Area in Tuscany near The Gifted Tree's Italy tree planting project


Tuscany, Italy

Earlier in the month, my family and I were fortunate enough to visit Italy. Our itinerary started in Rome, continued to Naples and down to the Amalfi coast and finished up in Tuscany, the area of The Gifted Tree’s tree planting project. As we drove north into the Tuscany hills, as well as spending the day traveling around the Tuscany countryside, it became readily apparent why the area has the reputation it has. It is well deserved. The central Italian region of Tuscany is known for being one of the most beautiful areas of the country, and it does not disappoint. In addition to its scenery – the rolling green hills, olive groves, vineyards, and wide-open skies – Tuscany is famous for its charming, rustic villages which reflect the history of the region.

Landscape of Tuscany Italy Planting Project - The Gifted Tree

World War II and Italy

Unfortunately, part of that history also includes World War II. Due to movies and books, most people remember the war taking place in France, England, and eastern Europe. The fact is, however, since the beginning of the war, Italy, like other European countries, was the victim of numerous airborne attacks. It wasn’t only cities to be in danger, but also specific locations of strategic relevance in the countryside. Germans occupied numerous towns and villages in the area around Florence, and the area was subject to many allied bombing sorties which were quite damaging to the countryside. Besides damage to the buildings and infrastructure of Tuscany, the forests in the area were majorly damaged and areas that used to be tree covered were left bare and in ruins.

Our Planting Project in Tuscany, Italy

Located in one of the most beautiful regions of Italy (Tuscany), the Pomino Forest borders the Casentinesi National Forest Park. Tuscany is one of Italy’s most visited regions because of its architecture, land, gastronomy, and also its preserved natural areas. The area is full of protected green spaces surrounding small villages that are popular among tourists from all over the world, including my family.

The village of Pomino is located 7 kilometers away from the town of Ruffina. This village of 228 inhabitants is particularly known for its production of white and red wines. Around the vineyards, the forest offers unique landscapes to all who visit. Following the destruction of this forest in the Second World War, it was totally replanted in Douglas pine, significantly reducing the former biodiversity of the site. Additionally, this barely diversified stand was thus particularly sensitive to climatic hazards and biological attacks. But thanks to The Gifted Tree, and its non-profit tree planting partners, the forest of Pomino is being restored through its tree planting project in Tuscany. Trees are being planted and the natural regeneration of the existing plants is supported to ensure the future of the forest.

Tree Planting Project Tuscany Italy

To fortify the forest, Douglas firs are being planted alongside new species including pine, birch, chestnut, beech, pedunculate oak, sessile oak, hornbeam, hops, ash, maple, limewood, and cherry trees. The strategy is starting to pay off as the forest is diversified and strengthened. Today, it is home to a rich biodiversity of animals including wolves who have returned to the area and are now permanently present.

By the end of the project in a few years, two thirds of the land area around Pamino and the Casentino National Forest Park will be converted into a diversified mixed forest, composed of species perfectly adapted to the site’s climatic conditions. Ultimately, the balance between the environmental, social, landscape and economic functions of Pomino’s forest will be restored to what existed before the tragedies of World War II.

Tuscany, Italy countryside near The Gifted Tree's planting project

Planting Gift Trees in Tuscany, Italy

The Gifted Tree make it easy to plant a memorial or celebration tree in Tuscany, Italy or one of 80 locations in United States National Forests or many countries around the world. Choose the tribute design option you like from one of the six hand-crafted choices. Customize and personalize the message you want to include on the tree planting certificate, and let us know the address where we should send the tribute card.  The tribute is sure to show you care as well as help reforest areas that are devastated by fire and climate change, and world war.

Pet Loss Tree - Grieving The Loss Of a Pet



If you are like me, dealing with the loss of a pet is one of the most difficult things we will ever handle. Pets are a family member and bring so much comfort and unconditional love, it is totally understandable that losing them can be emotionally devastating. Our pets play such an important role in our daily lives, as 70% or more of US households have a pet, it is very painful when we lose our pets. And to compound things, if you are a dog owner, again like me, losing “man’s best friend’” will happen a number of times over your lifetime as one is more likely to get a new dog when the old one crosses the rainbow bridge. Thus, pet loss grief is a reoccurring theme.

Because our pets are such valued members of the family and have gotten us through some difficult times, it is not unusual to be hit hard by this loss. Our furry friends hold a special place in our hearts, and their passing leaves an indelible void. Grief is a natural response to this loss, and it’s essential to navigate through the emotions in a healthy and supportive manner. In this blog post, we will explore three strategies and coping mechanisms to help you and your family deal with the death of a family pet.

1.      Acknowledge and Validate Your Feelings

The first step in coping with the death of a family pet is acknowledging your emotions. We love our pets because they’re by our side through thick and thin. They’re loyal and loving; they never fail to make us smile, even when times are tough. For dog owners, who does not remember arriving home after a tough day at work, walking in the house to a wagging tail and kisses on your face. The loss of a pet is devastating in a way that few people understand if they haven’t also had the experience of losing a pet. It’s common to feel a range of emotions such as sadness, grief, guilt, and even anger. These emotions are completely normal, and you need to realize that this grief is valid and real.  Allow yourself and your family members the space to express these feelings without judgment. Remember, it’s okay to grieve the loss of your beloved pet.

2.      Communicate and Share Memories

Pet Loss Tree - Dog Walking In The ForestSharing memories and stories about your family pet can be a healing experience. Sit down as a family and reminisce about the happy moments, funny antics, and the unconditional love your pet brought into your lives. Open communication creates a supportive environment where everyone can express their emotions and find solace in these shared memories. However, as you remember the great times together with your animal, recognize that everyone grieves differently and in a different timeframe. We don’t want to be judgmental if a family member is not feeling the same as you. Doctor Amy Sullivan, a psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic emphasizes, “What’s important is that we recognize that people are experiencing these feelings, and we support them and guide them in each of these different emotions.”

Furthermore, if need be, tap your support system from outside your family group. Reach out to friends, family, or fellow pet owners who have experienced a similar loss. They can provide understanding, empathy, and valuable advice. Additionally, consider joining a pet loss support group either in person or online, where you can connect with others who are going through similar grieving processes. Try Googling “pet loss support group near me” and you should be able to learn about a number of support possibilities near where you live.

3.      Create Physical Memorials

Pet Loss Tree - Dog Over The Rainbow BridgeConsider celebrating the life of a departed pet by creating a memorial for your pet or for a friend’s pet that has passed. Physical memorials are one of the easiest ways to remember a pet. Planting a memorial tree has become a popular and perfect way to honor the memory of a lost pet. A memorial tree for a pet sends the message that you understand and that you’re there during this difficult time. (What dog would not want to have a tree planted in its memory? Especially if your dog enjoyed being outside and taking walks in the woods.) Whether you’re looking for a meaningful way to remember your own beloved pet after they’ve crossed the rainbow bridge or you’d like to send a tribute to a friend or family member who has lost a faithful companion, a memorial tree for the loss of a pet will create a perfect remembrance gift and a lasting legacy. Planting a tree in honor of a dog, cat, bird, or other animal is an endearing and enduring pet loss gift and one that provides many benefits to our planet as well.  Engaging in these memorial activities allows you and your family to pay tribute to the love and joy your pet brought into your lives or those of a friend. The Gifted Tree allows you to honor a beloved companion by planting a tree in US National Forests to create a memorable pet memorial. Several unique and handcrafted tribute designs and pet loss cards are available to send to yourself or to the family of those who lost a family pet. One aspect I really like about the website is if you are struggling to find that perfect pet loss message to include with a tribute, there is a full page of pet loss quotes and poems that you can use. One of my favorites is: “Somewhere between hello and goodbye, there was love, so much love.”


Pet Loss Tree - Sad Looking CatLosing a family pet is an incredibly challenging experience, and coping is a process that can take a long time. But with time, support, and self-care, healing is possible. Remember that grief is a unique journey for each individual in your family, and everyone may cope with it differently. Be patient and understanding with yourselves and each other as you navigate this difficult time. Cherish the memories of your furry friend and allow their love to continue to bring warmth and joy to your lives. As Dr. Sullivan concludes herself “I don’t think you ever move on — you move forward, and the relationship you have with each pet is different. No one’s going to replace that.”

Man and dog walking in the forest

Much has been written about the importance of trees and one would be hard-pressed to refute their benefits. Trees are simply amazing. They clean air and water, reverse the impact of land degradation, prevent species loss, and ease poverty by helping communities achieve long-term economic sustainability by providing food, energy, and income. They even provide something as simple as shade to enjoy a picnic. Finally, planting trees is one of the easiest and most important way to help stave off the effects of climate change.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, trees also provide other benefits which have always been there but are now coming more in focus. Trees can help provide a stress relief during these crazy and unusual times.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has certainly caused people’s stress level to skyrocket. Fear and anxiety about an unseen virus and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. I am sure there are many like me who worry about our health and the health of loved ones. That stress along with financial and job worries, changes in sleeping and eating patterns and difficulty in sleeping can be overwhelming, causing anxiety and the need for release.Forest stream winding its way through the trees

Take my suggestion and get outside, and even better, if possible, take a walk in the forest! Numerous studies in the U.S. and around the world are exploring the health benefits of spending time outside in nature, green spaces, and, specifically, forests. (Some study results mentioned in this blog are detailed by the State of NY Department of Environmental Conservation.) Recognizing these benefits, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in 1982, even coined a term for it: shinrin-yoku. It means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing,” and the ministry encourages people to visit forests to relieve stress and improve health. And it is essential to take care of your emotional health to help you think clearly and help other family members cope with stress.

As outlined below, research evidence continues to mount on how spending time outdoors makes us healthier. It’s important to make time to get outdoors as well, since doing so is beneficial — maybe essential — for human health. Psychologists and health researchers are finding more and more science-backed reasons we should go outside and enjoy the natural world.

Exposure to forests boosts our immune system. While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell that kill virus-infected cells in our bodies.

Spending time around trees and looking at trees reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and improves mood. While I make it a habit to take a weekly hike in the nearby forests, even just looking at trees has therapeutic effects. Researchers found that taking in natural sights significantly decreased the scores for anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue. And because stress inhibits the immune system, the stress-reduction benefits of forests are further magnified.

And you don’t even have to spend a lot of time outdoors (or be doing strenuous exercise) to soak in its effects. New research at Cornell University has found that as little as 10 minutes in a natural setting (just sitting or walking) can help college students feel happier and lessen the effects of both physical and mental stress. They found that 10-50 minutes in natural spaces was the most effective to improve mood, focus and physiological markers like blood pressure and heart rate.

Green spaces in urban areas are just as important as rural forests. You say you don’t have access to the wide-open forests. No worries. If you are like me and the other 85% of the US population who live in suburban and urban areas, gardens, parks and street trees make up what is called an urban and community forest. These pockets of green space are vitally important because they are the sources of our daily access to trees. Take some time and chill in these urban green spaces.

Reflection of leaf creating heart shape on tree barkBeing out in the sunshine will provide you with the vitamin D that your body needs. There is not a lot of vitamin D in the foods we eat, but exposure to the sun can do the trick, at least to some degree. Even in winter it is important for your body to be exposed to the sun’s rays. So when the snow starts flying, bundle up and get outdoors for a while. You will feel better and your mood will improve.

Spending time in nature helps you focus. Our lives are busier than ever with jobs, school, and family life. Trying to focus on many activities or even a single thing for long periods of time can mentally drain us, a phenomenon called Directed Attention Fatigue. Spending time in nature, looking at plants, water, birds and other aspects of nature gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break, allowing us to focus better and renew our ability to be patient. Furthermore, when you move your body, you produce endorphins that will help you feel good.

Finally, a number of studies help demonstrate other benefits of being among the trees including performing better on creative tasks, ability to focus better ( including helping children with ADHD), lowering blood pressure, protecting your vision, help fight anxiety and depression, eliminate fatigue, reduce body inflammation, improving short-term memory. Finally, hospital patients with “green views” recover from surgery faster, take fewer painkillers and had better post-surgical results.

Yes, there are many ways to destress, but few as easy and inexpensive as walking outside in nature. A simple solution to cope with stress during the global pandemic- spend some time outdoors where you can breathe in the fresh air of nature. Make it part of your daily or weekly routine. Go to the forest, take a walk along a river or around a lake. I guarantee, you’ll feel better and a little less stressed.

Forest lake with reflection of trees and clouds

We have always said that The Gifted Tree’s sweet spot is in between, when a present is too much, and a note is not enough. I was recently faced with this exact situation, and you probably can guess where this ends up, but let me back up a few years.

About five years ago, I decided that swimming was a great way for me to stay in shape. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening during the school year I would go to our high school pool for an hour of swimming laps. The session was actually two hours, but that is a little too long for me.

When I arrived my first day for the second hour, there was already someone swimming in the farthest left lane. This person had the worst swim stroke one had ever seen. His arm closest to the edge would hit the wall of he pool every time, not hard, but enough to make me take notice. He was also one of the slowest adult swimmers I had seen – a few minutes for each lap – and he swam the entire two hours. I made a mental note to stay as far away from this person as possible.

One night I arrived at my usual time and all six lanes were occupied, and only that far left lane was available for me to double up in. Not wanting to skip my swim, I asked this gentleman if I could share his lane. He quickly replied: “No problem, no need to ask.” I swam my hour and we both finished up at the same time. As we got out of the pool together, it was then that Richard told me that he was blind and had been since birth.

Richard and I swam together for the last five years. I actually loved swimming next to him when we had to double up in the lanes because you knew he would always swim close to the wall leaving me plenty of room on my side of the lane. I think our hands only knocked together once in all those years. When we finished at the end of the night, we said hello and chatted briefly, usually about how many laps he had swam that night and how he felt.

Last week as the indoor swimming season was about to begin, and I had actually said to my wife I was looking forward to seeing Richard, I learned that he had passed away over the summer. Richard was an inspiration. He walked to the pool, swam all two hours and then, always refusing rides home in any kind of weather, walked the 30 minutes back to his house. Never a complaint. Always a smile, a kind word, and a positive attitude.

Richard was not married and had no children, but through the obituary (which, true to Richard’s nature never mentioned his blindness), I was able to learn of siblings who lived in the area. I sent them the certificate for The Gifted Tree I had planted in Richard’s memory. It was the least I could do to acknowledge the passing of my swimming buddy and the inspiration and motivation he provided.


We know life events happen every day and a tree fits every occasion. So be remembered and say it with a tree … The Gifted Tree. Learn how you too can plant a gift tree in 3 easy steps.


Yours Treely,