Tag Archives: Tuscany

Dave by Mike

I was in Prague recently (a lovely melancholy city – see last post), where there are lots of statues. Mostly of religious subjects. But when you get to Italy the stone gets to riot, and the flesh is bared! Aha, the Italians love a bit of voyeurism and fantasy, and Florence is a great place to see it all on show…

Dave by Mike

This is just such a famous statue that I wonder if people actually really see it anymore…. I love the furrowed brow and the hand casually holding the stone. A man ready to do violence. Quiet confidence, deadly. Goliath clearly doesn’t know what’s about to hit him.

But hey! Look around the piazza and the violence theme continues and get’s spiced up even more. Check out the Sabine women who aren’t faring too well. This one’s by Giambologna:

He’s got a good grip on her!

Not content with a bit of abduction, we need a good beheading too.

Perseus & Medusa, Cellini

Ah, the Renaissance was a good time for a bit of nudity. All disguised as classical story-telling. Fabulous. (I need to get back to Rome – LOADS of statues there!)

Dave gives Perseus the hard stare...

If there is a paradise on earth….. Tuscany!

I’ve blogged on Italy before – Venice in the flood, which frankly was a bit cold and damp. But here’s a different side to Italy. Tuscany in the warm summer!

From a pictures point of view I don’t think there is a more photogenic area than the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany. It’s absolutely gorgeous. This is a little chapel, plonked in the middle of a field – stubbly corn when I was there – which just reeks of classical/Romano Italian nostalgia. It’s visible from the main road, but only across the valley (see the pic lower down), and is actually quite hard to get close to. So after much searching and driving down dead ends, I was chuffed to bits finally to get close to the Capella di Vitaleta:

Capella di Vitaleta - quintessential Val d'Orica, Tuscany

Capella di Vitaleta

Rain storm approaching

Now I try to be an early bird when I get my chance to indulge in photography, but that’s invariably during the summer months which means VERY early if I’m going to catch the light. Which is tough, and which is why I don’t have that many dawn photos in the portfolio. But here’s a misty view over the Val d’Orcia which shows I can get my lazy self out of bed occasionally.

Morning mist

rolling fields in the late afternoon

Here’s the classic view of a Tuscan villa. Do you recognise it. It’s in so many films. Check out Gladiator for instance. There it is as the backdrop for the hero’s Italian home – the one Russell Crowe never gets to because he’s too busy fighting wars in Germania and then in Rome – but this is what he dreams of. And I can understand why!

Il Belvedere. Now that's what I call a country villa

But we weren’t staying in Il Belvedere, we were actually in a more modest farm house, called Montecucco, which sat overlooking a valley. Basic, simple and utterly delightful. Far from the madding crowd doesn’t quite capture it, it was completely lost in the wilderness. So much so that we had a 3 mile dirt track road to it where we regularly bumped into porcupine, deer and other creatures (we reckon we saw a pine marten…?!?!). One night we had bats inside the house. You know how bats rely on their hearing… Well, a bit of shrieking from the girls and the bats beat a hasty retreat…

Our home for the summer, Montecucco

View from Montecucco

But dig this view – we could see for miles across the valley up to the medieval castle on the far hill, and not a car or motorbike to disturb the peace. In fact the only thing that did was a huge thunderstorm which travelled right down the valley. We were at eye level with it, marvelling as it cracked and struck and flashed its way past. So awesome, the kids were struck dumb for half an hour….

Montechiello road

The road to Montechiello – a dream of a road for a sportscar – well, maybe next time.

But before we left we did the obligatory trip to Pisa. And in spite of the over-commercialism, the tower and the cathedral were absolutely delightful. Impressive in spite of the hype. I highly recommend.

No guesses for where this is...

Not a bad vase for the garden...

So ciao! from Toscana. Put it on your list of places to go. Great wine, food, lovely scenery. It’s simply a delight!


How too much pasta and vino will not stop me making early morning Tuscan photos!

Capella di Vitaleta, Val d'Orcia

I recently blogged about the dangers of wildlife in France, but Italy can be pretty perilous too! Especially when stuck in the backwaters of Tuscany, up a dirt track in a flimsy car, searching for our villa, and completely and utterly lost. But when we finally found our villa we realised we had stumbled on paradise. A beautiful converted farmhouse, overlooking a valley. The only building in sight was a castle on the opposite side of the hills. No sounds, no artificial lights, no cars. A wonderful, deserted paradise. And heaven for a photographer!

The farmhouse villa

The view over the valley

I like my early morning photo runs, and the Val D’Orcia is one of the most photogenic places I have ever been to. The following pix show some of the typical scenes of the rolling countryside.

Track from Pienza into the Val d'Orcia

Rolling countryside

The road to Montichiello

But back to the wildlife adventures. Did you know that porcupines still exist in Italy? Indeed they do, and we found their quills all over the place around the farmhouse, proving that they weren’t at all afraid of having a good sniff around at these odd human intruders, as long as it was under the cover of darkness. We only saw one, shuffling across our dirt-track road as we surprised it coming around the bend. Great big black and white jobby, quills a-bristling. Very impressive. The quills are extremely sharp. Great for ink pens, but be careful you don’t rub your eyes by mistake. These things will spike and prick. Clearly the porcupine is a well defended animal.

Capella di vitaleta

However, slightly more scary than the porcupines were the bats, one of which decided to take up residence in Imogen’s bedroom. Immy went to bed one night, and then suddenly shot out her room! “There’s something in there!” she screamed. Flitting around and around in the twilight was a pipistrelle. Not very large, but bats being bats, with a slightly fanged and disease carrying reputation, we weren’t at all keen on our only daughter taking up residence in a battery… So, how do you catch a bat? Answer,,,,, you don’t. You turn on all the lights, open the windows, close the door and hope the vampire makes a dash for the woods. Which it did. What amazed me was that as soon as Immy thought the bat had gone she happily went back to her bed and slept on as if nothing had happened. No fear at all. Quite tough for a 6 year old…

Il Belvedere - the quintessential Tuscan villa. Recognise it from 'Gladiator?'

Capella di Vitaletta at sunset

A wonderful spot. Beautiful on the eye, delightful for the stomach (Ciacci la Piccolomini, 2001, Brunello di Montalcino, unbelievable) and ruinous on the wallet. Everything a holiday should be. Ciao!