Warmer days and longer nights are here! Our towns and cities are filled with excitement, as we celebrate another series of exuberant festivals and events for May 2018.
This is the time to witness a sagra–a local festival filled with music, pageantry and Tuscan people at play. Celebrate the joy of a seasonal gastronomic delight with us this May!
Lucca Classical Music Festival
Photocredit: La Gazzetta di Lucca
Home to the composer Giacomo Puccini, the charming city of Lucca offers the perfect backdrop for a classical music festival.
Witness more than 80 classical musical events which will take place in and around some of the most beautiful parts of the city.
In addition to the talented musicians and orchestras invited to perform, there will be a chance to hear unpublished works byGiacomo Puccini and Gioachino Rossini. Check here for more information.
Festa della fragole in the ‘city of wine’
(May 5-6, 13-14)
The Strawberry festival (festa della fragole) is an event that warms up spring in charming hilltop town of Terricciola.
This is a celebration of the tastiest fruit of the season, which can simply be enjoyed alone or sampled in a strawberry risotto or how about veal cutlets with strawberries!
As this festival takes place in a wine producing territory, we can guarantee you will get to sample some of the best wines of the region. Maybe we should book you a taxi for this one?
Medioevo in castello
(May 12 – 13)
The village of Buti nestled on the eastern slopes of the Monte Pisano–is a sociable little place which holds numerous festivals throughout the year.
The Medieval festival takes place in the most suggestive part of the village, on the higher slopes in an area known as Castello.
The 2-day event offers fun for all the family and all those who love a sense of history.
Observe the transformation of the village back to the Middle Ages;
Wander around the narrow streets to the sound of Medieval minstrels;
Witness knights in armour and enjoy Tuscan pageantry.
Medieval taverns and bars will also be serving dishes from the times gone by. Saturday night will end with live music and dancing under the stars.
Entrance fee €4 adults €2 children
Castello in fiore
Castello in fiore (Castle in flower) an annual event held over 2 days in Vicopisano. This wonderful festival full of colour and perfume is situated around an unmissable opportunity to enjoy the historic center and Brunelleschi’s fortress.
Like many Tuscan festivals it’s not just about the main theme, in this case the flowers. There will be market stalls with artisan products, street food and activities for kids. On Saturday night there will be live music and dancing in the square.
Entrance is free!
Wednesday is for women!
(May 2, 16, June 6, 20 & July 4, 18)
Photocredit: Second Star Sailing
Enjoy sailing for a couple of hours along the Pisan coastline with a professional female Skipper. Everyone is welcome, at all levels! Take a swim, maybe catch the sunset, all while supporting the AIRC (Italian Association for Cancer Research) with Second Star Sailing. All donations we receive go directly to AIRC. Check here for more details.
Note: This is a BYOB & food event, they provide the fun, you provide the rest.
Let’s be honest, it can happen, we get those late March and April showers!
The good news is that it rarely rains all day long in Tuscany. There will always be moments of blue skies and pretty spring flowers.
Visiting at this time of year shouldn’t stop you from enjoying all that Tuscany has to offer. We believe it’s the perfect time to sightsee before the summer heat sets in.
As most of our properties are located in and around the Province of Pisa we have decided to give you some insight into what you can do and see closer to your base.
1. For Vespa and vintage lovers
Photo credits: Museo Piaggio
Let’s start with The Vespa Museum in Pontedera. A perfect spot for kids, dads and those who love all things vintage! Ladies believe me – you will enjoy it too!
I must admit when I first heard of the Vespa Museum, I had no interest whatsoever in seeing a bunch of scooters! I finally went along all in the name of research and I must say, I enjoyed every minute and stayed much longer than intended and I would definitely go back again!
This small museum is dedicated to the history of the Vespa and is situated in what was once the company tool shop. The Vespa scooters on display are some of the most beautiful and rarest of their kind.
All the displays are labelled in English as well as Italian and there is a small bookshop with some cool Vespa memorabilia.
Entrance to the museum is free!
2. A journey through history with Dinosaurs and Monks!
If I told you you were going to visit one of the oldest museums in the world, what would you expect to see? The Natural History Museum of the University of Pisa dates back to thelate 16th Century and has its origins in the gallery attached to the botanical gardens which were founded by Ferdinando I dei Medici.
Be prepared to be amazed and surprised by this incredible historical building which lies at the end of a lane close to the small town of Calci. A glimpse through the cypress trees will reveal what lies ahead as you witness a magnificent Baroque building which houses both the Natural History Museum and the Carthusian Monastery of Pisa.
It is where these two buildings merge that your rainy day in Tuscany will be filled with both beauty and awe. History buffs and art lovers will love the Carthusian Monastery and kids will delight in seeking out dinosaurs, amphibians and reptiles.
The Natural History Museum has both permanent and temporary exhibitions ranging from the origins of man through to mineral, cetaceans, dinosaur and predator galleries. There is also a fascinating exhibition of the evolution of the territory of the Monte Pisano recreating 500 million years of travel and some mind boggling facts.
For beautiful architecture and art, a visit to the Carthusian Monastery is a must. Pass through the enormous wrought iron gates into what looks like a fairytale castle. It’s hard to imagine this was once a place of meditation and contemplation.
Founded by a group of Carthusian monks in 1366, here you can witness how the monks lived their humble lives in complete austerity in their tiny little cells. Wander through the cloisters and marvel at the beauty and splendour of this monumental building with sumptuous frescoes and architecture.
Note: Visits to the Monastery are allocated at certain times with a guide. All tours are in Italian but as the Monastery is so visual you can get away without an English speaking guide. However, an interpreter can be organised through us at Authentic Tuscany.
Natural History Museum
Guided visits in the Monastery at the following times:
Sunday & national holidays
3. A Visit to Pisa’s art galleries and museums
Believe it or not, Pisa has much more to offer beyond the Leaning Tower. Here you will find a wealth of museums and galleries to keep everyone happy. I’ve mentioned some of our favourites in some detail in this blog. For more information you can visit the official tourism website for Pisa
In 1998 just outside the ancient walls of Pisa and within a stone’s throw of the famous Leaning Tower, excavation work was started by the railway company in order to improve the railway lines. Almost immediately the excavation workers came across some large wooden objects. From that moment on the excavation works became an archaeological investigation which uncovered 30 Roman ships and their cargo. The archaeological investigation took 16 years to complete from 1998 to 2016.
This is an incredibly fascinating site which offers an insight into the powerful Maritime Republic of Pisa and how close the lagoons came up to the city.
A visit to the site is strictly by appointment and limited to just a couple of days a week. You can book your place through their website which seems to be only in Italian at the time of writing but any guest of Authentic Tuscany looking for help to navigate the site can contact us for help.
Note: Each visit is limited to 1 hour 30 minutes and is free of charge. Guided visits cost €12 for adults, €5 for 6-14 year olds, under 6 years free.
The National Museums of Pisa
Photo credit: Keerti Barua
Pisa has two magnificent museums, both located along the banks of the River Arno. The first, the National Museum of San Matteo holds the largest collection of artworks in Pisa, including a remarkable collection of Medieval pottery and ceramics, a range of paintings together with wooden sculptures (from the 12th–14th Centuries) and including 16th Century masterpiece sculptures by Nicola Pisano e Donatello.
The second of Pisa’s national museums is the Palazzo Royale. Which was built as a winter residence so that the Medici family could escape the harsh winters of Florence. The palace has consequently been used by the subsequent rulers of Tuscany including Italy’s deposed Royal family.
What made this museum special to us is that we were accompanied throughout our visit by an expert guide who explained the works of art and the history which ranged from a collection of antique armour from the Gioco del Ponte, (the bridge game) a unique event exclusive to Pisa dating from the Middle Ages which is re-enacted every year in June across the Ponte di Mezzo (the halfway bridge).
There is also a collection of fine tapestries and a rare crimson dress once owned by the Grand Duchess Eleonora di Toledo which was made in the 1550s.
4. Family fun at the Aquarium
Less than an hour from most of our properties is the Port City of Livorno famous for seafood lunches, it’s grand central covered market, Venetian quarter and its Aquarium. This is your chance to get up close and personal to marine life from the Mediterranean and further afield, including corals, seahorses, turtles, blacktip reef sharks, zebra sharks and more!
Note: Entrance times vary throughout the year and can be seen on their English version website. Entrance fees €14 adults, €12 over 65’s, €8 for children over 140cm in height, free for children up to 1 metre in height.
5. Pasta Workshops
The perfect morning activity for all the family is learning how to make fresh pasta just like an Italian mamma! Even if you are not renowned for your cooking skills this fun informative lesson offers the perfect solution for a rainy day in Tuscany. Plus you get to sit down as a family or group and eat your pasta lunch together.
6. Cooking classes for foodies
If you are looking to impress your family and friends with an Italian dinner spend a few hours in the kitchen with our Italian chef. Learn everything from how to pronounce Italian dishes, how to make fresh pasta, right down to making the perfect dessert!
7. Wine and gastronomic tours
If you love Tuscan food and wine but it’s raining outside and if cooking is not your thing. Then a wine or foodies tour is the perfect option for a rainy day. Enjoy tasting delicious wines of the region accompanied by cured hams, artisan bread and award winning extra virgin olive oil.
We are able to help organise all the above gastronomic and wine experiences. Visit our website for more information.
On the 1st and 2nd of March you can witness the bottling of the wine at one of our favourite vineyards. It’s a great experience to see the wine producers finally getting to bottle their wine and reap the benefits of all their hard work throughout the year.
The event takes place in the beautiful countryside of the Pisan hills in an area known as the wine route. We suggest combining a wine tasting tour and rustic Tuscan lunch to the authentic experience!
Free entrance into all State museums and archaeological parks
Sunday 4th of March marks the 1st Sunday of the month, a day when all the state museums open their doors for free! This includes The Uffizi and The Accademia in Florence along with many more museums and Archaeological parks all over Tuscany. Make sure you go early as the queues are long and remember if you are not here in March you can visit for free any time of the year as long as it’s the first Sunday of the month!
International Women’s Day
Photo credit:Wikimedia Commons
International women’s day is a global event celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world.
The tradition here in Italy is to give a sprig of Mimosa blossom to a woman close to your heart in celebration of this special day. The Mimosa tree itself will be in full bloom and florists will be displaying huge bunches of bright yellow blossoms spilling out into the streets.
It’s a day when you will witness sons, husbands, and lovers scurrying around the streets clutching the brightly dancing flowers prepared as a simple posy or abundant bouquet of flowers.
Meanwhile the women, especially the younger ones will be getting ready for a night on the town. Many of the restaurants, bars, and clubs will be hosting women only events!
(March 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, 31, April 1-2)
Photo credit:Insider’s Italy
A beautiful an interesting event full of colour, perfumes and nature trails. I have just rephrased the following sentence The event known as the Antique Camelia’s of Lucca will celebrate 28th year in March this year. The event takes place in and around the pretty little hamlets of Pieve di Compitoand San Andrea di Compito, close to our Villa Roocello at Colle di Compito and not too far from our other properties.
Here you can visit some of the most beautiful and historic homes in the area and see some of the oldest Camellias in Europe. The plants were brought here from the Far East by prosperous merchants from Lucca back in the 18th Century. Extraordinarily, these beautiful plants spread across the region due to the perfect microclimate in Tuscany.
A must see for visitors is the incredible ‘Camelietum’ a sanctuary where you can witness 600 species of this ancient flower. The event also offers, concerts, and tastings of local products.
Knights Square (piazza dei cavalieri) Photo credit:Pisa Today
If you are coming to visit us during the end of March be prepared to jump forward a few months because the city of Pisa celebrates the coming of the New Year 2019!
Steeped in history and tradition the New Years celebration of Pisa dates back to the 10th Century, when the powerful Maritime Republic of Pisa decided to fix the date of New Year’s Day on March 25th!
Wrapped in religious and mysterious reasoning the date links to the annunciation of the Virgin Mary 9 months before the birth of Jesus on December 25th. The Pisan calendar continued up until November 20th, 1749 and was changed by the Grand Duke of Tuscany who declared the year 1750 would begin on January 1st.
The tradition of the Pisan New Year was revived in modern times during the 80’s and follows a mystical occurrence which is linked to a type of solar clock which signifies the start of the new year. At 12 midday on March 25th, a ray of sunshine enters Pisa’s Cathedral through a small round window on the southern wall. The ray of light hits a shelf which sits above a pillar next to the magnificent pulpit of Giovanni Pisano. The shelf is supported by a small marble egg which symbolises the life, birth, and the endless story of Pisa. Once the sun illuminates this small shelf Pisa’s New Year begins!
Anyone can witness this phenomenon but make sure you get there early! The event is preceded with a historical parade of drummers and flag throwers dressed in Medieval costume. The parade starts from beautiful Knights square (Piazza dei Cavalieri) and follows a route right past the famous Leaning Tower.