I think I'm ready now to reveal my best kept secret in Tuscany. Yes, it’s me. The grandmother (Nonni) from the US in her 60's with the huge family that booked a one way ticket to Italy a few months ago. You can read that story here.
I'm back in the US, California to be exact, only to refuel, filling my tank back up with the love of my family, to be present for the birth of my beautiful 11th grandchild and then off I'll go again, Lord willing.
Where and when, only He knows just like the first time.
About this gem I discovered. Here's a little history of this city for all you history buffs out there.
Colle di Val d’Elsa is located in the heart of Tuscany, in a strategic position, close to the cities of Siena, Florence, and San Gimignano, along the route of the old Via Francigena, the medieval highway of long-haul pilgrims travelling to Rome from Canterbury in England.
Volterra too is nearby, tucked away within its ancient walls and surrounded by idyllic Tuscan countryside. This is one of the Tuscan towns you will really want to include in your Tuscan tour. A sheer joy, offering bountiful food for the soul and delicious food for the tummy too. Volterra was made famous as a place of vampires in the book Twilight New Moon and it is certainly a town you will want to sink your teeth into.
Whilst the area of Colle has major archeological finds, dating to as far back as the 4th millennium BC, the first documents mentioning Colle di Val d’Elsa date to the 10th century.
The industrial activity of Colle Val d’Elsa was marked above all first by the manufacture of glass and subsequently the production of lead-crystal glass. Indeed, as far back as the 9th century Colle was described as “the Bohemia of Italy”, while nowadays it has become a full-scale “Crystal Town”, making 15th of the world’s entire output, and over 95% of Italy’s output.
A centre of art and culture throughout the 20th century, today the charming town of Colle di Val d’Elsa is home to over 20,000 people, with old and modern buildings nestling among the green hills which roll down to the river Elsa.
Walking along the river you can experience the beauty of the Natural Park of the Elsa River reaching the natural water falls of Le Caldane. Being in the centre of Tuscany, from Colle Val d'Elsa you can easily drive to the most beautiful and interesting places of the area including archaeological sites and Etruscan necropolis.
Bla bla bla…while important and true, I would like to get to the heart of why I love this place and can easily refer now to Colle (for short) as a home base.
It's my best kept secret because it's quiet.
The train station is no longer there so it’s not so touristy. It has all the things that I've learned to love and appreciate about Italy, but not all the crowds. It has the fabulous weekly mercato, the best artisan pizza I've ever had, steep long walks up to Colle Alto where the views are breathtaking.
You can stop in and watch beautiful Lorella Capeezzuoli weave amazing hats and clothes on her loom on Via del Campana likes she's playing the piano.
Then hop on over to buy ceramics from Manufactum on Via del Castello, where husband and wife Arnaldo and Dorian hand make their gorgeous goods.
Then there is the local tabaccheria near the Coop where I stopped in one day to get an envelope and ended up having a cappuccino with the owner Angela. She showed me all around town!
This is what Italy is all about. God love the tourists, but I love connecting with the locals and breathing in everyday life in Italy. Not having special accommodations because I’m an American.
Yes, the beautiful places, the amazing food and historical sites are stupendous to visit and witness, but what I still craved was what I experienced 43 years ago. Real authentic Italian life. Lingering a while in Colle, and staying with the beautiful family near Siean, my beloved Italian people did not disappoint.
These pics in my article are from this beautiful town where I met so many amazing friends that I will know for a lifetime.
The highlight of my stay in Colle, and the reason it will always leave an imprint on my heart, is my wonderful stay at The B&B Le Tre Perle.
It has been recently renovated, is located in the centre of Colle Val d’Elsa, close to restaurants, shops, supermarket, bus terminal, tourist office, free parking area. The B&B offers reception and breakfast area on the ground floor. On the 1st floor there are 2 double/twin rooms with A/C, W/C, shower, 1 triple with A/C and full bathroom, 1 double with full bathroom and ceiling fan. On the 2nd floor there is the loft (double bed, WC/shower), A/C and private terrace. There are also two terraces.
This isn't the best part. As you know in my story I arrived without a plan. I never knew where I was going to be until the last minute which I call 11th hour faith.
I was with my friend in Colle at the mercato when we came upon her friend. She mentioned that I was looking for work and needed a place to stay. He immediately brought me to meet Elisabetta, the owner of Le Tre Perle.
Since it was off season, he said..."you can stay here for a month!" Only in Italy...Elisabetta agreed. We knew instantly that this connection was bigger than being a guest and our friendship proved it. It was as if we already knew each other for over 40 years.
We did so much together and she represented her Italy well.
The rooms are immaculate with freshly ironed linen like when you visit your nonna’s house. Her warm hospitality and knowledge of Italy makes venturing out so palatable. Elisabetta went above and beyond to make my stay so comfortable. After a few weeks, her precious sister Antonietta arrived from Australia and we all three can’t begin to describe the memories we created. The beauty of a friend…we talked, ate together, laughed and still remain in contact to this day. This is what it's all about. Friendship, embracing and sharing our cultures, our stories, our similarities and our differences. Giving and receiving an encouraging word and a smile.
When I learned that Elisabetta would like to sell her B & B, I had to think and pray long and hard if the new owner should be me. It seemed like such a natural fit, but the timing was off. It’s meant for someone else.
Her heart's desire is to return to Australia to be with her family and let this season organically cross over to someone who will love and appreciate it like she does.
In the meantime, go stay there, dream, live, breath and soak it all in! Go down the way to Piazza Arnolfo and get a cappuccino at Bar I'talia on the corner. Get a slice of pizza heaven at Pizza Artigiana. Take a long walk or take the elevator to Colle Alto. Sit on a bench under a tree and recall why you’re there. You'll be keeping this secret all to yourself, too.