CASA COLUMBA, ORCIATICO, TUSCANY, ITALY in September

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Go into the garden below the yellow stone walls of the old house and pick a fig, olive or pomegranate or even the largest conker you may have seen. Admire the yellow autumn crocuses under the olive trees.

Listen to the birds, (not too many at this time of year – many have migrated). Hear the wind in the trees. Look out for the red squirrel with the bushiest tail you may have seen. Spot a fox or porcupine – yes a porcupine! – by the roadside as you come back from a restaurant in the evening. You may hear or even see a wild boar in the forest – but they are more scared of you than you of them.

Wander down to the village bar, run by the community. Watch the ladies playing the Italian card game with 40 card packs of strange and familiar cards. Wonder why they play anti-clockwise. Fill your water bottles from the village spring. Wander back up the fairly steep hill back to the house (take a torch for the late evening – there are few street lights in Orciatico). Listen to the cricketsas dusk falls. See the lights of the distant villages and even perhaps Pisa in the distance. Get your binoculars and check if the tower is still leaning.

If the day is hot, cool off in the blue pool – as one of our party did yesterday morning. He didn’t intend to and had all his clothes on at the time. He survived; a pity about his iPhone! A well-equipped utility room allowed his clothes to dry off, warm sunshine did the rest. A computer specialist in Volterra had him browsing the web by the end of the week using the strong Wi-Fi signal at the house.

Walk up the road into the forest and see the wild flowers – purple colchicum, yellow crocuses and orchids. Visit the two ancient windmill ruins and on open days, visit the astronomical observatory. Follow the winding path back through the woods. You did bring your walking poles, didn’t you?

Light the barbecue and have a meal on the terrace or by the pool or have a snack or evening meal in one of the many local towns and villages – the well known AND unknown gems of Tuscany. Buy your meat at the local Co-op or even better, talk to Barbara or Simone at the family butcher in Lari, another Tuscan gem, after having lunch under the castle ramparts in the square. (Full details of all these places in the house brochure.)

At the end of the day, put on a sweater; have a gin and tonic on the balcony and watch the sun set. Read a book from the extensive library. Find ‘War in Val d’Orcia’ – to know what life was like nearby in 1944. Wonder at the billions of stars appearing in the evening sky. Introduce your children and perhaps re-introduce even yourself to Orion’s Belt and the Milky Way and show your children that it is not a chocolate bar. If it is cool or should it rain (rare), choose one of the several settees in the house and curl up with your book or a DVD.

Visit Lajatico nearby, where you may meet Andrea Bocelli. (He was born here and still has family in the town.) Visit the free exhibitions and galleries, open even at night, sponsored by his charitable foundation – and if you can get a ticket – and are reasonably fit – go to his operatic concert in the open air ‘Teatro del Silenzio’. Above all, relax with nature, as nature intended.

You can, of course, come back to civilisation, (and see what it was with the Etruscans and Romans), by visiting all the beautiful Tuscan cities, Luca, Pisa, Florence, all within a short drive. Climb the towers of San Gimineo or Volterra only a few kilometres away.

Go somewhere by bus from the village or as I am doing now, sit on the open balcony – in near silence- and write about this beautiful place as the leaves rustle in the breeze and the morning sun rises over the Mediterranean poplars in the east. Watch the changing patterns as the mist lifts over the patchwork quilt of fields in the valley below. See a plume of smoke rising lazily from a wood fire. Just relax. It’s 8 am. Time to make a cup of tea .,,,,,

A sudden noise? What is it? A shot. And another! It’s mid-September. The shooting season has just opened and they are hunting wild boar in the forest. You are unlikely to meet one – and probably neither will they.

This is Casa Columba, in Orciatico, in Tuscany, in Italy, in the early Autumn. Near Paradise.

We loved it and so will you.

Alf