The Christmas Family

This is a tradition that celebrates the very origins of the Christian holidays, the physical representation of the birth of “bambino Gesù“. The Italian word for nativity scene or crib is “presepe”, and it is here in Italy that the tradition of representing the Holy Family at Christmas time became popular.

tradizioni_natalizie_presepe-1024x682

Though the nativity scenes in themselves vary as to the size, the material they are built with, even the number of elements, people, animals, dress, and activities that are figured – the main concept is always the same: la Madonna, Joseph and baby Jesus and though not mentioned in the original story, tradition will frequently add an angel presiding over everything, an ox and a donkey to the image. Sometimes it is located in a manger, sometimes a cave – sometimes with shepherds, and frequently with the three wise men.

Presepe1

Another common variation, is a “live presepe”, a solemn event where real people dress and pose in “character and parade through the city streets before establishing themselves in a ready made stable or cave.”

Both of these traditions are very much alive during the holiday season, especially in the period between the 25th of Dec and the 10th of January.

presepe-cesato-2010

Where did it all Start? In Bethlehem.

The earliest re-enactment of the nativity scene we have on record is that of Saint Francis, who spent quite a bit of time in Tuscany. After having visited Bethlehem, he was compelled to ask the Pope for special permission to recreate the nativity scene, thus offering us the first “presepe vivente. It was set in a cave, with only a manger, straw, a cow and a donkey; San Francesco celebrated Christmas in 1223 in the small town of Greccio, and where they have built the Santuario di Greccio.

Shortly thereafter, we have a 3D representation by Arnolfo di Cambio, the man responsible for Palazzo Vecchio and the Castle of Poppi that is situated only a couple of hours from Villa Sensano.

The scene was commissioned by Pope Niccolò V with the idea to imitate that which San Francesco created in Greccio. It started as a “bas rilievo” (attached to a wall or stone slab) and over the years was re-worked by other artists to give it a “tutto tondo” look – meaning a stand alone sculpture look. It can now be seen at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

arnolfo-cambio

Where to find these Amazing Scenes

In Tuscany, you are bound to find a presepe in every church you visit, many times though you will note that the manger or crib remains empty until the night of the 24th of December. However, some places go beyond the call of mere decoration and have poured heart and soul into creating an image that will express all their emotions during this very special time of the year.

One of the most beautiful close to Villa Sensano is Il presepe of Castelfiorentino, only 30 min by car.

Over than 60 cribs of various types and sizes located in 50 locations in a path between the streets of the old town. In addition to the now famous and partially renovated monumental “meteorological crib”, you can visit cribs of remarkable artistic thickness.

Presepe artistico Castelfiorentino gimp,

mappa_presepi_castel_fiorentino

Presepe-Castelfiorentino

 

All the reasons why visiting between September and November and in April make perfect sense!

There are many good reasons for avoiding Tuscany during the summer months, including not experiencing some of the heat common in July and August. The high season for Tuscany starts with good weather between April and May and ends in September, generally speaking. The “low season” are the remaining months. If you’re afraid that coming in the off season means seeing less, think again: there are many events which take place in late autumn and through the winter months to keep you out and about as well as the chance to head to the main destinations without fear of the crowds.

san-gimignano-porta-san

First, let’s start with a list of the main reasons coming to Tuscany in the low season is a wonderful idea, in case you need some convincing ;) .

This is the main reason we love and recommend you visit during the off months of the year, where you will get a chance to see a different face to the region. There are less people around as you visit the main sights, less long lines and more space as you visit the region’s top museums, such as the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia in Florence. You can take your time and not feel rushed as a consequence of having less people around you.

01

Inevitably, during the period with higher demand, prices on some things go up, especially as regards accommodation and travel in general. For sure, airfare is generally cheaper in the off season (not counting large holiday periods) and but of the various types of lodgings will have rates for the low season and the high season. Villa Sensano always has a “mid” season and price accordingly. You can see dates for each period on our websites, where you can see all the wonderful apartments with their availabilities.

f

dante-4-interni-2

There are many temporary exhibits organized year-round and it is impossible to organize them all during the high season. There are very many special exhibitions that often start in September and end in January or February, if we are lucky for them to last that long. For example, the current exhibit (2017) on Ambrogio Lorenzetti in Siena is quite spectacular but will only last from October through January 2018.

30693072386_df147fb050_b

A related benefit of visiting Europe during the autumn or spring season is that you can travel when there is less heat. Of course, some might find the temperatures a bit on the cold side, but it is all relative to what you’re used to. If you don’t like hot weather, then travel during these months is optimal and an advantage to consider.

14319416617_2962823859_o

As far as food is concerned, keep in mind that Tuscan cuisine is very seasonal and while prices don’t change, some products are best found in this period: freshly pressed Villa Sensano’s olive oil starts appearing in October and November, truffle and truffle festivals also take place during the same month.

olio pane

I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to plan for visiting Tuscany in the off season although it isn’t always easy to find the time off to travel during these months and book an apartment at Villa Sensano with a special rate!

 

 

 

From a small Italian community in 15th-century Florence, the Medici family would rise to rule Europe in many ways. Using charm, patronage, skill, duplicity and ruthlessness, they would amass unparalleled wealth and unprecedented power.

Medici_family_(Bronzino_atelier)

They would also ignite the most important cultural and artistic revolution in Western history–the European Renaissance. But the forces of change the Medici helped unleash would one day topple their ordered world. An epic drama played out in the courts, cathedrals and palaces of Europe, this series is both the tale of one family’s powerful ambition and of Europe’s tortured struggle to emerge from the ravages of the dark ages.

Medici_Family_Tree_Florence_Italy_0_0

A tale of one family’s powerful ambition and of Europe’s struggle to emerge from the ravages of the Dark Ages. Beginning in the 14th century, The Medici used charm, skill and ruthlessness to garner unparalleled wealth and power. Standing at the helm of the Renaissance, they ruled Europe for more than 300 years and inspired the great artists, scientists and thinkers who gave birth to the modern world.

medici222

Medici: Masters of Florence is an Italian-British television drama series about the Medici dynasty set in 15th-century Florence, starring Dustin Hoffman as Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici, Richard Madden as Cosimo de’ Medici, and Stuart Martin as Lorenzo de’ Medici (The Elder). The series was co-created by Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files and Man in the High Castle) and Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (The Pillars of the Earth) directed all eight episodes

medici

Volterra has been choosen  as location for the next season, at the end of September has been organized tha casting.

I-Medici_3-e1488826945614

I-Medici_2-1

Villa Sensano is about 17 km fro Volterra, could be a wonderful experience partecipating in filming.

Everybody knows the popoularity of the Italian olive oil, expecially the one of Tuscany.
But do you know how it is produced? Have you ever experienced the ‘olive harvest tradition‘ in Italy/Tuscany?

top
October and November in Tuscany can mean a lot of things, like a great variability both in weather conditions and in temperatures, chestnut festivals…but most of all this month means to all Tuscan people and tourists that the olive harvest season has come back.

22406411_1743003129046205_8539467167465523305_n

The precise date for the olive harvest varies depending on the zone, the variety of olive and the climatic conditions over the past Summer. It normally begins in the middle of October or first week of November and ends in mid-December, but it must be done before the ripe fruit begins to fall off the tree, when the olives have reached the maximum size and the pulp begins to lose a little firmness.
The olive harvest in Tuscany is an important social opportunity where families get together to pick the olives and press them for the first extra virgin olive oil.

noi tutti

This makes it possible to pick the largest number of olives per tree and have the maximum oil yield, while maintaining quality levels. Normally 100 kg of olives yield 16 -18 kg of oil.

This means that in this months all the olive groves, from the largest firms to the smallest holiday farms, are populated by local families, helped by friends and labourers, all busy carrying on a tradition that lasts from centuries now.

22281976_1741241505889034_6632601771045528026_n
The harvest is very simple, it consist in picking olives using nets and baskets and some special pliers, or even with bare hands. Under each olive tree, a large net is placed and serves the function of collecting the olives as they gradually fall from the plant. Once all of the olives have been collected off the tree, the net is removed and the small fruits are put in baskets or bales.
This process can also be done with the use of machines, to accelerate the collection.

olove

olive

Keep in mind that the climate where the olives grow, the ripeness of the olives at harvest time, the variety of the trees and other little things are all elements that influence the final result and features of each batch of olive oil.

ceste
What’s sure is that, after this kind of hard work, the olive growers of Tuscany will traditionally reward family and friends who helped out with the harvest; sometimes with traditional foods and drinks, sometimes with free stays in a farm.

mani

This is what we do for making our fantactic extra vergin olive oil: our Villa Sensano olive oil!

The walls and gateways of  Volterra bear witness to the grandeur of the Etruscan period. This Etruscan city wall was built during a period of time that stretched from the sixth century BC to the last decades of the fifth century BC.

mura

It northernmost segment boasts a surplus area known as the ‘Guardiola’; this segment suggests that the structure was enlarged during the IV-III centuries BC.

teatro-romano

The first of its two medieval walls were built from 1200 to 1240, thanks to the efforts of the entire city, including the clergy. The second communal wall was designed to strengthen and complete the previous one; it dates back to 1260-1266.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At that time, the walls were equipped with barbicans and surrounded by ditches.

3231VolterraPtaArco

The Gateway of San Francesco was also built during said period. Once completed, the structure was equipped with several lookout towers, including several corner towers and those from which watchmen kept guard.

Porta San Francesco

Villa Sensano is situated 17 km from Volterra, one step away from the Etruscan world.