Where is it?
Valdera, or the Valley of the river Era, is a stunning area of rolling hills in the very heart of Tuscany and forms a triangle between Pisa, Florence and Siena taking in the Etruscan towns of San Gimignano, Volterra, Lajatico, Peccioli and the ancient spa town of Casciana Terme.
The beautiful Tuscan coastline is just 30 km away and the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence, is just 60 km.
The colourful landscape of rolling hills dotted with medieval villages, castles and lanes flanked with tall dark-green cypress trees epitomise the Tuscan dream.
The area is scattered with historical towns and medieval villages, castles and country churches and a landscape with golden meadows of wheat dancing in the breeze, vineyards, olive groves and fields of sunflowers. Meandering through the countryside of Valdera you feel the vestiges of the ancient Etruscan civilization.
How to get there?
Both Pisa and Florence have international airports with daily flights from the UK. There is a train station in both Pisa and Florence connecting to Rome to the south and Milan and Genoa to the north.
Here tenor Andrea Bocelli was born and bred and it is in the heart of Valdera in Lajatico that the famous Teatro del Silenzio (the theatre of Silence) is located - a landscape that creates a breathtaking setting for a natural amphitheatre and where in the summer months some of the biggest names in opera perform. Casciana Terme has thermal waters and spa facilities and is a pretty town with piazzas and cafès serving the local wine.
The città d’arte (cities of art) include Volterra, San Gimignano and Palaia. Volterra, famous for alabaster, is set on a hill with a beautiful medieval piazza at the top end of the town and narrow cobbled lanes leading down to the old Roman amphitheatre. Carved alabaster on show in many of the town’s shops where artists sculpture the pure transluscent stone with artistic flair to create lamps, bowls and pendants.
Valdera is good countryside for walking or touring on a Vespa - companies organise tours through the valleys and hills and you can end the day watching the sunset over the vineyards.
Food: Jamie’s favourite?
Tuscany offers some of the best food in the world and is part of its cultural identity. The vineyards are well tended and many ‘cantinas’ open their doors for wine tasting with the classic Chianti as its staple.
The rich and aromatic olive oil from Valdera is used simply over salad or a glug added to plain boiled vegetables. TV chef Jamie Oliver often enthuses about la pappa al pomodoro that originated in this area as does ribollita, a sort of minestrone with coarse Tuscan bread torn into chunks.
Or bistecca Fiorentina: thickly cut steak cooked over a charcoal grill and served with fresh salad leaves from the ‘orto’ or vegetable garden. Many dishes reflect the rural location with game and local vegetables. Of course pasta is always on the menu too! On the sweet side you will find panforte, the cake of almonds and fruit.
What property can you buy?
Valdera is the heart of Tuscany with property indemand from a varied and international market. To buy a house here you are paying a premium for the architecture, the history and the cultural heritage. Agents in the area offer a good selection of affordable properties including a three-bedroom apartment for €230,000 that is part of an antique farmhouse, renovated in 2006 with infinity pool, gardens and parking.
A typical Tuscan farmhouse with four bedrooms, extensive gardens and swimming pool costs around €650,000. One that is in a magnificent location at the edge of a picturesque village might be €750,000. Or one with seven bedrooms and 14 hectares of olive grove, around €800,000.