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Rent a Villa in Tuscany on February

Rent a Villa in Tuscany on February: Viareggio' s Carnival

Rent a Villa in Tuscany on FebruaryIn the weeks leading up to Lent, which is a time of renunciation, Carnival allows people license to play. Even though Lent is religious and Carnival seems to spring from less Christian impulses, both reflect social needs. What would renunciation be if not in reaction to excess?


Although there is no single style of carnival in the world, for children the basic magic is in dressing up and being someone else, parading or dancing down the street or in the square, throwing confetti at strangers, even if only on Sunday afternoons.


Sometimes adults, especially, go further in celebrating folly, masquerading, transdressing, satirizing. D. H. Lawrence beautifully described a Sicilian carnival in his travelogue Sea and Sardinia (published in 1921):


Carnival is beginning. A man dressed as a peasant woman in native costume is clambering with his great wide skirts and wide strides on to the box, and, flourishing his ribboned whip, is addressing a little crowd of listeners. He opens his mouth wide and goes on with a long yelling harangue of taking a drive with his mother – another man in old-woman's gaudy finery and wig who sits already bobbing on the box.

The would-be daughter flourishes, yells, and prances up there on the box of the carriage. The crowd listens attentively and mildly smiles. It all seems real to them. The q-b (Law- rence's wife) hovers in the distance, halffascinated, and watches. With a great flourish of whip and legs – showing his frilled drawers – the masker pulls round to drive along the boulevard by the sea – the only place where one can drive....

Little bunches of maskers, and single maskers danced and strutted along in a thick flow under the trees.

If you are a mask you don't walk like a human being: you dance and prance along extraordinarily like the life-size marionettes (of Palermo tradition), conducted by wires from above. That is how you go: with the odd jauntiness as if lifted and propelled by wires from the shoulders. In front of me went a charming coloured harlequin, all in diamond-shaped colours, and beautiful as a piece of china.

He tripped with the light, fantastic trip, quite alone in the thick crowd, and quite blithe.

Came two little children hand in hand in brilliant scarlet and white costumes, sauntering calmly. They did not do the mask trip. After a while a sky-blue girl with a high hat and full skirts, very short, that went flip-flip-flip, as a ballet dancer's, whilst she strutted; after her a Spanish grandee capering like a monkey. They threaded among the slow stream of the crowd.

Appeared Dante and Beatrice, in Paradise apparently, all in white sheetrobes, and with silver wreaths on their heads, arm in arm, and prancing very slowly and majestically, yet with the long lilt as if hitched along by wires from above. They were very good: all the well-known vision come to life, Dante incorporate, and white as a shroud, with his towhaired, silver-crowned, immortal Beatrice on his arm, strutting the dark avenues. He had the nose and cheek-bones and banded cheek, and the stupid wooden look, and offered a modern criticism on the Inferno.


Italy's extremes in formal carnival celebrations can be seen today in Venice, with its masked balls and elegant baroque style, and in Viareggio, where political satire reigns with gravitydefying floats parading down the Lungomare on weekends. Everywhere, neighborhoods compete for the loudest and rowdiest all-night parties.


For simple fun the Lungomare is the place to be, especially on Carnival Sundays: 16 and 23 February, 2 and 9 March, and on Tuesday 4 March (Martedì Grasso). People crowd into the street with ice creams and drinks and cameras in hand, just waiting for the fun, especially if the weather decides to cooperate and the skies are gloriously blue. A little rain is okay, but if downpours are predicted the parade may be cancelled or re-scheduled.


On Saturday evenings preceding the parades, theme parties called Veglioni are held. Costumes are de rigour and reservations are required (tel. 054 58071 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) The first Veglione, dedicated to 1970's disco music, is scheduled for 15 February at Caffè Liberty (Lungomare). The second, a big Masked Ball with "burlesque and seduction" promised, is planned for 22 February at the Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte. The third, on 1 March at the Principe di Piemonte Centro Congressi, is dedicated to the world of cinema. And the fourth, at Caffè Liberty on 8 March, has as its theme the fascination of blondes (come all you Marilyn Monroes and Brigitte Bardots!).


To see how the floats are made, a visit to La Cittadella del Carnevale is in order at any time of the year. La Cittadella was built in 2001 so that the all float designers would have a spacious, safe place to work. It also houses the Carnival Museum, the Carnevalotto Contemporary Art Museum, and workshop spaces where children and others learn how to create, using carta pesta (papier-mâché).


Where to find Tuscany Mushrooms?

funghi-porciniAt this time of year, one of the .favourite pastimes of people in and around Lucca is go into the woods and look for mushrooms.

Each mushroom grows in a particular habitat determined by climatic and weather conditions. Finding them depends on intuition, being observant and, to some extent, luck. Mushroom picking is regulated in Italy, with each region having different powers.

This is why a lot of regions have issued, or are in the process of issuing, legislative measures to regulate mushroom picking regionally. For example, the conditions under which one may pick mushrooms differ from region to region and, before setting off, people are advised to consult the appropriate authorities. Types of mushrooms: There are at least 37,000 different mushrooms and a vast amount that remain to be named.

Mushrooms can be divided into two main categories: edible and inedible. Within the first category, the mushrooms can be regrouped into "excellent" (especially good), "good" (with a pleasant taste) and "mediocre" (not particularly interesting from an eating point of view). Inedible mushrooms are divided into "harmless", "poisonous" and "deadly".

The first type are considered inedible because they have an unpleasant taste or disgusting smell so will not probably be eaten and even if they are taken accidentally are not dangerous. Poisonous mushrooms, which take up quite a large category, can have significant side effects if taken accidentally. Deadly mushrooms mean exactly what they sound like.

Fortunately there are few of this type. It is calculated that there are about 10,000 cases of poisoning through eating mushrooms in Europe per year. The symptoms vary from gastro-enteritis, irritation of the nervous system, paralysis, convulsions, vomiting, hallucinations, liver enlargement, a burning thirst and haemorrhages. Most symptoms appear within 30 hours of consuming the poison. Where to find them: Mushrooms are saprophytes, which grow in humus, rich in organic substance, or on tree trunks.

They produce neither flower nor fruit and reproduce via their spore – minuscule organisms which are invisible to the naked eye. So, the type of terrain, the vegetation, climatic conditions and the season all influ- ence growth.

One of the most important factors is the temperature of the terrain and the air. Earth which is dark and very humid and absorbs heat is ideal. When the first rains of autumn come, followed by a few days of sun and warm, wind-free nights, the conditions are optimum.

In the spring, however, some species can be found and during the winter even a covering of snow doesn't jeopardise the chances of finding some mushrooms. One species, called Dormienti in Italian, is so called because it sleeps under the snow. However, the majority are picked at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Uses: Mushrooms are used in the production of fermented cheese, antibiotics, vitamins, chemicals (citric acid, gallic acid and enzymes).

They are used to ferment alcohol, in the production of sugar and fats and even in making sawdust.

They have an importance too, along with bacteria, in helping to break down organic waste thus ensuring recycling through composts. It is only in relatively recent times that the nutritional value of the mushroom has come to light.

There are different ways of preserving mushrooms. They can be dried, put under oil or vinegar and, in some cases, frozen. Porcini mushrooms are extremely popular and prized around Lucca. They are used to make risotto, grilled using oil and lemon, served raw with salads or simply eaten on their own. Truffles, understandably used sparingly because of their high price, can be grated onto pasta.

There even exists an ice cream called "tartufo" which imitates the top part of a mushroom in shape and when brandy is poured over it and set alight, looks very impressive. The following recipe is a very popular starter and can be served on fried or toasted bread or on fried slices of polenta.

Rent a Villa in Tuscany - Montecarlo' s Theatre

teatro-dei-rassicurati-montecarlo-LUNestled inside a little fortress atop the hills of Montecarlo is a beautiful proper Italian theatre.

The Teatro dei Rassicurati has an interesting history. The theatre dates back to 1750 when a local aristocratic club decided to re-adapt two houses thus turning them into a small opera house. The city saved it in 1966 when it was threatened by demolition and it was re-opened in 1973 with Puccini's Il Ciarlatano.

The theatre is still used to this day and is in marvelous shape.

It is located unsuspectingly down a side street and you step back in time as you enter through its doors.

One would never guess there was a glorious theatre located there and yet it is the home of Lucca Opera Festival's Mozart Trilogy.

After the triumphs of Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni in May and June respectively, the company will offer the comedic opera, Così fan tutte which translates to “Women Are Like That”. Come early to the opera so you can walk the cobblestone streets of Montecarlo and take in the breathtaking sights that present panoramic views of Tuscany from high above.

It is one of the most picturesque places in this area and is not to be missed.

Afterwards, enjoy the opera, which presents the story of two pairs of lovers living in Naples.

The men decide to test their sweethearts' faithfulness and pretend they have been called to war only to come back in disguise and attempt to woo each other's fiancé. This is one of Mozart's most famous operas and will be a wonderful close to Lucca Opera Festival's summer of music.

Rent a Villa in Tuscany - Pinocchio' s Tree

Pinocchio_s_treeAlmost everybody knows that Pinocchio' s creator was Carlo Collodi, who gave his name to the little town on a hill between A Montecarlo and Pescia.

Not everyone knows the true story of Pinocchio, since most of us have been conditioned to believe what Walt Disney's animators taught us.

If you go to Collodi, which is on the road to Pescia, I recommend you pick up the bilingual version of the story, published in 2007.

You don't have to be a child to enjoy this, but a little bit of childishness might help.

About halfway through the story, Pinocchio was still foolish enough to think that gold would grow in the ground. When Fox and Cat fooled him, running away with the gold coins given him by Mangiafoco, Pinocchio tried to catch the thieves, but then they tried to burn him up.

Pinocchio escaped into the forest where he met a beautiful white- faced woman in a white house, who told him that she too was dead. When Fox and Cat caught up with him again, they hung him from a wide old oak tree.

He fell down dead but was saved by the beautiful white-faced woman, who was a Fairy and had been living there for a thousand years. This is only one of Pinocchio's many adventures, told by Collodi in the popular style of his time, somewhere between a picaresque novel (with the ingenuous hero facing one misadventure after another) and a bildungs- roman (in which the hero learns and grows through his life experiences).

Many people around Montecarlo know about that tree, but not everyone can find it. No one I know has ever met the Fairy. Finding the tree is an adventure in itself, so I won't tell you exactly how to get there. Just a hint: take the via Pesciatina towards Montecarlo and turn off to the left before you reach the top of the hill. If you meet someone who will guide you, great! But don't relent too soon. You can also go into Montecarlo and ask the new tourist office in the square for help

The City of Music to Host UNESCO

Lucca Teatro del GiglioUNESCO's acronym is in itself the synonym of a dream, which talks of education, science, culture and communication to sustain the future of our world.

One of UNESCO's recent initiatives is to identify a network of "creative cities" – so far these are Bologna, Seville, Glasgow and Ghent – cities whose cultural creativity is essential to their economic development. Last year in Mexico City UNESCO's Executive Council nominated Lucca because of its exceptional musical heritage and architectural beauties.

This month, Lucca, the only Italian candidate for recognition as "creative city of music", will host UNESCO’s international conference, entitled "The universal language of music and art in the development of a global ethic".

Together with tenor Andrea Bocelli, soprano Katia Ricciarelli and ballerina Carli Fracci (Italian ambassador to UNESCO), the city will welcome 250 delegates from the World Federation of UNESCO Clubs. Mayor Alessandro Tambellini presented this initiative at a press conference in Rome, in the presence of Gianni Bonazzi for the Ministero dei Beni Culturali; Maria Luisa Stringa, president of the Italian UNESCO Federation; Patrizia Favati, Lucca's Cultural Councillor; Giorgio Tori, representing the Lucca UNESCO Club; opera singer Katia Ricciarelli; and economist/journalist Alan Friedman. A rich programme of events and meetings will take place in Lucca, and also in Florence.

The Origins of the Pisan New Year

leaning-tower-of-pisaOn 25 March, at noon, when the sun's rays pierce the Cathedral windows and strike a marble egg on Giovanni Pisano's pul- pit, Pisa celebrates Capodanno Pisano.

This is a great day to be in Pisa, where New Year doesn't come just once a year! Celebrations begin the evening of the 24th, but the most special moment comes the next day. In the morning, historical processions go from Piazza dei Cavalieri to Piazza dei Miracoli.

After the Holy Mass sunlight hits the marble egg, and the miracle of renewal is condensed into this instant. But where did this tradition actually begin? According to the Gregorian calendar, which was followed from 1200 to 1749, the new year begins with the Annunciation, the visitation of the Angel to Mary nine months before Christ's birth, and coincides with the equinox, which Julius Caesar established on this date in 45 BC. Pope Benedict XVI's resignation this year reminds us of a particular moment in history, when the Pisan New Year took on special meaning.

From 1378 to 1417, for 39 years, two men simultaneously claimed the Papacy: Benedict XIII for Rome and Gregory XII for Avignon. In 1409, on March 25th, cardinals from Rome and Avignon, with the encourage- ment of scholars from the great Universities of Paris, Oxford and Cologne, held an ecu- menical Council in Pisa (which was pretty much the halfway point) to resolve this "Great Schism". After eleven days in con- clave the Council chose Alexander V to take Benedict and Gregory's place, forcing them to resign. But Alexander became known as an "antipope" since the Church didn’t recognize the authority of the Council.

Alexander's biography shows he was uniquely suited for his role.

Born in Crete in 1339, an intelligent and pious lad, he became a Franciscan friar and was sent to study at Oxford and Paris. Clearly gifted and linguistically adept, he progressed rap- idly, becoming Bishop to Giangaleazzo Visconti of Milan, and then Archbishop of Milan. As a cosmopolitan priest, he was the ideal choice to end the schism. But Alexander died after serving only nine months as Pope, and in 1418 the Council of Constance rejected the line of Pisan popes, calling them antipopes. Note: Pisa and its surroundings offer many cultural events to celebrate this date: tours of Pisa, Volterra, Pomarance, and Castelnuovo Val di Cecina, spa and wellness offers in Casciana Terme and San Giuliano Terme, special church openings in Pisa, Calci and Cascina, and visits to fortresses and monu- ments (Vicopisano and elsewhere).

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News Casale Sodini

Written on 30 November 1999, 00.00 by samuele
Rent a Villa in Tuscany on February: Viareggio' s Carnival In the weeks leading up to Lent, which...
Written on 30 November 1999, 00.00 by samuele
At this time of year, one of the .favourite pastimes of people in and around Lucca is go...
Written on 30 November 1999, 00.00 by samuele
Nestled inside a little fortress atop the hills of Montecarlo is a beautiful proper Italian...
Written on 30 November 1999, 00.00 by samuele
Almost everybody knows that Pinocchio' s creator was Carlo Collodi, who gave his name to the little town...
Written on 30 November 1999, 00.00 by samuele
UNESCO's acronym is in itself the synonym of a dream, which talks of education, science, culture and...
Written on 30 November 1999, 00.00 by samuele
On 25 March, at noon, when the sun's rays pierce the Cathedral windows and strike a marble egg on...
Written on 30 November 1999, 00.00 by samuele
As the rain beats down and the fireplace is lit for the first time this year, thoughts turn to warmer...
Written on 30 November 1999, 00.00 by samuele
The chestnut tree has always given sustenance to Italy's mountain folk, including those in the nearby...
Written on 30 November 1999, 00.00 by samuele
To take a breath of fresh autumn air, the best place to go is the Alpi Apuane. While on the coast it's...
Written on 30 November 1999, 00.00 by samuele
Dear Friends, it has been a very dry summer, with much of Tuscany in difficulty. In Chianti, water tanks...

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