News & Tour Blog

A day of food and fashion

posted Apr 5, 2013, 4:43 PM by Jen Hayes

With time only for a quick breakfast before making our way to Prato, somehow we all stumbled into the restaurant with plenty of time for our pastries and coffee - much needed after our late concert night in Pistoia.

The textile museum in Prato was enthralling. The city is known for its textile manufacture and we got to see centuries-old dresses, vestments  and swatch books alongside modern fashions, including a dress worn by Liza Minnelli. The museum also featured a hands-on exhibit on the various materials, dyes, and production processes used today and through the ages. Particularly fascinating were examples of fabrics made from such non-traditional materials as crab shells, plastic bottles, and even milk proteins!

And with that perfect segue, we finished our tour and made our way to Scandicci, just outside of Florence, for a delicious introduction to the Slow Food movement at the Castello dell’Acciaiolo. We wandered the beautiful park for a bit as lunch was being prepared, enjoying the sunny day as much as the lizards basking on the walls and the dogs playing in the field (or lying on their backs waiting for a tummy rub, like one particularly adorable basset hound).

But soon our lovely host Francesca called us over and we sat down for an amazing meal showcasing locally grown and raised vegetables, meats, cheeses, and wines while Francesca explained the main tenets of Slow Food: that it’s good, that it’s clean, and that it’s fair. Her enthusiasm was contagious as she told us about previous slow food gatherings, her history with the group, and even a few of her favorite spots in Florence as the meal wound down and we began planning the rest of our afternoon. The only problem is there are too many great things to see!

As close as we were to Florence, we hopped on the Tramvia, the Florentine light rail system new since our last trip, for an easy ride into town. Having successfully not made any decision on a particular activity or destination - we’re an awfully easy-going bunch - William took us on a quick tour of the city and pointed out the Ponte Vecchio, a couple of his favorite tucked away churches, the Piazza della Repubblica, and the Piazza della Signoria. At this point about half of us stepped into the new Gucci Museum to continue our day of fashion by admiring gowns worn by the stars at recent awards ceremonies, while others grabbed a
drink, did some exploring of their own, or brought the fashion world a little closer to home with some shopping of their own (Jen finished her quest for boots). With a little more space in our bellies after our stroll through Florence, we made our way to Perche No, a gelateria recommended by Francesca and the Slow Food movement. Delizioso! Finally, we stopped at the Duomo and Baptistery to admire the beautiful architecture and Ghiberti’s doors, and continued on our way to the San Lorenzo street market where scarves and belts were our group’s choice purchases.

We arrived for dinner at Il Porco Spino - The Porcupine - where a friend of a friend of the group’s is head chef. Even after our amazing lunch and gelato pit stop, we couldn’t help but try - and try and try - the delicious dishes that came out of the kitchen. Bruschetta, fried artichokes, calamari, pesto gnocchi, pasta in a wild boar sauce, and ravioli in truffle sauce... and somehow we still had room for cheesecake, tiramisu, and a touch of limoncello for dessert. I’m not sure we’ve ever been happier to have our vans pull up so close to the restaurant to whisk us away to our beds after a day full of such wonderful experiences and much delicious food.

Every concert should start with a spa day

posted Apr 5, 2013, 4:11 PM by Jen Hayes

We enjoyed our last dinner at the villa’s restaurant Monday night and even made friends with the large family a table over celebrating Easter Monday. The kids opened their enormous chocolate Easter eggs filled with little toys and came running over to share some of their chocolate. They may not be old enough to appreciate just how well their sweet treat went with our after dinner espressos, but many a grazie and buona pasqua were exchanged!

We had our last rehearsal this morning and ended with a run through of the entire program. It’s amazing how quickly we’ve gotten the music together, the time seems to have flown! We packed all our gear up for the van to deliver directly to Pistoia; meanwhile, we were off for a relaxing day in Montecatini Terme in preparation for our first concert. Our lunch here was a light brunch, quite welcome after so many big, multi-course meals. We especially enjoyed the salami station with a hand crank that was too fun to spin - all the more salami for us to enjoy!

Some of our group signed up separately for massages and facials, and we split up here to have treatments or head straight to the mineral baths, where we spent a relaxing hour floating our troubles away. The time was up much too quickly as we pulled ourselves away - though not without a stop at the historic terme or baths. Currently undergoing restorations, the owner was kind enough to let us in to have a look at the gorgeous architecture and frescoes as we imagined all the people that have passed through over the centuries.

San Bartolomeo
Eventually we made our way back to the vans to get on the road to Pistoia, where we would be holding our first concert. We arrived at the church to set up and run a couple pieces, but still had some time to explore the city. We stopped into a couple shops as Chuck and Lisa looked for stand lights and Jen continued her quest for boots, and we admired the church and the ceramic glaze tiles adorning the Ospedale del Ceppo. Dinner was at a happening spot called Gargantua, with some great 90’s tunes on the stereo and an interesting mix of art on the walls. Their specialty was different collections of antipasti and other dishes served on a large cheese boards. Most everyone ordered one of these, and hearing that some tour members had never tried Campari, William also ordered a Campari soda to pass around. The almost-unilateral decision was that it must be an 
acquired taste!

The time passed much too quickly, and we hurried back to the church for our concert. After only a couple days of rehearsal we played wonderful music to an enthusiastic audience in the beautiful Chiesa dei San Bartolomeo, built in the 11th century over a foundation dating back to around 750 AD. How amazing to start our tour in a space so full of history, as we performed surrounded by beautiful art and ancient, cracked friezes fading into the centuries. After we finished, the priest led us to a hallway filled with snacks and drinks to celebrate our first concert. Mille grazie!

Pesce Aprile - our Italian cooking lesson

posted Apr 3, 2013, 4:19 PM by Jen Hayes   [ updated Apr 3, 2013, 4:39 PM ]

With all the delicious food we’ve been having in Italy so far, now is the perfect time to learn to make some of these spectacular dishes ourselves! We headed out to Lucca this morning for a cooking lesson from Paola, our friend and instructor from the very first Campanae Mundi trip. After a winding trip up hairpin turns to get to the kitchen space, tucked away in the middle of a vast olive grove and guarded by the ever-vigilant Oliver the basset hound, we donned our hats, aprons, and towels, and had a look at the menu we were about to prepare. Pinned to the front of our menus
were drawings of fish - today is pesce aprile, “fish April,” which is similar to the U.S.'s April Fool’s Day. 
Our cooking was no joke, though - first and most tempting, we gathered around to make the desserts. We put together a lemon cake and a chocolate cake, and had a short Italian lesson as we learned about a special crust decoration knows as ‘the beak’ that is traditional for Easter time. The crust is cut into points like a beak, or in a different translation like the corner of
one’s collar. 

We then pressed and breaded several veal cutlets in a handmade breadcrumb mixture and, with the leftover bread, tasted through an olive oil “flight,” - olive oil is serious business here! The Tuscan oil was the winner, hands-down of course. As we finished the oil and the veal was taken away
to be fried and baked, we started preparations for the star of the show - the pasta. Returning tour members nodded their heads along with the standard steps of pasta making: blending the flour, semolina, eggs, and oil together on the table to form the base of the pasta. This time however we were in for a treat as Paola brought out a couple small packets filled with a dark liquid - squid ink pasta! As we learned before, kneading is all-important in making pasta,
and luckily there were many of us to take turns working the
dough into the right consistency. We divided the pasta in two, one plain and one with squid ink, and set to work. Once the ink was incorporated into the dough we didn't have to worry about it rubbing off on our hands - but many of us were still dusted with flour by the end of our kneading! We then passed the dough through the pasta roller time and again to create the correct width... but instead of cutting it
here or forming ravioli, we were
making pasta alla chitarra this time - guitar string pasta! We coated the flat sheets of pasta in flour and laid it over what looked like it could be a big stringed instrument. We rolled the pasta over the strings until (if it was floured enough!) it fell right through in strands. We continued this process over and over until we’d worked our way entirely through the dough; at this point fresh pane came out of the oven and bottles of wine were opened, and our group convened around the fireplace while Paola finished the sauces for the dishes. Soon enough, we’d gathered around the table to partake in our hard work, declared entirely delicious by the whole group.

Buona Pasqua!

posted Mar 31, 2013, 3:34 PM by Jen Hayes

Today marked our first full day in Italy... and Easter Sunday! We awoke bright and early for an 8:30 breakfast of pastries, yogurt, ham, cheese, and the all-important caffè before heading out to try and catch the Easter festivities in Florence. By centuries-old tradition, a cart of fireworks is wheeled into the city by oxen and set in front of the cathedral. A dove (mechanical, in this day and age) is sent by wire with a flame to light the fireworks and set off a display to guarantee good luck in the coming year.

Our two van drivers promised to get us as close to the festivities as possible - last year by bus, our Florence drop-off point was many blocks away from the center of town. This year, our drivers apologized for the distance as they let us off at the far end of the piazza, just as the oxen and cart passed before us. Molto bene, not a problem! The bells in the tower tolled dramatically as we left the vehicles, and the melodic, chanting sounds of the mass in progress followed us as we all secured spots to view the fireworks. What a display! The dove made its way to the cart and back, lighting the fireworks and securing the best possible luck for the year by making its way back to the Duomo altar, too. Round after round of firecrackers and sparklers lit from the cart and left our ears ringing and the piazza full of smoke. Again, the bells tolled - it seems we’ve found our city!

The group recollected in the vast crowd as the trumpeters and drummers recessed and the cart was drawn away again by the oxen. We hopped the tramvia out of town to meet up with our vans away from the hordes of people leaving the piazza, and returned to the villa for a grand Easter brunch. Seven courses awaited us, along with plenty of wine - and most excitingly for some, Easter Kindereggs! These chocolate eggs come holding a small toy inside; in this case we had little plastic cars to decorate with stickers and race throughout dinner. We spent three hours eating, drinking, and celebrating, and decided to take a short break to recover before coming back to the tables for our second rehearsal. We’re making some real progress and have even added some of our own creative key changes and performance notes to the pieces. After such a long day, we finally left the tables ready for a chance to relax over our simple cold buffet dinner of crostini, barley salad, cold cuts, and cheeses, alongside the ever-present vino, e dopo caffe. Even after such amazing meals today, we can’t wait for our cooking lesson with Paola tomorrow. A presto e buona pasqua!

Buon Giorno!

posted Mar 31, 2013, 3:25 PM by Jen Hayes

Today our group all convened at Borgo dei Lunardi in Cerrito Guidi for our first rehearsal and a delicious welcome dinner at the agritourismo’s restaurant. The full contingent trickled in slowly - some of us are arriving from early European travels, others are straight off 2-day flights from the States! Too excited for jetlag or travel exhaustion, we hit the bell tables at 16:00 - we’re getting used to 24 hour time - to run through each of our pieces. We’re challenging ourselves playing C4 to A7 with eight ringers; even so, our first rehearsal went very well as we found our tough spots and worked out bell sharing. Before we knew it, 7:30 was upon us... as was dinner! Conveniently enough our rehearsal space is directly behind the restaurant, and we flocked in for a delicious four-course meal. Broccoli souffle with a delicate cheese sauce, artichoke risotto, a peppery pot-roast and mozzarella e pomodoro, and finally chocolate lava cake, hazelnut semifreddo, orange & apple sorbet, and flaming crème brûlée desserts rounded out the menu, alongside hearty pours of rosé, white, and red wines. After such a long day, it was time pack up the bells and say goodnight - although several of us hovered around the office and bar to catch the wifi signal before retiring. It’s daylight savings in Europe tomorrow again, we hope our clocks and assorted smartphones will switch us over!

Countdown to Campanae Mundi Soggiorno 2013

posted Mar 26, 2013, 5:58 PM by Jen Hayes   [ updated Mar 26, 2013, 6:02 PM ]

Less than a week to go and Campanae Mundi is ready to dazzle audiences in Italy! We have some fantastic concerts lined up both in repeat venues and new spaces. We will be returning to Pistoia as well as Vinci, where we are privileged to perform in the church Leonardo da Vinci was baptized in. We’ll also have a chance to step into the nightlife scene with a performance in Florence at the Libreria Café la Cité, which also hosts jazz jam sessions and Tuesday night tango lessons. Finally, we are thrilled to announce our Friday evening performance at the stunning Chiesa di San Michele in Foro, pictured here. We've greatly admired this beautiful cathedral, with its unique columns and imposing stature, our last two visits to Lucca; it's a joy to be able to showcase the music of handbells in such a space. 

We’re bringing a diverse group of ringers with us this trip, with members from across the Bay Area, Tahoe, Texas, and Massachusetts, not to mention our director traveling out to meet us from Chile! Many of us are also extending our trip before or after the Campanae Mundi Soggiorno, taking advantage of already being in the region to explore more of Europe. What’s more “Campanae Mundi” in style than fitting in as many interesting opportunities into a tour as possible?

This trip, highlights include experiencing Easter Sunday in Florence at the Duomo and witnessing the Scoppio del Carro, or the "explosion of the cart," when the Archbishop lights a dove-shaped rocket from inside the church which then travels down a wire to the outside and collides with the historic, 2-3 storey cart in the square, setting off a spectacular firework display. We will also be having an Italian cooking lesson, visiting museums, touring a winery, learning about the slow food movement here in Italy, spending some time relaxing at the baths of Montecatini, and returning to our favorite chocolatier, Amedei, for a tasting.

Bookmark our blog or check out our facebook page for updates as we begin our trip 

March 30. 

A presto!

News for 2013!

posted Oct 6, 2012, 11:13 AM by Jen Hayes   [ updated Oct 17, 2012, 1:13 AM ]

Campanae Mundi has secured its first venue for our 2013 tour - we will be performing at the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Croce in Vinci on April 4. Home to the original baptismal font where Leonardo da Vinci was christened, this church has been a favorite performance space of our last two tours and we're thrilled to have a chance to return.

You may have noticed the change of dates for our upcoming tour. While we were excited to plan a trip around Holy Week, it proved impossible to secure venues during these dates. Campanae Mundi is now touring the following week, March 30 - April 7, 2013. We'll be able to celebrate in Florence Sunday morning and still have a full week of activities and concerts planned.

We'll be updating this blog with more concert dates and details as they are finalized, so check back often!

2013 Tour Program

posted Aug 31, 2012, 2:30 PM by Jen Hayes   [ updated Oct 17, 2012, 1:14 AM ]

Bells in Tuscany
March 30-April 7, 2013

30. Saturday – Arrivals and Rehearsal
Pick-ups according to travel arrangements of individual passengers in Florence. All convene at the charming Borgo Bottaia (located 1km from the village of Grassina and just 10km from the heart of Florence) for our first rehearsal at 4.30 pm. Enjoy dinner at the Villa and some social time.

31. Sunday – The Hills of Florence and Rehearsal
Sunday is a full day of rehearsal for the group. There will be plenty of time for music and relaxation. Those not ringing bells can take a short trip into town to explore, or might elect to head into the local hills to find some lovely hiking trails. Some might just prefer to curl up with a great book or a bottle of Tuscan wine. One of our favorite local chefs will serve us lunch and then assist us in preparing dinner. You’ll be learning how to cook all’Italiana and get to eat it, too. This casual cooking lesson has been a favorite on previous tours. Just don’t drink too much wine… there’s still rehearsal after dinner!

1. Monday – Greve in Chianti (Dress Rehearsal)
What would Italy be without wine? A visit to Italy’s most famous wine region, Chianti, with its heart in the small town of Greve, is a must. We’ll make sure we have enough time to fit in some rehearsal before we head out, but there will be plenty of time for lunch and a wine tasting. Stroll through this quaint Tuscan town, making a stop in a wine shop to see all the different Chianti vintners. A walk through the vineyards and a stop off at a local monastery will have you in the perfect mood to perform a dress rehearsal for the staff and other residents at Borgo Bottaia after dinner.

2. Tuesday – Prato & Poggio a Caiano (Concert - Vinci)
Historically, Prato has been the home to Italy’s textile industry. With amazing wools and other fabrics being produced here, we will have an opportunity to learn more about the factories that supply the Italian runways with their stoffa. More recently, Prato has played an important role in the Slow Food Movement. We’ll meet with a local gastro-tour guide for more about how to eat local and eat well. After lunch, we’ll make a visit to the Medici country home in Poggio a Caiano before heading to Vinci to play our first concert.

3. Wednesday – Pisa (Concert - Pisa)
Eat a light breakfast on Wednesday morning since we’ll head for western Tuscany and visit our local favorite, “Ristorante David,” for lunch. This is only after a stop at Tuscany’s finest chocolatier, Amedei. This is truly a day of decadence! The afternoon takes us to Pisa where you can do some shopping nel corso, or visit La Giurisprudenza, or just hang out on the Ponte di Mezzo. Be sure not to miss the main attraction, the Leaning Tower. Our evening concert is right in the center of town in one of Pisa’s historic churches and noted concert venues. Return to Le Fonti for a good night’s sleep.

4. Thursday – Lucca (Concert - Lucca)
In the morning, we’ll stop off at one of western Tuscany’s famous locales, Villa Torrigiani. Get a glimpse at how the aristocracy of the Renaissance lived at this beautiful home with amazing gardens. It’s a quick bite to eat and then off to Lucca. Circle the town on the ancient walls or search for hidden piazzas and mercati. Can you find the tower with the famous tree planted on top? Grab a light supper and meet to set up for our concert in Via Filungo. Return to the villa for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow is an exciting day!

5. Friday – Florence (Concert - Pistoia)
This is Good Friday. Chapels throughout the city of Florence will be bedecked with flowers and it’s a tradition to visit seven churches to pray. While we may not make the full rounds, we’ll make an effort to take part in the tradition. You’ll have a free day to discover markets and churches throughout the city center. Plan ahead to visit the David or the Uffizzi galleries. Check out Via Tornabuoni for some high-end shopping or the Mercato San Lorenzo for the budget-conscious. Lunch is on your own but be sure to meet our transport to take us to our evening concert 20 minutes outside of Florence in historic Pistoia.

6. Saturday - Departures
After breakfast on Saturday, we’ll pack up our stuff and head out. You may also choose to extend your stay in Florence* to experience Easter at the Duomo. The famous Carrello explodes in a flurry of doves and is not to be missed. If you need to catch a train or plane, we’ll get you to the right spot. From here you’re on your own… alla prossima!

*There is a possibility of extending your stay at our accommodations for additional nights. Please contact us for more information. We would also be happy to assist you in finding hotel accommodations within the city limits.


Our Last Concerts

posted Jul 20, 2011, 12:29 PM by Jen Hayes   [ updated Jul 20, 2011, 1:00 PM ]

Campanae Mundi's Final Concert
From Ristorante David, Campanae Mundi went on to our first concert of the day at Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta in Gavinana. This gorgeous church was built in the 9th century, and after finishing our concert to a standing ovation we had a chance to see the 15th century organ this church is home to! Our own Kendra even had the opportunity to play - a rare opportunity, and a memory she's said will stay with her her entire life.

We packed our equipment to move on to our next performance in Pistoia. As we set up in the 12th century Chiesa di San Bartolomeo in Pantano, we couldn’t help but be struck by the history we’ve been able to witness and be a part of on our trip through Tuscany. This last church was solemnly quiet even as we set up, and ancient frescos still adorning the walls gazed down on us. 

Lightening the mood, we trooped down to dinner, bells in hand, with friends Federico and Leonardo. We shared antipasti, pizza, and our best memories of our trip - then Leonardo stood to present us each with a gift. Small ceramic bells - a craft Pistoia is known for - were each hand painted with our initials. Through a flurry of thank yous and grazies, we finished our meal and stepped out into the cooler evening air. Time for our last piazza mob - or, after such a great dinner, a pizza mob! We rang through our peals and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy throughout the streets of Pistoia before a final round in front of the church.

Collecting ourselves, we entered the church and performed our final concert of the trip. Emotions ran high and there were even some tears as our last notes faded away. It is fitting that even as our trip has ended I still have the change ringing and melody of Metanoia running through my head, a piece that focuses on the themes of change and transformation. This trip has changed and transformed us all to be better ringers, to have had the opportunity to witness the rich history and culture of Tuscany, and even to be a part of the centuries of music-making in such beautiful settings.

Until next time,
Campanae Mundi

The Best Food in Tuscany

posted Jul 20, 2011, 11:15 AM by Jen Hayes   [ updated Jul 20, 2011, 11:49 AM ]

No one can believe it is our last full day together in Italy. The week has gone by so quickly, and we have filled it with so many activities and happy memories! Our last day promises to again be a very full day, as we prepare to visit Pisa, have lunch at our favorite restaurant in Livorno, David’s, and perform two concerts in Gavinana and Pistoia.

Our time in Pisa turned out to be shorter than planned, but still gave us time to see (an of course snap several photos of) the Leaning Tower as well as to poke our heads in to the baptistery, an acoustic marvel within which sound carries long enough for a single person to sing three part harmony.

Any time lost in Pisa, however, was more time for us to spend at David’s. This restaurant, owned by a friend of a friend of William’s, is a perennial high-point of our trips to Italy. The food here is beyond amazing, and the restaurant normally serving only dinner opens its doors to us for a lunch overflowing with delicious dishes. Favorites that returning members remembered from our last visit, such as pate and a fantastically light fish mousse, were joined by new dishes of polpo (octopus) and swordfish carpaccio, salamis and prosciutto, pecorino with honey, bruschetta, shrimp - and these were only the antipasti! Dishes and dishes were brought out for us to sample, and bottles of wine and prosecco were uncorked and poured. Unwinding after a long week, we worked our way through this first course with finesse - if you could use that word to define our middle school lunch table approach:

“Mmmph, this mousse is AMAZING.”
“Wow, this is the best swordfish I’ve had in ages! I’m not a huge fan of the pate, though…”
“How can you not like the pate? Hey, I’ll pass you some swordfish for your pate,”

Dishes worked their way around the table until all were near empty. Before we could applaud ourselves on this accomplishment, however, another course emerged piping hot from the kitchen. Heaping bowls of pasta were set before us - both a rigatoni with sausage in red sauce and a light farfalle heaping with mussels, lobster, and other seafood. We could have easily filled ourselves to overflowing on this course alone, but were held back by the promise of yet another amazing course. Finally the secondi appeared, worth both the wait and the room we’d saved for it: thinly sliced steak and seared tuna seasoned just enough to make its natural flavor really stand out.

We were certain there was no way we could eat anymore. Even as individual dessert plates were brought out to the table, crowded with vanilla gelato, mint granita, and a berry torte, we protested. “Can I share with someone?” “Really, only the gelato, please,” “No WAY I can eat any more…”  Our servers turned deaf ears, however, and continued placing the loaded plates in front of us. William summed it up for all of us when a moment later he looked down at his suddenly empty plate. “Guess I was still hungry, after all!”

Another fantastic meal thanks to our hosts and David, at what Campanae Mundi will forever endorse as the best restaurant in Tuscany!

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