Calendar

2017 AT VILLA MICHAELA 

JANUARY

Just when you think the holidays have come to an end and the festive spirit put away until next year, Sunday, January 1st brings more excitement to the New Year with the performance of the Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra. This ensemble is the largest, and most renowned gypsy orchestra in the world, and it is coming to Teatro Del Giglio. This orchestra features works by many well-known composers such as Rossini, Brahms, and Strauss Tchaikovsky, as well as a special tribute to the famous Giacomo Puccini. Stay at Villa Michaela for a fabulous night at Teatro Del Giglio, take part in the celebrations in various local towns and villages and try some authentic Tuscan cuisines.

Cultural highlights of the month include, as part of the Opera and Prose season at Teatro del Giglio, productions of Ensemble Berlin by Peppe Servillo (January 8th), Orlando Furioso by Horace Armrests (January 14th) and The Magic Flute by Emanuel Schikaneder (January 20th & 21st) Click here for more information. If you are staying at Villa Michaela we can secure tickets for you.

Alternatively attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful oratorio of the Museo della Cattedrale, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

After all this cultural and culinary feasting, whirl up to Abetone for some skiing or take some time to relax and start the New Year with walks in the crisp country air or cycling on Lucca’s famed mediaeval walls before returning to Villa Michaela to relax with a glass of wine.

 

FEBRUARY

Not to be missed, February brings one of the boldest and brightest parties of the year to the region; The Viareggio Carnival.

Dating back to 1873 this is the most famous and irreverent carnival in Italy with huge 35 ton colourful floats inspired by the social and political history of our time. This event is undoubtedly one of the best-known events in the whole of Italy and is attended by over 800,000 people every year. Everyone dresses up in masks and fancy dress and there is a great party atmosphere with bands and cabaret. Viareggio claims to rival Rio’s carnival and the New Orleans Festival. Click here for more information.

Also going on in February, as part of the Teatro del Giglio Opera and Prose season, productions of Cinderella by Gioachino Rossini (February 8th to 12th), What I did not by Giorgio Gallio (February 17th to 19th) and Pigsty by Valerio Binasco (February 24th to 26th). Click here for more information. In addition, there is an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at Puccini e La Sua Lucca. If you are staying at Villa Michaela we can secure tickets for you.

During this month we offer our Master Cooking Italian Food and Wine courses at Villa Michaela. Authentic Tuscan cooking classes, combined with local wine tasting and culinary tours will give you an intimate experience of true Italian cooking and dining as well as the Tuscan way of life. Select ingredients at one of the colourful local markets before participating in one of our four specialty cooking courses. Our amazing chefs on site will showcase their talents, ‘hands on’, so that you not only get to learn the traditional recipes and master the skills, but also savour delicious lunches/dinners in our beautiful frescoed dining room. Click here for more information and an example itinerary.

 

MARCH
March brings the annual event of the Camellia festival just outside Lucca in the picturesque village of Pieve di Compito. The village locals open their gardens where there are many different kinds of camellias growing, in addition to arts and crafts, food and wine tastings and a visit to the Frantoio where the olives are pressed into the famous Lucca olive oil.
Camellia flowers and trees became very popular in Lucca 200 years ago and due to the mild climate of this corner of Tuscany there is now the famous March Camellia Trail and evidence of these extraordinary shrubs is to be seen in most of the Lucchese Renaissance villas.

For entertainment that is a little more high brow, Teatro del Giglio in Lucca is bringing back two classic plays in March as part of it’s Opera and Prose season, A Midsummer Nights Dream (March 9th & 10th) and Macbeth by Franco Branciaroli (March 10th, 11th & 12th). Both of these plays are suitable for adolescents and adults. Click here for more information. Or there is an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart every Friday and Saturday night at Puccini e La Sua Lucca.  If you are staying at Villa Michaela we can secure tickets for you.

Attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful oratorio of the Museo della Cattedrale, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

March also brings a whole month of indulgence with our Master Chef cooking courses at Villa Michaela. Click here for more information and an example itinerary.

 

APRIL

Celebrate Easter in the beautiful Spring sunshine and enjoy a Tuscan Easter feast at Villa Michaela. There is also no better time to explore Tuscany, before the hoards of tourists arrive.

Take some day trips before the weather warms up too much. Pienza in the Crete Sinesi near Siena, set in a lunar landscape, fields are painted in the richest earth tones, from the dark burnt amber of freshly ploughed furrows to the spun gold yellow of wheat ready for harvesting. Take a picnic and see pink blossom, perfectly symmetrical cypress trees, and the dark cone of Monte Amiato in the distance, ominously evoking the volcano it once was.
Or follow the River Serchio up from Lucca to the Garfagnana –
the Scotland of Tuscany, a narrow soft green valley between the jagged white marble of the Apuan Alps and the chestnut covered slopes of the Apennines. Hike in the famous National parks, catch a fish and a sunset and savour some of the typical Garfagnana dishes.

Visit Assisi, the leaning tower of Pisa, Florence, San Gimignano, Volterra, walk the Cinque Terre, Vinci, San Miniato – the best place to sample the famous white truffles of Tuscany.

The weekend of April 27th marks the celebration of Santa Zita. The historical centre of Lucca hosts a Flower Fair, in memory of St. Zita, also known as Saint of the flowers. Wander the streets and squares of Lucca, in particular Piazza San Frediano and Piazza Anfiteatro, and witness them explode with colour and the intense fragrance of flowers, as well as local food and wine.

Attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful church of San Giovanni, every night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

At the tail-end of April, through May and into the beginning of June the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino brings a whole program of musical, drama and dance events to Florence.  If you are staying at Villa Michaela we can secure tickets for you.

During this month we also offer a variety of cooking opportunities with our Master Cooking Italian Food and Wine courses. Click here for more information and an example itinerary.

MAY

One of the highlights of the month, on the first Sunday of May is the Palio dei Micci, an historical and folk event evoking the combats of the Medieval and Renaissance periods in Lucca. This festival which began in 1956 is one of the most important traditional events in the region bringing thousands of people in medieval costume to the historical centre. Alongside the ‘contrada’ (representative of the regions quarters) and spectators, more than 180 drummers and 200 men waving flags (the famous sbandieratori) take part in a colourful parade, at the end of which a hilarious donkey race takes place.

For over 20 years, the last weekend of May marks the beginning of Cantine Aperti in Chianti or ‘Open Cellars’. This involves 150 wineries in the region where dinners are held in farmhouses and wineries that would otherwise not be open to outsiders. The chorus in Verdi s most famous opera La Traviata goes ‘Let’s drink, let’s drink from the chalice of joy…’. It is the same convivial spirit of 19th century opera that lights up this most cherished Tuscan spring event. Savour Brunello, Montepulciano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Chianti and many other local Tuscan wines.

Throughout May the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino continues bringing a whole program of musical, drama and dance events to Florence. If you are staying at Villa Michaela, we can secure tickets for you.

Attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful church of San Giovanni, every night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

 

JUNE

June marks the end of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. However there is a lot more going on in May to keep you occupied.

Every June 24th Florence celebrates the festival of San Giovanni, beginning with an historic parade from Piazza Signoria towards the Baptistery of the Cathedral with an offering of candles for the patron. In the afternoon there is one of the most popular events linked to the Feast of San Giovanni; the Calcio Fiorentino, also known as historic Florentine soccer, which is held in Piazza Santa Croce.

Another truly tuscan spectacle takes place on the last Sunday in June, the Gioco del Ponte in Pisa or The Bridge Parade. Witness an historical re-enactment, where elements of folklore fuse with the proud warrior tradition of the town’s ‘clans’, who fight for possession of the bridge, no longer with maces shields and ‘targoni’ but challenging each other in a trial of strength. Click here for more information.

After all the excitement of parades and games, relax in the thermal waters and enjoy spa treatments at the Bagno di Pisa Spa (in San Giuliano di Terme en route to Villa Michaela from Pisa) or treat yourself to a wonderful restorative thermal experience in the famous health giving, purgative waters of Montecatini Terme

From June to September there is the Biennale in Venice – the world’s biggest exhibition of Contemporary art takes place in odd numbered years only.

Attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful church of San Giovanni, every night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

 

JULY

Summer is really upon us – long hot days, swimming, tennis, boating, barbecues, and hot air ballooning, not to mention long lunches by the pool at the Villa and dinners under the stars at local Tuscan trattorias.

July also holds court to Lucca’s famous two week long open air music festival that has hosted the likes of Bob Dylan, Lionel Ritchie, Elton John, Joan Baez, Paul Simon and Neil Young. These concerts take place on Piazza Napoleone – go down early and have dinner first at Ristorante il Giglio, then enjoy the music resonating around the historical city centre. One of the highlights of the year in Lucca and at Villa Michaela! Click here for more information.

Tuscany’s most celebrated festival, Il Palio, takes place each year on July 2nd and August 16th on the famous square in Siena. It is a bareback horse race first recorded in 1283, but it may have had its origins in Roman military training. Preceded by days of colourful pageantry, costume processions and heavy betting the races themselves last only 90 seconds. Thousands of spectators crowd into the piazza to watch the race, and rivalry between competitors is intense.

Another highlight of July is the Puccini Festival at Torre del Lago, a mere hop skip and a jump from the Villa, with the great Puccini classics Tosca, La Bohème, Turandot and Madame Butterfly in this year’s program. Sit in the open air on the shores of the lake where Puccini lived and wrote most of his best work. This world famous festival is in its 63rd year.  Click here for more information.

Besides all the live music and Il Palio, there are a number of reasons to venture out of the luxurious setting of Villa Michaela. Once the heat of the day has dissipated into a balmy evening, head into Lucca to enjoy a candlelit dinner at the many delicious trattorias, and on Thursday evenings, the centre of Lucca is alive for late night ‘shopping under the stars’.

Attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful church of San Giovanni, every night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

 

AUGUST

Continuing into August, the Puccini festival at Torre del Lago has the great Puccini classics Tosca, La Bohème, Turandot and Madame Butterfly in this year’s program. Sit in the open air on the shores of the lake where Puccini lived and wrote most of his best work. This world famous festival is in its 63rd year.  Click here for more information.

Tuscany’s most celebrated festival, Il Palio, takes place each year on July 2nd and August 16th on the famous square in Siena. It is a bareback horse race first recorded in 1283, but it may have had its origins in Roman military training. Preceded by days of colourful pageantry, costume processions and heavy betting the races themselves last only 90 seconds. Thousands of spectators crowd into the piazza to watch the race, and rivalry between competitors is intense. Definitely worth the short trip from Villa Michaela.

Take a drive to Forte dei Marmi on Wednesday or Sunday for the fabulous market – great clothes, bags, sheets, furniture, flowers – something for everyone. Have lunch at one of the great beach restaurants and ‘people watch’. Forte also has some of the best shops in Italy; Prada, Gucci, Hermes etc. all on the same street. Catch 9 holes at the golf course of Versilia on the way home.

Attend some of the ‘sagra’ or ‘feasts’ in the local villages – long trestle tables where you rub shoulders with the whole world, drink local wine and savour whatever the speciality is for that night. The 15th August is a public holiday and there is always a party as we celebrate ‘Ferragosto’!

Attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful church of San Giovanni, every night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

 

SEPTEMBER

For those with green fingers, September brings the Murabilia Gardening Fair, on the first weekend of September, on Lucca’s iconic city walls. Click here for more information.  Street markets abound in Lucca at this time of year and there are many candlelit processions and fireworks. Every third weekend there is the famous Lucca antiques market – quite a spectacle to behold and maybe even a bargain to be had. Have lunch at Il Giglio and watch everything unfold in front of you.

Not to be missed on the 13th September is the Santa Croce Luminara, with a traditional procession through the streets of the historical centre of Lucca illuminated for the occasion with thousands of candles, followed by a fantastic firework display. Click here for more information.

Furthermore, the Chianti Classico Wine Festival takes place is Piazza Matteotti in September from the 10th until the 13th. This wine festival features over 50 different producers and allows you to taste and purchase various traditional Chianti wines.
Attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful church of San Giovanni, every night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

 

OCTOBER

This month brings the world famous festival of Comics and Games to Lucca – hundreds of people in fantastic and ornate costumes, from anime to knights in armor to Mickey Mouse, spill onto the streets. The centre of Lucca comes alive with laughter and there are dozens of events going on to keep children and adults alike occupied. Click here for more information.

As the city fills up and the weather slowly turns, people also begin to think about the olive harvest. The sunsets are at their best at this time of year. A great time for long walks through the olive groves and hearty Tuscan suppers.

October also brings a whole month of cookery courses with our Master Cooking Italian Food and Wine courses. There are a number of courses to choose from depending on your style and preference. Click here for more information and an example itinerary.

Attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful church of San Giovanni, every night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

 

NOVEMBER

November hosts the tail-end of Lucca’s festival of Comics and Games (as above).  Click here for more information.

With the Vendemmia (olive harvest) in full swing, there is much to be grateful for and we start to think about American Tuscan Thanksgiving at Villa Michaela. Of course the highlight of Thanksgiving at Villa Michaela is the fabulous Tuscan style Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings that our chefs prepare in our traditional Limonaia kitchen and serve in our beautiful frescoed dining room.

If the Thanksgiving feast isn’t enough to look forward to, Lucca also has Il Desco Food Fair, which runs for two weekends of November, offering yet another opportunity to try the recipes and flavours of the region. Click here for more information.

Attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful oratorio of the Museo della Cattedrale, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

At this time of year Lucca starts putting up its Christmas lights and the cost of plane tickets go down!

During this month we also offer two weeks of cookery courses with our Master Cooking Italian Food and Wine courses. Click here for more information and an example itinerary.

 

DECEMBER
Christmas is here with all the beautiful winter concerts and visiting musicians. An ice rink is constructed in Piazza Napoleone in Lucca under the twinkling lights in the trees of the Piazza.

Attend an opera recital of the best arias from Puccini, Verdi and Mozart at the beautiful oratorio of the Museo della Cattedrale, every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night; Puccini e La Sua Lucca.

Wander the streets of Lucca and do some Christmas shopping in the fabulous boutiques. At this time of year the shopping spills out onto the streets as the Christmas markets arrive.
If you are lucky enough to be spending Christmas Day at Villa Michaela, Vorno church with its amazing decoration and incomparable choir is a must see.