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Posts tagged ‘Castagneto Carducci’

Tuscan Towns #4 – Castagneto Carducci

For a town with a mouthful of a name, Castagneto Carducci, just uphill from the sandy beaches of Donoratico, is paradoxically small. Distinctive for its coloured houses painted, unlike so many of the stone villages of Tuscany, in sunny shades of pink, yellow and other pastel tones, Castagneto contrasts perfectly with its surroundings of green hills and perfectly regulated striped vineyards. This is not the first time the village has featured on   The Daily Norm, since it is the closest little Tuscan town to my in laws’ home. In fact as we proved on this occasion, a brisk 40 minute walk through the vineyards of Donoratico followed by an uphill climb will see you arrive on foot at the church topped-summit of the town in no time. From there, it is views a plenty, not only of the surrounding countryside but of the quaint streets spilling out across the hilltop.


Like so many of the Tuscan Towns I am featuring on this blog, Castagneto is a town which oozes idyllic charm. While the tourist trade has made sure to embellish the town’s best features and offer visitors boutique shops selling local produce, cuddly wild boars and hand-painted ceramics, my favourite places to visit are those which are the preserves of the locals – the small little cafes where locals prop up the bar to drink an espresso and a brioche; the hilly side streets whose pot plants and strung out washing are just as picturesque as the countryside views over which the tourists ogle; and the little passages where a simple parked vespa or a decorative street lamp look like works of Italian art.

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If you can only get to tour one or two of Tuscany’s quaint little towns, Castagneto is a perfect choice. With its various cafes and small up-scale shops, several restaurants making the most of the views and a perfect winding route around town which will take in the small church and iconic town hall, Castagneto has all the ingredients to afford the visitor a satisfying stroll. And if I were to recommend Bolgheri at around 5pm for a cocktail or afternoon coffee, Castagneto is a perfect choice for a morning coffee. Our sun drenched cup accompanied by brioche and croissants stuffed with frutti di bosco and cream was the best breakfast experience of my trip, and should not be missed, especially with views as fine as this.


© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Interpretation No. 11 – Castagneto Carducci

Last week’s Daily Norm was a glorious panoply of Tuscan views, scenes and sensations and it’s not quite over yet. For hot on the heels of my Tuscan weekend comes my 11th interpretative landscape – part of my Interpretations collection which I began some three months ago after being inspired by the sumptuous landscapes and cubic shapes of Italy’s Amalfi Coast. 

Back in Italy this September, and one glimpse up through the vine-packed fields of Donoratico to the emerging landscape of Castagneto Carducci made me realise that this pretty hill top town was an obvious contender for an interpretative overhaul. For with its tightly packed cluster of pastel coloured houses all set up on a Tuscan hill, Castagneto offers a wonderful synthesis between petit-urban development set amidst a stunning landscape, which is exactly what the Interpretations series sets out to emulate. And I think this 11th Interpretation is probably one of my favourites of them all.   

Interpretation No. 11 - Castagneto Carducci (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

Interpretation No. 11 – Castagneto Carducci (2014 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at

Tuscan Town Triple: Numero Due – Castagneto Carducci

Castagneto Carducci has a grand ring to it, like an aristocratic stronghold or a line of infamous popes. It is in fact quite the opposite of grand – a tiny hill top town clustered in the heart of wine-producing Italy so small that cars are band from its centre, and it comprises only a handful of small winding streets. Happily for me, this delightful little town is but minutes from my partner’s family home, a more than pleasant drive meandering through vineyards and fields packed with ripely fruited olive trees. 

Up in Castagneto it’s like another world. Car-free, worry-free, the visitor to this little Tuscan gem can wander uninhibited in and out of little shops selling the best local produce, wines, oils, herbs and soaps before stopping in one of the charming little cafes for an aperol spritz or a morning prosecco. Having had a heavy night sampling only the best of the local Bolgheri vino rosso, we opted for coffees before indulging in the photography which this little charismatic enclave begs for, taking in the little side streets populated by sun-loving cats and chatting locals all set against a backdrop of sunny pastel houses and more of those iconic Mediterranean window shutters. The results of those amblings are the harvest festival of photos shown on today’s Daily Norm.

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But for those left salivating at this dip into the Elysium of Tuscany’s fields, your wait for the next picture-perfect treat will be brief: return to The Daily Norm tomorrow for numero tre in the Tuscan Town Triple. In the meantime here’s a gallery of what Castagneto does best.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2014 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Tuscany Part IV: My Photographs

My blog’s adventures through the golden-rich lush-green lands of Tuscany are well under way, and after three days of tales, I think it’s about time I shared a few more of my photos with you. Tuscany is so ripe in photographic inspiration that I was worried my mega-sized memory stick would not be big enough. The views are so complex with multi-layered landscapes which beg for photographic capture from a multitude of angles and viewpoints, each shot capturing something new, some fresh insight into this rustic, sun-kissed land. From russet soils sprouting innumerable rows of verdant green vines and plump purple grapes, glorious golden sunflowers and shiny little olives, to the sun-dappled shady paths lined by pine trees, old derelict villages gracefully ageing with an insuperable elegance, with long shadows cast by the evening sun falling upon broken shutters and flaking paint work, and an expansive soft, sandy beach, edged by a calm lazy seashore, whose waters are silky warm, and its breeze heavily soporific.

Tuscany is poetry in sight, in sound, in smell. It tickles all of the senses as its natural bounty bares fruit across the undulating land. It’s a peaceful, restful, bucolic region, where the great pleasures of life are celebrated and manufactured, where long afternoons pass in a somniferous haze, where the evenings are bountiful in gastronomy and wine, and by morning a vivid yellow light makes every object, every plant, every building glow with a picture-perfect radiation.

These are my photos of Tuscany.

All photos are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2012 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. 


Tuscany Part III: Picture-perfect Populonia, and other hilltop idylls

If there’s one thing that Tuscany does well, it’s idyllic little hilltop towns, framed by castle walls, boasting sensational views of surrounding rolling countryside, and offering picture-postcard views of medieval stonework, cute tavernas aplenty, slowly decaying buildings adorned with cracking window shutters, pots overflowing with geraniums and more often than not, a cat sleeping in the sunshine. You know the scene – it’s postcard land after all, for who could resist these honeypot utopias, to which every tourist, artist and hedonist will flock in their thousands every year.

Yet what makes the towns so idyllic is the fact that far from pursuing a Disneyland level of commercial exposure, as is no doubt the temptation, life goes on in these little villages, just the same, irrespective of the camera-clicking tourists emerging at every corner. The best photos, for me, are the shots capturing locals gossiping in little piazzas, or old couples catching the evening breeze on stools out in the street. I adore the little grocery shops, which continue to sell fresh, vividly coloured produce to the locals, and whose offerings are yet to feel the effects of the supermarket spread. The haphazard park of a little bicycle or a retro-red scooter against an old cracking wall represents ordinary life to them – but to me it’s art dripping in decadence and charm in all its imperfect beauty.

Not far from Donoratico, where I was staying by the sea, a cluster of small towns, each one atop a hill and each, stunningly, idyllically beautiful, can be found amongst the vineyards and the pine forests. My favoruite, Castagneto Carducci, is a Tuscan Elysium, perched upon the hills above Donoratico, with views over the coast and vineyard-covered rolling hills to die for, while within the town, pastel pink walls, green painted shutters, and elegantly deteriorating plaster work, old lamps and ageing locals exude charm and decadent beauty.

Castagneto Carducci

Meanwhile, just ten minutes along the coast towards Pisa, the tiny town (we’re talking two streets only) of Bulgheri can be found at the end of a perfectly straight Roman road, continuously bordered with cypress trees, the result of which is a scene of such wonderful symmetry that it appears on at least 2 out of every 5 postcards sold across Tuscany. Meanwhile the town is another chocolate-box paradise – little restaurants with red-checked tablecloths, lit by lanterns at night and benefiting from the dappled shadows of nearby pine trees during the day, a minuscule central piazza adorned with flowers aplenty, and cute little shops selling art and crafts and fresh local produce.


But by far my favourite discovery of this Tuscan adventure was to be found in the region of another hilltop idyll, the town of Populonia, not because of the beautiful town itself (which, with devastating views of the port below, laundry hanging across the streets, and a single cafe set out beneath lush trees atop ancient castle walls, is a true contender for postcard-fame) but because of the truly awe-inspiring natural beauty subsisting beyond its forest surroundings. Taking a sharp turn left off the winding road heading up to the hilltop town, my Partner had a surprise for me. Walking through metres of densely packed pine-tree forest, I wondered where on earth we were going, that is, until we reached an opening in the thick coating of pines, and the most incredible view of a cove beach below came into sight.


What followed was a sharp descent down magnificently formed geologically stunning rock forms, almost like spiderman upon the vertical facade of a Manhattan skyscraper, but with each and every perilous step taking us a few inches closer to the paradise below. This slightly dangerous adventure (not least for my partner, attempting to traverse the cliff face in flip-flops) was well worth the effort – the cove beach was truly awe-inspiring, nature at its very best, and our afternoon spent swimming around in those  sometimes hostile but vigorously exciting and stunningly beautiful waters, pursuing further coves and prickling our hands and feet on every kind of mussel and sea urchin imaginable, was among the happiest afternoon of my year so far.

First view of the cove emerges from the cliff-top forest

The stunning cove below

Those incredible cliffs

Which just goes to show, while historical towns provide steadfast charm and a consistent source of timeless beauty, it is the transient, often less-accessible beauty of nature that still has the edge, and whose discovery is all the more thrilling as a result.

(Disclaimer: if you too decide to head down to this very beautiful cove (and, looking at the photos, why wouldn’t you) you go at your own risk – don’t blame me if you prick your hands, feet or any other part of your body on a bed of mussels or some other vicious sea life, or if you trip, slip, get squashed by a falling rock or otherwise and unsuitably manage to kill yourself. It’s not my fault).

All photos are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2012 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.