Jan 3rd 2018

1. Witness Italian folklore and the Celebration of La Befana

(5th and 6th January)

On the twelfth night of Christmas on the eve of the Epiphany (5th of January) when the Christmas tree and decorations are officially taken down and packed away, Italians get ready to celebrate the arrival of a friendly old witch known as La Befana.

Steeped in folklore with similarities to that of the story of Santa Claus, La Befana flies through the night sky on her broomstick and enters down the chimney pots into the homes of children to leave them a present or a lump of coal.

Many towns celebrate the coming of La Befana  where they host spectacular displays of artistry and fun. This is a night when you will witness La Befana flying through the night skies on her broomstick to the delight of the kids below. The adults also get involved by dressing up as the friendly old witch to hand out sweet treats to the children.

A crazy tradition takes place at Marina di Pisa known as the ‘Tuffo di Befana’. Tuffo translates as a ‘dip in the water’ and in this case the water is the Mediterranean Sea!  This celebration is mainly an adult affair which kicks off with the arrival of the La Befana (an adult dressed up as the old witch)  just before midday on January 6th. Participants are usually residents from the seaside town of Marina di Pisa and the nearby port city of Livorno who come together as friends for this event due to their mutual love of the sea. However, for the rest of the year they are great rivals when it involves any other event such as football!

Anyone can join in the event and is invited to strip down to their Speedos or bikini and join in the fun!

Free entrance for those who want to dip!


2Enjoy the snow or a day on the slopes!

In just under 2 hours, you can reach the Tuscan ski resort of Abetone on the Italian Apennines, the perfect destination for nature and winter sports lovers. The ski resort has 50 km of ski slopes which offer every participant whatever their level a chance to enjoy a day of skiing.  Snowboarders and cross country skiers can also take advantage of the facilities and trails. For those who don’t fancy getting active but are looking to experience a different side of Tuscany, head for one of the picturesque Appinine villages such as Cutigliano to witness a charming Medieval village surrounded by snow covered hills making it the perfect spot for a traditional Appinine lunch or a warming punch!


3. Shop til you drop! Outlet shopping and the January sales

(early January to end of February)

For fashion conscious and label loving shopaholics, Italy is the best place to shop. And what better time to do so than during the winter sales. Afterall, who wants to search out bargains in the stifling heat during the summer! The winter sales period starts at the beginning of January and lasts through mid-February.

In addition to the regular high street shops, Tuscany has many outlets offering an array of designer clothes and accessories from Gucci to Prada and Armani . There are big famous outlets dotted around Tuscany such as the ones at Barberino di Mugello and the Mall at Reggello but you can also find smaller outlets in some small towns. In addition to pointing you in the right direction we can also put you in touch with professional shoppers who can help you negotiate around the outlets.


4. It’s carnival time! Enjoy Fantastic floats at Viareggio

(end of January through to end of February)

The seaside town of Viareggio in the Province of Lucca (not too far from all of our properties) holds one of Italy’s biggest carnivals which dates back to 1873. The event draws thousands of visitors of all ages, who come to see both the spectacular floats and parades which take place over a series of weekends.

The big draw is the giant papier mâché figures which adorn the floats many of which are mechanized and dance above the crowds. The carnival is both an adult and children’s affair which runs throughout the afternoon and into the night with parties and festivities up to the early hours. Dressing up in costume is not obligatory but you may feel more at home if you wear a festive carnival mask, neon coloured wig or a silly hat all of which can be bought at one of the many carnival stalls.

The preparations for the event take place throughout the whole year and is very much part of the culture of the town. People travel from all over Tuscany and Italy to witness this colourful and fun event.

Don’t miss out and join this big event:

Category Entrance fee Online Entrance fee
adults €20 15
children €15 10

*Entrance reduction if booked in advance online

In addition to Viareggio Carnival, many small towns and villages celebrate carnival time over the weekends during the period of Lent. Many of the events are aimed at children where it is almost obligatory for children to dress up in costume, ride the merry go rounds, indulge in lots of sticky sweets and throw Coriandolo (which is similar to what we call Confetti).


5. Visit the sites without the queues!

Visit the museums, galleries and monuments without the crowds and queues.

The perfect time to visit the cities of art and culture is from November through to February when the streets are crowd free and the summer heat has gone. All the major sites will be open at this time of year such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia in Florence, in addition to much more. No need to book your tickets in advance or stand in queues which go on for hours to enjoy these amazing sites almost all to yourself!  


6. Pamper and relax at natural hot springs

(all year round)

Tuscany is a land of Terme meaning a land of natural thermal springs. There are at least two to three Terme within a 30 minute drive from almost all of our properties.

You don’t have to be rich to go to the ‘spa’, in fact here in Tuscany most people visit the spa in winter time and you can even get a spa visit prescribed by your doctor!

The Terme or spas vary between luxury 5 star resorts with a plethora of pampering treatments to village centre spas with public open air pools with soothing massage jets. If you are prepared to travel (between two and a half  to three hours) you could experience the thermal cascading waterfalls at Saturnia in the Province of Grossetto  or south of Siena at Bagni San Filippo at the Fosso Bianco.  Here are the closest Terme and spas to our properties:

Bagni di Pisa

Casciana Terme

 7. Indulge in wine tours and gastronomic experiences


Truffle hunting (New experience for 2018)

Take a hike through the stunning Tuscan countryside with an experienced truffle hunter and his dog in search of  the prestige truffle! Upon return after your hunt you will enjoy a truffle tasting lunch of 4 courses with regional wine.

Truffle hunting is available all year round but if you are looking to hunt the precious white truffle you need to visit between September and December. The rest of the year you will be able to hunt the black truffle!


Wine tours (all year round)

Wine tasting tours are a firm favourite and are available all year round, however  during the winter season the wine producers are a little less busy and able to spend more time showing you around the vineyards and cellars in addition to offering tasting sessions.

Wine tasting tours are available all year round but during the winter the wine producers are a little less busy and able to spend more time showing you around the vineyards and cellars in addition to offering tasting sessions.


Extra virgin olive oil experience (all year round)

A much loved favourite experience of  many of our guests which can be enjoyed all year round and includes a visit around the olive groves and mill, followed by a tasting session. However, if you really want to witness the whole process of the production of extra virgin olive oil you must visit between October to December to see the harvest in full swing and the olive press in action!


Pecorino Cheese and Pasta experience (New experiences for 2018)

Located close to all of our properties is a wonderful area known as the Pisan Hills offering a beautiful landscape of hilltop towns and lush plains. Here you will find two award winning producers. One for their delicious Pecorino cheese and the other a Pasta produced by traditional methods.

More details on both of these experiences coming soon!


8. Take a Romantic break for Valentines Day

Being not too far from Pisa Airport means that many of our properties are perfectly situated for weekend or midweek breaks. In most cases you will be out of the airport and into your property in less than an hour. Tuscany is the perfect location for couples looking to escape the winter blues. Here’s some ideas!

  • Stay in one of our romantic apartments perfect for two
  • Hire an iconic Fiat Cinquecento to explore the dreamy countryside
  • Visit the cities of Pisa, Florence and Lucca
  • Sip Chianti wine from where the grape is grown
  • Dine on Truffles, enjoy oysters and sip Prosecco by the sea
  • Experience a gastronomic or wine tour with private driver
  • Cook a Tuscan meal for two with a local chef



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 Dec 12th 2015




A guide to what to expect when visiting the little Medieval town of VICOPISANO

Vicopisano is a small Medieval town situated just 25 minutes East of the City of Pisa and just 20 minutes from Pisa’s International Airport.

Surrounded by a beautiful landscape of pine-covered hills and olive groves, Vicopisano is one of the most charming towns situated on a small range of hills known as the Monte Pisano which rises like an island between the planes of Pisa and Lucca.

Yet to be discovered by the masses, Vicopisano certainly rewards those travellers searching for a more genuine Tuscan experience.

This is a place which was known by Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance master architect Filippo Brunelleschi whose impressive Medieval fortress still dominates the town today.



Vicopisano is strictly for those who are looking to start the day with a ‘buongiorno’ and the chance to ‘live like a local’.

This is certainly a place where you can still sip a cappuccino with a local and watch the world go by.

In the central piazza you’ll find a charming village fountain, a handful of bars, an artisan ice-cream shop and a small grocery store ideal for stocking up on seasonal basic fayre.

Take out a pizza from one of the local pizzerias, dine al fresco at a hilltop hideaway and enjoy a glass of regional wine at a village enotecca (wine-bar) .

There is a farmers’ market every Wednesday and a general market on Saturday, in fact there is everything you need in this little Tuscan town including a butcher, a baker and a fresh fishmonger every Thursday!


Apart from a genuine ambiance and friendly locals, visitors to Vicopisano will enjoy discovering her Medieval historic centre.

It’s here where you will discover hidden lanes, ancient piazzas and Medieval tower houses which stand like soldiers along the narrow winding streets.

There were once more than a 100 towers in Vicopisano’s affluent past when it sat on the convergence of two important rivers.

This was a time when nobles and merchants built impressive tower houses in order to show off their wealth and prestige.

Unfortunately, Medieval, Renaissance and modern day interventions including the redirection of the River Arno in the 16th Century resulted in the town’s decline.

In 1406 Vicopisano was conquered by the Florentine army and in 1435 the Renaissance master engineer Brunelleschi under the instructions of the powerful Medici family destroyed as much as 70 percent of  the buildings in order to fortify the village.

Despite this terrible intervention today’s visitors can still witness nine remaining Medieval towers including the beautiful Torre dell’Orologio clock tower which reaches a height of 25 metres and dates back to the first half of the 12th Century. Later this year the clock tower will be open to visitors for the first time.


Vicopisano is still a very real town, you could almost call it raw, it hasn’t had the resources to invest in prettying up the village for tourism and this is part of its appeal.

As you walk along the narrow streets you will probably wonder what hides behind the ancient crumbly façades of the Medieval tower houses. However what you see today is not how the Tower houses would have appeared in their Medieval heyday and this is partly due to the intervention of the famous Renaissance architect Brunelleschi who ordered that the lofty towers be cut down to size! This was in order to provide a clear view from the fortress should any enemy dare to approach from land or water.

Today many of these houses dating back to the 12th Century have been converted into comfortable modern day homes with original features and stylish interiors.

History buffs and romantics will delight at the chance to stay in these ancient historic buildings – the majority of which are owned by local residents who are slowly warming up to the idea of tourism.

For a romantic stay in a beautiful converted tower house apartment or studio you can expect to pay anything from 60 – 130 euros per night.

Despite its slow take up on tourism, Vicopisano is gradually gaining the reputation of becoming ‘a town of many festivals’

The biggest event of the year is the annual Medieval Festival which takes place during the 1st weekend of September. In 2015 this festival reached record numbers and received more than 15,000 visitors during the two-day event. Medieval jousters, men in tights and locals dressed as serving wenches and crusaders add to the already captivating atmosphere of a town transformed back to the 11th Century.

The first major event of the year is that of the Festa del Camminanti (Walkers’ festival) where participants of all ages and abilities get the chance to discover the tracks and trails of the Monte Pisano with expert guides. Itineraries include trekking through picturesque olive groves and discovering the traditions and culture of this historical land.

The festival takes place over the Easter weekend this year (2016) and usually takes place during the 3rd or 4th weekend of March

The month of May hosts the annual ‘Castello in Fiore’ festival which translates to a ‘Castle in bloom’ and during the two-day event the town is transformed into a blanket of colour and perfume. Visitors to the event may purchase anything from a tiny cactus to a 300-year-old olive tree. Street food and live music usually accompanies this event and other festivals.

During the summer there is live music throughout the streets and piazzas and numerous Sagras which are outdoor festivals themed around food and dancing under the stars.

In addition to the seasonal festivals Vicopisano runs a regular antique and collectors’ market every second Sunday of the month.


Whether you are here during a festival or not most visitors will always find their way to the Medieval masterpiece which sits on a hill in the centre of town.

La Rocca as it is known is the impressive feat of engineering designed by the Renaissance master Filippo Brunelleschi.

No trip to Vicopisano would be complete without a visit to the fortress which offers a unique insight into times gone by. Taking a guided tour when the fortress is open at the weekends will help you understand the genius of this master architect.

Adults and children alike will enjoy a memorable experience ‘without bounds’! The tour of the fortress includes climbing a 34-metre high watch tower by a series of wooden steps and ladders.

A visit to the room once used as the armoury offers a great opportunity to try on Medieval helmets and handle the burnished weapons.

In addition to its characteristic historic centre and the many events and festivals Vicopisano is still an authentic Tuscan working town.

At the edge of the village you can visit an organic olive farm which produces a quality extra virgin olive oil.

The farm has a working press which can be seen in action from October through to January and during the rest of the year the farm offers tastings of extra virgin olive oil as well as other products produced at the farm.

To conclude – if you are looking to enjoy the hospitality of a small characteristic Tuscan town still unaffected by mass tourism Vicopisano is the perfect place to stay.

Marie Kidd – proprietor of Casa Colomba a romantic Medieval tower house in Vicopisano and founder of Authentic Tuscany.

Our company “AuthenticTuscany” provides the perfect solution for your holiday in Tuscany offering character properties and memorable experiences in and around the Medieval town of Vicopisano in the Province of Pisa.



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