Renewable energy, geothermal energy

Geothermal springs in Sasso PisanoTuscany in roman maps

Do you know that geothermal energy supplies almost 30% of the electricity consumed in Tuscany? And do you know that this source of energy is renewable and emits very little CO2 (a greenhouse gas leading to climate change), when power stations transform it into electricity? If you stay in Villa le Barone or in Vecchienna, you will be able to discover the sources of geothermal energy in Tuscany!

The geothermal zones around Larderello, Monterotondo Marittimo, Sasso Pisano and Castelnuovo di Val di Cecina are to be visited: you will discover new landscapes, with lagoons, fumaroles, small geysers, warm waters. You can also visit the very interesting museum in the village of Larderello, which tells the history of geothermal energy since Antiquity.

Evidence of geothermal activity dates back to the Greco-Etruscan-Roman era, and Etruscan and Roman baths have been found in Sasso Pisano, where Vecchienna is located. They appear on a Roman military map of the 3rd century. Baths and hot springs in the region were also used in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The industrial use of hot springs began in the early 19th century under the leadership of François de Larderel, a Frenchman who developed techniques for extracting boric acid from geothermal fumes. This product was once used as a food preservative. It is also François de Larderel who gave his name to the small city of “Larderello”, as he was the young entrepreneur to develop the region. Later in 1904 Prince Ginori Conti used the pressure of geothermal vapors for the first time to make electricity.

Museum in Larderello: geothermal energy produces electricity

The first power station was then built in 1913. This whole story is described in the very didactic museum of Larderello. Tuscany is certainly the cradle of the use of geothermal energy, but it is also exploited in many other parts of the world. A book recently published by Raffaele Cataldi and Mario César Suàrez Arriaga tells the long relationship between humanity and geothermal energy in the world.

If you stay in Vecchienna, our farm in Castelnuovo di Val di Cecina, you can discover geothermal energy, fumaroles, geysers, you can also visit the Museum of Larderello and swim in the hot springs of Sasso Pisano. And Larderello is only 1h30 from Villa le Barone.

Panzano in Chianti, a charming medieval Tuscan village

Panzano in Chianti: San Leolino church viewed from Villa le Barone

Panzano in Chianti, a charming Tuscan medieval village located exactly between Florence and Siena, must be discovered, with its churches, its vineyards and cellars, its market, its typical shops, its festivals, its craftsmen, its protected environment and the beauty of its landscapes. Panzano is located in the heart of the “Chianti Classico”, with famous producers of these wines known around the world.

Coming from Florence, after crossing Greve in Chianti, the road to Panzano rises slowly in the countryside, offering beautiful perspectives on the Chianti hills, olive groves and vineyards … and then it’s the arrival on the main square, Piazza Bucciarelli, with its shops, restaurants, bar, florist, fountain … Every Sunday the market takes place on this square. This is where one can find fruits and vegetables, cheeses, roast chicken, kitchenware… Every first Sunday of the month, the market (then called “aprilante”) is enriched by the presence of artisans who offer their products. The small street, to the right of the square, lined with old houses, rises towards the center of Panzano, the castle and towards the church of Santa Maria Assunta, completely rebuilt in the 19th century on the site of the old medieval church. On the left of the square, a small street, with the indication Barone, rises slowly, bordered on the left by the houses painted in white and red stripes where the famous butcher Dario Cecchini operates. You can enter the butcher shop, drink a glass of Chianti and take part in the friendly atmosphere of the shop.

Continuing along this street, you can see Mr Papini’s shop on the right, where you will find seeds, bedding plants, fertilizers … and everything for the garden. The cave of Ali Baba! Continue straight, turn right towards Hotel Villa le Barone at one kilometer. You can enter and discover the beautiful gardens! Continue a little further, you find an oratory and following the dirt road on the right, the beautiful Romanesque church Pieve di San Leolino, to which a porch was added in the 16th century. Do not miss the magnificent tabernacles of Andrea Della Robbia, and the paintings of the 16th century. Feel also free to push the door on the right after the baptismal font leading to the adjacent small cloister. What a charm! If you go back on the SS 222 road and continue towards Siena, on the right you will find the indication of the Oratory of Sant’ Eufrosino, with the spring near which the Saint who evangelized the Chianti lived.

Panzano in Chianti: Dario Cecchini’s butcher shop

Festivals and events are numerous in Panzano in Chianti, and in particular the feast of the “Buona stagione” on April 25, that of the “Colombina” at Easter, the wine festival “Vino al Vino” in September…. Moreover, Panzano is located in the heart of the “Chianti Classico” region, where wines known worldwide are produced. You can visit many cellars and enjoy delicious wine tastings: Le Fonti, Molino di Grace, Fontodi and Castello di Rampolla … to name only a few.

One cannot be tired of admiring the protected environment and the wonderful landscapes that surround this charming typical medieval Tuscan village, Panzano in Chianti.

The Della Robbia Family in Florence and Panzano in Chianti

Panzano in Chianti -Pieve di San Leolino- Tabernacle by Giovanni Della Robbia

The Della Robbia Family, Florentine sculptors and ceramists, have left an important footprint in Tuscan Renaissance art. Their superb works, and in particular glazed terracotta, can be seen in Florence and many other places in Tuscany. There are two tabernacles in Panzano in Chianti, in the San Leolino church. Villa le Barone is a former Della Robbia property, now transformed in a boutique hotel and managed by their heirs.

Luca Della Robbia, born in early 15th century, was a sculptor at the beginning of his career, and one of his first work, “the Cantoria”, can be seen at the Museo del Duomo in Florence. But he soon invented and developed the superb technique of glazed terracotta, also called majolica, giving to his ceramics beautiful shiny colors that were resistant to outdoors conditions. His nephew Andrea worked in his workshop and took over it at his uncle’s death in 1482. Andrea’s sons Giovanni and Girolamo continued his work and added many new colors to the simple polychrome works that the Della Robbia Family had produced earlier. Color became their primary focus and sculpture took the second place. Their work became more and more realistic.

Panzano in Chianti -Pieve di San Leolino- Tabernacle by Giovanni Della Robbia

The Della Robbia’s workshop was a very successful enterprise that developed many types of glazed terracotta products: liturgical items, such as tabernacles, baptismal fonts, altars… but also works made for use in private homes. Works were commissioned or bought from stock. Molds enabled the workshop to replicate popular models with consistent quality, and also to vary them by adding details before firing. The Della Robbia had a catalogue, enabling them to sell not only in Florence but also all over Europe.

You can see many of the Della Robbia’s work in the Bargello museum In Florence, but also strolling through the city you will come across many of their public works on or in highly visible and significant buildings in the city, including the Cathedral, the church of Santa Croce, the exterior of San Michele, Santa Maria Novella square.

The San Leolino church in Panzano in Chianti, which you can admire from Villa le Barone’s gardens, holds two Giovanni Della Robbia tabernacles.