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Discover Tuscany!, Issue #002 -- Fantastic Villas, FREE Wine and Useful info.
March 06, 2003

Discover Tuscany! is a FREE monthly Newsletter dedicated to helping you get the best from your holiday in Tuscany.

Ciao Everyone,

As I sit here in front of a roaring log fire, looking out at the bright blue sky above the medieval castle on the other side of the piazza it seems no time at all since we didn’t win the New Year Lottery (again!) and the last slice of Christmas Panettone was scoffed (€1 on offer all January, local Coop!). It’s already the beginning of March and one of the great things about living here is that you become very aware of the seasons. Each season has different local Festivals and different seasonal food, some dishes are only made for a particular special occasion. It’s Carnival time now, so the streets are full of pink bunnies, fairies and more Zorros than you can shake a stick at, all throwing confetti at each other. (pink bunnies, fairies, people throwing things at each other, reminds me of Glasgow on a Saturday night!)

DISCOVER TUSCANY! This month is packed full of info, advice and other stuff to help you enjoy your holiday here in Tuscany. Hope you enjoy reading it and find some of the info useful.


1) Ciao Everyone, our second issue already!
2) Contents & Thanks for subscribing.
3) Forget Rio! It’s Carnival time in Tuscany!
4) Sometimes it’s just like being in a foreign country! I
5) FREE wine & FREE Easter eggs! - Fantastic deals on Winter & Easter Breaks.
6) NEW Holiday Insurance Link – simple, fast and great prices!
7) I’ll just have a Nescafe, please. – our handy pocket sized guide to ”the coffee jungle!”
8) Tell all your friends – spread the word!
9) Flight update – who’s doing what and for how much!
10) Sometimes it’s just like being in a foreign country! II
11) NEW Interactive Maps – zoomable maps & driving instructions to all our villas.
12) NEW Payment option – we’ve added PAYPAL, tell us what you think.
13) Coming soon – lots of new stuff in the pipeline, come and live in Tuscany they said! Have a nice relaxing time they said!

Thanks for subscribing

To “DISCOVER TUSCANY!” the Newsletter. We hope you enjoy reading it and find the information and advice useful when planning your holiday in Tuscany. We have lots of great ideas for the content but if have any ideas, comments or suggestions, please feel free to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you, just email us. Maybe there is something you need to know before you arrive or a great tip you’d like to pass on after your holiday, (when you get home don’t forget to sign our guest book on the site to tell us about your holiday).

Forget Rio! It’s Carnival time in Tuscany!

When you start to see packs of pink bunnies, fairies and zorros running around the local streets it’s a sure sign that Carnival has arrived. A movable Festival (the end of carnival is 40 days before Easter, so changes according to the date of Easter) it usually takes place around Late February to Mid March. Although today it has become more of a childrens festival, it was originally a pagan Mid winter festival which was later adopted by the church. In olden days it was a time to party before the pre Easter Lent period of abstinance. Today even small towns have some sort of Carnival parade, a few have become bigger and are worth visiting. In Tuscany the most famous is held in the seaside town of Viareggio. They have a parade of enormous floats made of papier mache usually poking fun at politicians or famous people/events in the news. The parade takes place along a special road, which has grandstands each side. A smaller (but still worth seeing) parade of floats takes place in Foiano near Arezzo. Parades take place each weekend for the whole Carnival period. Not actually in Tuscany but within travelling distance (abt 3 ½ hours by car) is one of the most famous carnivals in the world - Venice A unique experience (we’ve just returned) the city, the masks and costumes are superb. Venice is a fantastic city and we may be adding some apartments to our list of rental properties soon. We’ll keep you posted.


Sometimes it’s just like being in a foreign country I

Around 6 or 7 in the evening in every Italian town and city if you keep you’re eyes peeled you’ll start to notice the same people usually teenagers walking past again and again. Either you’ve been over doing the Caffè corretto (see “the Coffee Jungle” below) or you’ve found the “Passeggiata” street. This Ancient mating ritual consists of dressing up in your best designer dancing trousers, and then walking up and down the same street pretending to ignore everyone whilst actually eyeing up the talent. After walking up and down for a while the two groups usually meet and get down to the serious business of eating ice cream together. Why not try walking up and down a street or two, live the experience!


FREE wine & FREE Easter eggs!

We’ve got some fantastic deals on Winter Breaks at the moment. Some Villas have up to 30% discount or why not celebrate Easter in Tuscany. There is so much to do, colourful local Festivals, the weather is starting to warm up and we have great prices, FREE wine for the adults and FREE Easter eggs for the kids. Check out our web site for details.


NEW Holiday Insurance Link – simple, fast and great prices!

In answer to lots of requests asking about “Holiday Insurance” we’ve got a great new link on the site this month. It’s to a company called “INSURE & GO” they have a very simple to use, fast web site and most importantly of all great prices. They do single trip or annual travel insurance and KIDS GO FREE. Have a look, tell us what you think.


I’ll just have a Nescafe, please. – our handy pocket sized guide to “The Coffee Jungle!

Seems simple enough, a cup of coffee. Not likely! Just nipping into the local bar for a quick coffee can turn into a veritable minefield of choices.

To help you survive we’ve put together our handy pocket sized guide to the “The Coffee Jungle” Don’t leave home without it!

First decision is where to drink your coffee! Standing up at the bar costs less. Sitting down with waiter service costs more. Watch out for “friendly” waiters who usher you over to a table and offer to serve you, it will cost you!

In the big cities or airports, you are expected to pay first before ordering. In smaller towns and villages it works on trust, order first, pay later (obviously it helps if you can speak enough of the lingo to explain you had one of those long sgwidgy things with the custard inside! After a few days you’ll become a dab hand at miming 2 jam doughnuts and a bag of nuts!)

Next, the big one, the 64 million dollar question! What type of coffee!!

Cappuccino - (KA-POO-CHEE-NO) I know you think you’re looking dead cool standing there at the bar feeling all windswept and continental, in your M&S holiday trousers and Boots special offer clip on shades. You may think it could almost be a scene from “The Godfather” but at any time after 9 o’clock in the morning if you order a cappuccino you may as well have “I’m a foreigner” tattooed on your forehead. Imagine if your Italian friend came to Britain and ordered a big mug of Ovaltine or Horlicks with their roast beef lunch. No reason why they shouldn’t but………. Get the gist! But you’re on Holiday….. you do what you want and who cares if the barman sniggers as he serves you!

Caffè or Espresso – (KA-FEY) What the locals drink. Like drinking out of a dolls house set of cups and saucers. Order this and you get a thimble sized cup of very strong black coffee. There are a number of interesting variations on the standard caffè depending on just how “local” you want to go!

Caffè macchiato - (KA-FEY MAK-EE-A-TOE) has a dash of milk added.

Caffè ristretto - (REE-STRET-OH) has even less water added meaning the coffee is even stronger.

Caffè lungo - (KA-FEY LOONG-GO) has extra water added (ie a full thimbleful!)

Caffè freddo - (KA-FEY FRAY-DOH) cold coffee, if you are in need of a pick me up in summer it can be refreshing.

Caffè corretto - (KA-FEY KAW-REY-TOE) if you’re really feeling like throwing caution to the wind and getting into the holiday mood try a “corretto” which is caffè with a shot of local firewater added (usually Grappa but could also be brandy or any thing you fancy really) After one of these you’ll never again order another after dinner cappuccino!

Caffè hag - (KA-FEY AAG) If you’re into decaf ask for this, you’ll get decaf even though it probably won’t be Hag.

Caffè Americano – (KA-FEY A-ME-REE-KA-NO) only found in big cities in touristy areas. About the nearest you’ll get to a real proper cup of Nescafe! Be warned, usually tastes like warm dish water, bit like Ne………..!

So that’s it

Remember, be careful, it’s a jungle out there!

Next month – What to do if the barman asks if you want ice in your artichoke juice!


Tell a friend

Word of mouth is always the best publicity. If you like our web site don’t keep it to yourself! Tell all your friends. If they book, tell them to mention your name (we’ll find a way to say thanks!)


Flight update – who’s doing what and for how much!

News from the low cost airlines this month.

Ryanair are now offering their own credit card. For the first six months the interest rate is just 1.9% APR. Use it to buy 10 return flights and they give you 1 return flight free. Offer prices to Italy at the moment include Stansted – Pisa or Forli or Milan. £9.99 return (+ taxes) Stansted – Rome or Venice £19.99 return (+ taxes) if your travelling from Scotland, Glasgow – Stansted £1.99 one way (+ taxes)

Book by midnight 6 March use 21 March – 15 May
See their website for more details

Easyjet have some good articles in their online magazine this month. Check out the city guides and the interview with the footballer Paolo di Canio.

The new Scottish low cost airline – Flyglobespan has some good prices on its Prestwick – Rome direct route (if you’re coming from Scotland the direct flight can save you a lot of travel time, leave at 7 in the morning be in Rome before lunchtime, almost like adding 2 days to your holiday) They are also offering FREE railtravel from anywhere in Scotland to Prestwick airport until Sept 2003.

The Irish airline Aerlingus has a good, clear easy to use website. They are offering Dublin – Rome £85 one way (+ taxes) Also good prices if you’re thinking of travelling to N. America.


Sometimes it’s just like being in a foreign country! II

If you come to Italy in Springtime or later in the season in Autumn it won’t be the smell of spring flowers or roast chestnuts that will be wafting on the breeze, it’s more likely to be the smell of moth balls! Italians, especially older women totally change their wardrobe with the seasons. One season’s clothes will be carefully wrapped in tissue paper and moth balls, then stored until the next year. If you are travelling on a bus in Florence or the Rome underground at certain times of the year the mothball smell from the fur coats can be quite overpowering! Be warned!


NEW Interactive Maps – zoomable maps & driving instructions to all our villas.

After being snowed under with requests such as “ how do I navigate round the Levane bypass and what is the Italian for “Sorry officer I forgot you drive on the other side of the road in this neck of the woods” we have added great new Interactive maps from MAPQUEST to the site. They are amazing! from a map of the whole of Europe you can zoom in so close you can see Lina next door washing her smalls in the sink (kids, do not try this at home). You can put in your postcode and it gives you driving directions turn by turn literally from your street right to your Villa in Tuscany. TRY IT! Let us know what you think.


NEW Payment option – we’ve added PAYPAL, tell us what you think.

This month we’ve added an online payment option to the site. After considering various options (merchant accounts, hosted secure pages etc) we’ve decided to use the PAYPAL payment system. It is an American system, which was originally designed as a payment method for online auctions such as E-bay. It is a very cost effective method for both parties (it’s free). Payments can be made in Sterling, Euros or Dollars. It is relatively straightforward but like everything there is a trade off. It does take a few steps more to complete the transaction. (anti fraud precautions). If you already use online banking then it could be the most convenient, cost effective method of payment. Of course, we also accept more traditional payment methods such as bank transfer, cheques, cowrie shells and shiny beads. We’re also into bartering if you’ve got any suggestions! If you use PAYPAL let us know what you think. We are constantly reviewing our services to make things as convenient as possible.


Coming soon – lots of new stuff in the pipeline.

Site search engine - will help you select the most suitable property much quicker,
Car hire link – book your hire car at great prices direct from our site.
More fantastic villas and apartments – as soon as we can get all the info online we have some stunning new properties for you, (locally and at the seaside, in Siena, Rome and Liguria)

Well, that’s all folks! Hope you found some of the info useful, let us know what you’d like to see, we’ll be adding lots more in the coming months.

Ciao, a presto


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