Novel set in 1940s TRINIDAD
Talking Location with author Karen Aldous – Tuscany
10th June 2017
#TalkingLocationWith…..Karen Aldous, who takes her readers to TUSCANY.
We recently had the most wonderful Facebook chat with Karen, do catch some her answers to questions about Italy and her novel Under a Tuscan Sky, and the inspiration behind the book! Click here! Over to Karen……
Tuscany is immediately captivating. The iconic landscape poses for you at every turn creating picture postcards, urging you to grab your camera. How could those rolling green hills chiselled with undulating vines, olive groves and cypresses fail to lure you, especially when interspersed with medieval hilltop towns and villages emblazoned in that vibrant golden light – you could drive for hours and not exhaust beautiful scenes to photograph, paint or in my case, pen. I was brimming with inspiration!
I’m indebted however, as it was on a recce for my daughter’s wedding when I made my first visit and Under a Tuscan Sky was conceived; she and her fiancé longed to marry within a vineyard setting and therefore, the now newly married couple must take credit for sourcing this beautiful Tuscan farm in the Classico Chianti region, just south of Florence. Tuscany was on my to-go list and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I learned that the wedding venue Fattoria La Loggia was established in 1427 by the Buondelmonti family, then later passed it to the Medici’s, both nobility of the Florentine Renaissance. Still a farm, it is now run by the wonderful Ivana and her husband as agritourism, a scheme the Italian government introduced to preserve rural farms whilst allowing visitors to soak up the rich countryside. The heady mix of beauty and history created an enchanting backdrop for my characters and of course, romance.
And, like all my books, romance is at the heart. Olivia, my main character is duty-bound to return to Tuscany after the death of her Italian nonna Elena, but who and what she discovers from the moment she sets off to stay at Villa Elena, develops in undulations of emotions. It was fitting that Fattoria La Loggia became Villa Elena, because as well as our wonderful host who you will recognise in the novel as Gabriella, the place has an air of intrigue and is nestled among grapevines and olive groves, and includes a medieval central villa surrounded by numerous medieval farm buildings, reminiscent of a small hamlet which sits proudly on the crest of a hill with panoramic views. The locals are warm, very welcoming, so it instantly struck me as extremely special, and the perfect backdrop. I returned this May to witness the splendour of my daughter’s marriage, words cannot describe the emotion that swelled in me that day, but during my stay, I was also able to indulge in my character’s story once more as well as tour the area a little. Tuscany has so much to offer and inevitably, my to-do list is growing.
Unsurprisingly, Fattoria La Loggia is well situated for sightseeing with a car. Located in Montefiridolfi, in the Val de Pesa in central Tuscany, it will also allow you to experience some of the most scenic romantic routes and pretty villages such as Greve as well as numerous hillside restaurants. Local vineyards and Etruscan tombs can be reached by foot, but to access hilltop towns you will need a car. Pisa, Lucca, Siena, Sam Gimignano are within an hours’ drive. At the heart of Renaissance Italy, Florence, just 17km away, is better accessed by taxi or public transport. Travelling north, we parked at Florence airport (3 euros per hour) and got the shuttle bus for six euros each way which takes to you the central station within walking distance of the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, piazza’s and scores of restaurants. It’s also worth noting here that Pisa is not just a tower, it has a lovely town and marina worth tasting.
Which leads me to the most essential item to take – a hearty appetite! Being Italy, Pizza’s and pasta are plentiful, but for a romantic pizza, head for the hills and a spectacular sunset at Antica Calcinaia just on the outskirts of San Casciano, the local town. As you would expect, the gastronomy on offer in this region is overwhelming, much of it home-grown of course, the aromatic herbs, the olives, the lemons, the local wild boar, hare and those delicious black truffles. A favourite of mine is Arista alla Fiorentina, pork loin roasted in rosemary – so succulent! Just like Tuscany its people, its wine, its art, culture and wonderful climate – it’s a charismatic area to savour. I was totally in awe. If you haven’t already, I hope you get a chance to visit, and enjoy Olivia, Roz and Elena’s story in Under a Tuscan Sky.
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