This month has been pretty full on with more lovely CL guests plus we had some friends (and their five year old daughter) staying with us for a few days. We had such a lovely time with them, it's great showing kids around, they are always in awe of the medieval towns, not to mention Italian ice cream and pizza! Ha ha. She also enjoyed the Battle of Anghiari story and loved going into the churches. Five year olds are so inquisitive!
Leigh and I had a day trip to Rome which was a tad emotional! We decided to take the slow train which we have never done before - we usually get the fast train which leaves from Arezzo at 7am and takes an hour. The slow train takes over two hours but there was some maintenance on the line so we had to get a bus for the latter part of the journey from Orte and then a taxi to the Vatican. It felt like it took days to arrive!
Because we usually get to the Vatican at around 8.30am there are never any crowds but obviously having taken the slow train the place was absolutely packed (with tourists would you believe! Ha ha).
As we were in Rome to watch the Giro di Italia (a cycling event) we decided to forget the Vatican and walk to the Colosseum where the main event was taking place - we usually take this walk really slowly and relaxed, visiting coffee shops and ice cream parlours on the way, taking in the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Panthean etc. Hmmm. But we were now running late then I needed a loo break. It was one of those days that we spent wandering around quite a lot (18000 steps!) with me whinging quite a lot! Ha ha, I think everyone must have those days, where you feel like you're swimming against the tide. And if you're reading this and you know me, you would know that I definitely had, what Leigh calls, my grumpy face on! It was hot and I just wanted to sit down and have a glass of wine to be honest and forget the blimin' bike event!
It was a lovely day eventually. I got my glass of wine and a pizza and we saw the cyclists come through. And to make it even more special an English guy won (Mark Cavendish) so all was well in the world.
Having said that we almost missed the train home - we had to run 800m as it was just about to leave and our platform was at the other end of the station and at the end of a very long platform! I think that would have broken us... Ha ha
The CL guests have been taking yoga sessions down by the pool and wine tastings at the local vineyard. This week there are more yoga sessions booked, a couple of massages and plans are afoot to play golf at a beautiful course (Antognolla) just outside Corciano - about a 40 minute drive from CL.
We took another trip to Passignano sul Trasimeno with our friends, I never tire of that place. It was half term in the UK and we were the only ones in the swimming pool overlooking the lake and the beach was relatively empty too. Such a great day with our friends and their little girl.
Strawberries in the CL veggie patch have arrived - they are delicious. Guests have been helping themselves and there have been plenty for us too! Yum.
Oh my goodness... I almost forgot - I've been on my bike this month, FINALLY! 100km over three rides. Well done me. Also I took a couple of trips out on my moped which I love because it's red and it's just the prettiest thing although I do get a bit nervous for the first few rides - the Vespa is my first ever motorized two wheeled vehicle so it takes a bit of getting used to every year (I should be more proficient to be honest as we bought it over five years ago now!).
Ooh and I found a lovely book that one our guests must've left in the library - it's called Still Life by Sarah Winman. It's about expats in Italy after the Second World War. It's such a beautiful story, I would thoroughly recommend or if you plan visit CL you should be able to find it in the library.
I think that's it. Mowing and strimming continues this time of year and I think we're planning on trimming the hedges soon - that pesky Mother Nature always finds something for us to do!
Have a great week.
D I A N A xxx
We've had a lovely month, Leigh's mum was over on her first visit of the year (so great to see her) and we've been working in the garden (surprise surprise). I cleared out the strawberry patch, planted the tomatoes and we erected Steve the Scarecrow who has yet another new outfit. Mowing and strimming is ongoing of course... and with my new battery run strimmer I am wizzing around the garden like a mad thing!
Our guests have all been lovely as usual, getting out and about in the Tuscan sunshine. Almost all of them have been enjoying our neighbour's cooking (a four course meal made from scratch by our very own Italian nonna!) and some of them have visited the local olive farm, one of my favourite things to do out here. The owner, if available, will ferry our guests back and forth so that everyone is free to have a few glasses of wine and for the more hardcore, homemade grappa. The bikes are always popular with guests at this time of year which has made me feel a bit guilty as I still haven't managed to do one ride in 2023!
We have a special birthday group this week and they are pushing the boat out for their mum... yoga and a local wine and olive oil tasting and we organised a beautiful cake from one of the local bakeries so hopefully their holiday will be one to remember. What better way to celebrate a special birthday with family and friends than in this beautiful part of the world?
The annual Anghiari craft fair has been happening this month, lots of lovely stalls - great atmosphere. However we didn't have any guests staying this week to enjoy it which is a shame. It was nice for us though, to spend a few days around the Casa Leana pool although I have to say it's very difficult to relax in your own place, all I keep seeing are jobs to do, flower beds to weed, lawns to cut etc. etc. urgh. We have got a few things done. I varnished the garden handrails and Leigh finished off a staircase leading to the veggie patch. Exciting stuff. I tell you, it's not all sunshine and Prosecco here in Tuscany! Ha ha..
I have more exciting plans for next couple of months. I really want to visit some thermal pools, the place I like is just outside Siena. We have been there several times but not for a long time so I have been nagging Leigh about it for a while now and we have a trip planned for May or June.
The annual vintage car race (Mille Miglia) is going through a microstate called San Marino this year. I really love this event and San Marino is such a unique place. It's a couple of hours away (a very pretty route) and we are going to make the trip with a couple of friends. Watch this space for updates
Oh and we are also planning a trip to the Palio in Arezzo - it's a jousting tournament which, again, we saw several years ago and loved, so another visit is well overdue. It all happens in June and September every year.
I think that's it for the month. We're both quite tired from keeping on top of the Casa Leana gardens but the end result is lovely so all worth it I think. I love seeing the families who come to stay enjoying the gardens especially the children running around, playing with the garden games (boules, butterfly hunt, badminton etc.). It makes all our hard work worthwhile.
Have a great month.
D I A N A xxx
It's been a busy month at Casa Leana which is quite normal for this time of year, added to which we received a last minute booking, a group of really lovely Italians arrived on Sunday (19 March). And this is a first, they gave us two bottles of Prosecco as a gift, how lovely and what a great start to the season. If any future guests are reading this... take note! Ha ha.
When we took said early booking we thought "what a breeze, there's not that much left to do". We soon realised that extra week really makes a big difference. In our wisdom we decided to get replacement stones for the CL parking area a few days before our guests' arrival, which the delivery guy left in a big pile in the middle of the drive so we had to rake them into place, that was hard going and took a few days to do, raking stones is not easy I can tell you!
There were still hedges to be cut, plants to be pruned, the pergola at the bottom of the garden hadn't been erected as it took over three months to arrive (don't ask!), not to mention Spring cleaning, mowing and strimming and trying to fit the new dishwasher through the utility room door (again don't ask!). The list goes on but we got there, if a little worse for wear! At least I lost that extra few pounds I put on over Christmas! Every cloud..
The garden and the house both look great and the Casa Leana guests are happy which is the main thing - in fact they were drinking beer and playing cards down by the pool this morning at 8am. They offered us a beer when we finished mowing but it was still only 9.30am - I was tempted I have to admit!
The weather has been lovely and sunny so early morning swims in the heated pool has been the order of the day with evenings spent lighting the fires and snuggling up in the kitchen with a wonderful hot meal and wine from our cellar, what's not to like?!
Other than working in the garden, not much to report really. Oh, we did have a couple of sneaky days off (!), Leigh went ski-ing and I had a lie in both days, a lovely long hot bath and lunch with friends (a bit less energetic than ski-ing!). Looking forward to more of those long lunches this year. Our pride and joy, the little vintage Fiat 500 (otherwise known as 'Piglet'), is out of hibernation so we have had a couple of trips out with her - it's a bit of a change from the luxury of the Volvo but great fun. I spend most of the time wondering why everyone is looking at me and then remember that the car is so pretty, people are actually looking at the car, not me!
Our next group arrive on Saturday, two families, one from the US and the other travelling down from Switzerland - holiday season is well and truly here, woo hoo!
I think that's it. Have a lovely weekend everyone.
D I A N A xxx
Back to work...
Well hello again! What a wonderful time we had in the UK seeing our family and friends. And after a record 2022 season at CL (29 weeks, phew!) we took ourselves off for a special trip to the Caribbean, what a treat. And we even bumped into a couple of Casa Leana guests (would you believe?!) who stayed at the house in 2016. What a small world!
We're now fully refreshed and flew into Italy at the beginning of the month.
So it's back to work! Something I don't think I will ever tire of is getting the house and gardens ready for the season - I love every moment even though I sometimes lie awake worrying about whether everything will be ready in time (it always is of course!).
A couple of our friends here gave us a ton of books for the CL library so Leigh has spent a couple of mornings putting them away while I've been tidying and spring cleaning the play room ready for the season. We're starting on the rest of the house today so it's all go here. It's quite chilly this week so it's good to keep busy otherwise I'll end up in front of the TV with the fire on for longer than I care to record!
Once the weather warms up (next week we're told) we will be out in the garden again. I think I mentioned before, I have a new battery-operated strimmer so I'm quite excited about using that (weird I know). The garden is a never-ending task but we love getting it ready, it's so rewarding but tiring at the same time.
I have a lot of New Year resolutions, one of which is to get a bit more cycling done. Last year was a disaster on that front! I think because we had so many bookings after the Covid years, the extra work was a bit of a shock to the system. We have around the same amount of weeks sold this year but I'm going to make a concerted effort to get out on that bike more as is Leigh. So watch this space!
We're off out today to buy a few things for Casa Leana (of course). We've got some new pool towels already and a beautiful new lamp shade for the lounge, the two mirrors that I mentioned before plus a pergola and new garden furniture (Leigh's job is to put all that together). That's it so far but I'm sure there'll be more. As you may have noticed, I am a bit of a shopaholic especially when it comes to Casa Leana!
It was Valentines Day recently so we took a few hours off and popped into Arezzo for a little bit of end of sale shopping. I was looking for black jumpers but ended up with another pair of check trousers! We had a lunch sitting outside one of the lovely restaurants on that glorious sunny day.. spring is almost upon us which means alfresco coffees with the girls, long lunches mmmmm.. And bike rides of course (forgot about those again, oops!).
Have a great week.
D I A N A xxx
The most wonderful time of the year...
I must say I love ALL the months here in Italy... but November is special because it's the start of our down time (or is it?!). To be perfectly honest there's still quite a bit to do before we can completely relax.
At the beginning of the month we closed off the pool and covered the outdoor furniture, took the swings and badminton net down and tidied the pool toy box. Chopped back some dead plants and mowed and strimmed for the last time this year, phew.
A few years ago we discovered a brilliant shop very close to us - it has a huge array of tractors outside. For many years we thought it specialised in heavy farming equipment and we called it "the tractor shop"! When we finally ventured in there (can't remember why) we discovered that it sold every kind of garden equipment you can imagine and we've been there many times since. Last week we were very excited to add two more items to our gardening arsenal - a Stihl battery operated tree trimmer and strimmer (scintillating stuff!). The strimmer is for me as it's lightweight, so yey (sort of!).
I love sitting in the bottom of the Casa Leana garden, it overlooks a beautiful little vineyard and we often sit there with a cuppa in the spring in between gardening - it is so tranquil. The pergola down there got broken at the end of the year when a branch fell on it so at the end of last month we bought a lovely new one together with a coffee table set which Leigh put together yesterday, can't wait to see it all in place next year.
I forgot to mention, we were given two huge antique frames a few months ago, they are really beautiful so we decided to make them into mirrors. I cleaned them up and we took them to a wonderful place in one of the local towns close to us and they inserted some fabulous antique mirrors which have really brought them back to life. They are really heavy now so moving them from one place to another was a bit scary but Leigh finally managed to hang them in two of the Casa Leana bedrooms. I love them and I'm sure the guests will too!
You may remember I painted the beams white in our little play room at the beginning of the year. The wood colour has started to come through again, urgh. Honestly, who would have thought that beams would use up so much paint? I've put three more coats on and got myself in a painty mess again but it looks really good now. We also gave the room a tidy up and some of the toys may have to go to the toy hospital or maybe to the "nice man at the toy farm!" 😬
I'm sure there will be more things added to our never ending TO DO list but for now that's it.
Our lovely neighbour gave us a basketful of chestnuts a couple of weeks back so we've spent quite a few evenings roasting them over the log fire. Yum. Another equally lovely neighbour has two enormous olive groves and in return for helping with the harvest they are going to produce Casa Leana olive oil for our guests next year so watch this space to see the finished article. We've tasted it already and, honestly, it's so good.
On Sunday we had another magical evening out at the Arezzo Christmas market. We got there at around 2.30pm and the parking angel was kind. The flag throwers started at 3pm so we spent a while walking around the stalls first of all wishing we hadn't had lunch as there were some amazing cheese filled giant pretzels on offer that looked particularly yummy. We decided to get cakes instead - a giant ring doughnut for me and a relatively titchy blueberry muffin for himself. Obviously a bit later on there was a stop off at one of our favourite bars for a cheeky glass of red!
As dusk fell the coloured lights were switched on and bounced off the beautiful buildings in the main piazza. The kids were queueing to see Father Christmas and we were happy soaking in the Christmassy atmosphere. Although I must say I did try to get a peak of the big man himself but he was hidden away in his grotto!
We spent Sunday at a birthday lunch with some of our friends here in Italy. The expats often go back to different parts of the world for Christmas so it is great to get together as we won't be seeing them for a while. Food and company was perfect as always!
I think it's safe to say we have immersed ourselves in the festive spirit now and cannot wait to see our family and friends in the UK to celebrate this special time of the year!
D I A N A xxx
We've had another lovely month here in Tuscany. Weather has been glorious so we decided on a day trip to Florence. We haven't been to this beautiful city for a long time, mainly due to Covid, so it was lovely to spend the day there enjoying the sites and people watching (one of my favourite things to do!).
I bought some winter corduroy trousers which I love and I wish I had bought the emerald green and purple ones as well as the more practical black and coffee colours. Oh well, maybe another trip is in order!
We had pizza by the Ponte Vecchia which was lovely and not a bad price considering the venue. Our guests decided on a trip there the day after and took a buggy ride around the city, such a nice thing to do although I have always fancied going on one of those horse and carriage rides around Florence - such a romantic!
Apart from our day out, Leigh's mum was here for her birthday so I baked a cake. I am a dab hand at making a Victoria sponge but not so great on the icing front as you may notice from the image below! At least it tasted good. Ha ha
One of our favourite events takes place in October, L’Intrepida - it’s a bike ride around our local town and all the participants are on vintage bikes and a lot of the locals dress up in vintage clothing. Actually I was going to dress up this year but we were taking Leigh’s mum to the airport so didn’t get to see the event from the beginning. We did follow it through the hilltop villages for a little while - I don’t know why but I just love being around when this event takes place, it’s such a party atmosphere for us and the CL guests.
Our last group arrived on Saturday. They are already enjoying the house and a couple of the kids have set up a tent on the bottom lawn. I had forgotten all about the tent we bought many years ago but apparently one of the children has scoured our website and knows about everything we have on offer, such a little sweetie! During our walk round with the family on the first day he seemed to be more knowledgeable than us!
Well that’s us for the year as far as guests are concerned. But please don’t fret (!) we will be busy now for a few weeks closing down the pool, putting away all the outdoor furniture, cutting down trees and getting the garden ready for the winter.
We have our logs and kindling sorted and I’m really looking forward to snuggling up and having roast dinners by our open fire! Having said that the summer weather seems to be hanging on so a few more shorts and tee shirt days still to come I think. Plus some bike rides hopefully…
Have a great week.
D I A N A xxx
Only a few more weeks of our 2022 season to go and it has certainly flown by! We have had the most amazing year with some wonderful guests and five star reviews which we are, of course, very proud of.
Lots of our groups have been to the Ravagni olive oil tour and tasting plus lunch which takes place just a few minutes drive from Casa Leana. Francessco, the owner, collects our guests (if required) and drives them to the venue which allows everyone to have a few glasses of wine (included in the price). Fran is a wonderful character and is a great guy to spend the afternoon with - one of my favourite things to do while staying at Casa Leana, such a fun experience. CL guests this year have also been enjoying yoga down by the pool, bike rides, spa days not to mention wine tastings with the lovely Claudia at the San Fabiano vineyard in Arezzo.
Next week a couple of our group have booked a masseuse and are planning a cookery class with one of the chefs in Anghiari. There is so much to do here although many of our groups just hang out around the pool with a couple of trips to the local towns and villages for ice cream, cakes and a few nights out to the wonderful family run restaurants.
Leigh's family have been out for a couple of weeks this month which has seen us visiting lots of cake shops and ice cream parlours again not to mention more clothes purchases - I now have my summer wardrobe sorted for the rest of this year and next. As Leigh often says, "how many baggy summer trousers does one woman need?!" Ha ha.. Baggy trousers and hats have been an ongoing trend for me for a few years now - I've even got a pink hat now which I love.. Not sure how many times I will be brave enough to wear it though!
Lots of events in the local area in September, the palio (flag throwing and horses galloping!) and antiques market in Arezzo, another palio in Sansepolcro and a vintage Vespa get together in and around Anghiari.
I really like using the fruit and vegetables that come from the Casa Leana garden. I remember at the end of one year we had a huge amount of left over green tomatoes and I madechutney. It was delicious but we've never had that many left over since so I haven't done that for a few years now. However, there are always plenty of apples so we have been picking mountains of them over the last few weeks and we now have plenty to freeze in readiness to make apple crumbles for the winter, one of our favourite comfort foods.
You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned cycling for quite some time now. We have had so many visitors both here in our own house and at Casa Leana that we just haven't found the time or the energy to be honest! I plan to start in earnest next month once our last visitor has left. Otherwise I won't be able to fit into all the fabulous clothes I have been buying by next summer! Ha ha.
Well, I think that's it for the month. Grape, olives and chesnut picking in October. Always things happening here in Tuscany, we feel very lucky.
Have a good weekend everyone.
D I A N A xxx
Honestly, I always start writing this blog thinking "what have I done that's vaguely interesting this month?!". And worry that I am just boring everyone silly with my ramblings.. Anyway, here goes..
Guests are coming and going as usual and they have all been so lovely, enjoying the house and the pool, especially the pool as it has been super hot here for a few weeks now. In fact we have been keeping cool by visiting some of the outdoor pools that we are lucky enough to have close by. The pool is wonderful at Casa Leana but sometimes it can be quite nice to visit the bigger pools with slides for the older kids and baby pools for the little ones. They are great and not ever so busy considering the weather! We also visited the pool at Lake Trasimeno again - one of my favourite day trips as you've most probably guessed by now.
We've been having a few picnics - I love a picnic. Here in Italy you can pop into some of their great little deli's and get a sandwich made up for just the price of the ingredients, so, coupled with some fruit, salad, breadsticks, olives and a Peroni, Bob's your Uncle we have our picnic! It's quick and easy and it means we can just plonk ourselves down and enjoy the beautiful views wherever we like.
Huge relief this end...I found my birthday sunglasses. They are beautiful, a work of art, so much so that I haven't worn them yet as I haven't been anywhere worthy of their loveliness! Ha ha.. Plus it's not my birthday until the end of August so according to my mum, I shouldn't even be thinking of wearing them until then.
And yet another trip on my Vespa, rode up to Citerna for lunch with a friend, taking my helmet into the restaurant.. feeling very Audrey Hepburn-ish!
After eight years since their last visit to Casa Leana we had an old friend and her extended family staying this week. We didn't think the house and gardens had changed dramatically but they seemed to be super impressed with the work that had been done since their last visit. It was so lovely to see them and I had forgotten how much fun they are - they made us fall in love with Tuscany all over again with their never ending enthusiasm "look at the view!", "we love the night markets", "let's go on the bikes", "how amazing is the food"... Honestly, it was an absolute joy to be around them and they are already planning their next trip to Casa Leana (they complained a bit that we are all booked up for next summer!).
We have been out and about quite a lot this month, not only because of the gorgeous weather but also because we had another visitor from the UK. Shopping, pizza, pasta and ice creams has been the order of the day and not much cycling. Oops. Our friends have all gone back to the UK now so we are planning some cycling this week before Leigh's family comes to stay in September and October.
Ooh, I forgot about the wonderful Vintage Festival in Castiglion Fiorentina. We went there not knowing what to expect and it turned out to be one of the best events I have been to for ages. They really pushed the boat out with a lot of people dressing up and bands throughout the town playing 60s music, jiving, jitterbugging and old cars with Grease the movie playing on huge screens! Such fun.. I almost bought myself a Harley Davidson leather jacket but it was such a warm evening for trying on clothes I just lost interest and have regretted that decision ever since. That jacket was beautiful! Definitely going back next year.
Anyway, the events out here continue thick and fast with street food markets in Citta di Castello, night markets in Anghiari, the Palio and antiques market in Arezzo next month and more autumn festivals in October.. Fun fun fun.
Have a great Bank Holiday weekend.
D I A N A xxx
Welcome to my blog...
Just a little insight into our lives here. After eleven years of living in Tuscany I thought it was about time to have a go at blogging when one of my lovely friends said she had received (what she thought!) was an extremely funny text from me, hmmm.. How difficult can it be?!
D I A N A xxx