“Casentino, la Toscana Nascosta”
Located in eastern Tuscany, Casentino is in the upper Arno valley and is fifty minutes from Florence and fifty minutes from Arezzo.
Casentino is where Dante was inspired to write parts of his Divine Comedy. It’s where Roberto Begnini wrote the last part of La Vita è Bella saying he needed to retreat to a place of complete peace so as to properly think through his Oscar winning movie screenplay. Begnini also shot his film in various locations throughout Casentino, including Arezzo and Cortona. Anthony Minghella chose Casentino as his location for his movie The English Patient and it’s also where Audrey Wells set Under the Tuscan Sun.
Leonardo Pieraccioni created his Italian smash hit comedy Il Ciclone in the Piazza of Stia and so moved by the area’s beauty, John Milton wrote his famous poem Paradise Lost in Casentino. It’s also where Saint Francis of Assisi received his stigmata.
It’s a mystical place, say the Italians. It is a place of refuge, say the Tuscans. And the Tuscans ought to know. For millennia this region is where their ancient monastic orders flourished, it’s where spiritual retreats continue to thrive to this day. A place famous for its spiritualists and sages, this is a land of castles, medieval monasteries and sanctuaries. The Romans and the Milanese know about Casentino’s special atmosphere of creativity and inspiration too, they have holiday houses in many of the medieval villages scattered throughout the area’s woodlands. No other part of Tuscany is so well known amongst the Italians for its historical power of calming the spirit. The locals have labelled it simply ‘the place of emotions.’
Casentino is little-visited by tourists. Maybe that’s why it’s nicknamed La Toscana Nascosta – the hidden Tuscany. Without doubt few foreigners have ever even heard it, even though it has thirty-six thousand hectares of some of the most beautiful natural parkland in Italy. A rich ‘ecological enclave,’ the Italians say. Its ancient forests are home to wolves, wild boar, deer, porcini and other diverse mushroom species along with truffles.
Almost all of Casentino is farmland, so for people who like to eat fresh food that’s ‘from the vegetable garden to the table’ this is a wonderful region to explore. So much of what graces the tables in Florence is sourced from Casentino. The pecorino, ricotta, prosciutto, salame and other cured meats, chestnuts, honey, chickpeas, beans, potatoes, mushrooms, black cabbage, apples, peaches and walnuts that you eat in Florence often come from the pastures of Casentino.
But we think, more than anything, that Casentino is home to an amazing community of Italians who are thrilled to show you their part of Tuscany. There are few places in Tuscany left untouched by the trail of tourists and travellers. This is one of them. In this part of Tuscany, the local Italians are so enthusiastic to show you and share with you the love of their land. They want to teach you how to milk sheep and make ricotta. They want you to try their prosciutto, their orchard fruits, olive oil and wine. They want you to venture along their hiking trails, visit their piazzas and see their monuments.
The people of Casentino, especially the people of the small village of Caiano, want you to have a good time in their homeland.
We want you to write beautifully in a special, undiscovered part of Italy.