I don’t really split this out using date headers, as the days merged into one another.
Well, it begins. The most trialling sequence of days we’ve had to endure in Volterra yet.
It began well, though. We were having guests that evening! But first, it was a working day, so we had to do our duty. I remember very little of the day up to the evening, I have to admit. The only two photos I have are, unsurprisingly, food-related.
Once work was done, we were to meet Marisa and David at the free car park at Docciola. Bless them, I don’t know how they do it (and I hope I’m not shaming them here, and that they see the funny side of it), but they unfailingly manage to get lost every time they use an app that I’m going to call Schmoogle Maps, coz it sure isn’t Google Maps. It never plays ball. Today was no exception. A call or two later and they were set on the right path.
We parked (a little bit naughtily) near the Docciola gate itself so we could drive them up to town without them having to climb the 200 steps with their luggage. A municipale police car drove past and clocked us. They slowed down, but we indicated that we’d only be there a couple of minutes as a pick-up and they drove one. As well as driving into the carpark by entrances flush with the road, there is a ramped entrance which, if you’re not careful, will cause you to smack the underside of your bumper. A crunching sound announced the arrival David and Marisa. Their white Panda bore the brunt and Niamh and I both winced at the same time. Fortunately, the car didn’t looked marked. Anyway, we greeted with hugs and we drove them up to the resident’s carpark and walked back to the apartment.
We showed them around the town. They were lovely and suitably enthusiastic. Out by the main panoramic viewpoint at Piazzi dei Martiri, we met our friend Mary. During the course of conversation she mentioned that it was going to rain about 02:00 tomorrow morning. This is important for the happening later on (ooo, foreshadowing!).
I didn’t take many photos of video, as Marisa was filimg for her own channel and I wanted to be a bit more present for that. You can catch her footage here:
That evening, we went to the seasonal restaurant Torre del Porcellino. The food there is damn good, and if you get a seat on the outside, you’ll have some pretty views of Volterra’s premium laneways. We got a seat inside, but had a fun time regardless. We may have had a few courses. As we were walking out I caught the unmistakeable smell of fresh porcini. The aroma is incredible – you just don’t get it with the dried/reconstituted variety. Another little explore followed, but it was mainly around the square.
And then home, to sleep, perchance to dream. Except something happened.
Not too shortly after 02:00, I was woken by the bedroom door opening, and Niamh gasping as she slowly hopped her way into the room. It frightened the crap out of me, as it really sounded to me that her breathing was laboured. So the light was switched on and it took me a moment or two to clear my mental cobwebs.
I soon realised that it wasn’t catastrophic in the real sense. No heart or pulmonary issue. She was limping heavily, however. Unfortunately, and this is nobody’s fault other than Fate’s, she’d left a nightie out on the washing line on the upper terrace and had remembered that it was going to start raining. So, she got it into her head to go up and grab it off the line to save her having to do another wash. She’d left the lights off and was relying on her nightsight. This was a harsh lesson to learn, in the harshest way possible. She missed one of the steps going from the terrace down into the kitched and fell awkwardly. She thought she heard a crack, and assumed it was a flip-flop hitting the floor (more foreshadowing).
Niamh had sprained her ankle badly once before, and the pain she felt was similar, so she assumed it was a sprain, and said that the hospital wasn’t necessary. She managed to get into bed and take a paracetamol, but then she started to shiver. It was definitely shock, so I threw a blanket over her. Niamh has an uncanny ability to sleep, certainly in comparison to me. Amazingly, she was asleep minutes later. It was me that spent the night catastrophising and being unable to sleep.
We got up and Niamh’s ankle wasn’t any better really. She thought it felt a little better, but there was absolutely no way she could put weight on the bad leg without serious pain. She got dressed with assistance and somehow managed to give our guests breakfast options, and saw them off with me – we had warned them that they’d have to leave the apartment early enough in the morning, as we were due to work that day. They were understandably sympathetic and lovely towards Niamh and wished her the best. At that stage we were both convinced that all she had was a sprained ankle. There were times that she thought it was getting better. We had one eye on the calendar, as we were due to fly back to Ireland in a few days.
We worked through the day, but I had to go to the pharmacy and pick up more painkillers, a pair of crutches, some bandaging and an icebag. I’ll spare you (and Niamh) pictures of the bruising.
Pain would come and go, and Niamh had to tell her work that she’d have to dip in and out as pain would often get the better of her.
I had to escape the apartment, not least to get food. There was a a Chocolate Fair, and I bought a stack of comfort choccies for us both.
We read up on flying home with an injury, and were informed that we’d have to get a doctor’s note that Niamh was safe to fly. Ok, we were goosed. We’d have to either get to a doctor, or go to A&E (don’t translate directly – it’s known as pronto soccorso in Italian) in Volterra hospital.
We opted on the latter and contacted our property manager to see how best this could be facilitiated, as there was no way Niamh would be able to walk to the car, crutch or no crutch. We were told that the brilliant Misericordia service would bring us by ambulance to the hospital. We agreed a time for that afternoon, and our colleagues in work were very understanding, thankfully.
A couple of guys from the Misericordia arrived at the apartment front door, and had a contraption with them. I had seen something like this once before in our apartment block, and assumed that they’d need the same to get Niamh down the 4 floors of stairs. It is essentially a wheelchair, which can also motivate by adjusting caterpillar-style (i.e. tank) threads from the back. The last one of those I saw was powered by combustion engine and it was extremely noisy, especially given the sound could bounce around our cavernous stairwell. Fortunately, this one was electric.
Many towns have their own ‘Misericordia’ – essentially a voluntary ambulance service – and have had for centuries. In fact, there is a mini museum dedicated to the Volterran misericordia next to the cathedral. Anyway, they assisted Niamh into the chair, and off they went!
I travelled in the ambulance with her to the side of the hospital grounds we’d never wanted to see!
She was taken inside, while I waited outside. Covid fears were still around, so I couldn’t join her, sadly. Niamh recounts that the whole process only took about 3 hours. I was thinking that this put our own A&E in Ireland to shame, but was informed weeks later by my Italian teacher that Volterra’s pronto soccorso is never as busy, because the town is so small. Anyway, Niamh also remembers them being very gentle and kind.
During the three hours, I messaged her and watched the sky turn some glorious colours.
The photos that Niamh came out with, however, were as interesting, on of them far more interesting!
Yep, her leg was broken – the fibula was, to be precise. They put her in a backslab cast so movement would be restricted.
We’d also have to go back the next morning, as the specialist wasn’t there to give her the note she needed to fly. We were delivered back to the apartment, including the upstairs climb, and paid the guys €50 (€25 per trip!). Well worth the money.
Soooo, we went back the next day. Same The specialist was busy, and so Niamh had to content with being left on her own for over an hour while other patients came and went. She didn’t quite know what was happening, and didn’t have sufficient of the language to be able to find out, so it began to be a little upsetting. Eventually an order/nurse took her to the specialist who typed up the letter for flying, plus a diagnosis for specialsts back home. He also said he could operate in one or two days. Niamh seriously considered it, but thought she’d find being back in Ireland more comfortable.
With a few clicks of a button, and a modicum of pride, he produced the letter and handed it to Niamh. She had a look at it, and couldn’t understand it. But she also could. It took her a few moments to realise the letter was in Irish – I guess translation was a feature of the tool he was using. Niamh had to inform him that most Irish people didn’t speak Irish, and so the nearby staff all had a good laugh at his expense. He good naturedly re-printed the letter in English and then sent her on her way.
Where was I? Well, I decided to walk certain areas around the hospital and on nearby roads to explore. I’m like a cat that way.
Then I began to walk some lonely roads indeed. I think my anxiety was a little above normal, thinking about Niamh’s predicament, hoping she was ok, and not least because some of these areas that were new to me had delapidated, sad looking buildings.
At the end of this particular road which was lovely, despite the collection of dead buildings, there lay a large house that was actually in-use and which had a garden attaching. I think you can hire parts of it to run new-age and alternative therapy sessions.
I took a different road back to the hospital area, and got some fab views of Monte Voltraio and the Val d’Elsa beyond.
I went back to the hospital, and picked Niamh up (metaphorically) and went back to the apartment.
Our friend, Mary, who gave us the weather portents of doom visited us with more chocolate gifts. We weren’t complaining. She also gave us some suggestions to promote healing. It was a very kind-hearted gesture. I’d texted all our Tuscan friends about our predicament, and they were so supportive – thanks, guys!
That evening, I took a stroll just to get out again, and for dinner I grabbed a couple of pastas for takeaway from Porgi l’Altra Pancia – it just lies at the apartment building entrance. We munched on that and spent our time screen-watching ’til bedtime.
The next blog is the last accounting of our time in Volterra that September, and will recall the last day, and the tortuous journey home, but until then thanks a lot for reading.
Please leave a comment or question – I’d love to hear from you.