Casali di Casole Blog

A Model Game Reserve in Tuscany

When considering destinations to visit on your next trip to Tuscany, food and wine may be first in your mind, but nature's bounty extends far beyond gastronomy in this part of the world. While there are over 50 game reserves in Siena alone, the Casali di Casole villas in Tuscany have won the coveted "Model Game Reserve" designation thanks to game warden Paolo Bagnoli and his staff of gamekeepers.

Paolo---game-wardenAnimals aren't new to the land surrounding Casali di Casole - in the 1800s, the wealthy Bargagli family farmed livestock on the premises. Two centuries later, the property's 1730-acre game reserve has been deemed one of the Top 5 reserves in Siena, and the caretakers oversee a large population of animals including pheasant, deer, rabbits, and boar. The "Top 5" designation is due to the number of healthy species currently living on the property, and makes stays at both the hotel and farmhouses feel even more unique and unspoiled.

While Casali di Casole offers a variety of diversions from spa treatments to fine dining, the property's game reserve is a rare attraction and is not to be missed. To book a tour to view animals in the reserve's beautiful habitat during your visit, contact the hotel's concierge at villaconcierge@casalidicasole.com. While guest hunting is not permitted (due to strict hunting license limits in the area), Owners and guests can arrange to accompany keepers on their daily rounds. Scenic observation towers provide panoramic vistas of the property and landscapes during your preserve journey.

You'll likely see wild hares, pheasant, deer, foxes, and the repugnant wild boar, known in Italian as cinghiale.

To learn more about ownership opportunities at Casali di Casole, please contact us at 866.963.5005 (toll free in the US) or via email at info@casalidicasole.com. Or please reach us at +39.0577.967511 (in Europe) or via email at infoeurope@casalidicasole.com. For availability and reservations at Hotel Casali di Casole, please contact us at 888.927.2580 (toll free in the US) or +39.0577.961501 (in Europe) or via email at reservations@casalidicasole.com.

Tuscany’s Medieval Hill Towns

Tuscany has been a cultural epicenter from medieval times through the Renaissance and beyond. Whether you're an Owner or a guest at the resplendent Timbers Resorts property Casali di Casole, nestled amidst 4,200 rolling acres in the heart of Tuscany, you are perfectly positioned to explore the region's many medieval hill towns, home to history, art and culture.

Here are three that can't be missed. All easy jaunts from Casali di Casole.

Cortona-CarCortona

This Etruscan and medieval town came into international consciousness with the popular book and subsequent movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” which had people the world over falling in love with Tuscany without ever having visited. Narrow streets run up the hills that comprise Cortona, and the architecture is medieval with touches of the Renaissance’s influence. Because the town is situated atop hills, the view into the valley below and of the surrounding vineyards and olive groves is one of the most picturesque in Tuscany.

Siena

The historic center of Siena, a city set among hills, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the most-visited towns in Italy. A big draw for tourists is the famous bi-annual Palio di Siena horse race, which pits the city’s wards against each other in celebrations and competitions rooted in local traditions and dating back to medieval times. Plan ahead for a trip to Siena and reserve a table at Il Canto Restaurant, recently named one of the world’s 50 Best Restaurants for the third time. Also keep an eye out for the town's signature pottery, recognized around the world.

San Gimignano

The 14 medieval towers of this walled town have endured hundreds of years and still stand, visible for miles outside the city.  Additional architectural fixtures of the classic medieval Italian town—high-rising churches—dot the city. Two of the largest, Collegiata and Sant’Agostino, contain impressive displays of Renaissance artwork. Aside from medieval architecture, the city is well known for its Vernaccia grape, which yields the local favorite wine, a crisp white named Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

Not to be missed in Tuscany is a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the eponymous city near Casali di Casole. Construction for the tower began in the 1100s but took more than 200 years to complete due to various wars. In the 1920s concrete was injected into the ground around the base of the tower, which stabilized it. Tourists are now once again allowed to climb the stairs inside.

For suggestions on how to spend your time in Tuscany while at Casali di Casole, contact the bilingual concierges at villaconcierge@casellodicasole.com.

Twitter Tips for Travelers

Guidebooks are great. Online travel message boards, even better. But for real-time, of-the-moment travel tips, Twitter is hard to beat.

It's easy to get overwhelmed, though, by all the information out there. Keep things streamlined and simple by checking out these seven travel experts worth following on Twitter.

BBC Travel: A mix of aspirational travel stories ("World Class Surfers Reveal Where to Find the Perfect Wave"), practical tips ("Food to Avoid in Airports"), and quirky travel facts ("What Animals Can Teach us about Travel"), the BBC's Twitter feed is always surprising—and often enlightening.

Conde Nast Traveler: Insider secrets—especially for destinations—get frequent play here. Foodie travelers, take note: This is a great place to discover where Conde Nast's writers are sampling the local cuisine.

Hipmunk: This search engine offers destination tips and airport-specific advice, while also debunking widespread travel myths. For example, a recent tweet asked, "True or false: A Saturday night stay brings down the cost for round-trip flights," with a link to the answer. (It's depends on the route and airline.)

Hotel Chatter: Celebrity spottings, A-list properties, and the best hotels to see and be seen are all tweeted here. New hotel openings, trendy hotel restaurants and clubs, and luxury accommodations all get attention.

Johnny Jet: Practical travel tips, especially for air travel, are often tweeted from this former Travel Channel host. Hot spots, airline information (including terminal reviews and "just landed" flight reports), and last-minute deals are frequent topics.

The Middle Seat: Travel Columnist Scott McCartney of The Wall Street Journal primarily focuses on airfare travel tips, from how to find the best fares to smart ways to use miles, but also occasionally tweets about timely trends with rental cars, hotels, and vacation packages, too.

National Geographic Travel: Inspirational travel stories on where to go next dominate the National Geographic Travel Twitter feed. Links to sumptuous photography, coupled with practical booking, product, and packing tip stories round out the daily updates.

Follow Timbers Resorts on Twitter to keep up with events, lifestyle news, press and more: @timbersresorts

To learn more about Timbers Resorts, please contact us at 800.941.4579 (toll free) or 970.963.4626 (direct) or via email at info@timbersresorts.com.

Tying the Knot in Tuscany!

The vision of a wedding in Tuscany could not find a more romantic setting than the magnificent Casali di Casole estate. As featured in notable publications including Grace Ormond Wedding Style's September 2013 issue, this countryside setting rings in the most romantic inspiration for tying the knot.

S. Tommaso ChurchHere, vows softly rise to the heavens in the historic Chiesa S. Tommaso Church, newly restored to host intimate gatherings and celebrations for up to 30 guests. For larger events with up to 200 attendees, a picture-perfect ceremony among the vineyards or in any of the pristine outdoor spaces will be forever remembered. Arrangements can be made to reserve the hotel Casali di Casole for the private use of your party, a way to celebrate historic occasions in grand style, surrounded exclusively by family and friends.

Before, during and after the events one can anticipate the finest in guest services, catering and professional event planning, so that every detail is pure perfection. From creating a guest list, to choosing a ceremony site, to selecting a menu and planning an unforgettable reception, we’ll be thrilled to assist you with preparing every aspect of your perfect day. Your Italian wedding will be absolutely perfect when you exchange your vows at Casali di Casole.

To inquire about having your wedding at Casali di Casole, please submit our Request for Proposal form or email events@casalidicasole.com.

Size Matters: Wine Bottles Defined

If you love and collect wines, you accept early on that the affair is by necessity a waiting game. Wine must age. That perfect Bordeaux in the basement can't be uncorked too soon. Sometimes, though, wouldn't it be all right to just skip ahead a little?

The answer is yes, if you know about bottle sizes and what they can do to aging. Here's the trick: wine ages a bit faster in smaller bottles than in the standard and larger counterparts.

Want to try that five- or ten-year selection a little ahead of time? Put up a piccolo or a half along with the standard-sized bottles and you can give it a go a year or two before the bigger bottles are ready.

TRS-wine-pairing-chart-300x239Wait, you say, what's a piccolo? How is it different from a half? Let's take a look at some of the most common sizes in which wine bottles come. It's a fascinating exercise itself, as the nomenclature is as rich as the vintages they hold.

Wine Bottles: Small to Large

Here's the scale of sizes when it comes to bottles of wine.

In the list, if there is more than one name given, then they refer first to alternatives for a bottle of still wine. The last name given refers to bottles from the Champagne region.

Piccolo/Split/Pony: These are quarter bottles, .1875 liters.

Half Bottle: Exactly what the name implies — .375 liters.

Bottle: The standard size at .75 liters

Magnum: The equivalent of two standards, 1.5 liters.

Double Magnum: At 3 liters, this is two magnums large.

Jeroboam/Rehoboam: About six standards in one 4.5-liter bottle.

Imperial/Methuselah: A 6-liter bottle, or eight standards.

Salmanazar: Twelve standard bottles worth — 9 liters.

Balthazar: A 12-liter giant, 16 standards large.

Nebuchadnezzar: 15 liters, or 20 standards.

Melchior/Solomon: The equivalent of two whole cases of standards, 18 liters.

Goliath/Paramount/Primat: The titanic of the bunch, 36 standards (three cases!) at 27 liters total.

A rule of thumb on how this size trick works is this, according to Wine Spectator: if the range for aging a bottle is 2–5 years, then your piccolo or half bottle are probably good bets to open in the 24-month range. Larger bottles need more time to age than less, so if you end up storing a melchior or goliath, they'll be ready when the grandkids are old enough to try a glass!

To learn more about Timbers Resorts, please contact us at 800.941.4579 (toll free) or 970.963.4626 (direct) or via email at info@timbersresorts.com.

Harvest Season in Tuscany

September kicks off the wine harvest season in Tuscany. The ambrosial gastronomy of this celebrated region is one of the best in the world and reason enough to book a trip. Post up at Casali di Casole and spend your time wining and dining, taking the opportunity to explore the acres of vineyards and taste the different varietals of Tuscany. Fall offers the utmost in Bacchanalian vacations with a chance to witness and even participate in the grape harvest.

We've rounded up a list of some of the best wines of Tuscany, also called “Toscana wines,” which are described below:

Chianti

The Sangiovese grape is native to the Tuscan region and the primary grape in the robust chiantis the area is known for... Chianti is a sub-region in Tuscany as well and, understandably, the place to visit to try the best of the vintages. Villa Vignamaggio, originally constructed in the 14th century, is one of the most picturesque places to try the wine. So steeped are the villa and vineyard in history that it is believed one of the daughters of the estate's founding family was the model for Da Vinci's Mona Lisa masterpiece.

Dodici Wine

There will be days during your stay at Casali di Casole when you are content to stay close to home and roam the exquisite property. While you do, make sure to experience the "house" wine. Dodici, Casali di Casole's signature wine, is blended in an organic process using grapes grown in the very vineyards surrounding your luxury vacation home. Indeed, this vintage is only available to residents and guests of Casali di Casole, making Dodici a truly private label.

IMG_3197Vernaccia di San Gimignano

The Vernaccia grape is another that blossoms in the region, and it is used to make a white Italian wine harvested in the medieval hill town and UNESCO world heritage site San Gimignano in the region. The crisp, slightly acidic wine has long been considered one of Italy’s, and therefore the world’s, foremost white wines. Both Pietrafitta and Guicciardini Strozzi have been bottling the wine since the Middle Ages.

To learn more about ownership opportunities at Casali di Casole, please contact us at 866.963.5005 (toll free in the US) or via email at info@casalidicasole.com. Or please reach us at +39.0577.967511 (in Europe) or via email at infoeurope@casalidicasole.com.

For availability and reservations at Hotel Casali di Casole, please contact us at 888.927.2580 (toll free in the US) or +39.0577.961508 (in Europe) or via email at reservations@casalidicasole.com.

Best Sunscreens for Your Active Adventures

All travelers can attest that nothing ruins a trip faster than a nasty sunburn. Sunscreen is a travel necessity when you pay a visit to Timbers Resorts' luxury resort vacation destinations - whether you’re skiing and staying at one of Mountain Collection resorts, swimming amidst the vineyards in California Wine Country or lounging by the ocean at one of our beach properties.

The number one rule of sunscreen is to go for broad spectrum protection that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. But we’ve also taken a look at top picks in the natural, sports, and child-friendly categories. A few of our top choices for SPF protection include:

Keep It Natural

SPF-beach-350x239Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian Natural Natural Sunscreen with Green Tea absorbs quickly and the formula featuring aloe vera, green tea, and sunflower oil make it nourishing. The light floral scent is a nice bonus.

Nia24’s Sun Damage Prevention 100% Mineral Sunscreen is oil-free and combines titanium and zinc with Pro-Niacin which has the bonus of improving skin tone and texture.

Kid-Approved

Adorable Baby SPF 30 Sunscreen comes highly rated for safety by the Environmental Working Group. In addition to non-nano zinc oxide— that means the zinc oxide won't absorb into your kid's bloodstream— it includes soothing natural ingredients like organic cocoa butter and organic shea butter. Don't let the name fool you, this one's actually great for both the young and young at heart.

Get Active

Coppertone Sports Continuous Spray is a fantastic option, offering great protection from the sun combined with an application method that lets you keep your palms free of sunblock so there's no slipping when you serve up that volleyball.

Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunblock Spray is a must if you're going to be in the water. A special formula lets it cut through water so it can be applied— and stay on— despite your most vigorous backstroke.

If you have any other suggestions for your favorite sunscreen, please let us know in the comments below!

To learn more about Timbers Resorts, please contact us at 800.941.4579 (toll free) or 970.963.4626 (direct) or via email at info@timbersresorts.com.

Top Playlist for a Fantastic Wine Dinner

The light is just right, and that amber glow catches the ruby-black necks of the bottles in the Wine Room at Dancing Bear Aspen, one of the Aspen residence club's most inviting amenities. Or maybe it's the flush peach-orange of sunset over the villas in Tuscany, and you're enjoying a perfect spread al fresco at your farmhouse at Casali di Casole. The burble of a brunello as it pours into your glass. Your friends and family at last together, the delighted murmur of the past catching up with the present. It's your wine dinner. It's almost perfect. All it needs now is a little music: enter the perfect playlist.

Scoring Your Dinner: A List for Inspiration

Owners and guests at Timbers Resorts know that details make the moment. Hitting the right note is about location, decor, and delicious food and wine. But it's also about the music - a touch that can elevate those moments to the next level.

If you're looking for a little inspiration when it comes to what you might put on your wine dinner playlist, have a look at the example that follows. It's a template that you can work from, filtering in your mood and your guests' tastes to complement the occasion at hand. Rather than try to dictate a song-by-song selection, we're saving you some time by recommending an album-by-album playlist instead. The times of each album are given so you can plan the length of each segment of your dinner. Following the list, some thoughts on playlist construction, should you decide to strike out on your own.

1. Starter: Paganini: Guitar Music (Marco Tamayo) [1:00] or Bix Beiderbecke: Vol.1 Singin' the Blues [1:00]

2. Entree: Bach: Violin Concertos (Julia Fischer) [1:00]

3. Entree: Boyd Lee Dunlop: Boyd's Blues [0:59] or Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain [1:00]

4. Dessert: Pinetop Perkins: Heaven [0:45] or Nina Simone: Baltimore [0:37]

5. Dessert: The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Jazz: Red, Hot, and Cool [0:57]

Playlist Construction: Some Thoughts

Intrigued by our selections? Here are some of the key ideas that should go into the making of any dinner playlist.

Starters: Think of your early-in-the-dinner playlist the way you would think of the first plates. You want to set the stage for what's to follow. You want to spark conversation and conviviality. Indoors or outdoors, light classical is a fine way to start (we chose a Romantic composer.) Or, you might want to leaven the atmosphere with some cool jazz (you can't go wrong with material from the Dixieland era.)

Entrees: As your dinner party is now fully underway, a lot of the musical context is now going to be deep background. With mains on the table, conversation well-lubricated, and a toast or two likely, the idea is to carry the evening to its next phase without tipping it off-balance by distraction. Lush Baroque can do that (but stay away from full orchestras), and so can some blues piano or some understated jazz. The Miles Davis selection on our lists splits the difference nicely between jazz and classical, for instance.

Dessert: Here's where things get more playful. In musical terms, you can now bring in the vocals and open up the tempo to be a bit more energetic.

Note that all the selections on the list above are available on iTunes. No need to hunt down individual CDs, just load up the iPhone or tablet and enjoy!

To learn more about Timbers Resorts, please contact us at 800.941.4579 (toll free) or 970.963.4626 (direct) or via email at info@timbersresorts.com.

Felice Anniversario Castello di Casole!

Castello di Casole, Timbers Resorts' luxurious Tuscany estate that made Conde Nast Traveler’s 2013 Hot List, is celebrating its first anniversary in style this July with a series of special packages and events. On July 1, 2012, the boutique hotel debuted to great acclaim with its 41 suites, two restaurants, infinity-edged pool and more. Essere Spa at Castello di Casole opens this summer to round out the luxurious experience at this distinctive property set in the charming Tuscan countryside.

TiramisuTo mark its one-year anniversary, Castello di Casolewill host aparty on July 1 for Owners in its private residence club and hotel guests. Complimentary wine and cake will be served. The celebration will continue throughout the week with activities that include Pilates and yoga classes, a children’s pizza-making class, wine tastings, and a cocktail party honoring filmmaker Luchino Visconti who once owned and resided in the main villa on property.

The highlight of the anniversary celebration will be the "Buon Compleanno Castello di Casole tasting menu," served July 1-4. Enjoy Pea Cream Soup with tomato and basil rice; Spaghetti with Borlotti Bean Cream, bottarga and toasted breadcrumbs; Robiola Cheese filled Raviolo with tiger prawns; Beef Stew and Barley with grilled red pepper and foie gras; and anniversary cake for dessert. Proceeds from the dinner will suport the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, which helps those in need inItaly as well as internationally.

Beginning on July 10, Castello di Casole will have live music every Wednesday night and a special themed dinner at Tosca Terrace each Thursday, beginning with La Signora Melanzana  on July 11 that will include an appearance by the property's winemaker Paolo Caciorgna.

Florentine-gift-wrapGuests booking three or more nights in the hotel during the month of Julywill receive a suite with breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside; transportation and entrance into the Etruscan Museum in Casole d’Elsa; a bottle of estate-produced wine; full breakfast daily; and a resort credit to use for dining or spa experiences.

To learn more about ownership opportunities at Castello di Casole, please contact us at 866.963.5005 (toll free in the US) or via email at info@castellodicasole.com. Or please reach us at +39.0577.967511 (in Europe) or via email at infoeurope@castellodicasole.com

For availability and reservations at Hotel Castello di Casole, please contact us at 888.927.2580 (toll free in the US) or +39.0577.961508 (in Europe) or via email at reservations@castellodicasole.com.

Photo Contest: Under the Tuscan Sunset

Undeniably, Tuscany boasts some of the most favorable sunsets in the world. This summer, we invite you to share photos taken at Casali di Casole with us on our Facebook Page. On October 15, 2013, we'll choose a winning picture, announce this on our blog and send a surprise gift from the property!

So snap away, post and participate in this fun summer contest celebrating one of Tuscany's timeless traditions!

To spend your sunsets with us as an Owner at Casali di Casole, please contact us at 866.963.5005 (toll free in the US) or via email at info@casalidicasole.com. For info about Hotel Casali di Casole, please contact us at 888.927.2580 (toll free in the US) or via email at reservations@casalidicasole.com.