Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tues June 7, 2011

We started Tuesday with a visit to an innovative Italian nursery. Again a multi generation family firm, Groupa Zelari, have grown a farm nursery company to become a group of three companies offering total plant production, landscape design and construction of innovative and ecologically sound landscape projects. As Italy is a little behind Canada in ecological awareness in the landscape world, Groupa Zelari are leading the field in Italy with large national and international projects.

Our lunch was at a spectacular location on the peak on Monsummano Alto, the remains of a medieval village. It is home now to a modern restaurant and B&B, a few crumbling cottages and one elderly lady. Our lunch was wonderful with Tuscan cured meats, cheeses and fresh pasta. Following lunch Pauline, one of our tour members, broke the language barrier with the sometimes garrulous elderly lady and shared our admiration of her garden (and cats). As we came out from lunch many smiles were shared and photos taken. As she blew kisses to our parting bus, we knew that these few spontaneous moments would be one of the highlights.

For the afternoon we visited Pescia where a nursery of ornamental (and sometimes edible) citrus trees welcomes us. The sizes, shapes, colours and tastes of a wide variety of lemons far exceed the single variety we see in the store.

Our last stop was the village of Collodi, birthplace of Carlo Lorenzini Italian author best known for his wood to flesh creation, Pinocchio. First we toured the somewhat sad and decaying gardens of Villa Garzoni. We can picture the once grand spectacular of the sculptures, water features and plants of this garden now in need of much love and restoration. Nearby is the private villa visited once or twice a year by its wealthy owners.

pictures to follow

Just above the villa is the jewel of Collodi, in my mind, the village itself. We had only a short time to visit a few of the narrow picturesque streets tumbled one on top of each other as the narrow pedestrian lanes are more staircases climbing the steep hill connecting house upon house built up the hillside in a steep narrow reach.

Monday June 6 Pistoia:Roses and Religion

We are off on our first day of touring to nearby Pistoia. The area in the fertile plain surrounded by hills is full of plant nurseries. Our first stop is the fifth generation of rose growers, the Vivaio Barni rose nursery. Roses are serious business here as we see the intense work and research involved in bringing new colours and scents of roses to our gardens.
One to the historic centre of Pistoria we meet our local tour guide for a walk around the town square

Visiting the cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo, we are amazed by the detailed silver alter, hand decorated with detailed images of the life of Christ. Following that the sixteenth century tapestry, Arazzo del 1000 Fiori. As the name suggests a tour full of gardeners were in awe of the many flowers, birds and animals so vividly portrayed on what once would have been used as a rug.
following lunch in Pistoia, we visited a topiary nursery and then back to our hotel in Montecatini Terme. Dinner was up the funicular at a restaurant in the piazza. coming back down at night the lights below were beautiul.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tuscany Vacation

We have been in Italy just over 24 hours and are getting settled.
After landing Sunday at 2pm we were picked up by an expensive driver to get to our hotel about a half hour drive away in Montecatini Terme. Once checked in, we went walking downtown for the rest of the day. We made it home to the hotel before the thunderstorm hit.
Sunday morning dawned sunny and I headed out at 6:30 am for a walk. This is the view out our window.
I came back for 7:30 with coffee from the dining room. After Kathy started with her coffee in bed, we went down to buffet breakfast before heading out for the day.
We walked through the park to the funicular for a vintage cable car train ride up the hill to the town on the hill, Montecatini Alta. Many pictures and walking later we had a picnic lunch on a bench overlooking the valley. We walked down the hiking trail which was better than walking up.
About 45 minutes later we were back at the hotel for a swim and nap poolside.
Sunday afternoon and evening two more thunderstorms rolled through.
Our tour starts tomorrow.

Monday, May 30, 2011