About 15 kilometers away from Volterra, across the valley, lies the old mining town of Montecatini Val di Cecina (hereinafter simply referred to as Montecatini – but not to be confused with the town of Montecatini Terme, which is somewhat farther north in Tuscany – also lovely).
We had visited it back in December 2018, when we first picked up the keys to the apartment – but before I started blogging. Resting in a hill, it too commands superlative views of the rolling hills and woods, but that last time, it was completely foggy and we couldn’t see past 100 meters. It was well past time that we made another visit, and I can say that after having done so, it won’t be that long before we visit again.
Is was essentially a mining town – chiefly copper – but the mine is now exhausted, but some of it is still open for exploration… well…. as part of a guided tour, anyway. So that’s what we were going to do today.
We drove through the town itself (we would back for an explore later) and directly to the free carpark of the mine itself. There should be loads of parking there, and you could potentially use it as a base from which you can explore the surroundings on-foot, without attending the mine museum at all.
We wandered into the ticket-office and had a family of Dutch people step in front of us – it turns out they had booked. We were still lucky enough to buy tickets upon walking-in. So do please book in advance if you’re going. I linked the site above. We all had to wear a hard-hat. As usual, the strap had to be adjusted to its max so it would fit my ENORMOUS head. Seriously, it’s deceptively cantaloupe-like. It surprised the heck out of the man fitting it. Anyway, the cost of the tour was €7 per adult. That sounded pretty good value, but we didn’t realise how good it was
The tour was split into two groups: English-speaking and Italian-speaking. The lady who delivered the Italian tour had great English and she was very engaging. She gave us the history, and we had a walking tour around the first level. We passed by the stairs to the second level. They were lit up and just deemed to go down endlessly, but were blocked off\. We hit a chamber which was a little warmer, because the shaft (railed and safe!) went down the entire depth of the mine, so warm air was circulating up, as it does (thanks, Science!). If I had one complaint about the tour, is that we didn’t get to go down to the second level. However, we were taken outside to the sifting and mining equipment and shaftworks.
It’s a fascinating place, and I strongly recommend a visit. At the end, the guide passed around some ore for us to weigh up. By the end of the tour we realised that the tour took around 80 minutes. Not too shabby for for €7 a head! We were unlucky in one other way, but you’d have to see it in the video below (basically the German and Dutch families accompanying us were a basketball team – I’ve never felt so much like a Hobbit in all my life!).
If it looks like I didn’t take too many photos, you’d be right – I spent most of the the time filming. You can catch a chunk of the tour below:
Lunchtime! We scrambled into our tiny Fiat Panda, marvelling at the towering Continentals as they drove off. We needed some food. There are a few places to go in the village of Montecatini itself, hanging off the main square. Last time we visited, we parked in a carpark leading off the main square up a lofty ramp. Going up wasn’t a problem. Coming back down inevitably meant we scraped the underside of our bumper. This time, we parked in the much more level, free place on the edge of town and walked in.
Because we had much better visibility, we were able to see that the village from the western approach looked absolutely gorgeous! Wow!
We went to Ristorante Pizzeria La Terrazza sul Borgo on the square. I was hungry enough for two courses, so I ordered two primi – a bean and kale soup, and a sausage and mushroom pici dish. Niamh got an amatriciana and my brother a pappardelle with wild boar (not pictured below). Because I’d ordered two primi, by golly I *got* them as two primi. In fairness, that doesn’t happen very often – restaurants will servce one after the other as separate courses. So, I had two dishes to juggle at the same time.
The food was nice. I really enjoyed my pici.
We left the restaurant and then took a stroll around the residential part of town – which is the hilltown proper, really. And like most hilltowns, offers several rewards for those who like to explore these urban mini-mazes. It’s a hilly walk up to one of the town, and as usual when walking about in a medieval place on a hill, always look behind you in case you miss some amazing views.
We strolled up and down through town, pausing to stroke the occasional cat, and to allow me to go astray to grab an epic shot of Volterra from across the valley. One of the best shots I’ve ever taken, I think.
We finished our walk in the Campo Santo Vecchio. It offers some grand panoramic views, provided you are over 165cm tall!
We went back through town, past the square.
As you may have spotted in the two galleries above, the light had gotten poorer, as clouds began to gather over the town. By the time we’d gone past the village proper on the way to the car, it had begun spitting rain. And then it absolutely tipped down when we were within 100 meters of the carpark, so we trotted there and hid safely from the rain. It was like actually being in a carwash. Mad rain altogether!
It didn’t let us spoil our time in Montecatini Val di Cecina, though. I would strongly recommend you visit if you’re in the area. A car is certainly required.
Below is a video I took of our walk of this special place.
We didn’t do much else for the rest of the day, except look for a place to eat in the evening. We chose Quo Vadis for the Guinness, the view over the ruins of the Roman theatre, and for food that suits most palates. It was fine.
Home, relaxation and bed. Thanks for reading to the end. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment!