There is a Tuscan word I use often, without even realizing that it remains unknown to most people because it belongs to my dialect: scollettare, litteraly meaning to go uphill and then downhill on the other side. You can go downhill figuratively, when you get through the worst and what now remains is the easiest part of the work, or you can go downhill in your real life, get on top of a hill and then go beyond, when it is all downhill.
Last Friday I went downhill on the other side. I drove to Volterra and instead of heading towards the seaside as usual, towards San Vincenzo and Cecina, I took the first on the right and entered into the Valdera, the Era’s Valley. It was my first time.
After a week of work at the desk and in the kitchen I enthusiastically embraced the idea of a blog tour in the Country of Excellence, in Casciana Terme, with a group of travel bloggers and Sara Fiordifrolla.
Again, this weekend I realized that you don’t need to turn the world to discover small paradises: actually you just need to go uphill and then downhill, drive for an hour at a slow pace that allows you to immerse yourself in the golden-green landscape, until you get to Casciana Terme, an Etruscan town that became famous over the centuries for its thermal waters, apparently discovered by Matilde di Canossa.
In this peaceful setting, we started the tour from Pontedera, the economic reference town for the area, Piaggio‘s headquarters since 1924, when the engineer Rinaldo Piaggio took over the Costruzione Meccaniche Nazionali of Pontedera transferring there part of the aviation construction industry they had in Genova. From that moment, the rest is part of the economic and custom history of our country: the Piaggio turned from the production of ship furnitures, trains, trams and aircrafts to the construction of the historic Vespa, put on the market for the first time in 1946.
The Piaggio Museum attracts visitors from all over the world, mostly Americans, lovers of the Vespa romantic allure, one of the symbols of the Italian Dolce Vita from Roman Holiday onwards.
The history of the Italian creative genius behind the development of the Vespa is incredible: born with a basic democratic ideal, projected to be driven by men, women and priests, its name comes from the engine noise, which reminds a wasp (vespa is the Italian name for wasp). Along with these curious details, one fact: in 1956, just 10 years after its placing on the market, in Pontedera they celebrate the millionth Vespa.
The two-wheeled Piaggio quickly entered into the Italians’ hearts, who saw the Vespa as the first means of freedom, even for those who could not afford a car, an emblem of our country’s economic boom. Beyond all my expectations the Piaggio museum is worth a visit, if only for a tribute to one of the creative geniuses of our century, the engineer Corradino D’Ascanio, or to see a fascinating gallery of vintage Vespa and Ape.
Piaggio Museum “Giovanni Alberto Agnelli” viale Rinaldo Piaggio 7 – 56025 Pontedera (PI) – www.museopiaggio.it
The Piaggio Museum is located in Pontedera in the heart of northwest Tuscany, a 15-minute drive from Pisa and 35 minutes from Florence. The visit, enjoyable for children as well as for adults, makes a pleasant stop en route to Florence from Pisa or vice versa, or a diversion during a summer holiday along the Tuscan coast or among Tuscany’s many antique museums and art cities.
Tuesday to Saturday – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. – The second Sunday of each month – Free entry
The Museum is closed Saturdays from 1.00 to 2.00 p.m.
After the modern history, one of the glories of a great past, when the high society ladies used to take the waters at the spa, among relaxing swimming pools surrounded by green parks, luxurious and fresh hotels, tree-lined alleys and a real hospitality, given by their true pleasure of welcoming you with taste and heartiness.
The spa water of Casciana is officially named Acqua Mathelda. It comes from a spring at a constant natural temperature of 35.7°C.
The waters belong to the family of the calcium sodium bicarbonates, with a natural content of mineral salts so combined as to be distinguished by their particular effectiveness. Used since time immemorial to combat arthrosis, rheumatism and sciatica, in the course of time its uses have been extended to modern motor rehabilitation therapies and cardiovascular and respiratory problems. The therapeutic mud, when soaked for a long time in the thermal waters, in fact acquires its contents and curative powers.
You can perfectly understand the meaning of spa, salus per aquam, health and well-being achieved through hot thermal springs. And I went there to take the waters, as a young lady of the nineteenth century.
Sparkling drinks and tasty titbits welcomed us to Villa Borri, where we enjoyed our happy hour wearing a comfortable bathrobe, sliding to the thermal swimming pool and sauna soon after. Massages and hot baths relaxed us in the quiet scenery of the Terme di Casciana: the tiredness you feel when you wrap yourself in a white linen-perfumed bathrobe relaxes your muscles, and the smile beams spontaneously on your lips.
Nice to discover, then, during an idyllic massage, that in the Casciana area women make the tomato soup with sage, this just to have a further evidence of the many variations of one of the most typical Tuscan recipes and the fact that, when I am at ease, I can talk to everyone in any situation, even with my face blocked by a relaxing mask…
When you enter the great hall of Savini Tartufi you get intoxicated, not just by the heady aroma of truffles that envelops you when cross the threshold, but for the passion that reigns in the family. A passion for things done with honesty and love.
We went truffle hunting in the woods with the little dogs Grinta and Zara, Cristiano Savini and the very nice Mr. Romano, a wise truffle hunter. Scattered phrases whispered in the woods remained in my mind: the truffle hunter knows the areas, the dogs have the nose, you must love your dogs to breed them properly, happiness lies in small things, the mutts are much better than purebred dogs, they do not have instinct in their DNA to be changed to teach them to hunt truffles… Love, passion, nature and wagging dogs: I would have stayed there forever.
The history of Savini Tartufi is fascinating, everything comes from the good manners of the grandfather Zelindo Savini, warden of a large estate that used to help the owner in the hospitality during lavish banquets in honour of the notables of the time. I like the stories that begin with a character like this…
At that time the truffles under a certain size were still thrown to pigs and the only valuable truffles were considered those from Piedmont. Then this kind but astute gentleman realized the wealth he had at hand, sold the old gamekeeper Vespa and bought a German motorcycle, then he resigned and began the activity that today is still the pride of the Savini family. At the beginning the truffles were traded in a small room nextdoor to the little shop and bar, with half-closed shutter and muffled voice. Secrets on weights, places of discovery and quality, but there is always one certainty: the truffle hunter will never tell you anything else but nothing I’ve found nothing…
We should also thank (heartily) Luciano Savini for the creation of the white truffle honey, dedicated to his grandfather Zelindo.
When this man who now entered my heart like a true grandfather went truffle hunting, he used to carry a loaf of stale bread and a little jar of honey with him. Every time he passed by a little spring in the woods he cut a slice of bread, soaked it in water, spread some honey on top and then added a few flakes of truffle left on the bottom of his pockets. It was his favorite snack.
Luciano told this episode to Gualtiero Marchesi during a cooking class and Marchesi said: Luciano, brings this story on your guests’ tables. Together they have also developed what has become an excellent product, honey and white truffle, made with real truffles, not with chemical flavourings. I have already said that one of my favorite afternoon snack is bread and honey, then you can imagine how this story involved me!
The passion of the Savini family has led to a historic record: in 2007, Luciano and Cristiano with their dog Rocco found in the hills around Palaia a giant 1,497 kg white truffle, sold at the International truffle auction for charity in Tuscany, with whom they have beaten the world record for the largest truffle and the highest price ever paid for a white truffle.
Savini Tartufi srl
Piazza C. D’Ascanio Loc. Montanelli
56036 Forcoli (PISA)
The Vespa Tour
When I read in the program that we were supposed to have a Vespa Tour in Pisan hills on Sunday I figured myself as a new Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, you know, I am a romantic girl! As soon as I mounted on the back seat of the Vespa, though, I sadly realized that I had little in common with Audrey, as usual.
There was nothing in me to remind that elegant girl seated behind Gregory Peck, but perhaps a charming fluttering scarf, that actually proved to be quite dangerous and shortly after it was tucked down my pocket. Rather than Audrey, I felt like the female character in one of Alberto Sordi’s movies, riding towards the seaside with a spaghetti timbale in my bag.
These thoughts did not last long, though, because after a few minutes I found myself immersed in the Valdera.
On the streets there was nobody but our column of Vespe and our incredulous smiles, then all around in the distance the red fields of alfalfa, the fruit stalls on the roadside selling local strawberries and vegetables, old villages on the hilltops with panoramic winding roads to get there, still peace but above all the smells, sudden and intoxicating, at every turn: the almost ripe wheat, then the flowers, then the undergrowth, sun and wind, and freedom.
Valdera in Vespa
To ride your red Vespa in the Pisan hills
Fiocco Rosso Viaggi – www.fioccorossoviaggi.it
Via Galimerti, 3 – Pontedera (Pisa)
Albergo Roma – www.albergo-roma.it
to experience the charm of old time hotel and hospitality
Via Roma, 13 – 56034 Casciana Terme (Pisa)
Ristorante La Carabaccia – www.lacarabaccia.com
Kind, good quality food, don’t miss the ricotta mousse. That’s the only thing a food blogger can teach a travel blogger: never give up dessert in a restaurant!
Viale Magnani, 24 Casciana Terme (Pisa)
Completely dedicated to my travel mates, so you can live the experience from their perspectives, too!
- Bruna Fusco (Slow Travel)
- Michela Simoncini (ComunicaTeStesso)
- Francesca Turchi (Travel’s Tales)
- Cristiano Guidetti (Viaggio Vero)
- Francesca Barbieri (Fraintesa)
- Federica Piersimoni (Viaggi Low Cost)
- Michela Passarin (Color Trip)
- Giuseppe Trisciuoglio (Eurotrip)
- Sara Querzola (Fior di Frolla) the other foodblogger with me!
- Simone Attanasio (Pizzulata)
- Leela Cyd (Leela Cyd)