lunedì 18 agosto 2014

Among the tuscan hills a spa village of old traditions

Casciana Terme originally named Castrum de Aquis by the romans is a village in Tuscany in the heart of the Pisan hills of the Valdera area, renowned as a thermal baths place since the beginning of the first millenium, its origins can be attributed to the etruscans as recent findings nearby bear witness.

In its higher portion, a castle with walls and towers was present in the 12th century and the Aquisana Tower still stands today.
One of the oldest buildings is the Church of Santa Maria Assunta from 840 AC and renovated in the 19th century and contains the Madonna with Child a valuable wood panel of the 14th century, framed in a 15th century fresco with the Madonna of the Rosary.

Points of interest are also:

The Church of San Martino in Petrajia originally built in the 13th century and completely renovated in 1807

The Oratory of the Madonna of the seven pains, originally part of Saint Bartholomew Hospital

The old fortress of Gello di Mattaccino with its origins in the 8th century

In the 15th century Casciana Terme begun to be known and promoted for the therapeutic properties of its thermal waters and in 1862 a large spa complex started to be built.

The flourishing spa with different health treatments has progressively brought to an expansion of the village with new hotels and accomodations capable to meet the numerous guests demands.

The visitor here, after enjoying the wellness and spa participation, can relax just enjoying walking along the treelined alleys and the local little shops, breathing the low pace life that still can be found around these places, and with the valuable assistance of the local tour operator Arianna & Friends, dedicated to food and wine experiences as well as tuscan arts and culture, make the most of a holiday to treasure.

martedì 17 giugno 2014

Why visit a truly tuscan village on the Pisan Chianti hills

Tuscany is a worldwide famous holiday destination and for many this is represented by a few iconic places of this beautiful region, but there are lots of little areas, country villages, small hamlets that need to be explored and appreciated for their culture, history and tradition, one of these is Terricciola.

Terricciola's village origins are Etruscans as witnessed by the numerous tombs and artifacts found in the area two centuries ago, which testify the settlements since the 4th century B.C. Most of these finds can be seen at Center for Archeological Documentation in the close by village of Capannoli.
Of recent discovery is a large Etruscan necropolis with origins dating back to the 4th century B.C. containing several chamber tombs underneath the present-day Piazza Matteotti.

Many documents from medieval times attest the 13th and 14th century fortifications, and its name Terricciola comes, as a matter of fact, from the latin “Turris”, the defensive towers of the village, while the defensive complex originated near the Church of San Donato and the rectory was the highest portion of the fortress.

The older part of the village is characterized by orthogonal little alleys radiating from the center towards the peripheral old walls. Polycentric brick arches and terracotta decorations geometrically designed feature with originality the oldest houses.

Terricciola with more than 500 hectares of vineyards in its territory is a valuable member of the Wine Towns National Association, and the vine varieties cultivated, typically tuscan, such as Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Malvasia and Cilegiolo, bring to the masterly production of excellent wines like Chianti DOCG, Chianti delle Colline Pisane DOCG and Bianco di San Torpè DOCG. The event of Grapes and Wine Festival in September of every year is an appointment not to be missed.

Worth the visit are the Sanctuary of Madonna di Monterosso, the ancient Badia Camaldolese of Morrona with beside the 12th century romanic Church, Villa Gherardi del Testa and Villa Cempini Meazzuoli, the hamlets of Soiana and Casanova.

With the help of a professional “friend” guide like the local tour operator “Arianna & Friends” visiting the area and enjoying the typical products, or joining their tuscan cooking school, can be the perfect way to live an interesting fulfilling holiday through the perception of the local way of life.

venerdì 30 maggio 2014

Tuscan kale bruschetta

In Tuscany black kale is a warm symbol of home, of a family sitting together around dinner
table enjoying a good traditional meal with the distinctive flavor produced by its use.
Its presence in the region dates back long before the middle ages and is a typical traditional
main ingredient in many tuscan soups.
There is no tuscan farmer without some black kale plants in his garden that look like little palm
trees with their long dark green bluish leaves.
This vegetable belongs to the family of cabbages, but it doesn't grow with a “head” like most cabbages.
Here we describe one of the most popular recipes in Tuscany

Ingredients for 4 people

500 gr of black kale

8 slices of tuscan unsalted bread

4 tablespoons of extravirgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

1 spoon of salt + some for dressing

2 liters of water

black pepper to taste

Clean the black kale cutting off and discarding the main hard stem of the leaves then chop them in large pieces. Bring to boil the water with 1 spoon of salt and then add the black kale and let it simmer until it becomes tender, set then all aside.

I the meantime toast the bread slices and rub their surface with halved garlic cloves, put the bread on a tray or large dish, sprinkle half of the olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Drain the still warm black kale saving some of its liquid and lay it on the bread slices with a little of its saved cooking water. Dress with the remaining olive oil, a little salt and freshly ground pepper, serve warm.

To learn directly how to prepare this recipe and many more join a cooking course when in tuscany,a specialized wine and food tour operator like Arianna & Friends can surely guarantee an interesting and enjoyable experience.

mercoledì 7 maggio 2014

Peccioli tuscan hilltop town where hospitality is the key

Peccioli in the Valdera area of the Pisa district of Tuscany, sits above the Era and Roglio river valleys with its gentle slopes covered by vineyards, olive groves and cypress trees.

In the 11th century it was an important fortress which was later strenghthened by 6 towers placed along the perimetral walls. Today some traces can be seen on 3 of the towers and the tower of Lampredi house in the western side of the town is all that is left of the ancient walls.
Retains the original structure the arched vault brick gate of Porta Carraia that lends its character to the same name street.

From the point where the fortress was once located, typical old fashioned little streets from there start their path with their arches and underpasses. On the western and eastern part of the town, long portions of the medieval pathways can be identified. But the main unmistakable feature of the town is the unique bell tower of the church of San Verano in Piazza del Popolo.

This church, originally built as a little chapel in the 11th century, was later enlarged and in the centuries partly redesigned, it keeps its picturesque Pisan and Romanesque façade and contains valuable work of arts.

Today Peccioli is a proud small rural tuscan town with its own local culture and traditions that the inhabitants are happy to share with any visitor that here is definitely welcome, and the best way to experience the warm hospitality of this place is to stay in one of the accomodations that the  Medieval village of Peccioli ” has to offer, an enthusiastic enterprise from Arianna & Friends local tour operator, that aims to give travellers to Peccioli an authentic feel of being part of a friendly and pleasant tuscan community.

martedì 15 aprile 2014

Palaia, a sweet hilltop tuscan village

Palaia, a charming village in the tuscan district of Pisa, has its origins in the Etruscan period as hypogea and artifacts there found witness it. Its territory extends between the river Chiecina and the river Roglio and as a hilltop settlement lies at 240 meters above sea level. In the middle ages the castle was a very important establishment in Tuscany.

A typical medieval little town, it can be identified in two main sections, the fortress in the higher portion with its circular area and the inhabited part that stretches around it with focus in the main square as a typical social identity center.
Porta Fiorentina, the old gate that gave acces to the town, is on the east side with the small fort on its right side and the guard tower on its left.

Points of interest are, the clock tower, built on top of the former gate Porta Ghibellina, the church of Sant' Andrea from middles ages period with its precious artifacts, the church of San Martino also from the middle ages time and built with stone and bricks with romanesque and gothic elements.

Palaia's land has the most suitable properties to grow the grapevine and olive trees and an important part of its economy nowadays relies on the clever agricultural work of its inhabitants that produce superior quality extra virgin olive oils and great tuscan wines that are internationally appreciated.

Arianna & Friends as a local tour operator specially focused on wine and food experiences, is the most appropriate expert companion that can make you relish the best products that Palaia has to offer.

giovedì 3 aprile 2014

Extra virgin olive oil in Tuscany

Extra virgin olive oil has been been considered for long a great product although limited as a dressing ingredient for salads or vegetable recipes in most mediterranean dishes, as it improves taste and flavor of them.
As a matter of fact, olive oil is the best cooking fat since it has a high melting point and doesn't create toxic matter when used to prepare high temperature processed foods and the tuscans have known this for ages.  Many Tuscan recipes make use of extra virgin olive oil for deep frying like artichokes, zucchini, chicken, rabbit, squids, cod, frittelle and many more.
Extra virgin olive oil, in order to reveal its best quality in terms of organoleptic properties, flavor and taste needs to come from a strict process where the olives, picked at the right ripening time, have to be cold pressed (below 27 ° C) within a few hours from picking. The oil extracted will then have to be sealed immediately and stored in a dark cool place.
Following these guidelines as stated in the tuscan D.O.P. regulation, the product that comes out keeps a low acidity, which means more palatable to taste, fresh flavor and aroma, retaining antioxidants and vitamin E.
In Tuscany the olive tree presence dates back a few centuries B.C. and the use of olive oil has spanned from curative and therapeutic purposes to food preservant and ingredient.
Nowadays the high quality degree of extra virgin olive oil is so appreciated that the tourism industry highlights the best producers. Olive oil tasting tours in Tuscany are held in traditional expert farms, where, a guided tour of the olive groves, the milling room, and, most of the times, in a proper tasting room, a sampling evaluation of quality, flavor, color of the variety of extra virgin olive oil locally produced, provide a fun experience and a starting point to get acquainted to the olive oil culture and its world.

lunedì 24 marzo 2014

The Chianti from Pisa district

We are in the province of Pisa, the area of Casciana, Chianni, Palaia, Lari, Peccioli, Terriciola, and Fauglia, looking east we find Florence,  north there is Lucca, and to the south  Siena and Grosseto.

Here is cultivated the vine that gives birth, thanks to the skill of his winegrowers, climate and soil characteristics, to the DOCG wines of great quality Chianti Colli Pisani.
The ruby red wine with a majority of grape variety Sangiovese reflects the harmony and character of the hills from which it comes from, the territories where nature and human endeavor distinguish a product of high quality and value throughout Tuscany.

From the time of Barone Ricasoli, "father of Chianti", to this day, little has changed in the way of conceiving this noble wine that tuscan farmers produce with passion in compliance with the specifications that encode its essence.

Without anything to envy to other areas of Tuscany that in the public opinion are intended as "Chianti", we can say that this territory offers, with equal dignity and merit, atmospheres and landscapes of pristine beauty, tradition and culture, art and gastronomy, hospitality of its inhabitants who are proud of belonging to a unique land.

Thanks to its valuable characteristics Chianti Pisano is visited every year by tens of thousands of tourists coming mainly from abroad, who from early spring to late autumn are on holiday in these areas, where accommodations range from historic luxury villas to comfortable holiday homes, bed & breakfasts, farmhouses and hotels.

Here tranquility and relaxation are undisputed, and travellers can also choose the activities that most interests them between visits to wineries to taste the Chianti and other typical wines, extra virgin olive oil, tastings of typical products such as meats and cheeses.

Considerable success are achieving typical Tuscan cooking classes, which are held either in well equipped farmhouses or directly to the address of the visitor, it is also quite common to come across along streets and alleys, individuals or small groups of people, from the apparent non-local look, which equipped with a map or gps navigator device, explore the area on foot or by bicycle, whilst there is a large participation for horseback riding or off-road vehicles excursions, rides on a Vespa, and golf playing .