Buongiorno from FATTORIA di MAIANO
After two fantastic days at Hotel Torre Guelfa, we took a cab to our next destination, Fattoria di Maiano, our home for the next two weeks. We previously stayed at the Fattoria in December 2006 when we had our family Christmas Tuscan style.
Fattoria di Maiano is situated to the northeast of Florence, about 2.5 kms from the wonderful little town of Fiesole. The Fattoria is a working property that offers accommodation, a restaurant and is a venue for special events and conferences etc. however, most of the income for the Fattoria comes from the olive oil produced from the 20,000 olive trees grown on 110 hectares of the property. Both Frantoio and Moraiolo olives are picked by hand in November and December, then pressed onsite in the estate mill, producing very high quality extra virgin olive oil. The farm is part of a consortium producing pure olive oil using traditional methods of picking and processing, and of course is totally organic.
As you walk through the olive grove you can reach the imposing building Villa di Maiano, which is the main house of the Fattoria. The Villa has an interesting history being originally one of the homes of the Medici family’s rivals. In the latter part of the 19th century it was owned and developed by an Englishman, who made it into his castle in his domain. He introduced English trees to cover the hillsides where all the sandstone had been removed to build Florence, extended the Villa and invested a great deal of money on acquiring artwork and furniture. Several major feature films including: ‘Tea with Mussolini’ by Franco Zeffirelle and ‘A Room with a View’ by James Ivory have used the Villa for various scenes.
One of the adventures we were keen to re-live, was the 2.5k walk up the hill to Fiesole. The prize for first attempting this endeavour and then achieving it was an espresso and delicious Italian biscotti at the wonderful café/patisseria. As you leave the gates and relative safety of the Fattoria you enter the thin, two way, winding, walled road to the top of the hill, ‘the danger zone’. The difficulty of driving on this road without having an accident on a scale of 1-10, rates at about 15, add to this the extra talent required to talk on a mobile phone while you attempt this drive, on/in either a motorbike or car, the rating rises to about 20, add texting to the equation, 25, smoking as well, 30. I didn’t see anyone having a beer whilst attempting this feat, but I’m sure it has been done. All goes well walking on this road until you are at the same place as two cars going in opposite directions, then it is a case of making yourself as thin as possible, pressed up against the wall. This gets a little difficult when you are carrying two bags of groceries, birra and vino.
Why do it?
The espresso and supermarket at Fiesole! Plus the bus stop for the bus to Florence is at the halfway point in this dice with death!
Fiesole is a wonderful little town with a population of about 14,000 people, the first recorded mention of the town was in about 283 BC, it was then called Faesulae. The town was as powerful as Florence in the valley below, however, it was conquered by Florence in 1125 and its leading families were forced to take up residence in Florence.
Last Friday we took a train ride over to Bologna, Barbara had visited this town previously for a conference and was keen to re-visit the town as it held many fond memories for her. It is a very beautiful town with lots of wonderful architecture, art, music, cuisine and culture. Bologna is home to the oldest University in the western world, The University of Bologna was founded in 1088.
The city is famous for its long porticos, or arcades. There are 38 kms. of arcades in the actual city centre and over 45kms in the greater city area. These allow people to walk very long distances around the city protected from rain, snow and the heat of the sun in summer. The longest of these porticos is the Portico of San Luca, which stretches over 3.5kms (666 arcades) making it one of the longest in the world.
Late in the afternoon when our feet were tired and we were a bit parched we found a little Bar and ordered a beer and a Bellini (a cocktail made with Prosecca and peach)(The beer was for me!! It appears Bellini was the drink of choice for the other person, some years ago!) The waiter duly turned up at our table with the very much desired drinks, then a cup full of lovely plump, oily, green olives, then, another waiter delivered a plate of small tasty snacks, followed by a huge bowl of chips, all this on a three legged table with a top about the size of a large postage stamp. It was ‘HAPPY HOUR’!!!! I think happy hour stretches to about happy 4 hours. All this for the price of two drinks, very hospitable, and we were very happy. Within moments, other passers by saw this huge selection of goodies before us and began clambering for tables, trendsetters again!
On Monday we caught the train to Lucca. There was a lot of confusion first getting the tickets and then validating them, discussions with the train conductor were not at all helpful. Along with a number of other English speaking tourists we worked out the system and finally boarded the train, after someone from each group had run the length of the station both ways to validate the tickets in whatever machine they could find. The journey was fun as we sat in our 1st class cabin in the 2nd class carriage hoping the air conditioning would work, call us delusional but it was fun.
Lucca is one of the few cities in the region that still has its original city walls intact. The walls are now used as a pedestrians promenade to travel around the entire old town. For a number of years in the early 20th century they were used for racing cars. Bicycles now form the major mode of transport within the city walls. One of Lucca’s most notable residents was Puccini.
Lance and Barbara