domenica 26 gennaio 2014

Italy, a Wide Open Museum – in defence of the NIMBY Syndrome

January 26th, 2014

Everyone knows Italy is a wide open museum indoors and outdoors. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look there is some historical sight. “Italy is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to date, and according to one estimate the country is home to half the world's great art treasures.* The nation has, overall, an estimated 100,000 monuments of any sort (churches, cathedrals, archaeological sites, houses and statues).”** And that does not cover the fabulous unique landscapes of oak woods, rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves. 

The economy of Italy is not the best right now. It does have the advantage of being one big museum to bank on. But what is happening often, is the Italians themselves are ruining their own country – in the name of progress. For example in Tuscany a mega private multinational power company (on the stock market and has investors waiting for profits), Terna, has planned a huge double power line “Razionalizzazione Arezzo” from Santa Barbara to Montesansavino that cuts right through dear beautiful Tuscany in the southern Chianti and Siena areas - rural Tuscany where tourism gives value to the territory and jobs to the locals. Where beauty is the important attraction and for good reason, it is one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The super powerful project-makers (highly practiced in strategies for their own benefit) say it is a necessary project, in the name of public interest but the country does not even have an Energy program.  These are brand new highly invasive projects that have nothing to do with less invasive "rationalizing" of the old lines orginally planned. 

Fine, if it is necessary, it is necessary. But plan it properly. Don't insist on hitting on the fewest numbers (and the most defenceless) of people involved as if that makes it okay (and easier to pass the deal!) - each single person is important and has intrinsic value. Terna tries to suggest that they are hiding the power lines by putting them through the woods, but the pylons tower well above the woods. They don't consider in the Winter there are no leaves on the trees. They think the 3cm width wires are invisible to the eye. Invading the countryside at the rate they are going, there will be no untouched areas down the road. 

There is a group of highly educated/cultured individuals who are very concerned with the project, active for the last three years: Comitato di Alta Tensione representing a large populance. Terna has the gumption so to say the Comitato or anyone against the project suffers from NIMBY (not in my back yard) syndrome. It's a way to belittle the local residents affected by the disasterous opera, to make them look like they are selfish and anti patriotic. Excuse me, if the locals don't defend a territory, who is going to? What Terna is really saying is “It is not in my back yard” we are going to put it in yours and accuse you of self-centeredness – you can bet none of them live in area with projected pylons as high as the Tower of Pisa! It is a slap in the face to pretend people affected by major “highway” power lines just sit back and take it and not defend an area they love, have enhanced, invested a lot of time and money on and paid taxes for. They are doing it for themselves, their neighbours, the population of the world and generations to come.  Hats off to them.

"Wendell Berry: There’s  a lot of scorn now toward people who say, “Not in my backyard,” but the not-in-my-backyard sentiment is one of the most valuable that we have. If enough people said, “Not in my backyard,” these bad innovations wouldn’t be in anybody’s backyard. It’s your own backyard you’re required to protect because in doing so you’re defending everybody’s backyard. It is altogether healthy and salutary."

Thankfully these NIMBY's are not alone and have the Region (State) and local Politicians of 7 communities on their side, as well as the Ministry of Culture, but it awaits the okay from the Ministry of the Environment who has the last word.  You would think they would be the first to defend the area, but it isn't so.  The Committee has presently over 7000 signatures of concerned local and international people on their petition.  

It's about time Italy seriously started investing in it's own country in ways to beautify it further, it is a goldmine under their feet, a gift to humanity, a responsibility to mankind to preserve it well. The landscape is one of it's treasures. It's a small country and "cementified" hugely already. It's so very easy to ruin it.  Spending more on hiding these power lines and planning them better is well spent, an investment in the future. Why not couple them with the highways, railways and areas already compromised, how about putting them underground? Terna is investing a great deal in lines that travel under the sea why not under ground too? Once they invade areas with 45 meter  high power lines and their sentries, they never go back to what they once were.

Assesore di Montevarchi Piero Francini signing petition
The High Tension Committee “Comitato Alta Tensione” has an online petition anyone can sign. If you are interested in helping towards preserving Tuscany's integrity and natural beauty from these devastating monster lines, please go to the site and sign the online petition.  We can all be NIMBY's and NIYBY (not in your back yard) and proud of it.  We can help the Italians defend their territory.  Visit the Comitato Alta Tensione site in English and the Facebook page.  


Sherry Mason
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*UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Web. 25 Sep. 2011. 
**Beni Italiani Unesco. Associazione Città e Siti Unesco. Web. 17 Jul. 2012.

sabato 19 gennaio 2013

Polo, a prestious Club in Tuscany right at La Selva's door

If you like Polo, or are interested in checking it out for the first time you may be in luck while staying at La Selva Agriturismo Holiday Villas in Tuscany.

La Selva's neighbour in fact has a prestious Polo club, Villa Sesto Polo Club owned by Riccardo Tattoni.  You can see it beyond from our road, cradled in a sloped valley a short distance below our Villa Felciai and Villa Fabbri.  

Polo:  an extraordinary exhilarating exciting experience!

It is fascinating to watch a polo match no doubt about it!  Villa Sesta Polo Club hosts international tournaments during the finer weather seasons (April to October) and it's open to the public.  It is a perfect location nestled in an outdoor amphitheatre of nature.  The club welcomes spectators and enjoys sharing their passions of the world of Polo in a very pleasant social atmosphere.  The dress code is not as one would think.  You can go as you are - no need for fancy clothes, hats and such as one might imagine - decidedly casual, though the parking lot is full of some very sleek vehicles!  

Viewing a game of Polo is as exciting as you'd expect!  It is amazing to watch the horse, or "ponies" as they call them - all the stop and starting, the turning around practically on one foot.  At first I was concerned for the animals but they seem to enjoy running after that ball!  They appear to do it on their own accord - and with gusto though hard work.  They've been training since they were very young.  

The "ponies" are in complete symphony with the rider - something beautiful to witness.

I found it memorable hearing the "crack" of the "stick" hitting the ball as the rider bends and twists over in unlikely yet elegant positions.  They are hanging on to nothing but the reins, galloping at full speed after the ball avoiding collisions on "ponies" who intuitively know the strategy.  The athletes are mostly (but not all!) from Argentina and are amazingly agile and good with horses.  

The other thing that gave my spine a tingle is the sound of thundering hooves as they collectively rush across the field.  

The riders often get into pileups and knots - it is interesting to watch them extricate themselves without for a moment taking their eyes off the ball.  They risk getting their legs crushed or a mallet smacked on the head in these circumstances - it certainly is a dangerous game on so many levels.  
Outside the playing field there is a lot of coming and going with fresh horse being exchanged often during the match.

The ball is made from a very hard, yet light material.  It's like Styrofoam highly compressed to a very hard compact form - you wouldn't want to get hit with it, another danger that looms for the players and their horses.  The ball gets a dent in it with each strike so they need about two dozen new balls each game!

In the evening they get out the wine, build a bonfire and grill up huge racks of typical cuts of beef rib, pork and sausage - a specialty of the Argentinians.  And they are very good at it!  It's all very jovial.

The manager Juan Luciano Bozzi organizes Polo practice and lessons for beginners and players of all levels.  They are available to do single or group lessons guaranteeing high safety level of the rider and horses.   Our son Leone took tutoring for about a year with Juan when he was around 14 years old (he already had experience with English riding) - it was an extraordinary exhilarating experience. 

Last I heard a single lesson of 1 hour is €140 including the horse, teacher and all the gear supplied by Villa Sesta Polo Club

I don't have this years' (2013) tournament calendar yet but I will post it when I do!

We've got some other fascinating neighbours but I'll save those other blogs!

Sherry Mason
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Photos courtesy of Villa Sesto Polo Club

martedì 8 gennaio 2013

Important Art Exhibition Carlo Carrà (1881-1966) in Alba, Italy

CARLO CARRA' 1881 – 1966 - Fondazione Ferrero from 27the of October 2012 to 27th of January 2013

There is still some time to catch this fabulous Art Exhibition in Alba of Carlo Carrà.  

It is almost 20 years since such a major mono-graphic testimony has been dedicated to this very important artist.  A true icon and protagonist of the grand movements of the '900's .  

Born in Piemonte, Carrà was one of the few Italian artists who crossed and creatively interpreted independently the more significant movements of the Italian figurative culture of the '900's. 

There have been selected 76 prestigious public and private masterpieces gathered nationally and internationally, representing each phase in the Artist's life.  Spanning the various stages - early divisionism, the small period of "Antigrazioso" or "Anti-graceful", futurism, metaphysics, mythic realism, the 1920's landscapes, the 1930's monumental figure compositions and finally a selection still life's. 

It is a very large well installed exhibition and a must see.

Alba is located between Genoa and Torino.  

Admission is free

Hours: Tuesday - Friday: 15h00 - 19h00 Saturday, Sunday and public holidays: 10h00 - 19h00 

Closed Mondays 

For information: Fondazione Ferrero, Strada di mezzo 44, Alba – +39 0173 29 52 59 -


Sherry Mason
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lunedì 31 dicembre 2012

Power walking, Running, Biking in Tuscany

 La Selva to Montebenichi, one of Arezzo's prized “Strada del Vino” 

One of the wonderful things to do during your holiday at La Selva Vacation Villa Rentals is to take a walk up to Montebenichi. It overlooks the breathtaking Val'd'Ambra or valley of the Ambra River. It is considered one of the most scenic roads in the Province of Arezzo and is part of “Le Strade del Vino” or “Wine roads”. It's a great way to start your day or to get moving after a day of relax reading or lounging around the pool.  If you think La Selva Villas already has an extraordinary panorama just you wait!  

At the top is Montebenichi, a charming ancient medieval village and aside from the church and private homes of local and international dwellers, it has a small 4 star hotel in a castle and one quaint restaurant, both fantastic. There is no bar or grocery store, but thankfully there is a public drinking water fountain next to the church to fill up your water bottles.

Montebenichi is 3.5-4.2 kilometres (2.2-2.6 miles) up depending if you are starting out from the main grounds of La Selva villa where Libreria and Terrazza apartments are located or one of our large Villas, Felciai and Fabbri. It climbs 200 metres (656 feet) up in altitude, just right. A completely paved road it meanders among olive groves, vineyards, cypress trees, oak woods with a few lovely farmhouses and villas on the way. Wide enough that any passing cars can get by you easily, it's bordered with and array of wild flowers, some very fragrant. 

 The climb starts out slowly and increases, a sort of natural warm-up.  Softer slopes dot the route from time to time to give you a bit of a break. It's nice to stop and turn around to admire the remarkable view. Often wild animals can surprise you when they cross your path; wild boar, pheasants, porcupines, fox, deer and badgers. No worries, they are afraid and take off fast! You won't be alone on this trail as quite a few of us have discovered this wonderous walk.

About 2/3rds to the top is an interesting 8th Century Romanic Church where the local Priest Don Alessandro stays.  The church is a wonderful setting for weddings overlooking terraced hills you can see in the photo above. 


The back faces the road and you can just walk around the side to get to the front.

The 360° panorama is stunning from the top. Siena can be easily seen to the SW and the Chianti Mountain range to the north.

 Of course the main view is Val'd'Ambra spread out marveously below.  On clear days you can see as far as Rapolano, the Crete di Siena, Val'd'Orcia and Tucany's volcano, Monte Amiato where the famous Brunello wine comes from. Closer below you can see La Selva and a little beyond Castello di Montalto (historical enemies of La Selva Castle-now-Villa during the medieval, but this is another story for another blog!).

If you are super energetic you can continue on a gravel road along the crest of the Hills of Val'd'Ambra towards Solata and further, Cennina; a great trail for mountain bikers. After a wonder around Montebenichi and a rest the way down is much easier - it is hard to not run!  You can admire the sights all the way down.

When weather permits I go almost every day as one of my primary work outs. Just being outdoors, getting the heart pumping, breathing in the clean air along with with stupendous views and fragrances extends the mind and brings a real sense of well being. I feel so fortunate to have this at my doorstep.

What you will need:
comfortable running shoes, a water bottle, adequate clothes, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses depending on the weather.

I hope you enjoy it when you are here with us.

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mercoledì 26 dicembre 2012

Italy's largest Antiques Fair in the fine city of Arezzo

Only about 35 minutes beautiful drive away from La Selva Agriturismo Vacation Villas   Arezzo is the home of the famous Academy Award Winning movie “Life is Beautiful” by Roberto Benigni.  

One of the special events in Arezzo is the outdoor “Arezzo Antiques Fair” and Flea Market. It is held in the ancient heart of the Medieval city center with over 500 stands and is the largest in Italy. Taking place on the first weekend, Saturday and Sunday, of each month.  The fair has a long history - the first one dating back to 1968. Each edition sees around 20,000 visitors with their biggest one of the year held in September. There is something for everyone whether you are collectors, tourists, renovators, art dealers, antique dealers or just  the curious. There are many different items offered and of different periods. It is a lot of fun to stroll along the ancient cobblestone streets looking at all the different stands taking in some Italian history and snooping through:
Antique lace,
old record albums,
furniture restored and non in all age, types and manner,
heirloom and costume jewelry,
fans, magnifying glasses, pill boxes, pens, watches, lighters, eyeglasses, binoculars,
war paraphernalia
coins and stamps and collectibles,
Liberty glass,
ceramics and china,
old books and posters,
antique lights and fixtures,
objects of Art Decò,
silverware and silver items,
hammered iron items and brass objects,
old doors and door handles,
tiles and textiles,

and just about anything you can think of! There is also a large (but molto minor) selection of modern day offerings.  Exploring the fair can tell you a lot about the Italians since it isn't about tourists but rather all about Italians, their history or way of living past and present.  When you get tired or hungry you can easily get a snack or have lunch in one of Arezzo's fine restaurants.  Then you can enjoy a delightful Italian soft icecream, espresso or capuccino to set you on your way to more treasure hunting.

Whoever has gone to the Arezzo Antique Fair, Italian or visitor, has come home with a keepsake or two. It's a special way to explore Italy and make your stay in Tuscany more unforgettable than ever. An appointment not to be missed!
Sherry Mason
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The next Fair will be on January 4-5th, 2012.  For a similar Italian version click here:  Fiera Antiquaria di Arezzo

mercoledì 19 dicembre 2012

Just getting started on this La Selva Agriturismo Vacation Villas in Tuscany.  Will be back soon!