Things To Do
On those days when you have had enough of just relaxing and want to get out and about, you will find Casa Colomba is ideally situated for city, coast and country tours and visits. High on every visitors lists are Florence, Siena and Pisa, and whilst we would also highly recommend all three, don’t let them overshadow some of the other gems on offer. We would highlight Volterra and San Gimignano, our local cities, which are both gorgeous days out. Both have much to repay a full day visit, but are close enough that you can just pop out for a meal, to take in a performance or just a little shopping.
Volterra, more recently famous for its association with Stephanie Meyer’s “Volturi” from the Breaking Dawn films and novels, has at least another 3000 years of history, culture and architecture to enchant. Perched on an imposing volcanic outcrop, it is a wonderful site, particularly at sunset. San Gimignano, on the other hand is an altogether softer experience, known for its towers, which have led to it being dubbed the mediaeval Manhattan, it is also noted as the home of the lovely crisp white wine; Vernaccia and the Ghirlandaio frescoes, featured in the film “Tea with Mussolini”. So, there is much to repay even the most casual of visitor; one of the greatest joys is simply going from place to place and discovering new things around every corner. Enjoy!
All the main centres of Tuscany boast opera houses, theatres and locations for outdoor performances. Florence, Pisa and Volterra all have opera seasons or festivals. The highlight for us, however, has to be Andrea Bocelli’s music festival, held in July each year at the spectacular Teatro del Silenzio, which is made more special to us, as it can be seen from the house. Truly a local boy and a local venue – Andrea hails from La Sterza, a neighbouring village. Anyone wanting to get an idea of the local landscape just needs to look at the Teatro website, which has lovely pictures of our view towards Volterra.
Volterra – festival city
One of the first things that attracted us to the area was the number of different activities in Volterra, just 20 minutes away. A great introduction to the place is to visit during the Mediaeval Festival in August, when the sights, sounds and smells of mediaeval life (circa 1398) are faithfully re-created and good fun is had by all. For the committed authentic costumes can be hired for the occasion. Volterra also has a Jazz festival, festival Volterra Teatro, classical and contemporary music concerts, exhibitions and folk music events for you to enjoy a rich and varied holiday; along with a lovely period theatre – Teatro Persio Flacco .
There are a wide range of beaches in Tuscany, from the unspoilt sandy beaches of the Maremma, south of Castiglione della Pescaia, to the chic developed areas near to Pisa, such as Viareggio and our nearest coast at Cecina, with its Acquapark water based theme park. Truly something for everyone. All the beaches are fringed with umbrella pines; which means there is always somewhere cool, even in the hottest periods. The nearest seaside is at Cecina, 45 minutes drive. This has excellent beaches, and a fantastic waterpark which is great for kids (and grown ups). There are excellent outdoor swimming pools at nearby Chianni and Peccioli. Casciana Terme has the exccellent thermal baths both indoor and outdoor well worth a visit.We have also arranged the use of a swimming pool locally for our guests.
Walking and Wildlife
One of our greatest pleasures is just to explore the immediate surroundings of Casa Colomba. We have discovered so much in the woods, hills and fields around the house which delights us, wild flowers pretty much all year round, very diverse woodlands with all sorts of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, bugs and pleasures. the views are great and the geology is also fascinating.
The books and maps in the house show that we are lucky enough to be not far from a number of nature reserves; and given how special Tuscany is as a whole, the reserves are very special indeed. One of our favourites is the WWF reserve at Oasi di Padule di Bolgheri. A coastal reserve, and indeed the first WWF site in the whole of Italy, it is home to flamingoes amongst other exotics and rarities.
It may surprise you to find this as a local pastime. Well it would until your first night. The skies are so clear, and this along with the more or less complete absence of light pollution mean that sitting in the garden after dark is a new show every night; and particularly spectacular during meteor showers. The area is well known for these qualities, so much so that a small observatory has been set up by one of our neighbours.
A short walk up the hill brings you to the Astronomical Observatory. Well worth a visit for opening times please see the web site link . http://www.astronomicalcentre.org/
It is hard to find a bad meal in the local restaurants and there are plenty to choose from. There is a restaurant or bar in every village and one of the joys of staying in Orciatico is exploring and finding your own personal favourite. La Vallata outside Lajatico is a very good standard; Also in Lajatico there is a restaurant/ delicatessen selling typical Tuscan food “Da Nello”.La Mangiatoia in Orciatico itself is always worth a visit. Volterra has a wide range of bars, cafes and restaurants, for us, L’Incontro, in Via Matteotti, is a perennial favourite, lovely environment, superb home-made chocolate, pastries and ice creams. A restaurant we like is Bada Ganzo, near the underground car park.
One of the many pleasures of Tuscany is the quality and range of shopping. The range is spectacular, from the high end fashion shops in central Florence are beautiful, the individual boutique shops in so many towns, to the weekly markets in each and every village, there is so much variety and quality. An additional attraction to shopping in Tuscany is the number of outlet stores, selling factory stock at greatly discounted prices. It is very easy to spend several hours combing through the outlets in lotions such as the The Mall, at Incisa val d’arno; with Gucci, Armani, Valentino and Salvatore Ferragamo all on the same site along with a good restaurant.
When in Tuscany one of the great pleasures is visiting its many vineyards. Orciatico itself is on a wine trail; Strada del vino delli Colline Pisane and quite rightly as the village is surrounded by vineyards producing both red and white wines. The main local producer is Gualandi and their wines are on sale in the local stores as well as sold through their own Cantina which is open every Thursday (although it is best to enquire first).
Aside from the local vineyards and wine trails, the whole of is covered by fascinating trails. It is of course one of the great joys to explore new trails for yourself, for those who would like to take the hassle out of planning and driving, help is at hand. Our agent Filippo also organises tours and will be happy to plan a trip for you and drive you round in style, or take you on a tour of your own choosing. It’s a great way of discovering parts of Tuscany you didn’t know existed, getting some great deals on food and wine, and being chauffeur driven into the bargain. Please ask Filippo for details when you arrive or if you would like to plan a trip before you leave we will give you his contact details.