Two women leaving soft footprints through city streets, country roads, and green mountain paths. Two friends with backgrounds in Fine Art Restoration and Art History who share an appreciation for simple pleasures and a passion for introducing others to Florence and beyond.

Angelica Turi - Tuscan, Licensed Environmental Guide. Elizabeth Namack - American, Licensed Tour Guide for Florence and Province

Come share the journey with us! Reflections and Wanderings through Tuscany and Italy!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Maremma

Maremma


If you ask someone where it is, and what the word means, no one will give you the same answer.

For a generic answer, the Maremma is a coastal flat land in the south of Tuscany which was greatly effected by malaria. For centuries mosquitoes caused a deadly epidemic, so much so that in the past a synonymy between Maremma and mortality was created. In Italian "maremma maiale", literally means a maremma pig. Well, it also has another meaning, a slang word which does not mean a good thing...


This definition is correct, but we are not quite there yet. In reality there is more than this, as there is more than one Maremma: Maremma Livornese, Maremma Grossetana and Maremma Viterbese.

So from the geographical point of view Maremma is the flat area along the coast, that stretches from Cecina ( Livorno county ) up to Viterbo in the region of Lazio.


During the centuries, the sea currents have created tomboli or dunes, even sort of sand bars, causing swampy lands to be created since this area is lower than sea level. Still nowadays, after heavy rains, there are often floods. This also explains why the ancient populations established themselves on top of the hills (in addition to the defensive reasons)... and this also explains why this area is less populated and considered an "unspoiled" area of Tuscany and Lazio.




The Grand Duchy of Florence, and then Leopoldo di Lorena in the 18th century and Mussolini in the early 20th century made great efforts to rid the area of malaria and reclaim the whole area. As a result, the land started to be extensively cultivated, in primes, with durum wheat.




This area is very fertile and produces strawberries, artichokes, melons, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, fennel, celery, onions, pine nuts etc.

In the area around Viterbo, farmers are able to get two wheat crops in one year, which is a sort of miracle in agriculture.
















The Region is famous for the Etruscan civilization and one can visit archaeological sites such as Tarquinia, Baratti, etc. with its outstanding Museums. There are beautiful sand beaches and a very rocky coastline. The cuisine is based on wild boar, porcini mushrooms, pecorino cheese, honey, but also  fresh fish when closer to the sea. Not to forget are the very important wineries that have been born in this last twenty years, such as: Petra, Tua Rita, Rocca di Frassinello, Tenuta dell'Ammiraglia, Le Pupille, Cantina Aldobrandesca , etc. The wine protagonist in this area is 100% of the red grape San Giovese, called Morellino.  What you need to explore this area best is a car, as connections with public transportation are not the best. Next time we await you in the Maremma area of Tuscany... !





- Post by Angelica, photos by Elizabeth




Monday, October 6, 2014

A special place needs your help - Vote for FAI's "Place of the Heart"


Monterosso in the background (Photo: Elizabeth)

Today I am writing you for help. It is something easy to do. It will only take a few minutes, and you can support a special place in Italy.


      Convento dei Frati Cappuccini, Monterosso (photo: Monastery website)


What do we need? SIGNATURES.



Are you familiar with FAI? It is the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (The Foundation for Italian Environment) Here is the link: http://www.fondoambiente.it



Every year the Foundation has a “Luogo del Cuore”, contest. This “Place of the Heart” is a list of historic sites, which people support, that are in need of help. The place with the most votes will get help from the FAI Foundation.


The 5-Terre is a special area in Liguria and we have written about it a number of times in the past. A Monastery in one of these small towns needs help. The Convento dei Frati Cappuccini in Monterosso is searching for funding to fix a wall that was damaged last year. A portion of the 17th century wall, which supports the monastery’s vegetable garden and the vineyard, collapsed due to heavy rains. The repair work has stopped midway because of lack of funds.


Picturesque angle of the Monastery

There is one Franciscan monk who currently lives on the premises, Padre Renato. He does all he can to makes this place a living place, keeping the 17th century church open for visitors, offering liturgical services, and opening the monastery to spiritual retreats in the summer months. The day we visited the Padre had a funeral at 15.00, a baptism at 17.00 and then received us for an aperitivo at 18.30. What energy this man has! He showed us around the complex and even offered us homemade “blessed” wine and limoncello which he had made himself. While I am not necessarily a religious person, I do consider myself a spiritual person. This man’s spontaneity, energy, hope, and belief was incredible. He brought tears to our eyes. He really, really wants to keep the monastery open. And he is especially keen on getting signatures to obtain the necessary funding to finish this project.




The Cloister



At the moment this Monastery is ranked second in the “Places of the Heart” list. Signatures can now be added until November. It would be so wonderful it the Monastery could realize this greatly needed project.



Please try to help!


The place is listed as Convento dei Frati Cappuccini, Monterosso, and here is the link

http://iluoghidelcuore.it/classifica.




                                                                                                       
Now I realize the site is in Italian, and I couldn’t find an English translation, but I encourage you to give it a go just the same.

Otherwise, the Monastery’s website has an English version and also a pdf signature form which can be printed out if you would prefer to sign the petition in another format.

www.conventomonterosso.it

http://www.conventomonterosso.it/english/index.php/vote-for-the-convent


               
                                                              Saint Francis and the Wolf


Grazie, Grazie, Grazie mille!

Post Elizabeth, Photos Elizabeth and Convento Monterosso’s website










Sunday, September 21, 2014

Walking in the Dolomites



I'll be leading a CW group, next week, in one of the most spectacular worldwide mountain sites. It is such a unique environment that since 2007, the Dolomites have been included in the Unesco list.

We will walk on mountain trails, in scenic valleys, and on mountain passes, at an average altitude of 2000 mt / 6500 feet asl. We visit the Puez Odle, Fanes - Senes and Dolomiti Ampezzan Natural Parks, enclosed in the Val d'Adige-Isarco and Pusteria Valley.

The strategic bases for our explorations and adventures are the charming villages of San Vigilio di Marebbe and the elegant international resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo.

The Dolomites, near Austria, have always been for centuries a border area invaded by Germanic peoples from the Middle Ages, who have lived there for over a thousand years, and then later invaded by Napoleon and the Republic of Venice, and was finally reconquered by Italy as a result of its entry into war!

We will explore also the Falzarego Pass, certainly one of the the most higher and panoramic passes of the whole area. And for this reason the place of one of the darkest and most dramatic moments in European history. Here on the front line, Austrian and Italians shot at each other from the mountain peaks to conquer just few meters of rocky territory- where nothing can grow. This fighting lasted for three endless years under miserable conditions- not enough food, extremely low winter temperatures, improper clothing-  paper shoes and wool clothes (in which freezing winds passed through just the same).

This year marks the centenary of the declaration of World War I, 1914-1918. Many war memorials are taking place in Italy and in other countries involved in the conflict.


- Post by Angelica, photo Elizabeth 


Monday, September 1, 2014

Fall 2014 footsteps...

Dear Friends,

We are back in town, for a bit!

Florence's Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore
My summer vacation was filled with sun and sea on the picturesque Island of Elba. Located off the coast of Tuscany, it takes about one hour to get there by ferry. 
Capo Bianco beach on a very windy day- no people...!


Lido di Capoliveri

We, on the other hand, went to the coin operated laundry...













































Our footsteps this fall will be taking us, in addition to tours in our beloved Florence, to different regions of Italy –

Mountain hamlet San Vigilio di Marebbe
- Trentino (where the stunning Dolomite mountain range is located)

Picturesque coastline in Liguria
- Liguria (hiking the 5-terre footpaths)

One of Saint Francis' sacred spots- the Eremo degli Caceri


































- Umbria (the birthplace of Saint Francis)


Maremma countryside

Magliano in Toscana















- Southern Tuscany (the fabulous hill towns and explorations of the Maremma area)

- Lazio (Rome!)

Ah yes... you are correct... what you see is mozzarella in the shape of Elba in a sea of tomatoes!

Each area has its own special places, cuisine, art and traditions. These subtle differences make travelling in Italy so fun and unique and different from other countries. A mountain range made all the difference in the world centuries of years ago and specific regional specialties can be noted, often because of these natural geographic configurations. Areas of Liguria, for example, were rather isolated with access only by sea, until the advent of the train and the autostrada... 

For the moment savour some photos from these areas and you can look forward to some specifics about these different places in future posts.


In the meantime, the harvest season is going to start shortly in many areas of the country! So search out a great bottle of Italian red or white wine, have a toast, and think of Italy!

Fondly,
Elizabeth





- Photos and post by Elizabeth