Area Info


Casa Francia is approximately 2 km from the village of Palaia. Palaia is part of the province of Pisa and traces its history back to the 10th century.  It is a lovely little village with a beautiful clock tower and several lovely little churches.

The area is known for its beautiful countryside and gently rolling farms. There are several olive oil producers and wineries in the near vicinity. Local activities include hiking, horseback riding, golf, not to mention truffle hunting! Palaia lies in the Valdera region, well known for its truffles.

Within a short distance the area is dotted with many other charming medieval villages, such as Certaldo, Lari, Marti, San Miniato and many others, all well worth a visit.

  • Lari – Visit the 12th century castle in the center of town.  www.comune.lari.pi.it
  • Certaldo – A beautiful town dating back to Etruscan times. Certaldo Alto can only be accessed by funicular and provides incomparable views. Home of Giovanni Bocaccio the 13th Century author of the Decameron. www.comune.certaldo.fi.it
  • San Miniato an 8th Century town best known for its white truffles www.comune.san-miniato.pi.it

Pisa is 30 minutes away. Florence, the walled city of Lucca, Viareggio and the coastal beaches, and the Etruscan town of Volterra (made famous by the Twilight series books) are all within an hour. Siena is a two hour drive and makes a nice day trip.

  • Pisa with its famed leaning tower is a must see. In the beautiful Piazza dei Miracoli is also the cathedral dating back to 1063, the Battistero (baptistery) that forms an amazing echo chamber and the Campo Santo, the cemetery, heavily damaged by allied bombing during World War II which has been under restoration ever since. www.comune.pisa.it
  • Florence is only about an hour away and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Home to some of the most famous works of art you could spend months here and not see all the historically significant buildings and works of art. It is also an important city for Italian fashion and has some of the best shopping in the world! Driving in Florence is tricky and there are some parking garages around the railway station, but taking the train is a much better way to go. If you drive, be aware of signs for streets closed to traffic and/or accessible only to buses and taxis! They will ticket you and the rental car company will find you!
  • Lucca is the only city left in the world completely surrounded by its medieval wall. You can walk all around the city on the wall and the city itself is very charming. Via Fillungo is the main street with a lot of great shops and the old Roman amphitheater square, Piazza dell’Anfiteatro dates back to Roman times. Full of old churches and charming cobble stone streets, this is worth a visit.  www.comune.lucca.it. Outside of the walls there are several old villas, such as Villa Reale in Marlia, once the home of Napolean Bonaparte’s sister, Elisa Baciocchi. A fun way to see how the other half once lived! www.parcovillareale.it.
  • Within an hour or so lies the Etruscan city of Volterra. Those of you who are Twilight fans will recognize it as the home of the Volturi. In actual fact the movie was filmed in Montepulciano which is about 120 km away. In any case, it is a magnificent old town with many charming streets, museums and is the center of the alabaster industry. www.comune.volterra.pi.it
  • Siena. One of my absolute favorite cities in Tuscany, think medieval San Francisco! Sitting on a hilltop it is home to many magnificent palaces and churches. Siena is best known for its famous Palio held in the Piazza del Campo, one of the most beautiful piazzas you will ever see. It’s a good couple of hours drive from Casa Francia but well worth a day trip. Lots of parking available at the top of the hills surrounding the city. www.comune.siena.it.
  • San Gimignano, a wonderful medieval city best known for its beautiful towers. www.comune.sangimignano.si.it and www.sangimignano.com

These are just a few of the main attractions in Tuscany but there are many other smaller, lesser known towns and villages each with its own incredible history and ancient culture. Have fun exploring!

Tuscany has a rich and varied history and some of the best food on the planet. I have listed below some of the activities you can look forward to if you visit the area:

Festivals

Italians love their festivals and there is one for every taste. Often times they are centered on a food product typical of the area. Like the garlic festival held every year in Gilroy, CA. Most festivals also include music and dancing. Here is a sampling of what you can find.

May through September

  • Cherry in Lari
  • Porcini Mushrooms in Cascine di Buti
  • Taste of Summer in Casale Marittimo
  • Schiacciata (like a focaccia bread) in Buti
  • Crostini (kind of like a bruschetta) in Palaia

October through April

  • Chestnut in Calci
  • Truffles in San Miniato
  • Wild Boar in Certaldo

Musical/Theater Events

May through September

  • Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Musical May in Florence. This is Florence’s main musical festival held every year in May/June. A great variety of opera, concerts and ballets are held throughout the city. www.maggiofiorentino.it.
  • Estate Fiesolana. Summer in Fiesole. A festival of music, drama, dance and film. www.estatefiesolana.it.
  • Pistoia Blues. An international blues festival that takes place in Pistoia in the Piazza del Duomo
  • Puccini Festival. If you are an opera lover, this is for you. Every year in July and August Puccini’s operas are performed in an open air theater overlooking the beautiful lake in Torre Del Lago, Puccini’s home. You can also visit his house which is now a museum. www.puccinifestival.it.
  • Lucca Summer Festival. A pop/rock festival usually held in July where various artists perform in piazza Napoleone. The 2012 lineup included Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Duran Duran. www.summer-festival.com

October through April

  • Amici della Musica. A series of concerts held from October through April in Florence at the Teatro della Pergola. www.amicimusica.fi.it
  • The Feast of Santa Cecilia is held in November in Siena and features performances and exhibitions organized in the name of the patron saint of musicians.
  • Festival dei Popoli. An international festival of documentary films held in Florence in November and December. www.festivaldeipopoli.org.
  • Sagra Musicale Lucchese. A music festival held in April that honors sacred music performed in various churches in Lucca.

Historical Events

May through September

  • Gioco del Ponte. Game of the Bridge. After a long procession through the streets of Pisa, featuring participants in medieval costumes some of which are on horseback, the participants, each group representing one half of the city come together on the Ponte di Mezzo. There they compete by trying to push a heavy cart on rails into the other half of the bridge, kind of like medieval tug of war.
  • Calcio in Costume. Held in Florence in mid to late June, this game is a cross between soccer and rugby and is considered by many to be the precursor of modern soccer.
  • Regata di San Ranieri. A boat regatta in honor of the patron saint of Pisa, San Ranieri. A procession in costume along the banks of the river Arno precedes the boat race. Four boats representing each of the historical neighborhoods of Pisa compete in this historical boat race.
  • Palio di Siena. The most famous of the historical events is the famous Palio di Siena, a medieval horse race held twice a year in July and August in the magnificent main square, Piazza del Campo, in Siena. Bareback riders in colorful costumes race representing their neighborhood.

October through April

  • Carnevale di Viareggio. The Viareggio carnival. Held in February in this lovely seaside town, this is one of the largest carnivals in all of Europe, dating back to the late 1800s. Magnificent floats parade down the seafront boulevard while thousands of people look on.
  • Scoppio del Carro. Held in Florence on Easter Sunday, this tradition goes back to the 10th Century and the first Crusade.  A 500 year old cart is moved from the Porta al Prato to Piazza del Duomo, escorted by 150 soldiers, musicians and people in 15th century dress. The cart is loaded with fireworks which are lit by a mechanical dove coming down from a wire starting at the high alter inside the church.

There are many other smaller events such as the Kite Festival in San Miniato in April and various art and artisan festivals such at the Craft Exhibit in April in Florence and the international antiques fair held every two years in Florence.  

Off course, Tuscany is well known for its art and history and besides the most famous museums such as the Uffizi gallery in Florence, wonder into any town or village and you will find a church or building of historical significance.

As you can see, there is an abundance of things to do and see in Tuscany. We hope that you will come and experience the many facets of Tuscan life.

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