Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 21, 2015

Etruscan tombs

The Etruscans were the first people to settle the Maremma in southern Tuscany. Their civilisation lasted from about 800BC until they were assimilated into the Roman Republic in the late 4th century BC. The name Tuscany comes from the Roman name for the Etruscans.

In southern Tuscany the Etruscans buried their dead in careful constructed tombs. Much of what we know about their lives comes from funereal remains. Many of their ancient sites have been excavated over the years.

While we were at the magnificent Rocca di Frassinello we were taken to 3 Etruscan tombs that have been uncovered on the property.

Etruscans at Rocca di Frassinello
Our handsome guide, Simone, took us to the sites. Before being uncovered they would have just looked like mounds of dirt. It must have been exciting when the digging unearthed well preserved tombs, each one different.

The tombs have an entrance along a tunnel and inside there is a ledge where the body was put. A lot of work has gone into each one. I imagine these were for the more wealthy members of the community.

Etruscan tombs

Etruscan tombs

 

Etruscan tombs at Rocca di Frassinello

 

 

Etruscan tombs at Rocca di Frassinello

Etruscan tombs at Rocca di Frassinello

On the 30th May 2015 a museum will be opened at Rocca di Frassinello to display the findings. There will be an exhibit area in the winery to show how the Etruscans went about their daily lives and to see some of their unearthed possessions.

A Stamnos, a large pottery jar for carrying wine, was found during the excavations by the University of Florence and Tuscany’s office for Archeological Heritage.  I’m sure the owners of the winery were delighted to discover that wine was being made on the site thousands of ears ago.

There will be guided tours to see the tombs as well. We feel very lucky to have been able to get a preview. Thank you Simone and the team at Rocca di Frassinello and Cala del Porto for organising our tour.

Rocca di Frassinello…www.castellare.it

Cala del Porto…www.baglionihotels.com/CaladelPorto

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 18, 2015

The most beautiful road race…Mille Miglia

Hot on the heels of the Giro d’Italia came the Mille Miglia…Thousand Miles. The original Mille Miglia was run in Italy 24 times from 1927 to 1957, with a break during the war years.

The race was reborn in 1977 as a race for classic and vintage cars. Participation is limited to cars produced no later than 1957. The route is similar to the that of the orignal race, from Brescia – Rome round trip. Luckily for us the route this year included Bagni di Lucca.

The weather was not as kind to the cars as it was to the bicycles earlier in the week.

Mille Miglia

It was raining when the first cars came through.

Mille Miglia

 

Hardy souls gathered regardless.

Mille Miglia

The first cars to come through Ponte a Serraglio were the new Ferraris and other modern sports cars.

Mille Miglia

These were great and the noise they made as they sped off up to La Villa was amazing. But the cheers really went up for the beautiful old cars. We would be here all day if I showed all of them…around 400, so I will just show you a selection.

 

There was a special treat when a beautiful blue Bugatti driven by a beautiful boy stopped for a while in the piazza.

Mille Miglia

Mille Miglia

He drove off with the sound of deep sighs in his wake.

Mille Miglia

…and they all drove off to Parma for the night. Wouldn’t it be fun to be in this race? You just need lots and lots of money, and a fair bit of dedication.

See Bella Bagni di Lucca for more on the Mille Miglia.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 13, 2015

Giro d’Italia comes to Bagni di Lucca

It was a very exciting day today in Bagni di Lucca.  The Giro d’Italia came through town. Even if you have little interest in bicycle racing you couldn’t help being caught up in the fun.

Streets and houses were decorated to welcome the riders.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Regular cyclists were out and about trying the Giro route.

Giro d'Italia

Our little piazza in Ponte a Serraglia was crowded with people looking forward to the big event. Luckily my balcony offered a birds’ eye view of the proceedings.

Giro d'Italia

There were cyclists waiting to see cyclists.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Before the cyclists came through there were lots of official vehicles and pink vans selling Giro merchandise. Jim lined up to buy a lovely pink hat. The reason for pink is that the major sponsor is the Corriere dello Sport, a newspaper printed on pink paper.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Sponsors’ cars came through at speed.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

…and the leading bikes appeared.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

The crowds were waiting  for them.

Giro d'Italia

…and then the main pack of riders sped along the river and through our piazza.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Then the official vehicles sped past and it was all over.

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

Giro d'Italia

What fun! I’m glad I was here. On Saturday afternoon we will all be back for the Mille Miglia which will come through Bagni di Lucca…it all happens here.

Go to Bella Bagni di Lucca for some photos from Bar Italia.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 11, 2015

The musical woodcutter

In Vergemoli we are very happy to have Sisto.

Sisto of Vergemoli

He lives directly below Casa Debbio at the very bottom of the village. He is about 80 years old, but he looks much younger I think.

He is a woodcutter as well as a carpenter. He cut this huge pile of wood himself last week and has been busy stacking it.

Sisto's wood

If you have followed the blog for a while you may remember that I have written about Sisto before. He has 100 speakers under the eaves of his house and most afternoons we can hear old Italian music or tango tunes echoing through the valley.

Sisto's house

Click here to see the post about Sisto and his house.

It is great to work in the garden, or to enjoy aperitivo on the terrace to the sounds of Sisto’s music…one of the many joys of being in Vergemoli.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 7, 2015

My big fat pink peony

Last year I bought several peonies from the garden show on the walls of Lucca. 2 of them were tree peonies. I very carefully planted them in pots at Casa Debbio.

This year they have both appeared and are growing. Just one of them grew a bud.

My peony

It grew.

My pink peony

…and it grew. It got caught in heavy rain and I thought the poor flower might drown.

My pink peony

My pink peony

My pink peony

My pink peony

…but it didn’t. This is what it looks like today. I think it is magnificent.

My pink peony

My pink peony

It is huge. That is my hand as a comparison.

My pink peony

I have several other peonies with buds. One has at least 20. I can’t wait to see those develop into peonies.

My peonies

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 5, 2015

A magic carpet in the Maremma

It has been said the the winery at Rocca Di Frassinello is like a magic carpet hovering over the vineyard and the beautiful Maremma hillside. When you are standing on the top that is exactly what it feels like…floating on air.

Rocca di Frassinello

Rocca di Frassinello

Rocca di Frassinello

Rocca di Frassinello

Rocca di Frassinello

Rocca di Frassinello
Rocca di Frassinello is a joint venture between an Italian, Castellare di Castellina and a French producer, Domaines Baron de Rothchild- Lafite…the first time this has happened.

The building was designed by Renzo Piano…and it is amazing. Attention was paid to aesthetics and, most importantly, the production process. Renzo believed that the heart of the winery is the space where the wine improves in the barrel, and at Rocca di Frassinello that space takes centre stage.

It is right in the middle of the building, underground, so that the developing has the perfect temperature and humidity.Walking into it is like walking into an auditorium, 40 metres x 40 metres, with the barrels as the audience.

Rocca di Frassinello

 

Rocca di Frassinello

Rocca di Frassinello

The production area is on the outside of the square. On 2 sides are the steel tanks, each linked by a chute that comes from the courtyard at the top of the building. The grapes arrive at courtyard in crates and are carefully sorted on a bench to remove any foreign bodies and dropped into the chutes and the tanks…what a brilliant idea. It is much more gentle on the grapes, ensuring that they reach the tanks in the best possible condition.

 

Rocca di Frassinello

Rocca di Frassinello

 

Rocca di Frassinello

The enormous reception and tasting area has huge windows on all sides so you can see the vines and the beautiful countryside from wherever you are.

Rocca di Frassinello

Good wine is made in the vineyard before the winery, so great care has been taken with the selection of grape varieties and meticulous care of the vines.

Rocca di Frassinello

Rocca di Frassinello

We tried 4 wines. First was the Vermentino, their first white wine, made from 100% Vermentino grapes. It is delicate and fruity…perfect for summer.

Rocca di Frassinello

Next was Poggio Alla Guardia, a blend of a Merlot 45%,  Cabernet Sauvignon 40% and Sangioveto 15% (the Italian content)…a fresh and fruity easy drinking wine.

Rocca di Frassinello

The third wine was Le Sughere di Frassinello, a blend of Sangioveto 50%, Merlot 25% and Cabernet Sauvignon 25%. It is a wine suitable for ageing, but perfectly drinkable right now. It goes through a long aging process in barriques and in the bottle.

Rocca di Frassinello

Our final tasting was Rocca di Frassinello, Sangioveto 60%, Merlot 20% and Cabernet Sauvignon 20%.  It is an intense, elegant wind with delicate tannins. It achieved a peak right from its first harvest in 2004. It mixes strength, intensity and elegance.

Rocca di Frassinello

Rocca di Frassinello

To celebrate the 10th harvest at Rocca Di Frassinello, well known artist and photographer David LaChapelle, designed the Limited Edition labels after falling in love with Rocca di Frassinello. He was inspired to create Rapture of the Grape, a harvest romance…an ode to wine.

 

Rocca di Frassinello

We had 2 charming and handsome Italians to show us the winery and help us to taste their wonderful wines…meet Pericle and Tomasso.

Rocca di Frassinello

Visits to Rocca di Frassinello are welcome. It is located in Giuncarico (Grossetto). Email them at info@castellare.it or call (39) 0577 742903 or take a look at their website www.castellare.it

Our visit was kindly organised by Cala del Porto during our stay there…one of the many services they offer their lucky guests. www.baglionihotels.com/CaladelPort0

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 1, 2015

Return to Punta Ala

Last year we enjoyed a delightful stay at Cala del Porto at Punta Ala on the Maremma Coast in southern Tuscany. When most people think of Tuscany, the rolling hills of Chianti probably come to mind, but Tuscany is much more than this.

The Maremma area is dotted with medieval towns, separated by thick chestnut forests and green fields with olive groves and vineyards stretching to the beautiful coastline.

I was invited by Baglioni Hotels to stay again at their very first hotel, Cala del Porto, founded by Lisa and Roberto Polito…lucky me.

Cala del Porto Punta Ala

It is easy to see why they chose the setting amidst pine forests high above the beautiful sea. In the distance you can see Elba and, on a clear day, Corsica.

Cala del Porto Punta Ala

Cala del Porto has 37 rooms and suites, each one decorated in exquisite style. Nothing has been left to chance. Every detail has been carefully chosen to delight the guests. There are intimate rooms and suites, most with private balconies overlooking the marina, pool or garden.

Belvedere restaurant offers superb regional Tuscan and Italian cuisine in both indoor and outdoor settings.

The garden is enchanting. Last year I was inspired to rush back to Casa Debbio and put in more flowering plants. It would be easy to spend hours just looking at the roses. Click here to see last year’s post to see the rose garden.

One thing we missed last year was the private beach owned by Cala del Porto. Alleluja Beach Club is 2 kilometres from the hotel (transport is provided). We don’t have private beaches in Australia, but when I see something as beautiful as this I can see the appeal.

We were there the day before the season began, so the beach was empty. I can imagine how popular this is in high summer. I love the bathing huts with the gorgeous brush roofs. The ones along the path are filled with little shops and galleries in summer.

We had lunch at La Spiaggia, the elegant and relaxed restaurant right on the beach. The region is known for its delicious, fresh, local food.

Nearby is the new development, La Vela Beach Club…all set to open for the season. It features a spacious wellness area with Turkish bath, massage treatment room and fitness centre with a view of the beach. It has a bar and terrace with panoramic views as well as a restaurant on the first floor…the perfect place to relax and dine after a hard day at the beach.

Cala del Porto Punta Ala

Cala del Porto Punta Ala

The Punta Ala International Golf Club is nearby and the marina the hotel below has everything for sailing enthusiasts. Cala del Porto will organise visits by yacht to local islands and beaches, visits to local wineries such as the amazing Rocca del Frassinello ( which I will tell you about in another post). There is also tennis, horse riding, mountain bike riding, water skiing lessons, diving and sailing on offer.

Baglioni choose the people who work in their hotels very carefully. Everything is done to make guests feel welcome and comfortable. Cala del Porto has many visitors who come regularly and are greeted by the same friendly faces. The delightful and very elegant Giovanna and equally charming Luigi made our stay memorable…I would like to become a regular.

Cala del Porto Punta Ala

Richard the Terrible…this is the place for you!

Chef Giuseppe Angelucci, sums up very well the philosophy of Cala del Porto.

“The Relais and Chateaux Hotel Cala del Porto, and our Ristorante Belvedere in beautiful Tuscany is a dream.

This is a land that gave birth to the great Italian masters with their creativity and ingenuity as well as a land of great farmers and fishermen and rich in fantastic products and flavours.

These are the components that drive my creative process. I Giuseppe Angelucci, as chef in this unique place, have given my passion and love and let my dishes remain an unforgettable memory of the Maremma. Sometimes being simple is the hardest thing.”

Hotel Cala del Porto … Via del Pozzo, Punta Ala

Ph 39 0564 922455

www.baglionihotels.com/CalaDelPorto

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 28, 2015

Mac is black

Still in Pietrasanta…there is a fabulous shop called Mac, where just about everything is black. Black is stylish and easy to wear…and great for travel.

It is a beautiful shop. Their displays are inspiring.

Mac Pietrasanta

Mac Pietrasanta

Mac Pietrasanta

Mac Pietrasanta

They sell a collection of labels from all over the world. The buyer has a good eye.

Their accessories are always interesting and fun.

It is difficult to leave this shop without buying something…helpful shop assistants make shopping here a pleasure.

Mac…Via Mazzini 86

http://www.macpietrasanta.com

…just another reason to visit Pietrasanta.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 26, 2015

Art and food at Pietrasanta

Pietrasanta is one of my favourite places on the Versilia Coast to visit.  The centre of Pietrasanta is a little inland from the beach and is known for its foundries and art galleries.

There are always amazing art pieces in the main piazza. The very impressive work of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj is now on display.

Pietrasanta

You may not have noticed the face in the thigh of the sculpture.

Igor Mitoraj Pietrasanta

…but wait, there’s more.

 

Igor Mitoraj Pietrasanta

 

Igor Mitoraj Pietrasanta

Igor Pietrasanta

Igor Mitoraj

 

Igor Mitoraj Pietrasanta

 

Igor Mitoraj Pietrasanta

Igor Mitoraj Pietrasanta

There are some wonderful restaurants in Pietrasanta. La Giudea was always one of our regular places for lunch and we were a bit disappointed when it changed hands.

We need not have worried, the new owners are doing a great job, and are much more friendly than the previous owner who was a bit of a grouch.  The name has changed too. It is now Barsanti 54.

Barsanti 54 Pietrasanta

Here is our food from a couple of visits. All meals were delicious…traditional Italian with a modern twist…just the way I like it.

There are lots of good reasons to visit Pietrasanta.

Main piazza Pietrasanta

Barsanti 54…

Corner of Via Padre Eugenio Barsanti and Vicolo Lavatoi

http://www.osteriabarsanti54.com

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 20, 2015

Casa Debbio garden update

We have done lots of work in the garden at Casa Debbio. Some trees were cut down last autumn and it was all looking a bit bare, so we are planting the terrace below the house.

Casa Debbio

Filippo and Batista have built us a new fence at the edge of the drop to allow plantings above and below.

We bought about 80 lavender plants, hydrangeas, peonies, azaleas, lilac, fruticans, roses, raspberries, blueberries and a few other things. Our lovely gardening friend Agostino has given us lots of plants he has grown from seed and cuttings.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The terrace still looks a bit bare, but I am hoping the plants will grow quickly and fill in the gaps.

Spring has been slow coming, but our beautiful new magnolia tree grew some excellent flowers.

Casa Debbio

Now it is busily growing leaves which I hope will give us some shade this summer.

The daffodils were beautiful and lasted for weeks. They are finished now and irises are about to appear.

The weeping cherry put on a good show.

Casa Debbio

Trees are finally starting to turn green. Our walnut is getting leaves. One of our fig trees has baby figs.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The quince is covered in new growth.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The Judas tree has tiny flowers.

Casa Debbio

All the fruit trees are in blossom.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

We have a carpet of blue flowers under the trees at the edge of the terrace above the house. I think they are periwinkles.

Casa Debbio

I have peonie buds everywhere…my favourite flower. A couple of new ones I bought came with flowers about to open and they have done so.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

The aquilegia has come up again this year. These are the cutest little flowers.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

I have violets.

Casa Debbio

Strawberries are beginning to grow.

Casa Debbio

The bleeding hearts were under a hazelnut tree last year, they like shade. This year they have reappeared. I hope the full sun is not too hot for them.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Work continues. It takes a few hours just to water the new plants and there is endless weeding to do.

Soon the roses will appear and the wisteria is on the way…I’ll let you know how it all goes.

There is a fly in the ointment…mufloni. We have wild goats and deer living all around us. They occasionally drop in at night and nibble things. They have chewed the poor rhododendrons and ate 2 roses soon after I planted them.

I spotted these on the road up to Vergemoli…I hope they stay there.

Mufloni

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