Honey and more

The area around Bagni di Lucca and the nearby Garfagnana produces delicious honey. In spring and summer the mountains are filled with flowering trees bees love, especially acacia, tiglio and chestnut.

My friend Heather Jarman took me to visit delightful Francesca, who keeps bees on her agriturismo, Al Benefizio near Barga, to see the busy little bees in action. Chestnut trees were coming into blossom and the bees were out collecting nectar.

Each beehive has between 40,000 and 60,000 bees working to produce honey. Once they have filled their own hives with honey to feed the community the beekeeper puts more levels on top and the industrious creatures keep working to fill those too.

Al Benefizio

Al Benefizio

The nectar is loaded into trays of wax honeycomb. Each of these trays can be filled within a day. There are scout bees who fly out and find suitable flowers. They fly in a 3 kilometre radius of their hives and like to take nectar from the most numerous blossoms. When the nectar from these blossoms is exhausted they will move onto another type. This is how it is possible to have honey from a single blossom. The beekeeper needs to watch to see when the blossoms they want honey from are at their most prolific.

Al Benefizio

Al Benefizio

Al Benefizio

Once the filled trays are collected they are put into a machine which scrapes the wax off.

Al Benefizio

They then go to a centrifuge which spins the honey out of the frames. Francesca uses no heat to process her honey. It is allowed to settle slowly to allow sediment and wax to go to the top or bottom of the honey.

Al Benefizio

Wax from the honeycomb is melted down and collected in blocks. Francesca then sends these books to be melted and turned into new bases for the bees to work from to build new cells for the honey. The bees could do this themselves, but having a good start allows them more time to do other things. There is one group of bees whose only job is to flutter their wings in front of the wax cells to evaporate the water from the nectar until it is the right consistency for honey…they are a very organised community.

Al Benefizio

Al Benefizio

Al Benefizio

Francesca took us to one of her gorgeous old wooden tables under the cover of strawberry grape vines to sample her delicious honey. She drizzled acacia, tiglio and chestnut honey on pecorino cheese for us to try.

Al Benefizio

La Benifizio

La Benefizio

The acacia honey is light and almost clear. The chestnut honey is much darker and has a much stronger flavour. Tiglio, or linden, is somewhere in between.

Francesca’s bees work hard on her gorgeous property which overlooks Barga…what a spectacular view. Guests also get to enjoy the view and the lovely gardens which surround the cottages. I would love to stay here and pick the cherries from the trees. Soon there will be plums and figs ripe for the picking. There are also olive trees and a prolific vegetable garden.

La Benifizio

There are 3 apartments to rent at Al Benefizio.  La Stalla has 2 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and a wonderful private terrace with a spectacular view.

Al Benifizio

Al Benifizio

Il Fienile has a bedroom, bathroom, living area, kitchen and balcony.

Al Benefizio

Il Governo is a double room with bathroom. It was not available for me to see, but I’m sure it is just as lovely as the others.

Guests are free to wander in the terraced gardens, swim in the pool, meet Jubi the donkey, say hello to the chickens and tiny wildlife and delight in this gorgeous part of Tuscany.

Al Benifizio

Al Benifizio

Al Benifizio

Heather and Francesca work together to introduce visitors to a part of Tuscany they might not otherwise see. I visited Al Benefizio in late spring, a wonderful time to see the area. I think spring and autumn are the best seasons to see our beautiful area, you avoid the crowds and the countryside is at its very best.

Al Benefizio is a great place for weddings…and wedding photos. I think the old bed filled with hay is brilliant…these photos came from Francesca.

 

 

 

Al Benefizio…www.albenefizio.it

Heather Jarman…www.sapori-e-saperi.com

 

 

 

 

A Benabbio sunset

After a lovely evening with friends in Benabbio I was delighted to see a beautiful sunset. I walked from the top of Benabbio to the lower car park. It was quite late, 9.45pm, and I caught the last rays of sunlight disappearing below the mountains.

Benabbio

Benabbio

Benabbio

Benabbio

It is easy to see why people live in these gorgeous mountain villages. The views are incredible at any time of the day and in every season.

Market day in Bagni di Lucca

To help celebrate the beginning of summer there was a market in La Villa. Rosi was there with her camera to share the event with us.

A good crowd gathered to enjoy wandering through the many stalls.

Bagni di Lucca market

Bagni di Lucca

Bagni di Lucca market

Bagni di Lucca markets

Bagni di Lucca markets

Bagni di Lucca markets

Bagni di Lucca market

There will be another market on 24th August.

On Saturday 27th June at 8.30pm there will be a procession in Pieve di Monti di Villa to celebrate their patron saint St. John the Baptist. There will be food and dancing to follow…thank you Francis from London to Longoio and Beyond for reminding us.

Arrows fly in Bagni di Lucca

I am now back home in Brisbane for a while. I was unable to attend the crossbow event on Sunday in Bagni di Lucca, but our friend Sheila was there and took some great photos for us.

The competion was held in the Contessa Casalini Park this year and the balestrieri dressed up in their best for a great day of crossbow. Here is some of the fun.

Francis from London to Longoio and Beyond has more on the day.

On our way home

We are now heading back home to Brisbane for a few months to enjoy our lovely winter.

It it is always difficult to leave Bagni di Lucca, especially now when it is looking so beautiful.

The Tiglio trees have their blossoms and walking under one is a delight, the smell is heavenly. Don’t park you car under one however, they leave a sticky mess.

Bagni di Lucca flowers

Our petunias are looking great.

Bagni di Lucca flowers

Tina’s roses are flourishing.

Bagni di Lucca flowers

Bagni di Lucca flowers

My window boxes are doing well.

Bagni di Lucca flowers

Bagni di Lucca flowers

Big white magnolias are everywhere.

Bagni di Lucca flowers

The geraniums on the bridge are growing slowly.

Bagni di Lucca flowers

 

Bagni di Lucca flowers There are early morning fishermen in the river.

Bagni di Lucca fishermen

I have a couple of helpers this year to keep me up to date on happenings in Bagni di Lucca and I have lots of photos to share with you while I am away.

If any of you are passing the flowers on the bridge or the hanging pots, stick your finger in the dirt and if it is dry grab a water bottle, fill it up (there is a tap beside Bar Italia, or the tap at Cova, near the walking bridge) and water the plants…they will love you for it.

Don’t miss this

I love the archery completion held each year in Bagni di Lucca. The competitors dress in medieval costume and fire up their crossbows for a day of competition and fun. It is great to watch.

archery Bagni di Lucca

This year it will be held in Contessa Casalini Park in La Villa, Bagni di Lucca, instead of Villa Ada. I really liked it in the gorgeous grounds of Villa Ada, but it will be more accessible in the park in the centre of town.

Here are some photos from previous years.

I am sorry I won’t be here this year to see it, but you should all make sure you are there.