Hot diggity! Volterra time!
The past few months felt up and down with respect to my anxiety, but I always know in my heart that the condition is in a decline, and although I still have some rough months ahead I will be fine in time. I just have to have patience.
Anyway, back to the healing holidays. For the first time ever, we had decided to leave the country for the first time to spend Christmas in Volterra. We had been there in December 2018 to pick up the keys of the house, and it was coooold! We stayed for a couple of weeks, and witnessed the turning on of the lights, but we left a good week shy of Christmas itself. The wind cut right through us when we were outdoors. But we didn’t mind. The town is lovely during all weathers. I know that people who have lived in Volterra tend to get tired of the winter months, the cold and the fog – but for now, Niamh and I find them enchanting. We packed for multiple layers each day. The ceilings in most rooms in the apartment are quite high, so we were unsure how well the central heating worked. The radiators get piping hot, but the volume of the rooms might be too much. We would probably have to look at getting a convection/air heater or two.
We’d also have to make sure that our guests were comfortable. That’s right! We’d have guests for Christmas – Niamh’s sister (who’d just successfully finished a cookery course in Ballymaloe School) and brother-in-law (with whom I go to an annual Prog Rock festival (pandemics not withstanding)). It would be fun!
And because it was our first Christmas in the apartment, we’d have to get Christmas decorations. We picked up the first of these from Robbi – the owner of Terra di Mezzo restaurant – in August, and some others in Valdichiana back in October, but more were needed.
The airport was a great deal busier than I remember it being in July 2020, that was for sure! It still didn’t take us long to get through security. We bought tubes of Bailey’s truffles for various folks in Volterra, and grabbed breakfast, and of course the obligatory bottles of water for the flight and initial stage in Italy. I rarely have an Irish/British breakfast, but today I felt like it. Pork products abound!
We boarded with no issues – I think a cursory glance at our tickets and and passports is all it took. There may have been a check of our vaccination certs, but certainly nobody looked at our Passenger Locator Forms (PLF). We landed on time and with no issues – a good flight!
Because we would be picking up guests two days later, we didn’t go all-out on the rental car. We grabbed something small from Sixt – I think it was some sort of Kia, but I’m not sure. Our guests would pick up something larger. Always good service from them (both Sixt and our guests!).
We didn’t have too far to drive to our first stop: Navacchio! We went to the CoOp first to see if there was anything there we could pick up. We were a little disappointed by what was on offer there. Not keen on the decorations, and the trees were too large for our need, so on to Casa instead. We picked up a bunch of tiny baubles, and a modern spindly tree – the kind that is often used outdoors, but we would use inside the apartment anyway. I was modestly successful in my use of Italian with the shop assistant, but one was soon called who had lived in London for a year, and who could converse more fluidly with the pair of us. She was very helpful, in fairness. They boxed up the tree we selected (it was the last one, and they had to raid their stockroom for the box), and once again we had to explain that we can’t tap for larger transactions (Irish cards max out at €50 per transaction for tapping). Anyway, we were on our way, and with festive goodies in tow.
I am proud that we didn’t stop in Old Wild West this time for a dirty burger/ribs. I am less pleased that we also walked past CoOp’s gelato stall – which was still operating. I think I whimpered. My only real problem with Volterra is that all artisanal gelato stores shut for the off-season – so it becomes a ‘dry’ town. First World problems.
Anyway, we got to Volterra at an awkward time. As we were hungry (and the apartment was cold), we turned the heat on – checked that it was working – and headed out to grab something smallish for lunch, as we generally favour larger meals at night. There was something about the security gate inside the apartment entrance, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It’s often left open during the day so people can get to the insurance office above, and today was no different – but something was off.
We had a brief walk around town to take it in.
They had a tree this year in the piazza. Last year they had an alabaster display instead. I love alabaster creations, but really at Christmas, you can’t beat a tree. I really liked the constellation theme this year, and I think they may still be left up in the main square. I think they look fab. Somehow, even if understated, the Italians dress up their shops at Christmas better than they do back home. Each one is worth examining.
Anyway – back to the food – fortunately, Volaterra was still open. I asked if we could have a snack, but got a strange look. It wasn’t until literally weeks later I discovered that I had pronounced ‘merenda‘ as ‘meranda‘. Oops. Fortunately the latter isn’t offenesive, or even extant! Anyway, we fumbled through it and I got a yummy bean and mushroom soup, and Niamh some bruschette. A glass of wine was also had.
On the way back, it had begun to get dark. We wanted, for the first time ever, to try some genuine artisanal panettone. It’s a kind of sweet bread – I think with the consisency of donuts (but better), and with some sort of finely diced filling – frequently fruit. We popped into Pasticceria Migliorini to see if they had prepared any. Indeed they had – a few varieties. We opted for chocolate and candied orange peel. It was pre-boxed, and we knew we would have to exercise God-like restraint in not opening and devouring it before our guests arrived.
We thought it chilly in the apartment, and so we thought to give our central heating a boost. There is an appliance store 20 seconds walk away from the pasticceria, so we grabbed a fan-heater in there and brought it back to the apartment (yes, we paid for it!). Marvelling at both Vicolo delle Prigioni and the amazing lilac-lighted tree just inside the foyer of our apartment block.
After mooching about the apartment for a couple of hours (what was it with the security gate – it was bugging me!), it was dinner time. We didn’t go to some of our favourites, as we had booked them for later in the week. However, we had another favourite up our sleeves, and we wouldn’t have to brave the cold for too long in order to get to it!
Porgi l’Altra Pancia (the name always makes me smile – Grow Another Belly) is right beside the entrance to our apartment block, and the people who run it are just lovely, and we always get a warm welcome. They might even change the seating configuration to accomodate us during busy periods, or even grab a reserved table, knowing how quickly we can eat! But most of the time, and I especially during off-season, we can take our own sweet time in a set-up that looks like a deli, then becomes a wine-sellers (it’s down as a wine bar in Google for some reason), then finally a restaurant. It’s a great place. We got a seat no problem, and said hello to the waiter who always recognises us… I swear that next time I will actually ask the guy his name. I’m a devil for not doing that.
We walked to the security gate. It was closed. We pushed the button to escape and it duly obliged. Then we noticed what we failed to notice before: the gate’s lock had been completely changed. We checked to see if we could unlock it from the outside anyway. Of course we couldn’t – the lock was changed! We stood like a pair of idiots for a couple of minutes until I had the bright idea of heading all the way back upstairs and asking our neighbours (the people who sold us the apartment) to see if they had a key. There were in, fortunately, and I managed to use my Italian successfully! They have absolutely no English, but I managed to grab a spare key from them, and not only that – the man of the house said he’d get a bunch of copies cut for us and deliver them the next day. They are lovely people! Anyway, with key-in-hand (yes, we tested that it worked), we took the fifteen more steps to the restaurant!
We discovered that we were still a little full from our meal in Volaterra, so we decided just for a pasta course each. Of course, by the time that had finished, dessert was also on the cards. We had opted for a bottle of Rosso di Montepulciano – Niamh rarely goes for red, but she joined me this time. I was to buy a bottle of this in Montepulciano itself a couple of days later – but you’ll read all about that in a few weeks’ time. Our food, unsurprisingly was great!
We said our goodbyes, and although we were fit for our beds, we thought it better to begin the digestion process by having another little walk around to check out the Christmas lights at night.
When we had our fill, we put up the tree, put lights and baubles on it, wrapped lights around our weird upright lamp and toasted the beginning of our Christmas!
Thanks for reading this episode. Please leave a like and a comment – I’d love to hear from you!
3 thoughts on “Return to Volterra for Christmas (20/12/2022)”
Has taken me right back to Volterra reading this….thank you both for having us to stay over Christmas. It was such fun…oh how I miss that food ! xx
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We also have a property in Volterra.We bought 2015. C ovid has meant that we have not been there much during 2020 and 2021. Let’s hope this year is better.
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