Thursday, 8 January 2015

Christmas in Tuscany

A guest post from the resident photographer, and editor, of Milan Transfer.  Grazie mille Stefano!
Last Christmas we attended morning Mass in the medieval village of Radicofani, perched on a hilltop in Tuscany.  In typical Italian style, people arrived well after Mass had started and later, the line-up for communion, or lack of it, could not have better encapsulated the Italian approach to queuing.  But the choir of assembled locals sang beautifully to a soft organ accompaniment. It seemed as though they were drawing inspiration and breath from the centuries of singing that had taken place in this simple Romanesque church. However they weren’t averse to improvisation. Their rendition of I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas added a special touch to the service.
After the Mass we returned to the agriturismo, where we were staying, for a Christmas lunch of traditional Tuscan fare.
Our host Marina turned out to be an excellent cook.
The six-course lunch started with an assortment of bruschettas topped with pesto and grilled bacon, olive tapenade, pork pate and tomato, moved on to a chesnut and mushroom soup, then progressed to a double serving of the local pici pasta served with ragu and cacio e pepe sauces. This was followed by a mushroom crepe, before the really serious business of the secondi, a selection of  perfectly roasted lamb, beef and pork.  They were sliced at the table and then basted with olive oil using a brush made from twigs of fresh rosemary. Dessert was a light, simple sponge roll with crème anglais.  Grappa followed as a digestive for anyone interested (me).
Our stay at this agriturismo was part of a two week holiday in southern Tuscany and Umbria.  We explored the countryside on drives through vineyards, olive groves, hilltop villages, rolling open fields and wooded slopes (while trying to eat less extravagant lunches) to places including Siena, Montelpulciano, Montalcino, Terme San Filippo, Perugia, Gubbio, Bevagna and Assisi.  Spello, was one of our favourites, a picture-perfect medieval village that would be a lot more famous were it not for Assisi being just a few kilometres away.
Just outside the village of Castelnuovo dell’Abbate we came across the abbey of Sant’Antimo, which was established to serve pilgrims on the ancient Via Francigena route from France to Rome.  The order of Canons Regular of Prémontré who live there pray seven times a day, at precisely the same time, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Their prayers are sung in Gregorian chants. Needless to say, the acoustics in the church were perfect.  Only the two men taking a break from their yard work  joined us, as we listened spellbound.
Then it was time to return to the chillier temperatures in Milan, which greeted us with snow for the last 200km of the journey. 
This trip marked the beginning of the end for our Milan Transfer.  We now look forward to a year of adventure as we take the slow road home.  
Auguri e felice anno nuovo.
Where we stayed:
Lucca - We stayed outside the town at Rose e Limoni, a simple townhouse which was part of a larger converted farmhouse.  Staying in spring, or summer, would be lovely as the garden would be beautiful. CLICK HERE for the listing on AirBnB.
Spello - Our little apartment, San Francesco III, was recommended by some friendly locals.  It was sparklingly clean and very cosy, situated on a quiet lane in this lovely little town.  CLICK HERE for the website.
Perugia - A night of luxury in Castello di Monterone.  Loved it! CLICK HERE for the website.
Radicofani - Our little apartment, La Vigna, at the lovely agriturismo, La Sevlella, was perfect for a lazy week.  The beautiful view from the balcony would be even more stunning in summer.  Perhaps we will return one day...CLICK HERE for the website.

Where we ate:
We mostly ate dinner at 'home' but lunch out.   Although we ate well throughout the trip, few places stood out.  The exception was this restaurant in Assisi.
Assisi - Locanda del Podesta is just inside the arched entrance to Assisi.  It was a complete surprise.  We were the only people dining as the day was misty and cold, but the waiter was charming and the food delicious.  Highly recommended.  CLICK HERE for the webiste and HERE for reviews.


  1. Love it Stephen. The singing, scenery, food and grappa all sounded lovely! Happy 2015!

    1. Thanks Therese. I've passed on your message to the guest blogger. Much appreciated.

  2. Tuscany sounds like all it's cracked up to be.
    Was that a blackberry bush I saw in one of those photos?

    1. Yes G & A, it was a great two weeks. Different to the usual trip round Tuscany and Umbria in summer sunshine, but still lovely. Will confirm about the blackberry bushes with Stefano.

  3. Nice post..keep up the good work of posting good stuffs. Pictures are awesome.