Saturday, 26 October 2013

Italy off the beaten track: Farnese!

Italy is our home and it's as well the country we both decided to leave because, even being such an amazing place, extraordinarily rich in art, history and natural beauty, it is, unfortunately, in a very dark phase in terms of economy, culture and most important politics.
Anyway, this is not the place to talk about this so let's move on.

The thing is that, every time we come back to visit our families, we rediscover the many little gems, lots of them off the beaten track, that make this country so unique.

One of this is the medieval village of Farnese in Lazio, and more specifically in the area called Tuscia that was once the place where Etruscans settled. This tiny village, counting not even 1700 inhabitants, is beautifully perched on a tuffaceous cliff.

Its name derives from the Farnia tree known around Europe as peduncolate oak and depicted on the city logo.

Apparently the name Farnese has then consequently been acquired by the famous homonymous noble family that had in the area its oldest feudal possessions and that became so influential during the Renaissance.

Nowadays not that much is left of that prestigious historic presence, if you exclude the main palace (that has though been divided in several private apartments throughout the centuries) and the old bridge that was used by the family to reach the gardens (and it's now an exhibition centre).

But even if the village has lost part of its historic and artistic features it still remains a lovely little hamlet where to stop a few days to relax, being in a very strategic position between the volcanic lake of Bolsena  and the sea and close to many interesting old Etruscan necropolis.

Nature lovers won't be disappointed as the village is surrounded by the Selva del Lamone, a natural reserve perfect for walks. The main trail is the Sentiero dei Briganti, a path crossing the Selva, that follows the traces of the late XIX century brigand Tiburzi (that had some connection with one of my ancestors, but this is another story!)

Well, this is where my family is coming from and where I have spent most of my summer holidays when I was a kid, so probably this is the reason why I love the place so much. But I am sure that if you have the chance to visit it, you won't resist the charm of its silent cobbled street and its peaceful atmosphere, .

So if you found the place interesting and are thinking about visiting, here are a few information:
There a few options in town  where to stay overnight such as the Residenza Farnese, the Agriturismo Borgo Il Ducato, the Ostello Ortensi.

In the old part of the town you will find 2 very good and very different restaurants: La Taverna dei Briganti serving rustic and genuine local cuisine and La Piazzetta del Sole a little gourmet gem that has its strengths in the surprising match of the freshest local products and the chef's creativity (A must try!)

Oh and don't forget to check out the best local produce: great quality olive oil!
And finally, if the local wine is not top-notch, you will easily find nice wines from Montefiascone or Pitigliano.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Balagne: beauty and fertility of Northern Corsica

Corsica is one of our favorite spots in the Mediterranean.
For its sun, its clear waters, its breathtaking views....

....and because, to us, it is the perfect blend of Italian and French culture.
It is extremely touristy but it still retains a very wild character along with a strong traditional identity.
And while August tends to be overcrowded, September is quieter and surely a better time to visit. This is why we decided to head there for an early autumn escape. We had already been there a few times traveling all around the island so this time we decided to concentrate on the northern part and more specifically in the Balagne and Cap Corse.

The Balagne is an area of the Haute-Corse, bordered by the Ostriconi river on the east side and extending  up to the Genoese town of Calvi on the west side.
We used Santa Reparata di Balagna, just 5 minutes inland from the popular holiday resort of Ile Rousse, as a base for our wanderings in this fertile areas scattered with old charming villages.

Midway between Ile Rousse and Calvi, we encountered the little coast town of Algajola, characterized by a beautifully maintained (and privately owned) Genovese fort and a series of small places ideal for al fresco dining.

The road from the beach leading inland will bring you to the quiet Aregno with the stunning XII century Romanesque church of the Trinity and the coloured stonework of its facade.

Following the Route des Artisans, we headed inland towards Pigna.
This is a charming and peaceful village that cannot be accessed by car. Walking through its narrow cobbled street you will find lots of art shops, some lazy cats laying under the sun and prickly pear plants.

It feels a bit too perfect and touristy but it is definitely worth a visit.

Sant'Antonino, a bit further inland, is even more touristy than Pigna as you will easily realise it by the big buses parked at the bottom of the town. Once again you will have to leave you car (and pay for the parking) and walk up the paved medieval streets.
The town is mainly inhabited by retired people and flourishing rosemary plants.....

If you are looking for some more genuinely traditional places then get back to your car and drive to Speloncato. You will only find silence and beautiful old buildings on this tiny town perched on a protruded rock in the middle of the valley.

We met a funny and knowledgeable old man who took us a bit around telling us a bit of the town history, the beautiful church and the amazingly decorated pipe organ.

We spent some time strolling around and taking pictures....

and making new friends...