A Tiny Market, Casale Marittimo and Querceto (23/08/2022)

A Tiny Market, Casale Marittimo and Querceto (23/08/2022)

It’s been a while coming. I have spent so much time editing a compilation video, that everything else (apart from my job!) has been put to one side. Sorry about that! But I’m back, and going to continue our August/September trip.

It was the last full day for our guests, and Niamh had to work and therefore couldn’t leave the apartment. They were keen on seeing an Italian-style market. They also didn’t want to drive halfway across the region to find one, understandably – they would have a day of travel ahead of the them tomorrow. I looked up Tuesday on this Market Days in Tuscany site – so useful if you’re looking for a market yourself, by the way! Peccioli was one of my suggestions, and it’s not an awful drive if it happened to be closed that day – it’s just that I didn’t know where it was in the town itself. San Miniato was perhaps too far away. Then, BOOM, at the end of the Pisa section they said that there was a market just 8km away in Saline di Volterra! We picked that, said our goodbyes to Niamh and headed out.

It can take a little while to drive 8km in Tuscany – more than you’d reckon. The road from Volterra to Saline begins with a large series of hairpins (switchbacks), and it can take about 20 minutes. Anyway – the scenery is fab and there were no complaints.

We arrived and parked, and I had to admit to being a little excited myself. It was going to be fun to show new people the buzz and clamour of an Italian market. Except, oh dear. Usually you would see people returning from a market with bags of produce and household goods, and you’d hear the excited calls of hawkers and customers as they exchanged. We saw one lady. When we turned the corner, I counted the stalls and just about ran out of fingers on one hand. It was incredibly quiet. I don’t know if it’s always like that, or if it was because that Saline is a genuine working town, and a lot of people (both stall-owners and customers) may have been on holidays during August, which is frequently the case in Italy.

I grimaced an apology to my guests. They had a quick look around, and gave me some kind words to placate my embarassment. We then had a debate about what to do. It was still early enough, so I played my 2 Aces: Casale Marittimo and Querceto. I definitely picked the right hand, but I definitely picked the wrong order to play them in.

We went first to Casale Marittimo, and parked in the free carpark there. We strolled to the central piazza, which has many lanes and ramps leading from it, promising an explorer’s dream. It is impeccably clean and as quiet as a funeral home.

We had a wander from one side, to the other, up and down through multiple layers of the town and gave ourselves a decent workout in the heat.

It is, in my opinion, one of Tuscany’s most beautiful villages, and after having talked with our guests since, it certainly left a hugely positive impression – they were blown away by it.

Towards the end of the walk, we stopped off at a leatherworker’s shop. Inside we bought belts and masks. He fitted and worked the belts while we were there. I’m wearing the belt as I type this. Tuscan leather is saving me from public scandal! Here is the mask I bought – Niamh added it to her creepy collection.

We breezed past the church and realised we had a gently sloping walk back down to the carpark. Before heading there, we had a debate about what we’d do for food. It was just after lunch time, but we weren’t quite hungry yet. We agreed to heading to Querceto for an explore of that small hamlet, and then go for lunch there, as Niamh and I had done previously.

We got back in the car, and it took us 20 minutes on a very narrow, winding road to get to Querceto. We parked here, just before the road into town. As we hit the place, we say one of the places you could book a degustation was locking up for riposo. Damn. They wouldn’t be back for a few hours. Anyway, I trotted to Locanda del Sole and found it shut too. Noooooo! We consoled ourselves with a look around the place anyway.

I love Querceto, but after Casale Marittimo and the disappoinment of lunch, I don’t think the guests were quite as enamoured of it was I am. The clock was pushing 14:00. I don’t think we’d get a table at Casale Marittimo if we flew back, so I googled places that were opened.

On the plus side, I got to drive some back roads I hadn’t driven on before, looking for a place to eat. I almost jammed on the brakes when I saw a place on a bend, but wasn’t too sure if it was just an agritourismo with food for its guests. When I look at it now (it’s Locanda Le Giunche), I’m a bit annoyed I didn’t bite the bullet and stop there. We drove to another place, and when I put saw it I didn’t at first recognise its name or the area where it was located.

It was La Baracchina, and Niamh and I had driven past it a ton of times on the way to/from Cecina and other towns on the coast. Parking was handy, made even more so by the availability of shade on a hot day. We approached the restaurant, and saw that it was not a table-service place. It wasn’t buffet either – they had tons of salumi for sandwiches and tasting plates, and a menu of pasta and meat from which you order at the till, take your number and wait for your order to be cooked, so you can bus it back to your table. Hand enough arrangement, and what followed was simple enough fare. I thought my pasta was ok, and the roast chicken was said to have a good flavour, even if it was a little dry. It was fine for lunch – not a meal to remember, but fine. And reasonably inexpensive!

Once done we headed back to Volterra, but we had a stop at the Veronika and Fabrizio’s art gallery (as Niamh and I had done on a few occasions). I ended up buying another of Veronika’s pieces, and the guests came close to buying something of Fabrizio’s but relented at the last minute.

Then home for a rest. We were a little boiled by the time we got home, and Niamh was finishing up in work too. As it was our guests’ last night, and the lunch we had earlier notwithstanding, we headed out for a little walk and ended up in La Vecchia Lira to make pigs of ourselves once more.

Then the meal:

I have no memory of what occurred afterwards, other than I must have drifted into a food coma. It was a fun day, but sadly our guests would be leaving tomorrow.

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