Casali di Casole Blog

Meet Ceramicist Eva Munarin

It's hard not to get inspired while staying at Casali di Casole (envision breathtaking architecture, rolling hills and lush colors at this Tuscan countryside estate).

If anyone knows how truly inspirational the area is, it's local artist Eva Munarin. It was on holiday in Montelupo Fiorentino (one of the most famous ceramics towns in Tuscany) that she decided to put down roots and study pottery at the Scuola di Ceramica di Montelupo Fiorentino. Eva’s ceramic training is strongly tied to the Florentine Renaissance tradition. She creates her hand-decorated ceramics with an artisan procedure that utilizes various styles such as the historic “Majolica” technique, which results in characteristic lines and dots indicative to the firing process.

Thankfully, her love affair with Tuscany didn't end there. Years later, Munarin's husband was offered a job at Casali di Casole, giving them the amazing opportunity to move onto the estate. It was there that Ms. Munarin opened her first studio with a pottery exhibition in 2006. Owners at Casali di Casole are familiar with Eva from classes she has offered over the years and buying souvenirs and gifts from her boutique.

Though she has since relocated to Mensano, a village she dubs, "one of the most amazing small villages you could find in Tuscany," she speaks fondly of her time on the estate. "Casali di Casole is an absolute dream for me, " says Munarin. "The air is so clean and the landscape is the same as it was 100 years ago. "

Take a page from Ms. Munarin's book and create your own Tuscan inspired art in one of her  watercolor painting or pottery classes -- they're open to Owners and hotel guests of all ages and abilities. Or venture off property to get your creative juices flowing (and sip on a little vino) with an art class/ wine tasting at Camporignano Farm.

A third option is to venture to her studio in Mensano. Peruse and purchase items from her collection and engage in a friendly tête-à-tête with the artist herself . Though some of her pieces are very traditional using Majolica, the refined, white-glazed pottery of the Italian Renaissance, Ms. Munarin also offers contemporary pieces like metal, glass and ceramic sculptures inspired by "the heart and the fire."

For more information about Eva and her ceramics, please visit: evapottery.eu

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.

Tuscany in the Spring

Summer may be the high season in Tuscany, but a visit to Casali di Casole in spring can be just as divine. You'll get the chance to indulge in lush vistas, mind-blowing cuisine and all the cultural marvels Florence and its nearby hill towns have to offer, without summer's heat or influx of tourists.

On Foot

As always, a stay at Hotel Casali di Casole will provide you with plenty of activities. Enjoy the spring bloom with a hike or a horseback ride around the grounds. Or indulge in the hotel's Divine Flavors Package, a foodie fantasy that includes a vineyard experience, mushroom foraging, as well as truffle (spring is the season for the black Marzuolo Truffle) and game hunting.

By Bike

Spring is also prime time for biking through Tuscany. Nab one of the property's mountain bikes for an afternoon cycle through nearby villages like Casole d'Elsa, Mensano and Monteriggioni. Take in exquisite medieval architecture, shop for regional delicacies at local markets and enjoy breathtaking hilltop views -- all while working up an appetite.

Relax

If you're looking for something a little more low key, visit one of Tuscany's thermal baths. The baths are known to help with a variety of ailments including rheumatism, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems. They're also just a great way to relax and enjoy one of the region's natural wonders.

Get Cultured

Travel to Tuscany around Easter and you'll get the opportunity to enjoy Florence's Festival of the Cart, or the Scoppio del Carro. During this 300-year-old tradition, an elaborate, three-story wagon is rigged with fireworks which are set off in the square between the Baptistry and the Cathedral. A costume parade follows.

April through June is also the Maggio Musicale, a festival that includes opera, classical music concerts and ballet at various venues throughout the city.

For more information on what Hotel Casali di Casole and the surrounding area has to offer in springtime, please contact us at 866.917.2152 or +39.0577 961.508 or via email, reservations@casalidicasole.com.

 

Insights into Italian Wine

The Greeks called Italy “Enotria” (Land of Wine) and it is in the countless Enoteca (wineries) that you will taste the wonder that is wine in Italy. Casali di Casole produces an estate wine, Dodici, which is available only to Owners and guest of the property.

Casali di Casole's bilingual concierges can organize a tour of the property's winery, as well as help with recommended Italian winery tours, wine tasting routes and the better places to stop for lunch. But half the fun in Tuscany is simply setting forth on your own path of discovery.

Italy is home to an astounding 2,000 indigenous grape varietals and the best known is that of Casali’s region, Sangiovese. The country is famed for top producers such as Sassicaia and Antinori, and wine styles such as Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and “Super Tuscans.”

Introduced in 1963, DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) refers to the highest classification for Italian wines, denoting controlled (controllata) production methods and guaranteed (garantita) wine quality. There are strict rules governing the production of DOCG wines, most obviously the permitted grape varieties, yield limits, grape ripeness, winemaking procedures and aging specifications. Every DOCG wine is subject to official tasting procedures. To prevent counterfeiting, the bottles have a numbered government seal across the neck.

Brunello di Montalcino, Vin Santo, Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - all of these mythical wines hail from the same lovely region - Toscana, Tuscany. The principal red grape varietal, responsible for all DOCG reds, is Sangiovese. Sangiovese clones are also used widely. The grape is capable of producing rich red wines with body and depth and is suitable to long oak ageing. Brunello di Montalcino is probably the most sought after example of Sangiovese, with Rosso di Montalcino a close second. Top producers of these excellent wines include: Argiano, Barbi, Casali Banfi and Il Poggione. Montepulciano, a superbly preserved medieval village, produces some delicious red wines, the Vino Nobile, at wineries like Icario where the new and old world collide.

Chianti Classico (the best of the Chiantis; the second best regarded sub region of Chianti being Chianti Rufina), is probably the most famous Italian wine there is. Chianti Classico stretches south from Florence to Siena and is one of the prettiest wine regions in Europe. World class vintages have included 1997 and 1990, with the wines of Badia a Coltibuono (a perfect destination for a visit and terrace lunch), Marchesi Antinori (also famous for Super Tuscans “Tignanello” and Cabernet dominated “Solaia”) and another Antinori Lodovica with his “Ornellaia” and “Masseto.” And Casali di Volpaia (a world class winery located in the gorgeous hamlet of Volpaia), being some of the most prestigious and well-respected.

“Super Tuscans” are wines that have not been allowed to receive DOCG status as they have been made with “non traditional grapes,” namely Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The DOCG designation has not limited the ambition or result of vineyards, who have produced exceptional varietals, including Petra, Massa Vecchia, Erik Banti and Tua Rita.

To immerse yourself in the Italian world of wine, visit Casali di Casole. To join us as a guest at Hotel Casali di Casole, please contact us at 866.917.2152 or +39.0577.961508 or via email, reservations@casalidicasole.com. To learn more about ownership at Casali di Casole, please contact us via email, info@casalidicasole.com or infoeurope@casalidicasole.com.

Love, Italian Style: Perfect Escapes in Tuscany

Got that feeling that Valentine's Day is just around the corner?

Well, when in Tuscany, just around the corner can mean taking advantage of a wealth of gateways: portals onto an older, more romantic world. Owners and guests at Casali di Casole are right here already, in fact, with glorious Tuscan options all around them.

If you're planning to join Timbers Resorts on the western shores of Italy this February 14, let's dip into the world of love, Italian style. Here's a roundup of Valentine's themed trips, visits, and destinations, all designed to fill your days — in and out of our luxury fractional residences — with il massimo romance!

Romantic Tuscany: A Valentine's List

— The Beaches of Italy: Just under 90 minutes to the west, the Mediterranean Sea awaits. And it's jeweled with breathtaking beach towns. Almost directly west of Casali di Casole are the wave-kissed destinations of Cecina, Bibbona, and Castagneto Carducci. And beyond those, if you're feeling adventurous, is the Tuscan archipelago.

Ferry your way to the 15th-Century castle on Capraia, or stay on the mainlands and lose yourselves in a sunset stroll on white Tuscan sands.

— The Baths of Tuscany: Ninety minutes' drive to the southwest, and you're in the land of Tuscan's luxurious hot springs. One destination is Bagno Vignoni, renown for its curative thermal pools.

Slip into the shimmering cerulean waters, and relish the romance of a tradition dating back to Etruscan times.

— A Meal Made Just for Two: What would your loved one say to a special dinner in a restaurant built for two? Solo per 2, as they say. That's Peperino, in San Miniato. An hour drive north. An evening certain to make memories forever.

— Among the Masterpieces:

For the art-loving couple, Florence to the north is home to more than one stunning repository of Italian treasure. You're unlikely to go wrong, however, with an afternoon that's punctuated by Michelangelo's David. It's just an hour's drive to the Accademia Gallery.

— Closer to Home, By Horse: If you've decided on dining in the countryside, then an in-residence chef can be arranged via your Villa Concierge at Casali di Casole. If find your Valentine's Day to be a sunny one in February, (in Tuscany, not at all unheard of) book a guided horseback ride for two through the "wild west" of the Tuscan hills. Tours leave from numerous locations via Maremma-Tuscany. Check out the details here.

To join us as a guest at Hotel Casali di Casole, please contact us at 866.917.2152 or +39.0577.961508 or via email, reservations@casalidicasole.com. To learn more about ownership at Casali di Casole, please contact us via email, info@casalidicasole.com or infoeurope@casalidicasole.com.

Visiting Vinci

As you may have already guessed, Vinci is the birthplace of the original Renaissance man himself, Leonardo da Vinci. It is also an easy and scenic drive just 40 miles through Tuscan countryside from Casali di Casole. (When you're ready to go, the concierge will gladly give you simple directions due north.)

This charming town lies in the Tuscan hills outside Florence set amongst vineyards and olive groves, not all that different from when "Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci" was born there on April 15, 1452, in a farmhouse two miles from town center.

This is a day trip for lovers of Renaissance history because the sights revolve nearly exclusively around the life of its most famous denizen. Begin in Vinci’s small historic town center where Piazza Giusti features the sculptures of Italian artist Mimmo Paladino, and stop into the Church of Santa Croce, where Leonardo da Vinci is thought to have been baptized. The church was built in the 13th century and later restored in the neo-Renaissance style. The walls feature the works of famous Italian artists, including Leonardo himself.

Renaissance buffs will go wild for the Museo Leonardiano set inside a series of buildings including Palazzina Uzielli and the Casali dei Conti Guidi, a 12th century castle. The museum showcases the full scope of da Vinci’s career, going beyond art to include technology, architecture and science. Inside you will find exhibits dedicated to building-site machinery, textile manufacturing technology, mechanical clocks, war, architecture, mechanics, flight, optics, geometric solids and movement on land and water.

Finally, hike your way down a footpath called The Green Route through the olive groves of Montalbano to the locality of Anchiano to La Casa Natale di Leonardo, the house where Leonardo was born. There history literally comes alive. Leonardo (or a life-size hologram at least) will greet you himself.

To join us as a guest at Hotel Casali di Casole, please contact us at 866.917.2152 or +39.0577.961508 or via email, reservations@casalidicasole.com. To learn more about ownership at Casali di Casole, please contact us via email, info@casalidicasole.com or infoeurope@casalidicasole.com.

A Lexicon Lesson with Private Residence Clubs

Talking about timeshares and private residence clubs is a lot like talking bagels or the best slice of pizza: everybody's got an opinion.

Unfortunately, not everybody has a completely informed opinion. When it comes to considering private residence clubs (also known as fractional real estate and fractional ownership) and timeshares, for both you and your family, it's smart to have some  solid facts at your fingertips.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the two, and let's bring the similarities and differences into focus. We'll look at three details that help most folks understand the dynamics at work.

Time: 

The ways that fractional ownership and timeshares can differ include the period that a location is yours for the occupancy.

Fractional: When you decide on a fractional ownership property such as one of the signature destinations that comprise the Timbers Resorts luxury residences, you're investing in a fraction of the calendar year. You join other Owners and their families for what is typically one fourth, one eighth, or sometimes one twelfth of a 365-day cycle.

Timeshare: If you become a timeshare participant, you're also signing on for a portion of the year, but your period of residence might be a matter of days (perhaps a week) rather than a number of weeks to choose at your leisure.

Space:

Another way to think about the individual features of fractional and timeshare living is to think about the actual sites that each tend to include.

Fractional: Whether its ski-in/ski-out-out to the slopes of Snowmass and Steamboat, or a quick stroll to the cerulean surf of St. Thomas, when you step into the world of fractional luxury residences you are enjoying the crème de la crème of locations. Think Napa Valley. Think the hills of Tuscany. This is the stock and trade of fractional ownership of luxury private residences.

Timeshare: In the realm of the timeshare, location is often important as well. Might be that having a condo near your family is the goal, or that a house on the coast where you spend part of a selling season is key. Timeshare does not have to be purely practical, but it tends not to emphasize the same amenities you'll anticipate with fractional scenarios.

Finances:

There is of course the consideration of money. Long story short, the details that you've already come to understand about fractional luxury are going to drive a different price point than a situation such as that of timeshares, one that does not necessarily include every amenity.

On the other hand, once you've decided that a private residence club is right for you, your fraction of the location can be later mortgaged, willed, placed in a trust, owned by a corporation, and so on. It can be resold by you or a licensed real estate agent. And, according to experts who've looked at private-residence options in the past, your deeded interest stands to appreciate in a way similar to the value of a second home.

Timeshares tend to be more costly to re-sell — the original marketers' costs come into the equation at a higher percentage — and they can be less attractive to investors than private residence clubs because the way that they're used (by many rather than a few) implies a certain loss of value.

In the end, everyone knows what's right for their own lifestyle. As you think about the recipe that suits you — fractional resorts and timeshares being two possible ingredients — use the preceding information that we've just considered to fine tune your destination. The point, as Timbers Resorts sees it, is to always live well. So, choose well. And enjoy!

To learn more about Timbers Resorts and how you can be a part of this lifestyle, please contact us via email at info@timbersresorts.com or by phone, 888.366.6641.

Buon Natale! Christmastime in Florence

From spring through fall, Florence is flush with tourists. But to see a different side of this glorious city, come for a visit in December while staying at Casali di Casole.

Winter is the one time of year when locals dominate Florence and lines and crowds disappear, so take full advantage. Browse Renaissance art at the Uffizi and visit Michaelangelo’s David at the Accademia and shop Italy’s most famous designer stores from Gucci to Salvatore Ferragamo free of tourist crowds.

There are also plenty of seasonal activities to take advantage of during the holiday season. Visit the German Christmas Market at Piazza Santa Croce for everything from food and wine to decorations, toys and stocking stuffers. If you have children, opt for the Florence Noel Christmas market at Stazione Leopolda near Porta al Prato, where they can have their picture taken with Babbo Natale, the Italian Santa Claus.

Once nighttime falls, take a walk along the Arno River where strands of twinkling lights bring the path alive. Then go ice skating at the Parterre of Piazza della Liberta, or take in a Christmas concert like those held at Chiesa San Marco on via Maggio daily through the holiday season.

The holidays themselves offer unique experiences as well. Celebrate Hanukkah in the Ghetto, Florence’s Jewish neighborhood, where the menorah is lit each night at the synagogue near Santa Croce before festivities commence. If you’ll be in town on Imactulate Conception day, December 8, most shopping will be closed, but you’re in luck nonetheless because you’ll catch food and art fair Fierucolina dell'Immacolata in Piazza Santissima.

Italy is quite religious so Florence more or less shuts down on Christmas Day, but the devout will enjoy the unique chance to attend midnight mass at Il Duomo and celebrate the feast day of Santo Stefano on Christmas in churches and markets around the city.

If you stay on until New Year’s Eve, which is also the Feast of Saint Sylvester, you’ll find that no one knows how to ring in the New Year like Italians. Enjoy an extravagant Tuscan meal then head to the Fortezza da Basso at 10 p.m., where the merriment lasts all night until 8 a.m. the next day.

Good thing for that excellent Italian coffee.

To join us as a guest at Hotel Casali di Casole over the holidays or any day, please contact us at 866.917.2152 or +39.0577.961508 or via email, reservations@casalidicasole.com. To learn more about ownership at Casali di Casole and spend the holidays at your home away from home, please visit our website or contact us via email, info@casalidicasole.com or infoeurope@casalidicasole.com.

Bella! Know your Italian Expressions

Taking a trip to Casali di Casole, whether as an Owner or a guest, is not just an escape into the sun-soaked Tuscan hills. It's a journey into the heart of Italy.

Couched in the warmth and hospitality of the team at Timbers Resorts' luxury residence clubs, at Casali di Casole you can partake of fine food, wine, a little workout, a little relaxation, and do so all within the confines of a common tongue.

But if you don't step out to the towns and villages that dot the countryside, you're missing all that Tuscany has to offer. And when you go, do as the as the Italians do — have in mind a little something charming to say to friends.

Let's do a quick crash course in Italian expressions that will get you through a day in Tuscany, and into the good graces of those you meet. It's Italian: Timbers style!

A Bit of Strange Luck

Start your day with buongiorno! (good morning), of course. Maybe it's time to pull up a chair in a little cafe, tuck into a bit of breakfast before hitting the rest of the road.

— Ordering Breakfast: Time for what Italians call colazione is time for coffee and pastries at most Italian bars (read: cafes).

Un caffe, per favore should get you started, but if it's a couple of cappuccinos you'd prefer, just swap the caffe for cappuccini.

If you want your morning cup cold, add fredda after the noun.

— Off You Go: As you head out on your journey, someone might say this to you: in bocca al lupo. They're wishing you good luck as you go into the mouth of the wolf (you might just hear this if you're off on your first drive at the wheel). Here's what to say back: crepi il lupo. You mean: death to the wolf. Because you're going to do fine!

The Afternoon Shadow

Pranzo is lunch, and most Italians take theirs after one 1 p.m. Maybe you want an insalata (salad) or a panino (sandwich). Later, here's a little custom that visitors tend to miss.

— The Ombra: Primarily associated with Venice, the ombra (plural: ombre) can still pop up wherever there is (a.) wine culture and (b.) a little bar nestled in an authentic Italian village.

What you want to find is an osteria, a small establishment serving wine and simple plates of food.

Late in the day — after 3 p.m., let's say — step in and ask for due ombre bianchi. What you're asking for is two shadows of white wine, two small pours meant to be consumed by friends standing at a bar.

In some places, at the right time of day, you can even get away with simply: do bianchi. See what happens.

The shadow in question refers to that of the tallest tower in an Italian town, which a wine seller would follow throughout the day with his cart, offering short sips to workers and residents in the relative cool.

And so, if in Italy someone says ci vediamo all'ombra ("I'll meet you at the shadow"), in a rather special way they're inviting you out for glass of wine. You can say it, too.

Good Wishes All Around

As the day winds down, you might end up in the presence of a party. That's the Italian way.

If someone's celebrating a birthday, buon compleanno often does the trick, to say congrats. Or, as Natalie at Italian Moments suggests, try tanti auguri. It means: many good wishes.

If it's a happy couple's 20th, on the other hand, say: buon anniversario, though you can trade out buon (good, best) for a felice (more or less: happy) if you like.

Finally, saying farewell comes in a lot of permutations.

The basic arrivederci, most of us know. If you're meeting up tomorrow morning, try a domani.

If too many ombre marked your evening, you might beg off with a gentle mi e piaciuto molto; e gia tardi — "I enjoyed myself very much; it's rather late."

As you learn new, local phrases from your friends in Tuscany, drop us a note here at Timbers Resorts. We'll share what you know with your fellow Owners, and we'll all help keep Casali di Casole on the "clever" edge of la lingua Italiana.

To learn more about ownership at Casali di Casole, please visit our website or contact us via email, info@casalidicasole.com or infoeurope@casalidicasole.com. To join us as a guest at Hotel Casali di Casole, please contact us at 866.917.2152 or +39.0577.961508 or via email, reservations@casalidicasole.com.

Roasting & Toasting Anthony Bourdain in NYC

Anthony Bourdain famously holds back "No Reservations" on his Travel Channel series, which has begun its final season of road-tripping this month. Bourdain can expect comedians to not hold back, either, when they "roast" him on Oct. 11, 2012, at Pier Sixty in NYC as part of the 2012 New York City Wine & Food Festival.

Mario Batali and Willie Geist will host On the Chopping Block: A Roast of Anthony Bourdain with comedians Gilbert Gottfried, Artie Lange, Marc Maron, Jim Norton and Sarah Silverman all onboard to poke fun at Bourdain. As-seen-on-TV chefs Guy Fieri, Ted Allen, Rachael Ray and Eric Ripert also will sit on the dais.

"Bourdain's been trashing 'celebrity chefs' for years. Let's see how the shoe feels on the other foot," Batali said.

The Bourdain roast is being produced by Lizz Winstead and Caroline Hirsch of Carolines on Broadway.

Timbers Resorts is a proud sponsor of this event, hosting the Opening Reception with silent auction packages for lavish stays at  The Orchard at The Carneros Inn, Mayacama, Dancing Bear Aspen, One Steamboat Place and The Sebastian - Vail. A four-course dinner presented by Bank of America will follow in the dining room with scintillating views of the Hudson River, raucous entertainment and a live auction including a luxurious trip to Tuscany presented by Casali di Casole and Delta Airlines.

Dinner will consist of four courses prepared by James Beard Award-Winning Chef Michael White featuring menu items from his hotspot restaurants Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini and Marea. Fans will also enjoy GODIVA Ultimate Dessert Truffles and a GODIVA chocolate after dinner gift. Watch as Bourdain’s friends and foes return the torture he’s inflicted upon them for years.

Tickets for the all-star affair are all-inclusive with proceeds directed to the Food Bank For New York City and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign.  While they last, they can be ordered online at www.nycwff.org or by calling 866.969.2933.

Follow all the action on Twitter with hashtag #NYCWFF or @Lee_Schrager

 

Goodbye + Hello: Ritz Paris + Castello di Casole

À Bientôt, Ritz Paris. We'll see you soon.

Here at Timbers Resorts luxury residence clubs, when one of the grande dames of luxurious accommodations, dining, and lifestyle — incontrovertibly the kind of institution that Hôtel Ritz Paris represents — gets a facelift: well, it's noteworthy news in our world.

As a jewel in the crown of the City of Lights closes temporarily for a two-year refurbishment, we're watching with rapt attention what magic the architects and designers will work upon the 114-year-old five-star majesty.

We're also thinking a little bit about our newest jewel: Castello di Casole.

The goal of any Timbers Resorts property is to provide comfort, elegance, and a community that lasts and matters for our Owners and guests.

But we'd also like to think that a luxury residence like Hotel Castello di Casole is going to make a mark in the world of discerning tastes, and we'd like to think it will grow into a legacy of its own, up in the remarkable hills of Tuscany.

Maybe it's settling in for fine dining at our five-star hotel's Ristorante Tosca, or a glass of perfectly decanted wine among our 130 acres of vineyard and olive groves.

Or perhaps it's just thinking about the way that, similar to how The Ritz Paris emerged from an 18th-Century townhouse in the center of its city, our Castello di Casole has been lovingly coaxed from the very stones that made up a 10th-Century Querceto Manor.

The point: we're also an evolution of the history that makes us, a standard for the kind of experience that a discerning appreciator will seek, and our team is dedicated to growing on both of these foundations.

Rather like The Ritz Paris. A place we think about when we think about history, when we think about elegance (and the perfection of an experience), and when we think about how a residence can create a sense of purpose for the people whoa re drawn to it. And for whom it becomes a home.

And so, Au Revoir, or perhaps, À Bientôt,  Ritz Paris. Hello, for the future, to Castello di Casole. We hope you'll join us soon in Tuscany!

To join us as a guest at Hotel Castello di Casole, please contact us at 866.917.2152 or +39.0577 961.508 or via email, reservations@castellodicasole.com.