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The meadows are bright with flowers, and produce trefoil and other kinds of herbage as fine and tender as if it were but just sprung up, for all the soil is refreshed by never-failing streams.”  Pliny the Younger

Flora and Fauna

After more than 20 years of land management on organic principles, without pesticides, herbicides or intensive farming methods, Casa Nova is, quite simply, a Garden of Eden.

We share the land with deer, wild boar, hare and porcupines. The latter, it has to be said, are rather disrespectful of our Orto (vegetable garden) and prove to be particularly partial to leeks.  Pheasants, on the other hand, murder a good aubergine.

Swifts make their nests in the eaves and a tiny bird, perhaps a wren, nests in a crevice in the wall above the outdoor stair.  A rather flashy hoopoe displays his crest and takes bouncing flight from one hazel to the next.  Cuckoos torture you with their call in the woods in Spring.  Our pigeons flit from fig tree to the pair of pine trees below Casa dell’Ortolano, loftily disregarding the nesting box we made for them.

We lack the know-how to identify more than a fraction of the plants, fungi, butterflies and insects, birds and different types of lizards - but that doesn’t stop us trying.  In the middle of brush-cutting, planting or weeding, you find yourself distracted by the sight of a grey heron flapping heavily up from the water-side after a particularly indulgent feast of frogs; an emerald green lizard guarding his own particular stretch of wall, or a slow-worm curled up peacefully under a plant pot.

Be warned: exposure to all this can have a permanent effect on your prose style - purple patches and cliché go with the territory.

Over time we have had a varied population of chickens (including some fairly posh bantams), ducks (some of them Indian runner ducks), budgerigars, rabbits and guinea pigs.  However, as the hillside is also well supplied with predators (foxes and pine martens, especially) we suffered so many raids, that we now only keep chickens, whose run has had to be fortified against predators.  For a slideshow of the Casa Nova critters, click here.

When a team from the National Gallery, London, came here to film a video to accompany the Raphael: from Urbino to Rome exhibition, which Tom co-curated, they shot some footage of the Niccone valley seen from Casa Nova to illustrate Raphael’s travels through the area, with Tom doing his talking head bit over it.  They left us with a couple of clips that might amuse you:

a video clip of morning mist and birdsong, filmed from the old farmhouse at Casa Nova before demolition of the barn and outbuildings and restoration of the house: click here



and an audio clip of the evening frog chorus on our lake:



We’ve now added some video clips of our own to the website, including a clip of the dawn chorus at Casa Nova.

Some identification challenges:


[P.S. don’t even think about eating any mushrooms you may find unless you really are expert at identifying them.]


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