacuzzi within the pool at La Collina del Sole the only salt water infinity pool available within the choice of Villas for rent in Tuscany sipping some prossecco looking at the surrounding area and felling the warmth of the sun caress your skin …. There are VISUAL TREATS like the wild flower covered terraces of Lucca Villa Rental in the early part of Summer May June and July is a riot of Poppies, Buttercups, Tassel Hyacinths, Crimson Peas, Black Medic and all manner of wild flowers that abound in the area of Holiday villas in Lucca Some of which have medicinal properties or hidden culinary uses and from this point we move onto … SPOILING TREATS like having a gourmet Italian feast cooked for you at La Collina del Sole and served on the terrace and cleared up for you while you enjoy the sunset behind the infinity pool…. Then there are FOODIE TREATS like our new found star restaurant Osteria al ritrovo del Platano which we wrote up on our Foodie Treasure Trove Found blog posted 25 of May the food is wonderful and VERY reasonable Keeping on the Foodie theme there are also EPICURIAN TREATS like wine and Olive Oil tasting at il Vecchio Mulino and if you fancy a light meal order the taster menu with the cheese taster plate and the local cold meats palter or as they say in Italian le piatti di assaggi di formaggio e di salumi.There are YEARLY TREATS like seeing the Chestnut woods that cover the mountainous region of Garfagnana literally carpeted in Chestnut Blossom, the huge profusion of Chestnut trees means that there are many speciality Chestnut Foods many of which can be found in Aia di Piero from Chestnut pasta to chestnut marmalade to chestnut cake and bread. In fact Chestnuts were one of the few edible items that kept the population from starving during the WWII occupation and the years beyond when Italy was poor due to the almost complete destruction of crops, manufacture or any other money making venture. Continuing this reflective mood there are MEDITATIVE TREATS like watching the swallows drink their evening libation and reflecting that God takes care of all His creatures while sitting by the infinity pool at sunset, one of the highlights of the experiences section of the Lucca Villa Rental site Still on a pensive note but a little more active we can enjoy the PEACEFUL HUNTING TREAT like Funghi Hunting in the chestnut woods in late summer early and mid-autumn. Then we can enjoy the ENERGETIC TREATS like joining in the Vendemmia at La Collina del Sole a once in a lifetime experience unless you live in the area in which case it becomes a once a year experience as described in the Viva La Vendemmia blog posted on October 6th 2012 The feeling of satisfaction when you sit down to a well-earned vendemmia feast has no compare. There is the GO FAST TREAT like renting a Ducati, Maserati, Ferrari and Lambhorghini driving as described in our La Collina del Sole it is all about the va va voom post dated April 6th Or a truly ONCE IN A LIFETIME TREAT like peeping through Heavens window !
Have you ever wanted to do something that has not been done for centuries? Well… while you Rent a villa in Tuscany you can do just that... go through Heaven’s door or “La Porta del Cielo” in Siena, not bad if you are staying at Villas for rent in Tuscany as Heaven’s door has not been opened since the Cathedral in Siena was built in the first part of XXIII. With spectacular architectural vistas - an everyday occurrence when you enjoy Villa rentals in Tuscany as this region is steeped in majestic cathedrals, graceful towers, a joy to wake up to while on Holiday villas in Lucca and fabulous fortresses and fortressed churches of which two fine examples stand near La Collina del Sole So if you are visiting Lucca Villa Rental between now and 27th October we highly recommend you check out “La Porta del Cielo”Sienna not only has a very beautiful Cathedral built in the traditional black and white horizontal striped decorated walls, it has the very famous Central Piazza where the Palio is held of which we wrote in our focus on Siena blog giving a few of our favourite places and eateries Siena has wonderfully [almost ] carless streets and walkways, where you can see the original seat of the once might Bank Monte Paschi di Siena which is very austere façade. When you drive to Siena from La Collina del Sole it is a great opportunity to swing by and check out Montalcino of “Super Tuscan Wines fame, and by the way Montalcino is not only about wine the town itself has many treasures to discover. But let’s Focus on the once in a lifetime opportunity of walking through Heavens Door, for €25 you get to see the cathedral from the giddy heights of the walkways close to the ceiling, where only the builders who built the Cathedral and their overseers got to see, in many cases you find drawings and sketches which were directly drawn onto the walls by the cathedrals architects and overseers. You get to see the internal walls of the Duomo, the multi-coloured stained glass windows by Ulisse De Matteis, the corridors and altar as from a bird’s eye view, You will also get the most spectacular views of Siena itself and the Basilica di San Domenico, la Fortezza Medicea, and the whole cupola of the chapel of John the Baptist. WELL WORTH the climb, the money and the special effort to get there and once you have descended from the giddy heavenly heights you can tumble into Gelateria Grom where you can find wonderfully rich ice creams, which are proudly made from ethically sourced ingredients and even ice creams for lactose intolerant clients, so you see life on earth can be rather good too !
One of the delights of life when you rent a villa in Tuscany is the FOOD and what better way to explore the best AND most hidden restaurants in the region of your villas for rent in Tuscany than to know how to ask directions, as even the best sat navs send you into the sea instead of keeping you on track, here we share with you 3 of our favourite VERY hidden treasured restaurants near La Collina del Sole and a few useful phrases to use when you get there as restaurants in the mountain ranges near Holiday villas in Lucca do not necessarily have a menu in English, particularly if you are in the remote villages near Lucca Villa Rental the same is true of any remote villages near Villa rentals in Tuscany they might not have an English menu but Mamma Mia ! they will serve a fabulous home cooked meal. First up is Il Ponte di Ceserana, in Ponte di Ceserana a fabulous restaurant located at the point where you leave the main road to go to La Collina del Sole the closest gourmet meal you can get, to Lucca Villa rental their telephone number is 0583 66 20 05, they are WELL known for their fish menu on Friday lunchtime which is well priced and has FRESH fish and seafood caught that same morning in the sea 1.5 hours away. The Fish and Chips are elegant and delicious, although the cook Claudio comes from Ayr in Scotland and speaks English with a delightful Scottish accent, his wife Clementina does not so you will definitely the phrases I write of a bit further down.
Second super find is Locanda Belvedere Di Roberta e Clara just outside the town of Silico, 30 minutes drive from La Collina del Sole It is run by a family and has great home cooked food, with homemade pasta it has a concise menu of what is SUPER fresh that day it is well priced with tables out of doors. Telephone number is 0583 662173, phrases needed here.
Third HIDDEN secret is La Bettula in Alpi di Sant Antonio, their telephone number is 0583 760380. It is a very picturesque 1.5 hours drive into the mountain range from La Collina del Sole if you are going straight there …. however it is the drive and views of the hilly countryside getting there and back that make this day trip special. Good food phrase book ESSENTIAL here.
Our phrase format is English, Italian as it is written and then as it is pronounced if you have an English or American accent. Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? Par-la Een-glay-zay I don't understand Non capisco Non Ka-peesk-koh I'm sorry Mi dispiace Mee Dees-pee-at-chay Where is? Dov'é Doh-vey ...a restaurant un ristorante Oon Rees-toh-rahn-tey ...a casual restaurant una trattoria / un'osteria Oo-nah Trah-tor-rhee-ah / Oon Ohst-air-ee-ah I would like to reserve... Vorrei prenotare... Voar-ray Pray-note-ar-eh a table for two una tavola per due Oo-nah Tah-voal-lah Pair Doo-way I would like Vorrei... Voar-ray ...some (of) un pó (di) Oon poh (Dee) ...this questo Kway-sto ...that quello Kwel-loh and e Eh antipasto antipasto Ant-hee-phas-toh fresh pasta pasta fresca Phas-ta Fres-kha porcini mushrooms funghi porcini Foon-ghee Por-chee-neh truffles tartufi Tarh-tuh-fee Chicken Pollo Poh-loh Beef Manzo Mahn-zho Dessert / Sweet Dolce Dohl-chey ...a glass of un bicchiere di Oon Bee-key-yair-eh Dee ...fizzy water acqua gassata Ah-kwah Gah-saht-tah ...still water acqua non gassata Ah-kwah Non Gah-saht-tah ...red wine vino rosso Vee-noh Roh-sso ...white wine vino bianco Vee-noh Bee-ahn-koh ...beer birra Beer-ah The bill please Il conto, per favore Eel Coan-toh Pair Fah-voar-eh Is service included? É incluso il servizio? Ay Een-clou-so Eel Sair-veet-zee-yo Thank you Grazie Graht-zieh ENJOY !
As we are staying at La Collina del Sole our favourite Villa for rent in Tuscany, we decided we would find out where to buy the best Easter treats in the area of Villa rentals in Tuscany so we headed for New Bar a fabulous place which was reinvigorated by a local Fosciandora young man, the village where our Lucca villa rental is placed. During the few minutes that we were at New Bar there was a constant stream of cappuccino or espresso downing locals, many of which could give you sound advice on local specialities when you rent a villa in Tuscany Our own breakfast of cappuccino, freshly squeezed orange juice and a apple pastry certainly reinvigorated us ! Having discovered they do Soya milk cappuccinos we were ready to scour the area surrounding our Lucca villa rental for the very best Easter treats available to those who enjoy holiday villas in LuccaFirst things first ... CHOCOLATE ... how about a beautiful handmade Chocolate Easter egg or Easter Chicken, beautifully and very tastefully decorated from the Antica Pasticceria Fronte della Rocca, whose Facebook page is Fronte della Rocca. You can enjoy a gorgeous Easter Egg, a full size chocolate hen, a message spelt in chocolate letters pictured below is a small selection of goodies available You could also go to the celebrity Foodstuff shop called Vecchio Mulino where alongside buying a sophisticated looking egg you can choose a special celebration wine, and pick up the local speciality Easter cake called Passimatta here is what you can look out for And speaking of celebration cakes for Easter there is a choice of 2 in our region, either the very local passimata a dryish cake baked in a bread oven, with raisins and aniseed, perfect to eat accompanied by a glass of vin santo, Passimata can be purchased at Aia di Piero or il Vecchio Mulino . Now for the Italian nation-wide traditional cake The Colomba or the dove is dryish cake baked in the shape of a dove and for this it is best to go to the Antica Pasticceria Fronte della Rocca ... Enjoy !