Our last group left on Saturday and it's been another record breaking year for Casa Leana, we are so very lucky!
All the garden furniture has been brought in. The pool hasn't been closed yet as we're going to have to empty it this year and have a few maintenance jobs done. Leigh is planning on cutting down a couple of dead trees so although it's the end of the holiday season, we still have some bits and pieces to do in and around the house and gardens. It is a bit like the Forth Bridge but we love every moment, even after 14 years!
We're having our massive corner sofa re-upholstered (the one in the main top floor lounge at CL). For this we've chosen dark brown with blue patterned cushions and our lovely seamstress has already started work - I am really looking forward to seeing the finished article before the 2024 season begins. I bought that sofa when we were back in the UK where I had a relatively small lounge. I remember the delivery men turning up to my house in the UK and saying “did you not measure your lounge?!”. There was a long conversation about whether it would be too big for the space (let’s just say, it was very cosy!). I think I must’ve known that one day we would have that great big lounge at Casa Leana where it is a perfect fit.
We've also ordered two new sets of curtains for the kitchen shelves and we've replaced the chairs in there too so a bit of a refresh and update with a slightly more modern feel (I hope!). We've also got a huge mirror which is proving a bit difficult to move but we've found the perfect spot for it in the middle floor lounge. Pictures to follow of all the updates as soon as we've put them in place. I don't think I'll be touching the super heavy mirror - that is definitely a "Leigh Job"!
Our most exciting news is that we have another wedding to organise! One of our guests has charged us with planning their wedding next year in Anghiari. We love doing this - we've had a couple of weddings to plan over the years and it is one of our favourite things to do. We have already confirmed the date with the local authorities and the translator. Next week we're planning to book the restaurants and bars for pre and post wedding drinks and food. Very exciting.
No bike rides this month as Leigh's mum was here and some friends were over too so not much time for exercising - we just ate and drank too much again! Oops. Apart from our normal haunts, we had a couple of lovely walks and a visit to Assisi which was lovely. Assisi is only a 50 minute drive from Casa Leana and it is so beautiful. We had a spot of lunch there and a little bit of retail therapy before heading off to Perugia airport to drop our friend off.
The usual annual October events have been taking place, we didn't manage get to all them but we went to two of our favourites - L'Intrepida and The Chestnut Festival in Caprese Michelangelo. There was even more going on this year with a (very loud!) band seemingly following us around the village! Such a fun morning out with a traditional pork and stuffing roll with crackling for lunch, yum.
We are now officially winding down (apart from getting through the never ending list of jobs in the garden) and looking forward to the festive season.
As I said before it's been another amazing year full of fun and happy holidaymakers. We are eternally grateful to them and all the friendly locals who make this part of the world such an amazing place to visit!
Have a great weekend.
D I A N A xxx
What a month! First of all it was Leigh's birthday so we set off to our new favourite place - the spa pools just outside Siena. If you've read my blog before you'll know all about these gorgeous pools. Suffice to say it was a lovely day and it will most probably be our last visit there this year as autumn is upon us although I must say it doesn't feel very autumnal at the moment, it's been gloriously sunny and warm all month.
We had some old friends over for a few days so that was a bit like a very long party with lots of shopping and Prosecco. Not that I'm complaining! One of them I hadn't seen for over 20 years, I moved to Tuscany and she moved to the Cotswolds so we lost touch.
We had a great catch up but very exhausting to say the least! Maria, my old friend, had never been to Tuscany before so it was lovely showing off this beautiful part of the world. Obviously one of the trips had to be a wine tasting so we spent an afternoon with the lovely Claudia at our favourite vineyard in Arezzo, Tenute San Fabiano. Just a half hour drive from CL.
Our great friends moved away this month. We are so sad to see them leave Tuscany and we've spent quite a few goodbye lunches and dinners with them and others who live here. Their very famous annual sports day will be missed. We have promised to keep the tradition going but it just won't be the same without these very special people. Having said that, as mentioned in my August blog, Leigh is the reigning games day champion so I am not sure he will be keen to lose that accolade! Ha ha.
We're moving towards the end of the season so as usual are looking for things to update and improve at Casa Leana. We're going to re-cover the lounge sofa (riveting I know!). We've found the most amazing seamstress who has done some great work for us in the past. I love finding great tradespeople, it really helps when you run a little business like ours as you can imagine.
Oh my goodness, I nearly forgot! I found a leather jacket that I absolutely love. In fact I found two would you believe? The first one I bought a few weeks ago in a leather shop that we never knew existed. It's in the backroads of Sansepolcro so only a few minutes drive from Casa Leana. Crazy. I bought the second one on a return trip, discounted by €110 - what a bargain! It's a different design to the first purchase but equally as beautiful. I feel very spoiled! The shop specializes in all leather items and prices are great too so anyone visiting Casa Leana should definitely take a look.
We are attempting to wind down, Leigh's mum is due to come for a holiday on Sunday so that's a sure sign that we are nearing the end of the season. Having said that there are still lawns to be mowed, plants to be watered, the pool to be cleaned etc. so not quite there yet!
Our last few groups are having a wonderful time as usual, enjoying the autumn sunshine and the Casa Leana heated pool is a bonus as always. We've also noticed that a lot of guests are doing some of our "10 favourite things to do" as outlined in the welcome pack that we send out before guests arrive. I really love seeing our guests enjoying all the wonderful things this place has to offer.
The usual annual autumn events will be starting next month, the Chestnut Festivals, Chocolate Festivals and of course the annual bike ride, L'Intrepida, will be happening which is something we always enjoy following in our little Fiat 500. Not to mention grape and olive harvesting time. I've volunteered us to help the local farmer with the olive harvest again, I love doing that! So we're both looking forward to another busy month.
I think that's it for now. Have a great weekend.
D I A N A xxx
Another busy month - do I always say that?!!
All of our new garden furniture has bedded in nicely and the guests are enjoying it. The weather has been lovely and we don't have any guests this week because of a cancellation due to ill health. We advertised the week with a large discount but the flights were so expensive (being a last-minute thing) no-one decided to book in the end despite a mound of enquiries. So Leigh and I moved in to Casa Leana which has been a real treat especially as it was my birthday on Sunday. We had a great meal in one of our favourite little restaurants in Monterchi and spent the afternoon by the pool - I felt very spoilt I must say.
The Wednesday night markets in our local town of Anghiari have been lovely, as always, this year - we have attended all but one of them. We love having pizza and Prosecco then wandering around checking out the stalls on the way to the gelateria for an ice cream to top off the night. I think it is one of our favourite things to do in the warm summer evenings in Tuscany watching the children running around late into the night, live music and good food, what's not to love?!
We also went to the annual Vintage Festival in another town a little bit further afield (Castiglion Fiorentina). It is our second time going to this festival and it didn't disappoint. Lots of people dressed up in vintage clothes, several live bands dotted around the town makes for such a wonderful atmosphere. We took a couple of friends along and they loved it too - I'm always a bit worried introducing people to events we enjoy, I worry they will not be as excited about the whole thing as we are but they were (or at least said they were!) and it was a lovely evening.
And you never guess what? The leather jacket that I saw last year and tried on was still for sale! I nearly bought it for the second year running and even had the cash in my hand but when I tried it on it was really heavy (being a biker jacket) and if I'm honest it didn't fit around my chest so I decided against it AGAIN! I've opted for a more sensible approach and am planning on getting a more lightweight leather jacket that actually fits me (!?) either here or in the UK the next time we visit. It was hard fought off purchase as it has been floating around my little brain for 365 days!
So ever since, we have been shopping for said leather jacket and a day trip to Cortona, one of my favourite places to visit, was in order. We had such a nice day but couldn't find the perfect item so we have been looking around the immediate area but no luck. We're planning a trip to Montepulciano where I am hoping to find a lovely super cool Italian beauty. Even if I don't find anything we love Montepulciano and it is only an hour away. We haven't been for a while so I am looking forward to that and as the weather has cooled a bit it is a great time of year for shopping.
Guests have been lovely as always. Last week one of our group left us a bottle of champagne and a card thanking us for a lovely holiday which unfortunately her father took away mistakenly believing it to belong to his wife whose birthday it was! So we didn't get to see it (or drink it!) but the guest very kindly gave us a tip instead, asking us to take it out of the security deposit she had left with us. What a wonderful gesture, we were so touched! We never tire of hearing that our guests are having lovely holidays. Many of our friends say that's why our business is successful, because we care so much about people's holidays and I think there is a lot of truth in that!
We spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon at our friends' house this month for their annual games day. It is a fun thing for a few expats in the area (there's ten of us that are bonkers enough to join in!) and we always have a laugh. Leigh won which I don't think I will ever hear the end of! Especially as our friends who run the games day are moving away in October so they won't be hosting any more which means, much to his delight, Leigh will remain the reigning champion. Ha ha..
We are organising a photo shoot as we haven't had one done for a while and we have added quite a few new things to the house and gardens over the last few years. It takes a while to get everything ready as it has to be done on a Saturday when all the beds are made etc. So watch this space for, hopefully, some beautiful new photographs of the house and gardens.
Anyway, I think that's it this month. We are moving out of Casa Leana tomorrow and getting ready for our next group to arrive on Saturday. We received another booking for next year last week and we sold a week for later on this year which means we have had another record-breaking year! Phew...
Have a lovely weekend.
D I A N A xxx
It's been another warm month... most probably a bit too hot for a few days if I'm honest (as seen in the news all over the world!). But we're back to more manageable temperatures now so all good.
We've been busy at Casa Leana, the plants and grass have stopped growing to some degree so most of our time now is spent watering trying to keep everything alive! The garden still looks lovely and we bought some new garden furniture in the sales for the top patio - it really sets off that area and we're delighted with the result and our guests love it too.
We had a group arrive this month for their fourth visit. We've been watching their familes expand over the years adding some gorgeous kids into the mix. We love repeat bookings, it's great to see them back year after year, this group in particular feel like old friends rather than guests! So much so that we were invited to dinner at the house and we got to sit on our new garden furniture for pre dinner cocktails! I christened it by spilling my drink on one of the cushions! Doh. No permanent damage done thank goodness.
We finally went to the spa pools just outside Siena - the ones I've been banging on about since the beginning of the season! It was well worth the wait and the place is so much nicer than I remember. We had a great day and felt suitably relaxed when we got back. Such a lovely day out and we're definitely planning another one or two trips there before the end of the year.
We had so many apricots on our tree again this year , I felt compelled to go and get the ingredients to make some jam. As I said last year it’s a very sticky business but someone has to do it!
The night markets in Anghiari have started again - they happen weekly throughout July and August and we try to attend every one - it is such a nice thing to do. Great for kids (even though it doesn't really get going until around 9.30pm which is obviously an Italian thing!). Pizza and wine followed by ice cream. What's not to like!?
Our guests have, of course, been visiting some of the lovely restaurants out here - one that springs immediately to mind is Pieve Vecchia which is always gorgeous at this time of year. If you visit around 7pm you can watch the sun go down over the hilltop town of Monterchi - one of the group that left last week said "it was like being on a film set". You can't get much better praise than that eh?!!
We've had some great reviews too this month so that always makes us happy. One in particular from a lovely family who were spending their first holiday together abroad and it was their little boy's first trip on a plane. They had the best time - seeing them on the day they left, telling us all about their trip is just the greatest feeling, knowing that we had some small part to play in that!
D I A N A xxx
We had the best day in Siena, what a sight to behold in the famous Piazza del Campo, hundreds of the most beautiful cars using the piazza as a car park! We had a prime spot in one of the balconies overlooking the square, sipping spritzers. I was in my own little heaven. One of our friends joined us for his first Mille Miglia which made it even more of a special day.
Before the parade began we ventured into one of the towers, the tiny circular staircase was a challenge for my claustrophobic tendencies but when we got to the top it was definitely worth it for the amazing views. I had a very large ice cream afterwards to congratulate myself! And then lunch in the piazza, such a great experience with the cars and drivers milling about.
Our wonderful CL guests have been coming and going, enjoying good food and entertainment, this week in the form of the Anghiari Palio commemorating the Battle of Anghiari. The locals love getting dressed up for the occasion - it makes me happy to see all ages joining in, so proud of their history. The guys running up the hill afterwards are truly phenomenal ! They push and shove each other all the way up the (very) steep hill in an official race to the piazza. Legends.
One of our favourite little hilltop towns over here is Citerna and we've been up there a lot this summer for coffee, lunch or evening aperitivi - so much so we're almost on first name terms with the bar and restaurant owners!
Anghiari Wednesday night markets start next week so that's another one of our regular haunts - it's an old fashioned affair with jewellery stalls etc., candy floss, crepes, live music and something going on for children. It's definitely worth a visit with the kids although it doesn't normally get going until about 8.30pm but I really wouldn't let that deter you from going as it's a great evening.
We've been watching the Ashes cricket, it's like having a little bit of England in our front room. Leigh loves the game. I have to admit, for me it does go on a bit - hours of nothing but there are always some great highlights - this year the Bairstow debacle has been something that made the air go a little bit blue over here! The Tour de France starts soon - another one of our favourite annual sporting events. It's difficult to get ourselves out in the sunshine sometimes! 😂
We're hopefully off to the thermal pools just outside Siena next week. We haven't been for ages and it's only an hour away from Casa Leana. I don't know why we don't go more often but life gets in the way and I often forget some of the wonderful days out that are on our doorstep. There are treatments available but we normally just chill out in the pools which are great for all the aches and pains we get from gardening these days (are we are officially getting old?!) followed by lunch. I'm really looking forward to a great day out. Watch this space for photos.
Well that's it from me I think. I haven't mentioned all the mowing and strimming but suffice to say it's been a busy month on that front. Oh and I'm still cycling so all good on the keeping fit regime. Having said that, I have to cycle more at this time of year to counteract the excessive consumption of Prosecco and ice cream!
Have a great weekend everyone.
D I A N A xxx
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
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