Musical Valleys

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Saturnia circled in red

For the last 5 years I have had the honour and extreme pleasure of living in Italy. In the region known as Tuscany. To be more precise lets zoom in a little, I live in Maremma. Maremma is an area in the southwest of Tuscany a unique and unspoilt area with regards to all aspects. The landscape of this area is often referred to as the wild Tuscany I suppose the same could be said of the people too. In the past this was a feudal area with villages at loggerheads with neighbouring villages. Today things have become far less confrontational instead of the bow and sword the local football pitch has become the new arena in which to reenact medieval grudges . The village of  Saturnia has a history dating back as far as 450BC. Boasting such great occupants such as the Etruscans and Roman empires. Nowadays each year sees new and international invaders arrive in their hordes. The reasons for such a influx of tourism is that Saturnia is blessed and renowned worldwide for its natural thermal waters famed for their therapeutic effects. For me living close by is like finding utopia, yes really! Having previously lived in a medium sized city in central England the differences between the two are incomparable. Instead of the hustle and bustle of daily life things here move at a far more civilised pace. Cordial greetings are exchanged in the streets and shops with a general air of calm. Having lived here for some years now I have observed many things the Italians have great passion for, be it football, politics, health or fashion but non more than food and music. As for the food passion the best way I can describe it would be that the main topic of conversation over the lunch table would be “ what’s for Dinner” ? However an equal obsession to the food passion has to be their love for music.

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The thermal waters of the Cascate

Music plays a pivotal roll within the basic structure of Italy. Be it in large cities or the smallest of villages. The participants start at a young age, attending music classes. Musical instruments are assigned and accepted willingly and once accepted these tools of music remain with their guardian for life. Each village tends to have its own band, encompassing a wide range of instruments from trumpets and French horns to small flutes and violins. As with the varied instruments the people too are just as diverse, with bankers, bakers, butchers, shop owners and school teachers making up but some of the numbers. In fact it is common place within our village with 10 shops for 9 of them to be closed when music practice is occurring. Again the importance of music far outweighs that of commerce. You may ask “what is all this for”? That’s easy, after all that practice and fine tuning the band similar to a peacock loves nothing better than strutting their stuff. Adoring their band colours instruments polished and ready they perform to the attentive onlookers. Whether it be marching through the streets or strategically seated in the piazza the renditions flow. Haunting sounds of Glen Miller or theme music from the various Bond movies even one of my favourites Vivaldi can be heard echoing around every corner.  In Saturnia during the summer months music festivals are common place. International performers attend and perform alongside the young and old members of the band exchanging advice and tips essential for the budding Mozart’s and Louis Armstrong’s.

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Part of the Piazza of Saturnia

The bands of every city, town, village or hamlet play a essential part of everyday living in Italy forming a cohesion for its respective inhabitants. A camaraderie a sense of community and wellbeing. Traditions as a whole are fundamental and vital to unique identities that possibly are lacking in many of our worlds cities and countries.. So may the deeply entrenched musical traditions of Italy continue to entertain us. Viva Italia.

A Very Special Place

Fountain In Piazza Saturnia

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This is our village, its name is Saturnia and its location is in the southwest of Tuscany Italy. You may have never heard of Saturnia, I can understand I’m no expert on all the names of small villages throughout Italy myself but Saturnia is a pretty big hitter within the tourist industry. Apart from being a very pretty village and put aside the amazing Etruscan and Roman history of this place the main reason people visit is for its special thermal spa waters. The Sulphuric water is said to heal a multitude of aliments with regards to the latter I tend to agree having suffered prior to moving here with terrible sciatica, after a few weeks of taking dips in the water on a regular basis my aliment disappeared. Placebo? I chose to think not. The thermal Waters of Saturnia exit from deep in the ground at a flow rate of a astonishing 80 litres per second a temperature 37 C the only down side is the acquired smell of rotting eggs! With a abundance of great restaurants and bars for that summer sundowner the obligatory Aperitivo. All in all its a great place to live and live here we do, just 600 meters down a white track is our working farm { Agriturismo } . Its name Fontenuova , or new fountain. Set in 32 hectares or roughly 80 acres of natural park. The main produce for the farm is wine and olive oil. In season we also grow a limited amount of organic veg. Now like many Agriturismo within Italy many farms rent out houses or apartments on their land to paying tourists and Fontenuova is just such a farm. Accommodating up to 40 guests spread between the large house ( Casale ) or via self contained apartments in the borgo or hamlet.
Working at Fontenuova for my partner (Sarah) and myself (Matt) is a rollercoaster of the physical and emotional. The physical is the long hours of toil involved in juggling the needs of the land together with the job of being a host to many visitors from across the globe. The emotional? Well that’s a by-product of the physical, creating great euphoric highs and the occasional lows which soon become tempered once we take in the amazing natural features and views. Our goal is to create something unique and extraordinary a hell of a task when nature has already done a pretty good job by itself.
Over the next few months it is both Sarah’s and my hope that you will find the time to follow our updates on our day to day running of Fontenuova, sharing all of those highs and occasional lows. We will do our best to post on a weekly basis sharing our new projects with you, our learning curve, the successes and fingers crossed not too many mistakes.

Winters Spring

 

 

Here at Fontenuova February is upon us again. Year after year I associate this time  as being one of the harshest periods of  winter. Cold northerly winds sweep across the land married with sleety rains.. Spring even now is contemplating her return, ready to wow us with her technicoloured floral explosion. However here at Fontenuova Winter has a surprise up its sleeve. Whilst out walking today I was amazed at the abundance of flowers braving this hardest of periods, delicate flower heads still displaying after a strong nights wind. pointing their flowery heads sunwards. I hope you enjoy my photos even though the quality is not that great ( phone Camera ). I would be interested in seeing your winters displays too.

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Discovering Beauty In Tuscany

                                                                

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 Discovering Beauty In Tuscany

Without a defined agenda to adhere to and awaking to a clear and crisp winter’s day, we decided to leave our village of Poggio Murella and head towards the coast. Only a half hours drive away, the Maremman coastline is diverse. With choices of either quaint harbour towns or rugged coastline, with the toss of a coin we decided upon the picturesque port town of Porto Santostefano– The best route to take is the coastal road. Around each bend another spectacular view greets only to be surpassed by the next. Being regular visitors and familiar with our destination never dampens the feeling of awe I get as we round our final bend. Approaching high above Porto Santostefano, looking down towards the harbour and the houses stacked like carefully positioned dominos a scene reminiscent from Gulivers Travels and Lillyput spring to mind.  It is a harbour town that has grown over the centuries, slowly ascending the surrounding hillside. However unlike the mishmash of other such towns this snail like growth has become an architectural masterpiece.

Parking up we decided upon a leisurely saunter around the harbour taking in this wonderful lapse in winter’s usual pattern. The colours at this time of the year are crisp and vibrant.  Taking advantage of this opportunity with a good camera is essential! The pace during winter months is vastly slower than that of the summer season. During the summer the harbour is teaming with luxury yachts of the rich and famous parading their wares. In contrast the winter months are more subdued, however the many fine food restaurants still open their doors for the local population and slow tourism. If fine fish cuisine is your thing, then this undoubtedly is your Mecca. Café bars and the odd high end boutiques cater for all tastes with a view of endlessly changing scenery.

All in all Porto Santostefano is a must visit, allow yourself a full day. Together with other such harbour towns in the area, such as Porto Ercole  and Castiglione della Pescaia but to name a few.

Maremma is a little known area in the southwest of Tuscany. Most probably you have never heard of it? It is a very diverse area filled with medieval style hilltop towns and amazing coastline. It is in my mind truly the best kept secret within Europe. It is a secret I’m sure the Tuscans would like to keep. But hey “ share and share alike”

I nostri trattamenti Benessere e Bellezza Naturale

Podere Argo

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Al Podere Argo amiamo prenderci cura di voi, coccolarvi, farvi sentire a casa vostra nel totale comfort ed in una piacevole privacy.

Il nostro più grande desiderio è quello di farvi vivere un sogno ad occhi aperti, un soggiorno indimenticabile, fatto di pace e di relax, abbracciati da una natura selvaggia e incontaminata.

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E’ proprio per questo che abbiamo studiato, insieme alla nostra cara amica Antonella, esperta di estetica naturale che avete già avuto modo di conoscere grazie alle sue ricette di maschere naturali e fai da te, dei trattamenti per lui e per lei di Benessere e Bellezza naturale riservati agli ospiti  del nostro agriturismo, su prenotazione. Così da assicurarvi una vacanza rilassante e rigenerante in cui poter prendersi cura del proprio corpo e del proprio spirito.

Trattamenti che hanno come ingredienti i nostri prodotti biologici:  il miele, la lavanda, l’idrolato di lavanda, il nuovo e meraviglioso

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The Secret Tuscany

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Tuscany has to be one of the most photographed areas of Europe.  Its beauty is unsurpassed. Vast stretches of green rolling hills cascade. Once a painters paradise it has now become a playground for the techno digital photographer. Like a pacient fisherman, waiting for his first sign on interest, the photographers await that perfect moment in readiness to motivate the shutter. Who can blame them, the fruits of the wait are truly stunning and thought provoking. Away from these rolling hills and valleys cities such as Florence and Sienna captivate with ease. The usual suspects of Tuscany thrive on the wave of their reputation,  however there is a side to Tuscany that has remaind hidden, infact its been Italy’s best kept secret.
In the southwest of Tuscany there is a region known as Maremma. Even though the area of Maremma falls within Tuscan boundries, any native Maremman will eagerly defend Maremma’s uniqueness. This is the wild Tuscany. Cowboys and Girls still herd their precious livestock. From the imposing Monte Amiata to where the coast meets the Tyrrhenian sea commanding views across to the islands of Gilio, Elba and Monte Christo. Slightly inland amazing hilltop village’s nestle with the tufa rock faces. The villages of Montemerano and Sovana have been voted Italy’s prettiest villages. Another favourite and must see is Pitiliagno. The approach and first view of this medieval fortress town will leave onlookers in awe.
With a concoction of wild Tuscan landscape, picturesque villages and breathtaking coastline, how is it that Maremma remained Europe’s best kept secret for so long? My only conclusion is that whilst being a open and sharing culture, the Italians wanted to keep this last remaining jewel to themselves. Or I would prefer to think that they are just keeping the best until last. So please come take a look and prepare to become Lost In Maremma.

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Pitigliano

Village Life

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At first sight Poggio Murella would seem just like any other pretty Maremman village. However its inhabitants do make it rather unique.
One Sunday morning last winter,  I was as usual at that time of the year stacking my wood pile. Whilst carrying out this chore the sound of gunshot rudely interrupted. Instinctively and rather comically I hit the deck. A further gunshot rang out. Realising that I was not the intended recipient of the buckshot, I slowly lifted my head. What I observed took a moment or two for my brain to registered and interpret. Hanging out of a upper window inverted was my neighbours wife. Inverted and packing a 12 bore! Rising to a vertical and far more escape friendly position, I mustered the ability to be able to question this bizarre predicament. Looking rather confused as to why I should question her actions, she informed me that it was to rid her roof of pigeons. The pigeons were disturbing her afternoon nap. With a few muttered words of indiscretion she withdrew and closed her shutters and windows. Somewhat bewildered as to the last few minutes events I continue the task at hand, only this time the cartoon of events played over and over again.
On another occasion, during one of our village’s many fiestas, my wife and myself both armed with wine and a dish tortelli watched the merriment in the piazza. Whilst tucking into our culinary delights we were approached by one of the village’s cassonova’s. Totally ignoring my presence the cassonova approached my wife and asked her for a dance. At this point I admit, my dancing abilities are nonexistent.  The site of me on the dance floor is more reminiscent of a police suspect being Tazared. With this in mind, I was more than happy for my wife to enjoy the spectacle of the dancefloor. Looking rather stunned by the invitation, my wife gestured to her hands, both of which were preoccupied with the wine and tortelli. Cassonova had the answer. Gesturing and summoning to the other side of the dancefloor a lady approached. Cassonova then explained that it was not a problem as his wife, would be more than happy to hold the wine and food, whilst they danced!!! The irony of the latter I admit did cast a large grin across my face.
The area in and around Poggio Murella in past times bred fable like characters. Bigger than life individuals within this once bandit country. These Robin Hood styled characters would challenge and evade the local authorities. This in turn would gain them notoriety and fabled folklore songs. Poggio Murella I feel still has in essence such personalities. Its what makes it unique and a very interesting place to live. I guess thats why I love it so much, I fell quite at home here. The great thing about living here is the sense of community and wherever you are you are greeted by that great Ciao.

Poggio Murella
Poggio Murella sits on top of a hill. Looking out across valleys to the sea. The inhabitants of Poggio Murella number roughly 250. The hill on which it stands is 450 meters above the Tyrrhenian sea. The name Poggio Murella can be broken down. Poggio meaning hill and Murella roughly means wall. So loosely Poggio Murella means walled hill. Situated in the southwest of Tuscany in a area known as Maremma.

Beach Life

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Maremma in the southwest of Tuscany boasts some of the most beautiful coastline Italy has to offer.  With this in mind it comes as no surprise that during the summer months, people flock from far and wide to take advantage of its natural resources.
Long stretches of golden sandy beaches stretch from Follonica in the north, to Capalbio Scalo at its southern reaches. A large amount of the coastline is enveloped within a protected natural park. The benefit of this protection is plain to see, as the normal high rise hotels and appartment blocks normally associated with costal mecca’s are not evident. The result is that the coastline remains unspoilt, with stunning views across the Thyrean sea to the islands of Gilio, Elba and Monte Christo.

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Dotted along its sandy shores, reside picturesque villages and towns such as Porto Ercole, Porto Santo stefano and Talamone. If sea food is your passion then these are some of the places to visit.  Each day the fresh produce of the sea is off loaded and cooked fresh at the numerous restaurants and trattoria.

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With such a choice of different beaches, finding the ideal spot to bask in the sun is no problem. The choices are vast and varied, depending upon taste. Many offer the option of sun loungers and parasol hire, however this can prove to be rather costly over a period of several visits. We much prefer the simple option of beach towels and shade. The choices of food whilst glued to your solar infusion is vast. Most beaches have a great choice of beach bar’s ect that supply drinks and freshly prepared food.

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Sea temperatures are normally constant all year round and only vary slightly from summer to winter. Safety in these waters is generally very good. Lifeguards only tend to be present on private beaches and not on the public ones, so keep this in mind. However we have found that rip tides and strong undertone currents a rare. This makes it a ideal location for beach loving young families.
Beach related sports are on the increase in Maremma. The possibilities for surfing are not vast, however further up to the northern end good swells can be found. Over the last few years however Kite Surfing has become a popular attraction.  With great off shore and on shore breezes. Whether participating or spectating Kite surfing is most entertaining.

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Maremma is such a diverse region. With Italy’s offical prettiest villages and hilltop towns to mountains and stunning coastline,  not to mention the wonderful and unique wines, we believe Maremma has it all. This little know area in the southwest of Tuscany is a secret that unfortunately we cannot keep any longer. So come on take a look.

 

For accommodation in the area check out http://wp.me/P48v5E-2j