Day: August 7, 2019

We Blitz-Visit 4 Hilltowns

We Blitz-Visit 4 Hilltowns

Warning! This page is photo-heavy!

We showered and made ourselves pretty, then went to the bank (Cassa di Risparmio di Volterra) to renew our online banking security token. They are our mortgage provider. We had to go to an Italian bank, as Irish banks at the time (and still maybe today) were refusing to grant mortgages for foreign properties. Anyway, we were super-lucky that a local bank was willing to assist, and we felt comfortable with them from the get-go.

We entered, took our ticket and glanced at the digital display of which number was being served next, and at which teller. There are many institutions and stores at which you have to take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. It’s not a bad idea, as it means you can find somewhere comfortable while waiting, and not be worried about being queue-jumped.

Our number was called, and we explained that we didn’t have much Italian, and then showed them a Google Translate of what we wanted. Fortunately, she gave us an immediate appointment with the representative with whom we were dealing for our mortgage. He greeted us enthusiastically, and in about 15 minutes we were done and dusted. Excellent!

With that done, we stopped to get a quick bottle of water each and headed to the carpark. We drove a familiar route (which takes us to the airport) for much of the way to Lari, before Google Maps showed us an alternative route. We took it, and were glad we did. There were some fantastic views to be had. Unfortunately, as we didn’t know the road, I didn’t take any photos, as I was fixated on the route displayed on the phone (our Lancia POS does not have on-board GPS). In addition, there were no points on the road at which you could stop and take a few snaps in comfort. It can be frustrating sometimes, but we will take this road again and do our best to capture it for you at another time.

We got handy parking (with just a short walk), and wandered up to the main walled part of the town, which is quite small. The whole area is dominated by the fortress, which lies in the middle, atop huge, conical walls. The views from there were impressive.

One of the main reasons we visited Lari, however, was to check out the Martelli pasta factory.  Unfortunately, the August curse struck and the place was closed until September.  Generally, unless you’re in an area likely to be swamped with toursists, you take your holiday in August if you’re Italian.  This was a bit of a recurring theme later on.  Almost everything was closed, including the factory.  We’ll go again in September with guests, so all is well.  Plus, we consoled ourselves with food in a nearby restaurant.  Niamh had a salad and spaghetti all’aglione, and I had a carbonara, but with sausage instead of pancetta or guanciale (the latter is pork jowl, and is the preferred cut to use for carbonara).  The pastas were Martelli and were nice and toothsome.  

I then had a chargrilled pork steak in one of the most unusual sauces I’ve ever had: gorgonzola, green peppercorn and paprika.  I’m still not sure what to make of it… I think I liked it, but I might have to have it again to be sure!  

We decided to wait for dessert until the next town.  This was a mistake.

Seeing nowhere open we could actually buy Martelli pasta, we headed back to the car, and contemplated just heading home, but then I suggested we visit the spa town of Casciana Terme, as it was only 20 or so minutes’ drive away.  We arrived from a height and saw the town neatly nestled below us.  It is not an old medieval town, but still has its charms.  It was getting very warm, and so we hunted for a place near the spa itself for gelati.  We found one, and sadly it was one of the worst ones I’ve ever had.  The lemon sorbet had a sort of cardboard-like undertone… not pleasant at all.  I won’t name the place.  At least it did it’s job of cooling us down.

Casciana Terme also fell foul of both August holidays and the afternoon siesta.  There was virtually nobody on the streets.  It might be an idea to try again in September, complete with a visit to the spa itself (which, in fairness, was open).

We returned to the car, and I spotted that a couple more places were nearby: Rivalto and Chianni.  We drove to the former, almost via the latter thanks to a bum-steer by me.  I must say, that while all the literature proclaims Volterra to be the highest hilltop town in Tuscany, Rivalto can give it a run for its money.  Maybe it’s not included in the list, as it’s really more of a village.  But the views were impressive, especially as you could see Volterra on its plateau way off in the distance.

Onwards to Chianni.  I’m sorry to say we didn’t spend nearly enough time in it – maybe only 20-30 minutes, as we were seriously beginning to cook under the sun at that point.  It was about 32-34 again yesterday.  Chianni looks gorgeous, and we will definitely be back soon for a better mooch.

We drove home after that, and chilled.

In the evening we used up some perishables in the fridge and Niamh cooked a little vegetable pasta dish, which was nice – althought I wasn’t especially hungry after my afternoon meal.  I then went out for a passeggiata (a stroll, usually taken en-masse by Italians in the evening), and took some snaps.  There was a jazz orchestra playing in the Roman amphiteatre, so I stayed a while and listed to that.

This morning I headed to the balze (the cliffs and bluffs of the Volterran plateau), and realised that I was very near the Witches Stone.  Here, it is said, the mother of all witches, Aradia the daughter of Diana, held her masses, during which orgiastic and sapphic pleasures occured with avatistic abandon.  Sadly, today there was only an old font 😉

No strict plans today, so lets see whats what.  I hope you enjoyed this post.  Please let me know what you’d like to see more of.  Cheers!