I walked! Despite what I said in a recent blog, O Miracle of Miracles: I walked! I must have had to drop down some trash for the usual morning collection. I walked around some of the walls clockwise, and found an interesting surprise on the way.
We chose to stay in Volterra that day, as we (well, Niamh mostly) had to take time out to research how we wanted to remodel our bathroom, and we had to meet a builder with our translator. There is a smidge of guilt we have for wanting to do so, as our neighbours (the couple from whom we bought the apartment are now our neighbours), only remodelled it a few years previously, but it wasn’t to our taste. This remodelling should be completed soon, and when it is, I will create a mini before-and-after blog. I joined in the research a little, so it could be said I was consulted!
Then I went out, as I wanted to buy a Vespa for a friend. What can I say? I’m a generous guy!
When we were both done, we decided to go for lunch. I’d noticed earlier that, for a change, the wind was less severe than usual, and coming from the east/south-east. With the sun shining high, we went to Osteria Fornelli – the restaurant with possibly the best view in Volterra. There are usually residents’ cars parked most of the way along the wall there. Fortunately, the piazzetta was devoid of vehicles that day!
There was also little wind, as I had foreseen, so it must have been a good 23 celsius out there. I almost regretted not having a hat. Not too shabby for October, when you’re 570 meters above sea-level!
What there were, were a few kids running screaming around the square. That doesn’t alone bother me so much – it’s great to see kids play together – but a lot of the time they were balancing precariously on the alabaster rocks and jumping off. The anxiety rose in me a little as I catastrophised the worst: one of them slipping an opening their heads on the slabs. Their parents didn’t seem to mind, so after a while I ceased caring too, and was able to relax a little better. Although the half bottle of wine each helped buoy my mood somewhat!
We just had the one course, plus a selection of their delicious breads. The food was yum, as it always is. We really like Osteria Fornelli, but every time we go there it feels like the first time, in that the staff never seem to recognise us. They’re always friendly, mind you!
We had a short walk afterwards. We stopped off at Bottega del Pecorino to pick up some pecorino, as Niamh wanted to have a go at making cacio e pepe later that evening. Niamh had had a beautiful one in La Vecchia Lira a few days previously and wanted to give it a go. Unfortunately, I led her astray, as I thought we needed a full stagionato (fully matured), hard percorino. We should have picked out a semi-stagionato. Oopsie. Niamh went back to the apartment, and I did too, but only after having a gelato at L’isola del Gusto!
We went back to the apartment to meet the builder who would be working on our bathroom. Unfortunately, there was a mixup in the time for the appointment, and our translator from our property manager, and she didn’t show up. I tried using my Italian, but it wasn’t up to scratch. He checked out the bathroom… and got a rough idea of what we wanted, but then left and we had to re-arrange for the next day. Actually a couple of days later, I saw him working on the restoration of the Etruscan museum (Guarnacci), so he had been chosen well for us!
Here are some janky stills of the bathroom from a video we took back in December 2018.
We waited further while until (a) the booze from lunch wore off, and (b) until shops had re-opened from riposo before heading to a fab little bathroom, fireplace and kitchen place in La Sterza called Bitozzi. We strolled in (parking was easy), and found ourselves relying more on the nice lady’s English, rather than my Italian. I got to use it a little bit more than the last time we were here, but I really need more regular practice with speaking. In the grand scheme of things, picking out a toilet, bidet, wall tiles, floor tiles, not to mention the sink, drawers, shower tray, head and doors – all in one visit – that wasn’t bad going. We’re going for plain enough wall tiles, and some wonderful mismatched patterns for the floor. We had planned on a matte finish for the shower tray, sink, toilet and bidet, but they were not available if we wanted our (revised twice) timetable adhered to. So we went for largely glossy – in hindsight, that is kinda better, as it’s most likely easier to clean. And if there’s one thing you need to clean properly it’s your bathroom (ok, two: your kitchen too!).
The lady who assisted us was super-helpful and patient. She took down the details, drew little pictures for us, grabbed measurements, consulted catalogues and all-in-all made her money for the 70-80 minutes we were there!
At the time of writing this, the builder has stripped down the tiles and sent us photos. More on the progress in the unveiling episode.
We were hungry when we got back, and we had bought cheese for a cacio e pepe earlier during the day (yes, the wrong cheese). It didn’t deter Niamh, so she gave it a go. Admittedly, the cheese congealed a little, but that’s because I chose the wrong one – but the flavour was good!
There was a good reason why we didn’t go out to eat that evening! I wanted to attend the final and award ceremony of the Michael Mullan Writing Competition. I had entered into two categories: Short Story (2,000 words or fewer) and Micro Fiction (500 words or fewer). I was long-listed in both, and the short-listed in Micro Fiction. So, I joined in the online final via Zoom… and I won! Yay me! It was one of my proudest achievements, not least because I showed myself that I can still do worthwhile things even when blitzed with anxiety. Also, I was representing out writer’s group (Naas Creative Writers Group). We’re going through something of a purple patch these last 2 years, with competition wins and publications, so go us!
Most categories in the Michael Mullan competition are open to worldwide entry, so if you dabble in a bit of creative writing it’s a great way to practice, and you’d be helping out a great cause. I’ll notify you when the 2022 competition is open!
Anyway, apart from screen-watching and maybe a little (more) wine-drinking, we were done for the day.
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