Friday, 5 November 2010
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
So, if any of you are coming to visit this autumn, you may want to add this idea to your itinerary.
I hope you enjoy reading this blog article as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it!
November is the month to pick olives. The earlier the better.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
http://www.abode.it/ to discuss how to place your villa in our portfolio. Your property will feature on our globally recognised website. Are you interested in renting your property to holiday guests during the spring and summer?We are looking for more properties to add to our selection of luxury houses either to buy or for rent in Italy. We are particularly interested in villas in Umbria and Tuscany, but not only. We have collectively been in the property business for nearly 30 years and we know the property business in Italy very well. Maybe you own a gorgeous hilltop Umbrian farmhouse with a swimming pool, or have a lovely stone villa situated in a tranquil corner of Tuscany or Le Marche and perhaps you don’t have the time to use this house as often as you might like. Maybe you are a globe-trotting executive and are unable to make it back to your corner of paradise in Italy for a few years or so. If this is the case and you would like to keep your house in Italy in good condition, then you should seriously consider contacting us
Monday, 20 September 2010
Thursday, 16 September 2010
The main festival of Amelia in Umbria is the 'Palio dei colombi', which stretches over 2 weeks in late July and early August. The central event is of this boisterous and vivid festival is a contest during which riders on horseback representing the city's five medieval neighborhoods (contrade) compete against one another in a game of quintan. The winner fires a bolt from a crossbow, hits the target and releases a caged pigeon. Easier than it sounds?
Monday, 13 September 2010
Friday, 10 September 2010
http://www.vascosfood.com/, legendary food critic Fay Maschler recently wrote within a review: The strange name refers to a time in the early 1970s when this restaurant was above the Cinema Academy (sadly no more) and decor as camp as a row of tents was supplied by surrealist photographer Angus McBean. Serenely supervising the kitchen is the venerable chef Vasco Matteucci who imports wild herbs, oil, cheeses, truffles and cured meats from his native Umbria. Pasta is made on the premises and tortelloni - not to be missed - might have fillings as various as wild mushroom, duck, sea bass, or aubergine.Food is simple and good; assemblies on the plate could never be accused of showing off. Eating here is like eating in Italy - and in Soho of old when it was the area you had to visit to find olive oil to buy. Lunchtime attracts media folk, evenings canny politicians. Gordon Brown wooed Sarah here.Terry Gilliam says: 'Which is your favourite London restaurant? Vasco & Piero's Pavilion on Poland Street, W1, because it does brilliant Umbrian cooking and it's always good.' Source: www.thisislondon.co.ukOf Vasco & Piero's Pavilion Restaurant
Thursday, 9 September 2010
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
In truth, properties in large swathes of Umbria have soared to close to Tuscan levels. Expect to pay about €400,000 for a restored farmhouse in Umbria and around €250,000 for a two-bedroom apartment or house. If you are happy with a fixer-upper, a rustic property to restore can cost under €100,000. But bear in mind you may spend an additional €300,000 bringing it back to its former glory.
However, these average prices do not portray the whole story and there are highly affordable properties available in Umbria if you look in the right places. For instance, on the northern shores of Lake Trasimeno, a one-bedroom property in Tuoro sul Trasimeno can go for just €100,000. Meanwhile, expect to pay €20,000 more for a new-build two-bedroom apartment and €220,000 for a new-build three-bedroom property.
Bear in mind also that the current economic downturn gives buyers the whip hand and smart negotiators can frequently knock up to 10 or 15 per cent off the listed price of a property.
Where in Umbria to buy? This is a region that has not lost its unspoilt charm, boasting a chain of splendid medieval towns apparently unaltered since the Middle Ages – Assisi, Perugia, Spello and Todi chief among them. However, the best thing for any prospective investor is to pay a visit to Umbria to get a feel for it in person. But deciding where to start can often prove a headache as the region boasts numerous attractions. One often preferred option is to base yourself in either Orvieto or Assisi and spend a handful of days, or a week if you have the time, seeing the lie of the land.
Although Perugia is Umbria’s administrative capital, Assisi is its spiritual heart, the town where Italy’s patron saint St Francis set up his religious order in 1209. It now attracts pilgrims worldwide, chiefly for the basilica that bears the saint’s name and is his final resting place. However, if one town in Umbria matches Perugia for religious preeminence it is Orvieto, which looks down from massive cliffs and boasting an amazing cathedral. Other must-sees include Spello, an enchanting town on the slopes of Monte Subasio, Bevagna, which lies on ancient Roman ruins and wine-growing Montefalco, nicknamed “Umbria’s Balcony” for its magnificent views that go as far as Assisi and Spoleto.
Thursday, 2 September 2010
The Giostra del Saracino 'Giostra ad burattum' finds its roots in Medieval times, it in fact born as a military training exercise, when Christian armies fought the wars of the crusades against Muslims to contrast expansion into Christian lands and domination of the city of Jerusalem.
With the passing of time it took on a meaning of officiality for the nobles. It took place in the occasion of visits by important figures or to solemnize specific civil celebrations. Today the Giostra del Saracino returns as a historical commemoration, on the occasion of the patron of the city: San Donato. The four neighbourhoods of the city participate in the Giostra, corresponding to the Gates of the city of Arezzo: Quartiere di Porta Crucifera, Porta del Foro, Porta Sant'Andrea and Porta di Santo Spirito. The neighbourhood of Porta Crucifera is distinguished by the colours red and green and its main seat is in Palazzo Alberti and it expands into the north east area of the city of Arezzo.
South east there is the neighbourhood of Porta Sant'Andrea with its white and green posters.
Porta del Foro, the third rione, is distinguished by colours yellow and crimson and its seat is in Porta San Lorentino, in the north west area of the city. And finally the neighbourhood of Porta Santo Spirito, in the south west area of Arezzo with seat in the Bastione di levante of Porta Santo Spirito, with colours yellow and blue. The Giostra del Saracino, organised by the Arezzo Municipality, starts in the morning with the 'lettura del Bando', reading of the competition paper by the Araldo, then followed by the re-evocative parade in 14th century costume with over 300 walk-ons and 30 horses, culminating with the "benedizione degli armati" (blessing of the armed) on the steps of the Duomo, performed by the Bishop of Arezzo.
The true tournament takes place in the afternoon when Piazza Grande is entered by the parade carrying the old gonfalons of the city by the orders of the Maestro del Campo. Then follows the display of the Sbandieratori (flag spinners) and the entry of the jousters who come in galloping on the 'lizza', the competition ground. At this point the Araldo reads the 'Disfida di Buratto' (a poetic composition dating back to the XVII century), there is a greeting of arbalesters and halberdiers and finally the authorisation by the Magistrates to run the Tournament and the singing, by the Gruppo Musici, of the 'Inno del Saracino'. Then come the jousters galloping, according to the order with which the knights will have to face each other, as decided the Sunday before the tournament, by a draw entrusted to the 'paggetti'. The objective of each knight armed with 'resta', that is the lance, is hitting an armoured automaton, the Saracino "Buratto, Re delle Indie" which represents a bludgeon armed Saracen. The pair of knights that will have totalled the highest number of points (which go from one to five) hitting the Saracino's shield, will win its neighbourhood the 'Golden lance', the Trophy of the Tournament.
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
In some areas of the south, grapes are ready for harvesting in August, and towards the more Northern regions, it can take up until November for the grapes to be ready – it all comes down to ripening of the grape, it must have the right level of sweetness. In Umbria and Tuscany, the grape harvest happens in September, and it is therefore big on the agenda for regions to which wine is very important.
Grape-picking is just the first step and is one of the most celebrated occasions in Italy, extended families and friends get together, in the early morning hours snipping grapes off the vines and depositing them into large tubs or other containers.
Later, the grapes are crushed and made into wine (sorry, no secret recipes here!). If you visit a winery it's just very fascinating to watch the mixture of old tradition and new technology working hand in hand!
Thursday, 19 August 2010
Monday, 16 August 2010
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
5) Go to any beach in Tuscany or elsewhere. Arrive early and stake your square meter of sand with a tent or other makeshift shelter. Bring a large cooler containing pasta al forno and melanzane (if you’re in the south) or sandwiches (in the north). Now you are living the holiday like a real Italian – congratulations! (I'm a little sarcastic here...)
Actually typical Ferragosto food revolves around fresh, raw vegetables and fruit to ward off the heat. Cold beverages, fruit salads, cold pasta and Pomodori al Riso are almost always on the menu.
Roadside stands selling whole watermelons and/or chilled slices of the fruit are a summer feature throughout Italy. The hand painted signs on country roadside stalls may read the word 'anguria,' but the dialectal term cocomero is watermelon’s name in Rome and its vicinities.
6) The archaeological museums of the province of Bologna are, with only one exception, open this year for Ferragosto.
7) If in Rome, go to the Villa Celimontana Jazz Festival.
I’m running out of ideas… go to church. Churches will be celebrating the Assumption of the Madonna, so around 10am, you can certainly go to a service in the Cathedral of any city or town.
Monday, 26 July 2010
A short ride from Palermo a group of young people cultivate about 490 acres of land once owned by some of the most ruthless Mafia bosses. They belong to an umbrella organization called Libera and are led by Don Luigi Ciotti, a priest who has dedicated his life to the fight against organised crime in Southern Italy. In 1995, Libera collected 1 million signatures to prompt the Italian parliament to pass a law allowing properties confiscated from convicted mobsters to be used for socially useful purposes.
The cooperative’s most successful product is a wine label, 'Centopassi' ('One hundred steps'), named after the film about a Sicilian journalist killed by the Mafia. But the cooperative grows a diverse group of crops, including wheat, melons and lentils. It is one of five co-ops that sell goods under the Libera Terra ('Free land') label, including two others in Sicily, one in Puglia and one in Calabria. The final products are sold nationwide through fair trade and organic food chains, cooperative supermarkets and three dedicated shops: in Rome, Naples and Palermo.
I have just tried this white wine from guess which town? CORLEONE!!! well balanced and pleasantly floral...
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
The simplest answer might not be the most suitable though, because nobody who has been to Siena even just once would agree that the Palio is just a horse race. For the people of Siena, the Palio is a cult, it is a matter of life and death, something absolutely serious.
City life revolves around it: the contrade prepare the competition meticulously throughout the year.
The Palio as we know it dates back to the 17th century. The celebrations go on for 4 days. On the first day (June 29th and August 13th), the training trial takes place very early in the morning. On the same day, the “tratta” (literally, the “trade“) begins, that is the operation through which the horses are assigned to the 10 contrade competing. Once a horse has been assigned to a contrada, it is entrusted to a person called the “barbaresco“, who, accompanied by the people of the contrada (or “contradaioli“), takes it to its stable. Then in the evening, there is the first of the 6 trials that take place before the actual Palio.
The barbaresco escorts the horse to Piazza del Campo followed by a large group of contradaioli singing traditional songs. It is possible to see the trials by sitting on the stands placed around the perimeter of the square. This first trial is meant to test both the horse, which cannot be changed anyway, and the “fantino”, the jockey, who can be changed up until the day of the Palio. The contrade enter the Piazza in the same order as on the day of the Palio.
On the second day (June 30th or August 14th), at 9 am, there is the second trial. The third trial is in the evening.
On the third day, the day before the Palio (July 1st and August 15th), there is a fourth trial at 9am and then, around 7pm, there is the “prova generale“, the general trial. The prova generale is preceded by the traditional “carica dei carabinieri” on horseback. After the prova generale, every contrada has a dinner where contradaioli, the Captain of the contrada, the jockey and even tourists party together. After the dinner the captain of the contrada goes to meet the captains of the friendly contrade to form alliances against the enemy contrade. All the agreements are verbal.
On the day of the Palio (July 2nd and August 16th), at 7:45 in the chapel next to the Town Hall, the Archbishop of Siena celebrates the “Messa del Fantino“, the mass for the jockeys. At 9am there is the “provaccia“, literally the “bad trial”, which received this name because the contradaioli are generally not very interested in it. After the provaccia, the jockeys and the captains go to the Town Hall to register the jockey and the jacket with which he will ride.
Around 3pm, after the ceremony of the comparsa’s dressing, both this latter and the horse are blessed by the priest of the contrada church: the priest closes the blessing by telling the horse “vai e torna vincitore“, “go and come back a winner”. After the blessing ceremony, the contrade’s comparse and the town’s minor figures dressed up in historical costumes walk through the center stopping to perform their flag-waving show in Piazza Salimbeni opposite the Casino dei Nobili, in front of Palazzo Chigi Saraceni and by the Duomo.
Around 2:50 pm, the flag-wavers’ procession leaves the courtyard of Palazzo del Governo in Piazza del Duomo and goes to Piazza del Campo. Around 4pm the parade in historical costumes enters the Campo. At 7pm the “drappellone“, the drape, is brought to the judges’ box while the 17 “alfieri“, the flag-wavers, perform their show. The Palio follows immediately after.
A mortar is fired and the horses enter the square from the door called Entrone. Every jockey receives a whip which is used to “spur” the horse and to hamper his rivals. The jockeys then move towards the “mossa“, that is the spot where the “canapi“, the ropes that mark the starting line, are pulled. The order in which the horses are supposed to enter the ropes (i canapi) is regulated. The different contrade are drawn and called by the “mossiere“, the person who start the race.
When it’s time the horse of the last contrada takes a run-up and enters and the race begins. If the start is not valid, the “mossiere” stops the race and the ritual of the entrance in the “canapi” starts all over again. This can take some time, because while waiting, the jockeys talk to try and make alliances. If the start is valid, the horses have to run three times around the square. It is the horse that wins, even if it gets to the finishing line without the jockey, or as they call it, as a “cavallo scosso“.
The celebrations begin immediately, with the contradaioli jumping over the fence to touch the winning horse and jockey and of course to get the Palio. They bring the Palio to Provenzano in July and to the Cathedral in August to sing the Te Deum to thank God for the victory. The official celebration is in September and it’s called Cena della Vittoria. It’s a street party with lots of people, music and good food. And of course the guest of honour: the horse!
Thursday, 24 June 2010
The villa was certainly in existence at the end of the fourteenth century, when it was a possession of the Fini, who sold it in 1454 to the noted humanist scholar Marco Palmieri, whose name it still bears. In 1697, Palmiero Palmieri commenced a restructuring of the gardens, sweeping away all vestiges of the earlier garden to create a south-facing terrace, an arcaded loggia of five bays and the symmetrically paired curved stairs that lead to the lemon garden in the lower level. The often-photographed lemon garden survives, though postwar renovation stripped the baroque decors from the villa's stuccoed façade. Villa Palmieri has suffered from having been a 'show-place' and the alterations of many owners to suit the fashions of their day, so that little of its original character remains.
The Villetta, an outbuilding formerly part of the extensive Villa Palmieri grounds, was purchased in 1927 by Myron Taylor, the American ambassador to the Holy see, who recreated a Beaux-Arts version of an Italian terraced garden and named it Villa Schifanoia. This portion is erroneous here, as in so confused the Villa Palmieri with the Villa Schifanoia.
Villa Schifanoia was built over the remains of the ancient Villa Palmieri. The main core of the villa, of 15th-century origin, belonged to the Cresci family until 1550. It has changed hands many times over the centuries, and seen many alterations and additions, such as the family chapel, built in the mid-19th century, and the large gate from which the avenue leads through the garden and up to the main entrance of the villa and a small two-storey outbuilding known as la villetta. In 1927 the property passed into the hands of Myron Taylor, the United States Ambassador to the Vatican during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. Taylor restored the villa to house his own art collection and also laid out a beautiful Italian-style garden on the generous stretch of land on the south side, divided into three elegant parterres edged with box hedges and arranged around a series of small fountains. The beautiful formal garden is enlivened with statues and other stone decorations, small pools and fountains, of which the one on the upper terrace is skewed off the main axis. In 1986 the villa was bought by the State and converted into a European University Institute.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Friday, 18 June 2010
Built at the turn of the last century, the villa comprises 30 sumptuous rooms and it is surrounded by a huge beautiful park (35,000 square metres in size).
The house also features a swimming pool and private heliport. From its luxurious rooms furnished with antiques one can enjoy one of the most breathtaking views of the Italian Riviera. Villa Altachiara was put up for sale in 2009 for €34m. It is a very posh villa with a mundane trail of owners- On the death of the 5th Earl, the villa passed to one of his other sons Aubrey Herbert.
By 1933 Villa Altachiara was rented by Elizabeth C Patterson, who made it available to the Indian mystic Meher Baba and shot the film 'Western Disciples Visit India and Portofino'.
The house was bought by the beautiful Countess Francesca Vacca Agusta who disappeared on January 8th 2001. Did she fall? Was she murdered? It was 3 weeks before her body was found, washed up 200 miles from Portofino on the French coast. There were no signs of blood on the cliff face, but reportedy blood was found on the terrace and divers retrieved her ripped bathrobe from the sea of the cliffs. The autopsy concluded that there was no water in her lungs and that she had died of a serious head injury sustained before she entered the water. The verdict was that her death could have been caused by 'accident, suicide or homicide'. There are reports that she had been drinking heavily on the evening of her death so an accident would seem plausible; however, the shape of the cliffs means she would have hit rocks at least three times on her descent and there was no evidenceof blood on the cliffs. Some observers believes this proves she neither fell, nor was pushed but was murdered on the terrace and then her body was deposited in the sea.
Her brother believes she was murdered and her lawyer, Ennio Amodio, said: 'In light of what the French authorities have ascertained, the theory of homicide becomes more likely. The injuries to the head may have been caused by being struck and not by a fall.' Villa Altachiara is a beautiful seaside retreat, with elegant Victorian interiors, perfectly restored, open in all their bright beauty.
This is an exceptional house on the promontory above Portofino, one of the most panoramic spots on the Tigullio Gulf. Villa Altachiara is one of the loveliest oasis of charm in the world!
Friday, 11 June 2010
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
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Friday, 4 June 2010
The Infiorata of Spello is an historic religious evocation, taking place between May and June, in the day of the Corpus Domini. In ancient times the streets of the city were adorned with flowers for the passing of the procession, then from year to year people begun to make the flower adorning more and more artistic. From simply throwing flower petals on the street they started creating drawings and nowadays the infiorata have reached a very high artistic level. The people of Spello work all the year long for the preparation of their infiorata (flower adorning) gathering flowers and leafs in any season. Most of the work is done in spring indeed in the period preceding the event, groups of people are committed in flower gathering on mount Subasio. The preparation of the drawing and the flower gathering takes several days. Some flowers are used fresh, while others are dried to obtain different chromatic scales. Usually the drawings have a religious subject and are made by nationally renowned artists. The infiorate are created on the street.
The infiorata of Spello starts the Saturday preceding the religious celebration, and goes on all the night until 8 o’clock in the morning. During this night the little streets of the historical centre of Spello are animated by thousands of people who want to se the way drawings are made. The entire town of Spello gets involved in The infiorata from the youngest to the elderly, and people divide into groups or teams to work together to try and create a winning design. Children as young as 6 join in by helping to collect the flowers, which are then taken apart and sorted in color shades by older members of the team. Once work has been completed and the awnings come down the streets of Spello fill with people admiring the colourful spectacle. On Sunday morning the jury judges and awards the best infiorata, just before the procession passes over them. This event is considered the most famous of Italy in its kind.
Tips for Attending Spello's infiorata - I was uncertain exactly what time viewing would be allowed and arrived in Spello at 8am last year. The streets at that time were packed and parking difficult. I would certainly try to be in Spello by 7am on the Sunday, or even earlier and I believe the large canopies would still be up not allowing much of a view of the larger designs as they were just removing them when I arrived. Be prepared for heavy crowds along the narrow streets and dress comfortably. I spotted a number of tourists wearing very uncomfortable looking high heeled sandals having great difficulty handling the uneven cobblestone streets. The crowded atmosphere would be a pickpocket's dream environment, so keep valuables in either a fanny pack worn in front, in a purse worn across your chest in front, or in some other safe fashion. As well, the crowds were so thick in some areas that I really could not imagine pushing a stroller through Spello with babys or young children.
If you are in Umbria on the Sunday after Corpus Domini do make an effort to travel to Spello for this event as it really is worth seeing. If I were you I would make a point to attend this event if possible.
Thursday, 3 June 2010
To be in Umbria in October and November during the height of the truffle harvest is to experience food, festivity and sport in enchanting doses. There are nearly 10,000 registered truffle hunters in the province and the rivalry between them is passionate. Truffles grow four to eight inches underground attached to the roots of certain trees including oak, poplar and chestnut. Hunters use dogs and sometimes pigs to sniff them out. It is like panning for gold.
Getting involved in the truffle harvest can range from taking part in an actual truffle hunt with an expert and his dogs, to visiting a full-up festival where truffles of every variety are featured along with spreads of wonderfully prepared local food, to enjoying the delicacy on your own over a quiet meal at home. Truffles are celebrated not only in Umbria but also in Piedmont at Alba, in Le Marche at Acqualagna and in Tuscany at San Miniato. Umbrian truffle centers during the months of October and November include Norcia, Città di Castello, Apecchio and Gubbio, to mention but four. To find a comprehensive overview of truffle-related tours and events be sure to get your hands on The Italian Truffle Guide, prepared and edited by the Touring Club of Italy.