Category: Uncategorized

A Walk and Some Stunning Pasta at La Vecchia Lira (02/05/2022)

A Walk and Some Stunning Pasta at La Vecchia Lira (02/05/2022)

Got up for my first morning walk of the holiday! I intend to walk in the morning more often than not. Today, I headed down towards San Giusto to see if there some sights I’d rarely or never seen. I hit a couple of minor jackpots! The day broke with better weather than the previous day, that was for sure! Of course, to get out to try to find some obscure stuff I would have to go through the humdrum of walking to a perennially beautiful medieval town.

I stopped briefly at a Tabbaccheria to pick up a stamp for €16 to pay the annual renewal for our property-owner’s parking/ZTL permit.

I had a wander down Borgo Santo Stefano, to the fork and found a water font I had never seen before. Ok, it’s not hold-the-front-page news, but I find it amazing that there are still little secret niches in Volterra after over 4 years of coming here.

I headed from there downhill (I knew I would pay the price on the way back!) towards a section of Etruscan wall, that I’ve even see some Volterrans wonder where it is.

I walked onwards past the liceo and the retirement home, into Borgo San Giusto, towards the huge church also bearing his name. It’s rarely open when I visit (usually the early morning) and today was no exception, but I always marvel at the size of it, for an ‘ordinary’ church.

The church’s grounds run parallel to the SP15, along which some old Etruscan wall also runs. I walked along a bit of a greenway I hadn’t explored before – some lady was walking her dog, and there were narrow trails created by previous walkers there. I got an impressive shot of the surrounding countryside there, slightly spoiled by the sun being in the wrong place.

Between the church and Pizzale XXV Aprile, there are a couple of things: firstly, a few underground Etruscan mini-crypts, and secondly an open space where soccer practice or celebrations can take place. It was May 1st the previous day, so the town was out celebrating on it. May 1st is a big deal in many parts of Italy, and in Volterra they celebrate it with Trippa alla Volterrana: a tripe dish cooked in a tomato-based sauce – always accompanied by red wine. The former is not my bag, the latter certainly is. Anyway, there were signs of partying in this area, and the food and drink stalls were still there. I didn’t take photos of that, because a tidy-up job was sorely needed. Instead, I took a photo of some street art celebrating the alabaster workers of the city.

On the uphill slog back to the town, I spotted the mural below. I hadn’t seen it before – I think it was only painted recently, as I had walked past the place a bunch of times – it’s near the Conad supermarket. The artist’s name is Nico Lopez Bruchi, a self-proclaimed oneironaut (one who travels within dreams) and I think he has been responsible for a few murals around the town.

I went home via Vallebona carpark, and climbed up a the steep slope there to the walled part of town. I gazed back towards Santa Giusto, and took the shot of the magnificent church dominating the midground skyline.

I was on my way back to the apartment when I got a message from Niamh asking me what I wanted to do for breakfast. She suggested Migliorini, and who am I to say ‘NO!’ to that? We had a wonderful breakfast there where I completely undid all my good work on the walk!

Once we had loaded our bellies, we headed over to the Municipal Police to renew our parking permit. This was the first time where we wouldn’t have to ask Alice from Milianti (our estate agents and property managers) to come with us. Everything went smoothly, until we had to fill out an official form. We got through it though, and I did well by grabbing the stamp earlier on in the day. On top of that was a €20 admin fee, and Lo! We had a permit which allowed us to travel on a couple of the streets inside the walls, and park in a few nearby residents’ carparks. I was a big boy today!

On the way back to the car, we snapped a little more, including in a courtyard which usually remains behind shut doors on our street.

Once done, we celebrated by going to the Coop to do some shopping (we sure know how to celebrate), and grabbed some antipasti for lunch. Everything tastes better over here, most probably because everything *is* better over here. The Italians selfishly (and cleverly) hold on to their best ingredients. We had salumi, cheeses and rocket. All fab. We then settled down for some vegetating in front of various screens!

After resting and screenwatching, it was time for dinner. But first: aperitivi! This time, I thought to myself, we are going to add a ‘Cheers!’ factor to a local place. Somewhere where someone would shout “Norm!” (or equivalent) whenever I walked in the door. We went to L’Incontro. It’s only about 50 meters away. We had a prosecco and an Aperol Spritz, and nommed on some crisps (potato chips) that came with the drinks.

Yummy! And we only had a quick hop across the road to La Vecchia Lira. This is a restaurant we seriously under-used until last year. If you’re a reader of the blog, then you may remember this is where we had Christmas dinner last year. We were greeted warmly and joked with the owner that, once again, we had made no reservations. He replied that he’d always find a spot for us. Awwww! We are devils for not making reservations, but felt we didn’t need to in early May on a Monday evening!

I was looking forward to having their cod and leek-filled ravioli in a shellfish veloute, but sadly I didn’t see it on the menu. Instead there was ravioli filled with lamb, with a light stewed apple sauce and crispy pancetta. I wasn’t too sure about this, but my adventurous side took over and I opted for it in the end (fruit not being my friend, or really vice-versa). What an inspired choice it was. Rather than the apple having been stewed sweetly, it was stewed in a savoury broth, and the result was simply the nicest filled pasta dish I have ever had. Just when I thought they couldn’t beat last year’s cod and leek! Wow! At one stage I remember saying after I’d had the first one “And there are four more!” with glee! Niamh had their cacio e pepe, which she had been looking forward to for the past 5 months. For secondi, Niamh had stewed wild boar and I had duck done porchetta style. All very nice.

We had the necessary quarter litres of wine too, of course.

Once done and fully satisfied, we headed out for a brief walk before going back to the apartment for screen-watching/music-listening and bed.

Another trip back! (01/05/2022)

Another trip back! (01/05/2022)

For the first time in a long time we wouldn’t be flying RyanAir. Don’t get me wrong, I will always be grateful to them for flying during the pandemic, as we managed to get to Volterra in both 2020 and 2021, but a change is as good as a rest, as they say. The problem with the Aer Lingus flight was that it was at 06:00. We took the never-before-taken step of booking ourselves into the Maldron the previous day, so we could get to bed and rise early. We also had the bonus of Aer Lingus allowing you to drop your bags off the airport, should your flight be at sparrowfart the next day.

So, that’s just what we did! We got a lift from my brother on Saturday afternoon and checked our bags in. We had more difficulty walking back to the front entrance of the hotel than we did checking in the bags. It all went so smoothly. We dined in at the Maldron itself, and to be honest I was expecting a duff meal at a one-night-stay traveller’s hotel, but the food was actually pretty good! Well done, The Maldron! I was caught between wanting a pint after and just wanting to rest so I wouldn’t be destroyed the day after. The latter won out, and we went back to the room and stayed there ’til 03:30.

We got up and dragged ourselves the 7 minute walk to the airport. Truth be told we were excited, and there was no dudgery involved. We were quite hungry, however, and didn’t grab anything from the hotel (not sure if that was even possible at that point). We’d looked up the Dublin airport site, and sure it looks like there was a bunch of stuff opening at 04:00-04:30, so we’d be ok.

Because we’d checked in the big bags, we went bull-headed for security, and were stopped in our tracks by a 30+ minute wait. Not so bad, really, when you consider that a few weeks ago the queues were hours long thanks to an inept firing/rehiring policy. Anyway, we got through, and marched towards the shopping and dining area. We were stopped in our tracks again by the fact that absolutely nothing was open, but there were big queues outside everywhere. We joined the one at Starbucks, but left it after about 15 minutes, as people were busy behind the bar, and maybe it was going to open soon, but then Butler’s did open… and was instantly mobbed as we ran to it. Oh well.

We went to the gate hungry instead. Café Bar near the gate wasn’t open at all, even though it should have been. We were hangry. First world problems. On the plus side, Aer Lingus were super-efficient at getting us onto the plane, we were seated in a jiff. How nice it is not to be treated like a farmyard animal. I’ll always be grateful to RyanAir for flying during the pandemic, but I much prefer the treatment you get Aer Lingus. We had comfy seats, jacket holders, SEAT POCKETS!!

I think the flight was only about two-thirds full. We had to wait a bit before takeoff, as there was some air traffic control snafu. No biggie. We were up, up and away 20 minutes later, and as it happens more or less made up the different on the flight over.

If I had one gripe, it was that they didn’t begin their service until about an hour into the flight. We managed to get sandwiches, crisps and drinks and were happy at last. However, I believe got the last toasted sandwich, and I was suddenly reminded that Aer Lingus often run out of hot food by the time they get to you if you are sitting in the middle of the craft. I have to say, I was still surprised, given that the flight wasn’t packed. Anyway, enough of that – I got my grub and it satisfied perfectly.

We landed with no issues and with no temperatures or other checks of Covid documentation we were through passport control quite quickly, and into a 15 minute wait for our bags. All went smoothly, and off we went to Avis (for a change) to pick up our car. We love Sixt, but it was just too expensive for a full month, especially given that we’d be travelling little in the latter two weeks of our stay. It took a while to process our rental at the desk – the colleague of the person who was dealing with us had two rentals processed while we were still waiting for our keys. We weren’t in a rush, in fairness. We picked up the keys to a Citroen C3. I have to say, aside from the fact that it’s a manual, it’s one of my favourite vehicles so far. It has a little bit of power, and the hookup of to Apple CarPlay was near-instantaneous. Why doesn’t our Hyundai Kona at home play ball?!

We motored towards Volterra, and got there without any scrapes – it was just raining a little. Niamh dropped me off in Piazza dei Martiri delle Liberta with my backpack and the two large suitcases, while she had to go looking for a free parking spot in La Docciola. We had yet to renew our resident’s parking permesso, and so had to look for something else. This is something we’d have to take care of tomorrow.

Being a man, we are not given to multiple trips involving bags. This rule most often applies to dragging shopping bags from the car. The effort to wear my backpack whilst shifting two 18+ kg bags up a flight of 76 taller-than-average steps was nothing short of Herculean. I was quite wrecked by the end of it. Niamh arrived at the apartment 5-10 minutes after me – ok, she had 276 steps to manage, but only one light backpack. I took a couple of shots outside the guest bedroom to sicken a friend back home.

We rested a while, before heading out to Terra di Mezzo for lunch. It’s a general tradition that we dine here first whenever we arrive in Volterra, opening hours permitting. We said our hellos and were greeting with the same enthusiasm as always. After an antipasto sharing platter, Niamh had pasta with zucchini, I had pici alla boscaiola…. mushrooms and sausage. Tasty indeed.

We skipped dessert, as I had a very important date to keep. I hadn’t seen this in nearly 9 months!

We went back to the apartment, and burned off some of the calories by cleaning the apartment. I was on sweeping duty. We had the bathroom remodelled, and some repainting done, so the place was a little dusty. I’m glad we got it done, rather than sleeping in that overnight.

As it was our first day in Volterra, and we (believe it or not) considered our lunch rather light, we headed out to La Mangiatoia for pizza and beers. It was the first time I ordered speck and marscapone, and boy did it deliver. This place, along with Ombra Della Sera Pizzeria do the best pizzas I’ve had in town (so far).

We took a stroll around the town during the latter half of golden hour to burn off some more of those dreaded calories! The town and its surroundings are simply beautiful and video and photos rarely capure the true essence of the light there, nor the vastness of the landscape opened out in front of you.

I took some video of our journey and also included a little footage of golden hour.

We were very tired by then due to our early start, and so went to bed early enough, having thoroughly enjoyed the day (apart from those stairs!).

Volterra 2022 – Tuscan City of Culture – What’s On?

Volterra 2022 – Tuscan City of Culture – What’s On?

Last year, Italy announced its 2022 Capital of Culture. There were a bunch of cities in the final mix, and Volterra was among them. Unfortunately for Volterra, Procida, the colourful little island in the Bay of Naples, was given the honour. Well done Procida! Tuscany decided to not let the campaign money go to waste, and got behind its candidate, and for the first time ever announced a Tuscan Capital of Culture. This is no mean feat, as Tuscany could be considered a cradle of western culture, given its association with the Renaissance.

The committee that was put together has recently published its event schedule. There are a whopping 500+ event instances from March1st to the end of the year. Many of them are repeated, and the site (https://volterra22.it/) has listed them all. The site lists them all when you visit the page, so it can take a while to load. There are filters you can use to assist your search for something in which you have a particular interest. My job here is to attempt to pick out the nuggets and look for specials which may appear infrequently – looking from May onwards.

Note that the number of events rapidly drops off after September!

Without further ado, we’ll start with the repeated ones.

  • Guided Tour of Palazzo dei Priori. The oldest townhall in Tuscany (and the highest!). As well as the main civic hall, there are museums and spectacular panoramic views from the top of the bell tower. I am unsure if the guided tour covers the bell-tower, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if you’re thinking of going on the tour. This seems to be available every Saturday and Sunday and runs from 11:00 to 13:00.
  • Guided Tour of the Pinocoteca (art gallery). Some wonderful works here, especially some mannerist works, the most famous of which is Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition. Every Sunday from 16:00 – 18:00.
  • Guided Tour of the Roman Theatre. Excavated in the 1950’s, largely by inmates at the psychiatric hospital, this complex of theatre, temple and baths is one of Volterra’s most popular sites. Every Saturday and Sunday from 15:00 – 17:00.
  • Volterra Through the Ages. Running every Sunday until October 31st, this is a guided tour which aims to uncover Volterra’s many layers of it’s 3000-year history from Villanovan and Etruscan, to Roman and Medieval times. The rub here is that no time is mentioned on the site, bookings can be made by contacting volterratour@gmail.com or by Whatsapp on +39 347 5749818. This is one I’d like to go on myself, once I figure out the times!
  • Experience Volterra – the faces and the stories. A family-oriented tour, taking a more interactive look at Volterran history culture. No time is mentioned on the site, bookings can be made by contacting volterratour@gmail.com or by Whatsapp on +39 347 5749818.
  • Children Under the Clouds. An outdoor art class for kids with their parents. Held every Thursday in Piazzetta dei Fornelli from 16:30 to 19:00.
  • Guided tour of the ex psychiatric hospital of Volterra. This is available by appointment (seemingly) all year round. Email: info@volterratur.it, phone: 0588 87257 or email: onlusigp@gmail.com, phone: 379 1868622. I’ve been *DYING* to do this for nearly 4 years. Will this year be my year?
  • English Language Walking Tour of Volterra (in season only) – every day from April to October. Leaves from Piazza Martiri della Libertà, in front of Ali Alabastri. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 12.30 and Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 18.00. Only €10 per person; no booking needed – just show up. These are a fabulous introduction to the city.

Events Elsewhere – See the main Volterra 22 site for further information

I don’t embellish much on these – please feel free to investigate them yourself. Many of the commune will have their own sites, as may some of the events. Google is your friend!

Date(s)Where?Event
May 8thButiMay of the Passion of the Palms
May 13th, 14thVicopisanoFlower Festival. Not on the site, but I happen to have heard that this is when the festival takes place.
April 2nd to May 15thCastelfranco di SottoTheatre Festival – remaining dates are 30/04, 07/05, 15/05.
April 8th to May 17thMontopoli in Val d’ArnoInclusive series of art exhibitions
April 2nd to May 28thCastelfranco di SottoTheatre Award ceremonies
May 27th-29thRadicondoliMusic events dedicated to Maestro Luciano Berio
May 27th, 28th and June 2nd-5thLariSagra of Cherries – might be fun!
May 1st-31stMarina di BibbonaMountain biking event
May st to June 5thCalcinaiaRegatta event and sagra for a local dessert. Intriguing!
June 11th, 12thRiparbellaLiterary competition
June 17th-19thSan Miniato BassoThe Blue Moon. Family fun shows in the historical centre.
June 25thSan GimignanoFestival of Bright Nights. Music, theatre, visual arts festival with a strong youth bent.
June 25thCasole d’ElsaThe beautiful Casole d’Elsa hosts a Film Festival.
July 7th, 14th, 21st, 28thRivaltoMarkets of local produce in this quiet village near Chianni.
June 27th to July 10thForcoliA theatrical performance in this ghost-village.
July 9th, 10thMonteriggioniTheir medieval festival. I imagine this will be fun!
July 13th-16thCertaldoMerchantable crafts and visual arts performances abound in this annual event in the gorgeous Certaldo.
July 15th-17thRiparbellaEvent celebrating local produce, especially olive oil, wine and other foods.
July 17th-18thRivaltoRetro evenings celebrating the 80’s and 90’s. Food and wine will assist in the merriment. It’s all going on in Rivalto!
July 21stCasale MarittimoEcological discussions and arts in my favourite Tuscan village.
July 22nd CrespinaA classical orchestra plays well-known pop and rock tunes
July 23rdPomeranceStefano De Lellis fashion show
July 20th-27thSan MiniatoOutdoor theatre festival
July 29thLajaticoAndrea Bocelli in concert in the stunning surroundings of the Theatre of Silence, just outside the lovely village of Lajatico
July 29thSanto Pietro BelvdereSummmer concert
July 15th to August 1stRadicondoliRadicondoliFestival. Contemporary art exhibitions and performances
August 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th
RivaltoMarkets of local produce in this quiet village near Chianni.
August 5th, 6thRocca SillanaStreet Music Festival, held within the amazing surroundings of the fortress Rocca Sillana
May 7th to August 7thCasole d’ElsaArt Exhibition on Francesco Rustici, known as il Rustichino (Siena, 1592-1626)
August 11thElbaThe Iron Island. Historical festival on the theme of Etruscan origins and ironwork
August 14thSanta Maria a MonteFeast of the Assumption’s Eve
August 1st-15thCapannoliMusic Festival
August 25th-28thLa CaliforniaFestival celerbating Chianina beef. Family oriented (and food!).
August 25th-29thSan GimignanoVertical Horizons. Festival for the performing arts.
June 1st to August 31stSan GimignanoIN3C Intrecci Festival… they seem to give the same description as the Vertical Horizons festival above. Best check it out yourselves.
July 1st to August 31stCastelmaggioreCalci – VerrukARTfestival. Unsurprisingly, an arts festival!
Sept 3rd, 4thMonteverdi MarittimoHistorical re-enactment
Sept 3rd, 4thVicopisanoVicopisano’s medieval festival! It would be great to be there. I imagine it will be great fun!
Sept 4thStaffoliAnother medieval festival!
July 1st to Sept 10thCapannoliFestival of the Stars, Villas and Wonders. This sounds like it might be similar to Volterra’s Red Night (see September below), but I’m not sure.
Sept 9th – 11thCastelfranco di SottoLET’S Festival. Youth-oriented festival of music, art and food!
Sept 10th, 11thPomeranceA Palio between the neighbourhoods in Pomerance, but rather than it being a physical Palio, it is based on theatrical performance. Sounds very interesting.
Sept 10th, 11thMontopoli Val d’ArnoAnother medieval festival. Fun!
June 15th to Sept 15thVicopisano, CapronaSummer in Vicopisano. This year’s series of events of all types.
July 1st to Sept 15thCastelmaggioreCertosa Festival. Multi-disciplined arts festival, promoting new people.
Sept 16th-18thCecinaFOMO Festival. Youth-oriented fun and arts, with civic-mindedness as its theme
Sept 23rd-25thGuardistalloEmbracing Europe. Arts festival with international participants.
Sept 2nd-20thGelloArts festival; music, literature, theatre.
July 1st to 30th SeptLajaticoArtinsolite: exhibition and reviews of contemporary art
July 1st to 30th SeptCalcinaiaCalcinaia – Chiare, fresche e… dolci sere – XXII edizione. It’s summer schedule of events.
Oct 1st, 2ndCastelnuovo d’ElsaFestival celebrating that monster hike from Canterbury to Rome: the Via Francigena
Oct 9th, 10thPonsaccoSan Costanzo Fair. Funfair, markets, culture, food… what more do you want?
May 14th to Oct 14th CastelfiorentinoOutcrops: Art/sculpture exhibition featuring the works of Brunivo Buttarelli
Sept 15th to Oct 31stSignaExhibition around the manufacture of the straw hat.
Oct 1st-31stUlignanoCinema in Ulignano (the one nearer San Gimignano). Not sure if this is outdoor movies, a movie festival, an exhibition.
Nov 12th, 13th and 19th, 20th and 26th, 27thSan MiniatoThis town is famous for its white truffle, and this is the annual festival they have to celebrate that! Would be awesome to attend!
Nov 7th-20thChianniIt’s a Wild Boar sagra! God I wish I could attend – it will be fantastic, if you fancy a bit of game!
Dec 4th, 11thSanta Croce sull’ArnoShow of “Il Baule dei Sogni”. I have to expose my ignorance here and declare not to know what this is.
Dec 8thSanta Croce sull’ArnoAmaretto festival. Niamh, take note! This celebrates the biscuits, not the liqueur. I think!
Dec 19th, 20thRadicondoliChristmas market! This is great to know! I wish Volterra had one 🙂 This is a good deal closer than Montepulciano for sure!
All YearComune di Cascina – MarcianaThe annual theatre and music programme for the locality. See here.
March 19th – Dec 31stCastelfranco di SottoIndoor and outdoor art exhibitions about in Castelfranco this year, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of painter Antonio Puccinelli.
Dec 24th to January 6th (2023) RiparbellaYouth themed nativity-scene art competition (art, music, poetry)

Specials and Once-offs

I can’t codsense the whole site, so here is a list of stuff I can recommend or have interest in attending. It may have a strong focus on language-agnostic fun, or exhibitions and tours where knowledge of Italian isn’t paramount. This removes a couple of items I would have otherwise liked e.g. a day around studying the new archaeological discoveries – in particular the amphiteatre, a half-day discussing Carlo Levi (of “Christ Stopped at Eboli” fame), but which will be delivered in Italian – and technical/difficult Italian at that. Also not covered, very sadly, are the items dealing with the progressive programmes they have in place in the prison in Volterra. I would love to catch these, and if your Italian is good, I would strongly recommend them – look for the blood red items on the main site.

I’ve also removed the items which are designed for Italian schools and universities only.

I will continue to add the rest of the months when I get the chance on an on-going basis.

May

  • Labour Day Celebrations – May 1st. Something will be happening in Borgo San Giusto. If I am not wrecked from travel, I hope to tell you exactly what it is.
  • Exhibition of Ancient and Contemporary Art – May 6th to May 8th. An exhibition designed to compare and contrast the art styles through the ages. In the Consortini Museum in Borgo San Giusto, opposite the (enormous) church.
  • Exhibition of Eva Fischer’s (mixture of styles, much of it abstract) works – April 14th to May 10th. In Palazzo dei Priori, you might be able to combine it with the guided tour of the Palazzo.
  • Corsa di Alcide – May 14th. One of the legs of this Classic Car racing tournament begins in Piazza dei Priori.
  • Exhibition of Luciano Sozzi’s (modern, mixture of styles) works – April 30th to May 15th. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Guided walk of the Forest of Tatti – May 15th. Starts in the Volterra hospital carpark at 09:00. The walk is free, lunch is provided for €15. Mentioning this, as you can enjoy the walk in safety without having to understand the Italian.
  • Exhibition of Beatrice Lari’s (iconography, gilded iconography) works – May 7th to May 16th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • International Bee Day – May 20th and 21st. Heck yeah! Down with waspzzzzz! A celebration of all thingzzzz ‘bee’, with market stallzzzzz within Volterra, fun thingzzzzz for kidzzzzz to do and muzzzzzical entertainment in the evening. Not been to this before, and unsure if it’s a recurring thing, but it sure sounds like fun!
  • Beauty and the Beast live musical – May 21st. In the Persio Flacco theatre from 21:15 to 23:30. Ticket prices and booking details unknown for now. Will update when I know more. The proceeds are given to charity, so that’s pretty cool.
  • Volterra Comics & Fantasy – May 21st and 22nd. One of the big calendar dates for Volterra, this is essentially its Comicon, and celebrates all things comics and cosplay, and features a fantasy film festival for the first time ever. This weekend is shaping up to be a ridiciously busy and fun one in Volterra.
  • Modern Antiques markets – May 20th to May 22nd. Stalls within the historic centre. Sounds like a slight oxymoron, but if it’s anything like Vicopisano’s market, then include me in (I doubt it will be of the same scale, but we’ll see). Volterra will be crawling with folks this weekend with all the other stuff going on!
  • Public opening of historic houses – May 22nd. This usually happens during Red Night in September (which I’ll detail below). The description of this event is a little confusing. It seems to suggest multiple Palazzi are open, but then just mentions Palazzo Dello Sbarba Ricciarelli on Via Ricciarelli, so I suspect it’s just this one. It will be open from 10:00 to 18:00. Maybe a different one opens every month…. we’ll see!
  • Weigh some Salt – May 28th. Ok, I’ve broken my rule here, as this event will be held in nearby Saline di Volterra, famous for its salt production. But what this event is, I have no clue, but I am intrigued, as we’ve never set foot out of the car in Saline – and I’ve been wanting to visit the salt production facility there.
  • Renault Classic Car rally – May 28th. Kicking off in Piazza dei Priori.
  • Paralympic sports day – May 28th. The location of the event isn’t known yet. The exent to which it may include practical demonstrations, or be a series of talks is also unknown. I’ll have to complete this entry when I have more information.
  • Exhibition of Giancarlo Barsotti’s (photographer) works – May 13th to May 29th. This is in the Saletta del Giudice Conciliatore. I need to locate precisely where this is, but the site’s map is pointing towards the southwest corner of the public park – this doesn’t make sense to me. I strongly suspect it’s in the Palazzo dei Priori!
  • Crossbow men and women – May 29th. Most likely in the Piazza dei Priori, I am unsure if this is a demonstration, or a competition – but it’s a must-see, especially if you’ve never seen them in action before. Some of these folks can hit a euro coin from 50 metres.
  • Painting exhibition: Between Fantasy and Reality – May 16th to May 31st. Featuring the works of Riccardo Muci, Emanuele Garletti and Fabrizio Ferrari. I’m a big fan of Fabrizio’s work and have bought an item of his before. The other’s should be interesting too. Looking forward to this!
  • Frames: An exhibition of Mario Matera and Giuseppe Scarangelli’s (painter, photographer, cinematographer) works – May 18th to June 7th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants, from 10:00 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 19:00 each day.
  • Terra: An exhibition of the sculptures (ecological theme in clay/terracotta) of Monica Mariniello – April 30th to June 30th. This is on in the Sotterranei Pinacoteca, which is part of the main Pinocoteca.
  • Exhibition of Raffaello Gambogi’s (theme of psychiatric patients, portraiture, late impressionism(?)) works – April 16th to July 9th. In Palazzo dei Priori. So much you can cover by visiting this Palazzo!
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.

June

  • Guided tour of the Restoration of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition – June 1st, and every Wednesday until the end of July. By reservation only – phone 0588 87580. Two tours – one at 17:00 and one at 18:00 at the main Pinocoteca.
  • Palio del Cero – June 2nd. This is the annual tug-of-war competition between the contrade (neighbourhoods) in Volterra. Fun to be had in the main square! Time not yet known.
  • Cerimonia dell’Avvinta – June 4th. Religious festival. This is in honour of the death of San Giusto (Volterra’s patron saint), this is evening is part 1 of the event, where in the light of torches, a waxed rope will be made, which will surround the church of San Giusto. Subsequently some ladies, discouraged by the knights, will bring to the church a casket containing some gold cords, which will then used to surround the altar. Usually starts at 20:00, but that’s not cast in stone for sure – I’ll have to find out.
  • Processione del Patrono – June 5th. Part 2 of this religious event, again at the church of San Giusto held on the day of the death of the saint. The rope surrounding the church will but cut into wicks and distributed among the people for use at home. Not sure of the time this kicks off at. I’ll have to find out more.
  • Youth Choral Festival – June 6th. Held in Piazza dei Priori. Time is unknown right now.
  • Frames: An exhibition of Mario Matera and Giuseppe Scarangelli’s (painter, photographer, cinematographer) works – May 18th to June 7th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants, from 10:00 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 19:00 each day.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – outdoor dance interpretation – June 11th. This will be to the music of Ennio Morricone. To be held in the not often opened Parco di San Pietro behind the School of Dance, about 80 metres past the Porta al Selci. From 21:00 to 23:00. Reservations and contact detail status unknown at the moment. This sounds like a fab evening!
  • Exhibition of Giusi Velloni’s (exotic animals, colourful) works – June 1st to June 15th. In the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Astiludio Federale. Medieval-style flag waving/tossing competition with other cities – 18th June. In Piazza dei Priori. Not sure of the time, but it’s usually the mid-afternoon. If you’ve never seen Volterra’s amazing sbandieratori in competition before, now is your chance!
  • Guided walk indicating new urban trekking routes in Volterra – 18th June. Starts in the Coop carpark outside the walls of Volterra. Goes from 15:00 to 19:00. Will probably clash with the Astiludio above, sadly – but we’ll see. If I were around I would definitely do his – I’m always up for new walks, as you would know if you’re a regular reader of this blog.
  • Photographic exhibition of the Artisans of Alabaster – June12th to June 19th. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Exhibition of Arno Studio Art Association (multiple disciplines) – June 17th to June 26th. In the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Terra: An exhibition of the sculptures (ecological theme in clay/terracotta) of Monica Mariniello – April 30th to June 30th. This is on in the Sotterranei Pinacoteca, which is part of the main Pinocoteca.
  • Exhibition of Raffaello Gambogi’s (theme of psychiatric patients, portraiture, late impressionism(?)) works – April 16th to July 9th. In Palazzo dei Priori. So much you can cover by visiting this Palazzo!
  • Participatory art project: Imaginary correspondence – dates in June to be defined. This may well be in Italian, but if you can excuse yourself as a non-Italian-speaking foreigner (if you are that!), you may be able to observe. The reason why I mention it here is that it appears that it will be held in the ex-psychiatric hospital, and am more than a little jealous of those who may be able to attend. I will post more detail when I have it.
  • Participatory Art: Artists under the clouds – June 5th to September 4th. This is Exact days and times to be decided. This will be held on the road by the wall, south of Piazzetta Fornelli.
  • Exhibition of art celebrating the female soul – artists Erica Conti, Michela Giachin and Mariarosa Stigliano (mixed style, performance) – June 8th to September 11th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Exhibition of the works of Mauro Staccioli – June 12th to September 18th. If you’ve driven around Volterra’s countryside, you won’t have failed to notice occasional scultures of ring/circle and other shapes dotting the landscape. This exhibition is a ways outside Volterra in the charming hamlet of Mazzolla (nice traditional Tuscan restaurant there, by the way – Trattoria Albana – you’ll see photos of one of Staccioli’s works in that blog too!).

July

  • White Nights in Volterra – July 1st to July 3rd. Alabaster-themed open air shopping and open air exhibition in the main square (Piazza dei Priori). Seems to culminate in an outdoor dinner, for which diners should be dressed all in white. Should be a good event – I doubt I’ll be there. but will be jealous of anyone who is!
  • Guided tour of the Restoration of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition – June 1st, and every Wednesday until the end of July. By reservation only – phone 0588 87580. Two tours – one at 17:00 and one at 18:00 at the main Pinocoteca.
  • Music under the Clouds – July 6th. A family-oriented night of music and arts. On Via Lungo le Mura, just sloping down towards the Porta all’Arco from Piazzetta dei Fornelli.
  • Exhibition of Raffaello Gambogi’s (theme of psychiatric patients, portraiture, late impressionism(?)) works – April 16th to July 9th. In Palazzo dei Priori. So much you can cover by visiting this Palazzo!
  • Vintage Cars in Piazza dei Priori – July 9th. The title says it all, really. No time mentioned, but I suspect the late morning would be the best time to attend.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 1 – July 11th. The first of 4 days of classical music and opera. An opera: Comique Rita, or The Beaten Husband by Donizetti, with the Symphony Orchestra of the Netherlands. In the Villa Palagione. If Google Maps is correct, this is a few kilometers outside Volterra, so car or taxi needed. Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 2 – July 12th. Brahms’ Clarinet Quinter in B minor. In the Villa Palagione. In Palazzo Ricciarelli, Volterra, from 11:30 to 13:00. Combine it with a dinner in Trattoria Albana! Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 2 – July 12th. Mozart’s Flute Concert #2 in D Major. In the Villa Palagione. In the gardens of Villa Viti, in Mazzolla – again a car will be needed to visit this gorgeous hamlet. From 19:00 to 21:00. Combine it with a late dinner in Trattoria Albana! Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 3 – July 13th. Bach’s Coffee Cantata. In the gardens of the Pinacoteca, from 11:30 to 13:00. Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 3 – July 13th. Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #4. In the Volterra’s main theatre: Teatro Persio Flacco, from 19:00 to 21:00. Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 4 – July 14th. Alessandro Marcello’s concert for trombone and strings. In the Volterra’s main theatre: Teatro Persio Flacco, from 11:30 to 13:30. Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Art Exhibition: Emotion in Pencil – July 1st to July 14th – the works of Daniele Campoli (photorealistic pencil drawing). On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Volterra Project – inaugural concert – July 16th. Volterra Project is a group of classical guitarists that have had this group going for some time now. It would be nice to see them perform in public. Place and time to be decided. Here’s their YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/Volterraproject).
  • Art Exhibition: artwork by Carlo Delli – July 1st to July 17th (photgraphy, mixed media). In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Visit to the Consortini Museum (sculpture) – July 20th, 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 29th, 30th. In the Consortini Museum in Borgo San Giusto, opposite the (enormous) church – 15:30 to 18:30.
  • Anti-Social Social Club – July 22nd. This began life during the pandemic as a way to enable younger adults to get together for a bit of a bop and a drink. Circles were drawn on the ground in the main park, indicating the social disancing boundary each person could inhabit. A fun idea… I presume this time it will be without the circles, and so will effectively be an outdoor nightclub! It’ll still be in the main park (Parco Fiumi).
  • Dance Festival dedicated to Astor Piazzolla – Day 1 – July 23rd. Tango lessons by reservation in Palazzo Dello Sbarba Ricciarelli, from 15:00 to 19:00. Booking contact details unknown at the moment.
  • Dance Festival dedicated to Astor Piazzolla – Day 1 – July 23rd. Tango dance evening in the main square (Piazza dei Priori), 21:30 to 23:30.
  • Volterra Project – concert by the students of the project (Classical Guitar) – July 15th – July 24th. Held in the Scornello agriturismo. I think this is the Fattorie Inghirami – really only reachable by car. Time and booking details not yet known.
  • Dance Festival dedicated to Astor Piazzolla – Day 2 – July 24th. Showing of the ‘Milonga’ video dedicated to Piazzolla, in Palazzo Dello Sbarba Ricciarelli, from 15:00 to 19:00. Booking contact details unknown at the moment.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Alberto Martini – July 16th to July 26th (surreal/illustration). On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Anti-Social Social Club – July 29th. This may not be the nightclub version, but a more sedate project-oriented item. Time unknown.
  • International Arts Festival at the Roman Theatre – July 9th to August 7th. One of the chief events every year in Volterra. This is their main site. Sadly, I cannot see the programme they’ve put together – the website seems a little light. I will keep an eye on it and update accordingly. The programme is usually very extensive – here’s what they had last year, for example.
  • Alabaster exhibition focusing on the works of Aulo and Velio Grandoli – July 19th – August 11th. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Second Hand market for Uganda – July 28th to August 18th. A worthy cause – plenty of potential treasures for sale, to aid the pediatric surgical centre in a Ugandan hospital.
  • Extraordinary Opening of the Church of San Dalmazio – July 1st to August 31st. I’m given to believe it’s not normally open, and has some interesting art in situ. It’s an abbey near the Porta San Francesco, on Via San Lino.
  • Participatory Art: Artists under the clouds – June 5th to September 4th. This is Exact days and times to be decided. This will be held on the road by the wall, south of Piazzetta Fornelli.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: Timeless encounters – July 8th to September 4th. Contrasting and comparing contemporary art with Etruscan art. From 10:00 to 19:00 each day in the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Exhibition of art celebrating the female soul – artists Erica Conti, Michela Giachin and Mariarosa Stigliano (mixed style, performance) – June 8th to September 11th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Exhibition of the works of Mauro Staccioli – June 12th to September 18th. If you’ve driven around Volterra’s countryside, you won’t have failed to notice occasional scultures of ring/circle and other shapes dotting the landscape. This exhibition is a ways outside Volterra in the charming hamlet of Mazzolla (nice traditional Tuscan restaurant there, by the way – Trattoria Albana – you’ll see photos of one of Staccioli’s works in that blog too!).
  • Art Exhibition: Fatal Error – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Gianni Lucchesi. In the underground rooms in the Pinacoteca.
  • Art Exhibition: Rosaforte – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Giada Fedeli. In the cloister in the Pinacoteca.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.


August

  • The Spiritual Way: Musical experiment – August 2nd. Inside the Roman Cistern in the main park. Saxophone solo, with natural echoes.
  • Visit to the Consortini Museum (sculpture) – August 3rd, 5th, 6th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 24th, 26th, 27th, 31st. In the Consortini Museum in Borgo San Giusto, opposite the (enormous) church – 15:30 to 18:30.
  • International Arts Festival at the Roman Theatre – July 9th to August 7th. One of the chief events every year in Volterra. This is their main site. Sadly, I cannot see the programme they’ve put together – the website seems a little light. I will keep an eye on it and update accordingly. The programme is usually very extensive – here’s what they had last year, for example.
  • Anti-Social Social Club – August 5th and 6th. This began life during the pandemic as a way to enable younger adults to get together for a bit of a bop and a drink. Circles were drawn on the ground in the main park, indicating the social disancing boundary each person could inhabit. A fun idea… I presume this time it will be without the circles, and so will effectively be an outdoor nightclub! It’ll still be in the main park (Parco Fiumi).
  • Argentinian Tango concert – August 9th. Held in the main art gallery from 21:00 to 23:00. I don’t think this is participatory. Admission is €15. Not sure if it’s by reservation, but I suspect it will be on the night on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The Etruscan Jazz Orchestra in Concert – August 10th. Seems to be free, and held in the main square (Piazza dei Priori). Exact time not yet known, but I suspect will be in the evening.
  • Jazz Concert with dinner – August 11th. Again in the main square, but again time unknown as are the details for food. Will post more when I know.
  • Alabaster exhibition focusing on the works of Aulo and Velio Grandoli – July 19th – August 11th. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • A Guided Observation during the night of the Shooting Stars – August 12th. Italian language or no, I’ve included this here for those who are fond of star-gazing. It is being held at the Volterran Astronomical Observatory and surrounding area, which can really only be reached by car, and is on the way to the lovely hamlet of Mazzolla. Other details not yet known.
  • The Feast of San Lorenzo – August 13th. A fun day and night to be had in Mazzolla, a ways outside Volterra. If I am around, I’ll go to this for sure!
  • A Baroque Music Masterclass – August 6th – 13th. Held in St. Peter’s Theatre, near the Porta a Selci (the prison gate). Not sure if this is participatory of a series of demos and concerts.
  • Volterra AD 1398 – August 14th and 21st. Yesssss! It’s finally back after the pandemic. This is definitely one of the chief events in the whole Volterran calendar. I have blogged about it a couple of times. It’s incredibly fun, and I might be over for at least one instance of it myself. People dress up in mediaval costumes, spend medieval currency, play themed games, watch shows, eat and drink and go to medival-style markets etc.
    https://ourmaninvolterra.com/2019/08/12/volterra-ad1398-festival-day-1-part-1/
    https://ourmaninvolterra.com/2019/08/12/volterra-ad1398-festival-day-1-part-2/
    https://ourmaninvolterra.com/2019/08/19/medieval-festival-day-2/
  • Second Hand market for Uganda – July 28th to August 18th. A worthy cause – plenty of potential treasures for sale, to aid the pediatric surgical centre in a Ugandan hospital.
  • Crossbow men and women – August 27th, 28th. Most likely in the Piazza dei Priori, I am unsure if this is a demonstration, or a competition – but it’s a must-see, especially if you’ve never seen them in action before. Some of these folks can hit a euro coin from 50 metres.
  • National Finals of the Historical Archery Competition – August 28th. It’s somewhere in the walled city, but exactly where and when not yet known.
  • Extraordinary Opening of the Church of San Dalmazio – July 1st to August 31st. I’m given to believe it’s not normally open, and has some interesting art in situ. It’s an abbey near the Porta San Francesco, on Via San Lino.
  • Participatory Art: Artists under the clouds – June 5th to September 4th. This is Exact days and times to be decided. This will be held on the road by the wall, south of Piazzetta Fornelli.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: Timeless encounters – July 8th to September 4th. Contrasting and comparing contemporary art with Etruscan art. From 10:00 to 19:00 each day in the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Exhibition of the works of Mauro Staccioli – June 12th to September 18th. If you’ve driven around Volterra’s countryside, you won’t have failed to notice occasional scultures of ring/circle and other shapes dotting the landscape. This exhibition is a ways outside Volterra in the charming hamlet of Mazzolla (nice traditional Tuscan restaurant there, by the way – Trattoria Albana – you’ll see photos of one of Staccioli’s works in that blog too!).
  • Art Exhibition: Fatal Error – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Gianni Lucchesi. In the underground rooms in the Pinacoteca.
  • Art Exhibition: Rosaforte – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Giada Fedeli. In the cloister in the Pinacoteca.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Art Exhibition: Valerio Paltenghi (graphic artist) – August 25th to September 5th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Exhibition of art celebrating the female soul – artists Erica Conti, Michela Giachin and Mariarosa Stigliano (mixed style, performance) – June 8th to September 11th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.

September

  • Tuscan Festival of Ancient Music – September 1st. Held in the cloister of the main gallery (pinacoteca). No times given. You’ll have to pay to get into the pinacoteca to get to the cloister, but I am presuming this is the only charge.
  • Visit to the Consortini Museum (sculpture) – September 2nd, 3rd. In the Consortini Museum in Borgo San Giusto, opposite the (enormous) church – 15:30 to 18:30.
  • Participatory Art: Artists under the clouds – June 5th to September 4th. This is Exact days and times to be decided. This will be held on the road by the wall, south of Piazzetta Fornelli.
  • Astiludio – flag tossing competition with medieval pageantry and processions – September 4th. Always the first Sunday in September, at around the 15:15 mark – this is definitely worth attending if you’re in the area. Sadly, we only partly covered the one in 2019, due to it being temporarily interrupted by a storm.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: Timeless encounters – July 8th to September 4th. Contrasting and comparing contemporary art with Etruscan art. From 10:00 to 19:00 each day in the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Art Exhibition: Valerio Paltenghi (graphic artist) – August 25th to September 5th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Guided tour of the Restoration of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition – September 7th, and every Wednesday until the end of September. By reservation only – phone 0588 87580. Two tours – one at 17:00 and one at 18:00 at the main Pinocoteca.
  • The Red Night – outdoor art exhibition and visits to medieval palazzi – September 10th. It’s back! To me, this is second only to the medieval festival. Maybe a bit less family-friendly, in that really only adults would be interesting the majority of what’s going on. Volterra comes alive at night, with many artistic exhibitions, including live demos. Owners of private palazzi open their doors to the public, and within the buildings and their gardens you will experience many local musicians playing while you take a breather and experience the moment. Much of the walled town is worth an explore for hidden little artistic troves. There may be a jazz concert in the main square later. It generally starts around the 19:00 mark, and ends around 23:00, but palazzi will close their doors around 21:00-22:00, so wandering early will help. I’ve blogged about our 2019 experience. Combining this with the 5 Senses night on the 11th will make this a weekend to remember!
  • Meeting of Dance – September 10th and 11th. Tango festival, in Palazzo Ricchiarelli. Dates and times are TBD, and I’m unsure as to the extent to which it’s participatory.
  • Classic Car Meet – September 11th. If you’re into your classic autos, then a visit to Piazza dei Priori is in order! I suspect a mid-morning visit may be required to avoid disappointment.
  • Exhibition of art celebrating the female soul – artists Erica Conti, Michela Giachin and Mariarosa Stigliano (mixed style, performance) – June 8th to September 11th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Volterra of the 5 Senses (culture and gastronomy) – September 11th. This is a new one on me, and sounds intriguing. Interactive sensory exhibitions and gastronomic experiences outwill be scattered throughout the town, so another explore is in order. This weekend sounds like it will be fantastic, with the Red Night having been on the previous night.
  • The Saline to Volterra Motorbike Race – September 17th and 18th. Best experienced actually from Saline di Volterra, and on the SS68 from there, leading up to Volterra. This annual event attracts motorcycle racers from all over Italy. The road is twisting and winding, but also has some wonderful views along the way – not that they’ll be slowing down to appreciate them!
  • Choco Volterra – September 16th to 18th. Well now I’m pretty certain that between the Red Night, 5 senses and Choco Volterra, I will try my level best to make it back over for the entire month of September. This seems to indicate a participatory chocolate school, but I’m pretty certain that given that it is on Via Gramsci, there will be market stalls there too, chock full of… well… choc. Yes, please.
  • Exhibition of the Astrofili Group – September 8th to 18th. The site’s graphic screams ancient alabaster works, but Astrofili are astrophiles – astronomy-buffs, so I’m confused. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Photographic exhibition (40th anniversary of the photography group) – September 8th to 18th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Exhibition of the works of Mauro Staccioli – June 12th to September 18th. If you’ve driven around Volterra’s countryside, you won’t have failed to notice occasional scultures of ring/circle and other shapes dotting the landscape. This exhibition is a ways outside Volterra in the charming hamlet of Mazzolla (nice traditional Tuscan restaurant there, by the way – Trattoria Albana – you’ll see photos of one of Staccioli’s works in that blog too!).
  • Sculpture Exhibition of Mino Gabellieri (modern) – September 8th to 22nd. In one of the halls of Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Art Exhibition: Fatal Error – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Gianni Lucchesi. In the underground rooms in the Pinacoteca.
  • Art Exhibition: Rosaforte – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Giada Fedeli. In the cloister in the Pinacoteca.
  • Guided Visits to the newly discovered Amphitheatre – throughout all of September. Oh my God, yes. This seals a September visit. Along with guided visits to the ex-psychiatric hospital, I have been waiting for this. Back in 2015, a Colosseum-style amphitheatre was found just outside Volterra’s walls (albeit on a smaller scale). All other amphitheatres have been known about and knocked down, used for purpose or sold as a tourist attraction. Volterra’s is the world’s first where people simply didn’t know it existed. If fact it is known as ‘L’anfiteatro che non c’era’ (the amphitheatre that was never there). It is a huge and exciting discovery. I can’t wait to go there. I will post more details when I have them.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Claudio Ciompi (photorealistic paining) – September 20th to October 3rd. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants. I’m very fond of photorealism. Would be nice to catch this.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Adriano Fida, Gianluca Sità and Michelino Iorizzo (modern, mixed media) – September 10th to October 5th. Within the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Mark Brasington (ummm… neo-impressionism?) – September 15th to October 5th. Near the top of Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Franco Benvenuti (modern, abstract I think) – September 15th to October 15th. In the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.
  • Art Exhibition – WorkWalk (LavorareCamminare) – October 15th to January 8th 2023. Types of work – possibly sculpture given that (I think) he’s based in Pietrasanta. It’s on from 09:00 to 19:00 in the underground gallery of the main pinacoteca.

October

  • A walk among the Volterran foothills, with lunch – October 2nd. I would love to do this. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the colline around Volterra rival those of the Val d’Orcia, but simply are not marketed. This walk is leaving from the Balze carpark at 09:30. The walk is free, but lunch is €30. This is a total guess: but maybe lunch will be in an agritourismo – an experience of itself!
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Claudio Ciompi (photorealistic paining) – September 20th to October 3rd. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants. I’m very fond of photorealism. Would be nice to catch this.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Adriano Fida, Gianluca Sità and Michelino Iorizzo (modern, mixed media) – September 10th to October 5th. Within the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Mark Brasington (ummm… neo-impressionism?) – September 15th to October 5th. Near the top of Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Saline di Volterra’s town festival – October 7th to 9th. Ah man… so much on – I would love to go to this too. Maybe I should just retire early! This will be scattered throughout town, but largely focused in the main square (Piazza dell’Orologio). If you’re staying over in Volterra that weekend, I would strongly recommend a trip to Saline. Bus or car will do you – it’s about 8-9km away on a wonderfully twisty road with amazing views.
  • Motocross Competition final – October 8th & 9th. A grand couple of days out for 2-wheeled petrol-heads! The guide says it’s in the Palazzo dei Priori. That would be a strange course indeed. A lot of rallies kickoff in the main square, so that’s probably what they mean!
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Franco Benvenuti (modern, abstract I think) – September 15th to October 15th. In the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • San Luca degli Alabastrai (alabaster-themed art festival) – October 14th to October 16th. Although alabaster-themed, this celebrates the artisans through music, art, food, installations and pop-culture. This is in Borgo San Giusto somewhat outside the walls of the town. This would be very interesting to visit if you’re about.
  • Marcia Rosa – a non-competitive walk through Volterra in support of Female cancer victims – October 16th. Starts in the main square (Piazza dei Priori) at 09:30 and is due to carry on until 13:00.
  • Wheels in History – classic car exhibition – October 15th and 16th. This will be in the main square. Mid-to-late morning attendance suggested.
  • Mounds of the Colombaie – archaeological exhibition – October 15th to October 20th. This exhibition will be in the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Volterragusto – October 22nd and 23rd, and October 29th-November 1st. This is another premier fixture in the Volterran calendar, and one of the yummiest. It’s the annual gastronomic festival! I *still* haven’t attended this, and this year isn’t looking too good for me either, but never say never. I would love to attend, and would strongly recommend it to anyone staying in cenrtal Tuscany.
  • The Volterra to San Gimignano footrace – October 23rd. Starts in Piazza dei Priori, ends (unsurprisingly) in San Gimignano. Cheer the competitors on! I am unsure if the race is open to those who wish to compete – try looking at this site closer to the date.
  • Palio dei Caci – October 30th. Who wants to race a wooden ‘cheese’ wheel down one of the steepest streets in Volterra, dodging haybales? Well, not me – but it would be super fun to watch. This annual event is back after the pandemic. I’ve never attended, but would love to!
  • Alabaster Exhibition: the works of Luisa Bocchietto – October 1st to 31st. Unsure where this is, sadly. Hopefully details to follow.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.
  • Art Exhibition – WorkWalk (LavorareCamminare) – October 15th to January 8th 2023. Types of work – possibly sculpture given that (I think) he’s based in Pietrasanta. It’s on from 09:00 to 19:00 in the underground gallery of the main pinacoteca.


November

  • Volterragusto – October 29th-November 1st. This is another premier fixture in the Volterran calendar, and one of the yummiest. It’s the annual gastronomic festival! I *still* haven’t attended this, and this year isn’t looking too good for me either, but never say never. I would love to attend, and would strongly recommend it to anyone staying in cenrtal Tuscany.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Mycological Exhibition (Mushrooms!) – November 5th to November 8th. The Italians sure do love their mushrooms. This is an exhibition of the local stuff. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Rally Liburna – modern car competitive rally – November 11th, 12th. It mentions the Palazzo dei Priori. Not sure if racers begin or end there. Or both. Might still be fun, and possibly your chance to finally appear on television. Who knows?
  • Public Opening of the Restoration of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition – throughout November. Before it was only available by private tour (see prior entries above), but now it’s open for all.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Mark Brasington (ummm… neo-impressionism?) – October 30th to November 30th. Near the top of Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.
  • Art Exhibition – WorkWalk (LavorareCamminare) – October 15th to January 8th 2023. Types of work – possibly sculpture given that (I think) he’s based in Pietrasanta. It’s on from 09:00 to 19:00 in the underground gallery of the main pinacoteca.

December

  • Exbition of Classic Motorbikes – December 4th to 10th. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Christmas Concert – December 23rd. Family oriented fun in the Persio Flacco Theater from 21:15 to 11:30. Booking details unknown as of yet.
  • Christmas in Saline – all through December. Some fun in the nearby town of Saline di Volterra, small market included.
  • Charity Market – December 12th to 31st. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.
  • Art Exhibition – WorkWalk (LavorareCamminare) – October 15th to January 8th 2023. Types of work – possibly sculpture given that (I think) he’s based in Pietrasanta. It’s on from 09:00 to 19:00 in the underground gallery of the main pinacoteca.
A Wet Florence and another Farewell (26 & 27/12/2021)

A Wet Florence and another Farewell (26 & 27/12/2021)

It was St. Stephen’s/Boxing Day, and I was tasked with driving to Florence. We had a mission: the ladies wanted to buy some gloves. I went with our usual idea of going the country route there, and parking in the Coop Carpark, and then going back via mostly the autostrada. I was thinking to myself “Gosh, wouldn’t it be great to be able to show Lily and Mark (Niamh’s sister and her husband) some of the wonderful countryside, in particular between Volterra and Montaione!” Three unfortunate things occurred, which somewhat spoiled the journey:

  1. The weather. It was foggy in Volterra, then we got further down to a corner of the Val d’Era where it was relatively clear, but the climb began again into more fog. Well…. dang! Then came the rain, which further reduced visibility. It’s a shame, as some of the countryside is beautiful – so reserve it for a sunnier day if you ever wish to explore.
  2. I was perhaps driving a little too quickly. Niamh and I are usually so used to both the road and having no people in the back seats, but about 20-25 minutes into the drive, I was informed that the ladies in the back were feeling queasy, so I had to slow down (sorry, ladies!).
  3. I joined a much busier road a little after we passed Montaione. I took a left onto the route, and saw a huge puddle in the road – a lane wide, which chunks of asphalt aroud the rim of it. I had no doubt that if I had driven into the puddle, I’d have probably hit a hidden pothole – a bad one. I swerved to avoid it, but didn’t properly notice a mini-cooper coming up behind me in the other lane. He was still a little away from me, but made a show of his anger by blasting me out of it with his horn. Almost a kilometer down the road at a roundabout, he blasted me again as we parted ways. I can never get over the fact that Italians are so chill, but put a good number of them behind a steering wheel they can turn into demons!

We got to the Coop carpark in the end, and from there hopped onto a tram into the centre. We were hungry, and somehow all had a simulataneous hankering for pizza, not having had any while Lily and Mark were with us. I tend to lean away from restaurants where the staff are selling seats outside the door, much preferring to let the food do the talking. However, we were ravenous, and the establishment into which we were being ushered had some pretty good reviews (Lorenzo di Medici), so in we went and had our pizzas. They were delicious! In fairness, the service was good and the staff friendly too.

It was damp when we got out, and getting damper. Fortunately, we dressed for the occasion! We wended our way towards the Duomo, passing a few landmarks on the way, both old and new.

On the outside of the Basilica, at its north-eastern an alternative presepe (nativity scene) had been set up, but instead of a stable, it was a medical facility where doctors and nurses working to exhaustion in surgical PPE. This was a wonderful mark of respect to them during these past couple of years when the pandemic had put us, and them in particular, to the sword.

This is not my photo – it belongs to Firenze Today.

We reached the Piazza del Duomo, and wandered about the front of the cathedral. We had never seen the presepe there, nor the Christmas Tree, so it we covered off visiting Florence in yet another season. You’ll see that the town was pretty busy!

We then wandered to the Piazza delle Signoria. The city still looked great in the rain, and there were no complaints about the weather. I’ve seen videos of Florence’s Christmas lights in the evening, and they look amazing, so some of the following photos don’t really do them justice.

On the way to the Ponte Vecchio, Lily pointed out a shop where they were selling what looked like artisanal gelato. I checked the window briefly, and saw that they were serving the creamy goodness from little sunken tins (I forget what they’re called). I hopped straight in, without checking the awning on the store. I’d made my order when I noticed that it was a well-known brand of coffee (and despite trawling the map, I’m having difficulty locating the brand), who just so happened to be selling gelato in their store ‘on the side’. Too proud to cancel my order, took a goodly sized cup of it away. It was ok – not really artisanal, but ok – but it was still ok gelato, right? Yay!

We wandered over the bridge, all the way over to Palazzo Pitti, and guess what? Well if you’ve been following these blogs for a while, you’ll be pleased(?) to know that we kept up our habit of not actually going in! One of these days, I swear!

We were happy walking around and exploring though. Staying on the Altr’Arno, we headed over to the Piazza Santa Spirito. We were overdue a coffee (me, a hot chocolate), and found a place with indoor seating (Café Cabiria), and were promptly greeted by a lady with a Dublin accent! The world is too small. She sounded pretty fluent when she was talking to Italian customers, and had been over here a while. We had a 20 minute pause for refreshment, to chat with the Irish lady and to use the facilities.

Once finished, we had one more errand before the trip back home: the ladies needed to buy some gloves at Martelli on Via Por Santa Maria. It was only a trip of a few hours, but we really wanted to limit the time we would be driving in the dark. Anyway, we re-crossed at the Ponte Santa Trinita and made our way there. The ladies went in. Mark and I waited outside. And waited. And we waited a little more, a little more impatiently. It began to rain again, so Mark waited across the road, by the awning of a fancy men’s shop while I stood outside Martelli.

Then I was accosted by one of those African doo-dad sellers. Listen, I agree that every person needs to make a living, but the hucksterism some of these guys pull-off really try my patience. It began well, and we fist-bumped and chatted for a minute. Then out of nowhere he held out his hand to shake. This is where you back off, or move on etc. What happens here is that they attempt to pull and bracelet over onto your wrist and get aggressive when you refuse to buy it. I refused the handshake and immediately moved away, despite some weak protestations from him. He wandered off, while I joined Mark on the other side of the road to wait some more.

The ladies certainly spent way more time in that shop than we did in th café… not much fun, I have to say, when it’s grey and drizzling. But we bucked-up (glove-buying was our #1 mission after all), and waited stoically. They came out eventually, mission accomplished and very happy – and even a little apologetic. Satisfied, we walked back towards the tram.

We had a couple of unscheduled stops on the way. First, we paused briefly at Piazza di Santa Trinita to admire the conical Christmas tree there.

The one thing I regret this trip (no, not not Palazzo Pitti!) is not going to check out the lights at Piazza delle Republica. I saw videos of them afterwards and they are spectacular! Anyway, we instead continued farther north, and stopped in the vestibule of the Strozzi Palace to check out Jeff Koons’ balloon bunny. We didn’t go into the exhibition proper, as it was beginning to get dark.

Time for one final touristy photo-op before we boarded the tram. Yet another visit to Florence with too much time spent outdoors. We really have to pop inside some of these landmarks!

Mark had to drive home in the dark and rain… not the most pleasant of drives, but we got through it! We didn’t head out that night, but instead we had antipasti bought at La Bottega and the market a couple of days previously. Then Lily made a wonderful risotto with the blue cheese and kale, topped by a parmesan crisp (we picked up everything for this at the market). It was absolutely delish. Below is a photo of an adulterated one: Niamh doesn’t like blue cheese.

Unfortunately, the next morning it was time for us to once again leave Volterra. At the time of writing this blog we haven’t been back yet since, but are looking forward to going some time in May. Our guests were staying another couple of nights on their own, so we were more than a little jealous – but we had to head home to get our booster shots, which was more important in the grand scheme of things.

It was actually quite a nice day in Pisa itself, and Mark and Lily joined Niamh and I for one last cup of something hot and a slice of cheap pizza before we headed into the airport for the flight home. It was at a circular kiosk outside. The coffee and pizza were ok, but the hot chocolate I almost spat out. I had taken one watery mouthful that was barely tepid and left it at that. In hindsight, I should have taken it back to complain, but at the time I didn’t want to end the holiday on a downer.

So, this wraps-up this series of blogs until some time in May. I will have another one or two in the offing, in particular about Volterra being Tuscany’s inaugural capital of culture, so keep an eye out for that!

I hope you enjoyed reading this and admiring Florence’s beauty, even in the rain. Please leave a like and a comment to let me know, and please ask any questions. I’d love to hear from you.

An Extraordinary Christmas Lunch! (25/12/2022)

An Extraordinary Christmas Lunch! (25/12/2022)

Happy Christmas everyone! Sorry – it’s just the timing and nature of these blogs. I have a busy working life, and between that, social balance, blogging, vlogging and writing fiction I just don’t have enough time to post more frequently. As it is, this blog may be going on hiatus for about a month after a couple more weeks… we’ll see.

Anyway, we got up and exchanged gifts – that was fun! I got my main Christmas present early: a gimbal to help me shoot video more steadily with my phone. I got a fab bottle of Jo Malone from Niamh’s sister and brother-in-law. I will wear any scent if it smells good on me, whether traditionally male or female. I love what I was given, and will buy another bottle of it for meself in Dublin airport next time I fly to Italy!

Here’s what Christmas looked like from our terrace this year:

We had another breakfast of cereal and panettone, and settled in for a couple of hours screen-watching or reading. A good few weeks previously, I had booked Christmas lunch with La Vecchia Lira. Their main fare is traditional Tuscan, but they do have some modern twists. Both of us have a few favourite pasta dishes there, and we couldn’t wait to show them off to Niamh’s cheffy sister. Unfortunately, none of them were on the menu. The menu itself seemed a little small, only offering what we thought were a few choices for each course. None of us would be going for the tongue, we joked. I saw that it included wine, and surmised that whatever we will choose would be cooked excellently. And it was all for only €60 per person.

Irish and English people might balk at the idea of not having roast turkey or goose for Christmas, but it really does pay to expand your horizons. Here’s the menu:

We arrived slightly ahead of time, and gave our now ubiquitous cylinder of Bailey’s truffles to the owner, whose name we sadly don’t know (yet!). He was extremely grateful, and thanked us for coming to his restaurant today. It was at least half full, but he was disappointed, because a few tables had cried off, leaving some space empty. Later on in the meal, I saw he actually also turned over a couple of tables with new families/couples, so it wasn’t that bad a day for him, attendance-wise. The owner’s English is pretty good, but he has waiting staff there with excellent English. I still tried my hand at Italian!

We were sat at a decent table in the back where it was warmer, and were given a printed menu each, and then set about deciding what we’d have. We had a glass of prosecco each… very nice!

Anyway, we were wondering where the waiting staff were to come and take our order when the first dish arrived: fried pumpkin fritters. I began to wonder.

We were then given a glass of red each. And when we were done with the fritters, the artichoke came out, and finally the penny dropped: we would be getting everything on the menu! I still marvel at the value of it all, not least the amount of work put into it all by the chefs. I had never eaten in Italy on a celebration day such as Christmas, New Year’s or Easter – so I now assume that all restaurants that pubish a special menu mean for customers to experience everything on it. Please correct me if I’m wrong. If I’m right, I’ll be doing this again!

To round out the antipasti, we had a carpaccio of Chianina beef. Very tender and lovely. The salad was perfectly dressed.

Next up – the first primo: a beautitful onion veloute/soup. It was souper flavourful (sorry!). But it really was!

Ok, it isn’t the sexiest looking morsel, but the heck with that – it went down very well! I could have downed a pint of it (I like soup – always have – what can I say?).

Then we had the pasta course. People who aren’t familiar with Italian cuisine, please take note. That’s one pasta course, out of nine courses. And not a pizza in sight. See? It’s not just a carb-fest in Italy! It was agnolotti (a filled pasta), stuffed with cinta senese, with a sauce of mostly chicory. Now I’m not a fan of chicory – I find it bitter, but don’t mind a little bit of it. If the stuffing and sauce had been swapped, I would have been a bigger fan. Having said that I know the others liked it, so it was a matter of personal preference. What I *will* say is that the pasta was, of course, cooked to perfection.

Then it was on to the first secondo, and the most contentious dish of the night. Certain among us Irish and English – those of us of a certain age – may remember offal being used much more frequently back home than it is today. In particular, I remember my grandmother having tripe with milk, onions and bread, and to this day I have rarely seen anything so gross. This is why I shy away from Trippa alla Volterrana and Lampredotto. For the ladies with us today, it was tongue. They couldn’t do it. In fairness they gave it a quick go, but pushed their plates towards me and Niamh’s brother-in-law. We both yummied down both portions!

I can sort of see why it might not be to some peoples’ tastes… again it’s a texture thing. It was very soft, but at least it wasn’t gristley or chewy. To me it was gently, broke down very quickly in the mouth and had a fabulous beefy flavour. The sauce complemented it really well.

Another thing slightly contentious in certain circles is veal. I almost never order it when I see it on menus, as there is rumoured cruelty involved in raising veal-cattle. However, I think modern methods are supposed to be more humane than they used to be. The Irish and British are also voracious consumers of lamb, so the ‘baby’ aspect has to be somewhat muted. Anyway, we all got a plate of it, and we all ate it!

I think we’d well moved onto our second bottle of wine by now, and to be honest, I think we were beginning to get a little bit merry. The veal was tender and delicious, and served with fanned, roast pear and pomegranate seeds. These added alternated hits of sweet and sour to the meat.

Finally, there was my favourite dish of the night. Roast fillet pork with a light gravy and delicately curried creamed potatoes.

Niamh’s sister isn’t a huge fan of pork, so there was more for her husband, the lucky b….. blighter! I loved the meat, and the creamed potatoes were sublime – I could have eaten a kilo of the stuff, despite it being the eighth savoury course. It was so delicious.

The final course was lovely and light – a nougat mousse and a local vermouth. I then asked for an amaro, and was was given a shot glass of it. I asked what it was and when the waitress (whose English is excellent) told me it was Jaeger and asked if I’d heard of it, I couldn’t suppress my laugh. The poor girl asked if I would rather something else, and I said no – that it was perfect. Jaeger is a fine digestif, but has become much maligned because of how it’s been abused in British and Irish drinks cultures. You basically drink it to get pissed. In this situation, however, it’s absolutely fine.

The mixture of prosecco, wine and digestivi were bolstering my bravery somewhat. As you may recall, Niamh’s sister had just completed a 3-month intensive course in the prestigious Ballymaloe cookery school, with distinguished results. I knew she would have loved a tour of a busy Italian kitchen, so I got up out of my chair and asked the owner if he wouln’t mind. He was only too delighted, but given the space in the kitchen and the need for a translator (the waitress), I wouldn’t be able to accompany. That was ok – she couldn’t believe her luck and spent about 20 minutes in there, having a good look and a good chat.

Incidentally, she has her own business as a private chef, so if you’re planning a stay in Suffolk and want to impress your friends, family, or colleagues please do check out Noble Prawn‘s feasts!

We finally left and left a pretty big tip, which, much to my embarrassment, the owner trumpeted all over the restaurant. You have to be careful with tipping in Italy. I do it frequently, but I have made a mistake on at least one occasion where I left a tip with someone who was in fact offering a gift to me – that still haunts me, although she was ok about it – if a little mock-grumpy at first.

On the way out, the owner offered Niamh’s sister a chance to volunteer in the kitchen for a week or two, and she grabbed at that with both hands. I tried my best to let the guy know that this wasn’t an offer made ‘to be nice’; she really wanted a shot at this, so I told him so. He still seemed amenable, so she has that to look forward to now too.

We went for a walk through the town in an attempt to burn off the excess alcohol. It was mostly misty and very quiet. There were one or two breaks in the cloud, but then the sun dropped very quickly. I remember that when I’d posted these shots in Instagram and Facebook, that a couple of the residents were upset at how quiet it was. I reminded them their town is still lovely, no matter what, and that it was in the early evening; not quite passeggiata time. And it is lovely, and always will be.

We then went back to the apartment, where we bloated and still had room for wine and the occasional chocolate or olive. I was last up, as I’d found Ed Wood (the biopic of the worst ever film director) and watched it through. I hadn’t seen it in years – a good little movie!

I hoped you enjoyed this oddly-timed Christmas-themed blog. Please share it with your friends if you did. If you have any other recommendations for spending Christmas Day in Tuscany, please let me know!

Christmas Eve in a foggy Volterra – a meal at Terra di Mezzo (24/12/2021)

Christmas Eve in a foggy Volterra – a meal at Terra di Mezzo (24/12/2021)

‘Twas the day before Christmas! We decided to stir, but only stay in Volterra for the day. We had our breakfasts (including some yummy chocolate and orange panettone). It was market day too. It’s usually held on a Saturday, but that would have been Christmas day, so they brought it forward.

Out we went out to a very misty Volterra. I know many locals were lamenting the weather, but to me it made the whole town look enchanting, even mysterious. The first thing we saw was that the market was somewhat lighter that it usually is.

The food market is in Piazza San Giovanni, where the cathedral and baptistry lie. We turned into the square…. and there were only a few stalls available, much to our disappointment. However, it turned out that these stalls had everything we needed.

You might remember in the last blog, that samples are the way to go when operating a stall, and the lady working the fruit and veg one below very much subscribed to that school of thinking.

She had several different types of olives and nuts, and almost everything we sampled, we bought. We had good fun there too. We ended up buying some olives, including some chili-enfused ones which were delicious. We also grabbed a couple of hundred grams of some amazing roasted almonds, and some grapes. I was just a little annoyed with myself that I didn’t film at the time.

We went over to the salumi and cheese stall, and sampled some more! We ended up buying a boar salami (if I recall correctly) and several cheeses (pecorino, parmiggiano, a creamy gorgonzola). We then left the market and extended the walk.

The cathedral beckoned, and we went in. Earlier in the year, they were charging €7 for entry. This is a recent thing, and annoyed me somewhat. Today, the stall was inside the door, but it was unmanned, so we skipped inside. They’re not keen on filming there, and because I’d been there a couple of times before, I just took the one photo.

We continued our stroll.

On the way back to the apartment, we stopped in L’Incontro for a coffee and cake. I had a hot chocolate, not being a coffee-drinker. I also threw a cornetto con crema into me. Ahhh… I wish we had more bakeries where we lived, although in fairness Armelle (a French lady who moved to Kilcullen) makes some amazing treats, so I can’t be too upset!

After having had a lunch of what was bought at the market, plus a few other salumi from the local mini-market, we thought that to spend the day vegetating wouldn’t be a good use of our time, so we took another stroll. Niamh’s brother-in-law was wondering if the Irish bar (Quo Vadis) was open. I was wondering too, as when I took my morning walk a few days previously, I’d noticed that there was a bunch of recycleable boxes left there for collection.

Unfortunately, it was closed, but the Roman Theatre by the pub entrance gave me an idea.

Would our guests fancy a look-see at the new archaeological site of the newly found amphiteatre? Turns out the answer was ‘yes’! We headed through the Porta Fiorentina, and wandered down towards the cemetary. You can’t enter the dig site itself without a a guide, but we were able to have a good look anyway.

They have secured a ton more funding for the dig, so hopefully we’ll soon see a colosseum-like ruin someday in the next few years.

When we’d finished checking it out, we went inside the cemetary grounds. I rarely get a chance to do this, as almost all of my walks are early in the morning, and the cemetary is never open. Anyway, we went inside and had a look. The cemetry here is typically Italian. Some are buried in the ground with ‘traditional’ tombstones, but many are in drawers in the walls of the grounds. This is really typical throughout Italy.

I noticed a couple of things about these “drawers”. Firstly, they were very well taken-care of. Many had lights and fresh flowers. The other thing I noticed was that of those that had photos, almost none of them featured people smiling. I found these two, and one of them moved me somewhat.

That young girl. She was only 14 or 15. It looks like she died during the war. I wondered what her story was. Was it by disease, misadventure or was she a casualty of the war itself. It’s such a wonderful photo, that it was upsetting to think she died so young. If someone from Volterra is reading this by any chance, I’d love if you left me a comment or mailed me to let me know.

We left and headed back up towards the apartment. I took a few shots of the town’s distant skyline on the way back. She is lovely from any angle!

We rested back at the apartment, dollied oursselves up and then headed out to Terra di Mezzo for our Christmas Eve dinner. I had booked it a couple of months previously. We took one of our cartons of Bailey’s truffles with us to give to Robbi and Aurora. We got there and found the restaurant quite empty. We were nonetheless welcomed warmly, and asked where we’d like to sit. It was cold out, and the only table large enough for us is pretty near the door, so I suggested we head down to the cellar. In hindsight (in fact, not just in hindsight) this was a mistake. The cellar here dates from Roman times, and was probably used to keep foods fresh etc. It was cold and a little damp down there. They hadn’t been open all week, so the sting of cold hadn’t been taken out of the air by the time we arrived, and there were heaters and dehumidifiers working overtime there.

Still, aside fromt that, it’s a really nice environment – it’s not often you get to eat in a near 2,000 year-old cellar! We’d eaten in the cellar a couple of times before, and so were not expecting the cold. Anyway, we got settled-in, a couple of us throwing on a scarf or light jacket as an extra layer and presented our gift. Robbi came back down to thank us, but said “Next year two, eh?” which made us crack up. Fortunately, the tube of sweets have separate bags of truffles within, so sharing wouldn’t be a problem.

I had to go back up to Robbi before our food landed, to see if we could do anything about improving the heat situation. He adjusted and moved a couple of heaters, and it did get a little bit better. I did notice, however, that there was only one other table occupied upstairs. I had been expecting the restaurant to be a bit more full, but remembered then that Italians often celebrate Christmas at home on Christmas Eve. I wasn’t going to let the lack of bodies reduce our enjoyment.

We ordered, and got an antipasti sharing platter. I followed that up with some Zuppa alla Volterrana (che sorpresa!) and a pici cacio e pepe with truffle. I think the winners of the night were Niamh and her brother-in-law who order a beefsteak, each about the size of an adult face! I’d had it before in August, and it was very tasty.

I didn’t take photos, as I knew tomorrow was going to be a day for food photographs, and I didn’t want to make a nuisance of myself. Although I did grab another bad selfie!

When finished, we said our goodbyes (and tipped well for Christmas). I saw that the restaurant was still so empty, and not only did I feel a little bad for Robbi – and I hoped he hadn’t opened just for us – but I was beginning to wonder about our Christmas lunch the next day. Would it be similarly quiet?

Thanks a lot for reading – I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave a comment to let me know!

Recipe: Sheet Pasta with Jerusalem Artichoke (by chef Alessandro Calabrese, Ristorante Enoteca Del Duca)

The first recipe in a potential series called Our Pan In Volterra. This was referred to in my blog here. I was hoping to get permisssion to publish the recipe, and I got it – so thanks to Claudia Del Duca (who translated it for me), and of course the amazing head chef at Del Duca restaurant, Volterra: Alessandro Calabrese, whose recipe it is.

So here we go! The recipe serves 4-5 people, and is meant for someone with at least moderate experience in cooking. Jerusalem artichoke is referred to as ‘Topinambur’ through out the recipe.

The Pasta dough
200g whole wheat flour
100g “00” flour
100g wheat durum flour
100g manitoba flour (high gluten concentration)
5g salt
10g extra virgin olive oil
5 eggs

Mix all the ingredients, knead the dough until you get it smooth and even. Let it rest one hour in the refrigerator. Then, with a pasta machine, make the sheets thin and of a weight of 80g each.

Topinambur cream
500g topinambur
50g potatoes
Salt and extra virgin olive oil in enough quantity (as you may measure by eye)

Peel the topinambur, the potatoes and slice them thinly. 

Put them into a vacuuming bag and steam them at 100°C for 50 minutes. Afterwards in a mixer blend all of it with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt until you get a smooth and bright cream.

The topinambur skins are boiled for 1 hour: after that, strain and spread them on an oven pan. Dry them for 3 hours in the oven at 80°C. Afterwards deep fry them in  hot seed oil for 15 seconds. Add salt and pepper.

Turnip pesto
200g cleaned turnips
20g pecorino cheese
20g almonds
75g extra virgin olive oil
75g sunflower oil
Salt
Extravirgin olive oil and garlic (to sauté the turnips)

Boil the turnips in salty water for 3-5minutes. Strain them and sauté in extravirgin olive oil with garlic (brown it before). Let them become cold and mix all the above ingredients (without the last line) in a thermomixer for 20 seconds

Blue cheese fondue
500g milk
12g “00” flour
12g butter
150g blue cheese

Melt the butter and add the flour. Pour the warm milk into the flour and butter mix. Cook it. Then put the sauce in the thermomix at 65°C. Add the blue cheese and mix until it melts.

How to assemble the dish
Boil the pasta in salty water, strain it and put it in a pan with the warm topinambur cream. Blend it well making sure you don’t break the sheet of pasta. 

On the plate spread a bit of turnip pesto, add the sheet of pasta with the topinambur cream. Add some more turnip pesto, spread some blue cheese cream and decorate with topinambur chips.

Let me know if you made it and what you thought of it!

Christmas Markets in Montepulicano and Dinner at Del Duca (23/12/2021)

Christmas Markets in Montepulicano and Dinner at Del Duca (23/12/2021)

I didn’t feel like a walk the next day – which should have been my trigger to take one, but them’s the breaks. In fairness to me I didn’t want to tire myself out, as I knew I’d be driving to Montepulciano. It’s about an hour and three-quarters, but only a smaller portion of it would be on unfamiliar road. Still, I had two more people in the car I had to keep safe, so it adds to the pressure a little bit. We got in the car and fired up Mrs. Google. I prefer Google Maps to on-board GPS, as Google has a far better chance of being up-to-date, plus we know she does a bang-up job of keeping us out of ZTLs (Zona Traffico Limitato). We’ve never been fined whilst using our phones to navigate.

I was hoping the latter part of our drive would take us through the Crete Senesi, or maybe even part of the Val d’Orcia, but sadly this wasn’t the case. We had chosen to go on the highways, as to take the purely country route would have taken us at least 30 minutes more – no thanks! The result was that about half the journey was on dull, multi-lane roads. Still, these are first-world problems when you have a chance to spend some more time in a new (new to us) hilltown in Tuscany. The last 20 or so kilometers was by country route, but wasn’t terribly interesting until you began to see Montepulciano in the distance. In any event, I didn’t take photos of the journey, because I was driving. The only issue I had with driving was with a seriously stubborn 3rd gear… until we got to the very end of the journey.

The carpark. It was full. Literally. There was a market where my GPS target lay. Slightly panicked, I had to backtrack a little and follow the ‘P’ signs to another free carpark somewhat below the one I had chosen. This was handy – I didn’t see this carpark on Google (most likely my fault, not Google’s). It was a short climb back up to the market.

I can’t remember if Niamh’s sister bought anything (she’s a foodie and chef), but we wandered about at least. It looked like it was beginning to shut down, though. It was still busy with people buzzing about both here and the nearby bus station. This must have been where all the people were, because the town itself was very quiet!

We went past the bus station and spotted stairs leading up to the walls. There was a lift beside those stairs. A bundle of cigarette-smoking mid-teen girls sat on the first flight of steps, and informed us that the lift was broken. I find myself a little untrusting, but trudge upstairs nonetheless. When we reach the top and enter a park (Giardino di Poggiofanti), in which lies the top ‘floor’ of the elevator. I push the button, and am immediately remorseful as there is no electric whirring of the gears and pullies. The button doesn’t light up. Next time give the younger folks a little more credit, dude.

We walked past some lovely views of the surrounding countryside (photos later), and entered the old town via Porta al Prato. I know some people say that the hilltowns are very ‘samey’ and while I totally get why they say that, the need to look more beyond the superficial, past the bricks and flagstones on the road. Take a look into the shops, look at the local produce they’re selling. Often, the foods can be different, the stones of different hues, the surnames just that little bit more regional. Italy is so incredibly segmented that even a 30 minute jaunt in a car can find you looking at dishes you haven’t seen before, new histories and art to discover. It’s what makes Italy such a dream to explore. So, yes – hilltowns can look the same – but please inspect and observe, rather than just cast your eyes briefly from one pretty thing to the next.

Anyway, rant over. We were soon to also discover that we were at the lowest end of the old-town and had a heck of an uphill journey to reach the main square (Piazza Grande), where the Christmas market stalls were. I did at least take some pics on the way, but I will still filming a lot too.

All the while, I was looking for an open gelateria, but no joy.

About 15 minutes or so later, our epic uphill struggle was at an end! We heard the unmistakable tingling of Christmas music. We scouted the stalls briefly, as we were hungry.

In the square iteself we only found one team selling wurst. There were very few people about browsing, which was a little disappointing, but it was lunchtime on a Thursday.

The ladies were looking for a sitdown lunch, but Niamh’s brother-in-law and preferred I a dirty wurst! Ultimately, we settled on something of a compromise. We saw a sign for an open-air foodcourt and headed towards the Fortezza Medicea, but swung a left just at the gates which promised no ends of adventure in Santa Land. The food stalls had annexed another one of the carparks. The teams were lined around the edges, with partly-covered open-air bench-seating placed in the middle. We scouted around, and 3 of us were too tempted by a BBQ burger stall, while Niamh’s sister went for the fritto misto of fish and veg. Wine was had by three of us, the fourth would be driving.

Once we had our faces fed, we moved back to the square, with a couple of brief stops:

  • A little walk around the garden of the Fortezza Medicea – and no, we didn’t either check out the wine seller’s there, nor pay the fee to go to Santa Land!
  • We stopped at a stall where the ladies indulged themselves with cups of fabulously gloopy (and tasty) hot chocolate. I had a quick taste of Niamhs; it was delicious. But I still had gelato in mind.

I raced to the Laboratorio del Cioccolato, as I’d heard they also sell gelato there, but sadly a lady was literally locking up as I approached the entrance. It was time for her riposo, I guess. Oh well. I sulkily trudged back to the square. (It turns out they seem to only sell ice-pops/ice-lollies/popsicles anyway, so I didn’t really miss out.) There were a few more people wandering about than before, which was nice to see. The first stall I saw there was selling chocolate truffles. I was given a sample of a pistacchio one (samples!), and to compensate for the gelato absence I bought eight of those, and four each of milk chocolate and white chocolate. They were big truffles! And tasty too.

Niamh was looking for me in the main square, as she wanted me to sample(!) some cheese at one of the stalls there. We ended up getting a chunks of parmigiano, and a sort of grana padano from Sardinia. Both of these went back to Ireland with us. You can get parmigiano reggiano at a pinch in Irish supermarkets, but the quality isn’t the same as is in Italy. The good stuff doesn’t make it beyond the border, unless you wish to scour the countryside looking for specialist cheese shops.

Remembering we had failing light and lengthy journey home ahead of us, we decided to go back to car. We hadn’t really gotten out of the piazza proper, before we saw the cellars of Cantina Contucci were open to outside visits. We had our temperatures taken, and scrubbed our hands, and dived in.

At the end of the self-guided tour, the inevitable selling occurred, but once again successful due to us having a couple of samples. I bought a Rosso di Montepulciano, and discovered that that there are a bundle of names for the sangiovese grape variety. When people say that there are 1,000 varieties of grape in Italy, do they take these synonyms into account, I wonder? Niamh’s sister bought both a red and a white, but I don’t remember the variety I’m afraid. Once done we wandered back (downhill at least!) to get to the car.

I was still looking for a gelateria, but still had no luck, and sadly let the grumps get the better of me for a short while. The ladies stopped in a fancy haberdashery/accessory store (down on Google maps as ‘af luxury‘) for 20 or so minutes. I headed down on my own to see if there was a gelateria (nope), and to get some cash out (Bancomat out of order). My mood sadly detiorated while we waited for the ladies to be done. They seemed happy – which ultimately is the most important thing!

Once outside the town we entered a bar which proclaimed itself to be a gelateria, but left when we saw it’s just pre-packaged factory-made stuff. On a dime, I ashamedly told myself to cop on, and by the time we reached the car, I was back to being my contented self!

Below is the video of our trip!

The car journey home was a little stress-inducing – it got rainy and foggy, and when you’re unfamiliar with the road you find yourself tensing up, but thankfully it only was dark for us during the last quarter of the trip when we could see Volterra cresting on its butte. Niamh’s brother-in-law doesn’t seem to have been too stressed – he even noticed the headlight feature in the car where the lights light up the direction you’re aiming on corners, bends etc.

We were turning onto the road on which our resident’s carpark lies, when I did something unfortunate. I sneezed. I’ve been told I’m a loud sneezer sometimes (like a cross between a shout and a cough), and our unfortunate driver jumped when one leapt out of me. He didn’t know if I was shouting a warning or if he’d just run over something. Niamh was in tears laughing. I guess he was a little tense after all!

We rested back at the apartment for a few hours, before heading out to L’Incontro for an aperitivo – thankfully a table was found at the back for us. Some minor nibbles of bread a chips/crisps were had. Sometimes they do cooked nibbles, but not today. Probably just as well, as we were going to splash out on a dinner in Del Duca!

We arrived, and were greeted warmly by the matriarch of the family, Ivana – especially after we gave them a little present of Bailey’s truffles! If I recall correctly Claudia, the daughter and wine-making somilier, was out with friends that evening (she texted us to thank us for the chocolates the next day).

We ate well at Del Duca (what else is new?!). Niamh’s sister was so enamoured of the artichoke pasta dish she had, that we had to ask for the recipe. We got it a few weeks later, and it was pretty detailed! Alessandro not only covered the artichoke preparation, but covered the sauce and pasta-making too – what a gent! To say nothing of Claudia, who translated it for us. They really went out of their way to make us feel special. I got permission to post it, so I’ll post it separately for you.

Our poor guests had to put up me taking the obligatory photos!

We did something then I don’t think I had ever done before: a cheeseboard after dessert. It was mostly varieties of pecorino in varying stages of maturity. All of it so lovely.

Afterwards, some of us had their homemade limoncello. It is thick and tasty, and also the most uncommonly strong limoncello I’ve ever had, but I’d had it before and enjoyed it! Once done, we were just fit for our walk back, screen-watching and finally our bed.

Thanks for reading! Please follow, and leave a like and a comment. I would love to hear from you!

Picking up Guests (22/12/2021)

Picking up Guests (22/12/2021)

Bit of a short one this week, and very few photos I’m afraid!

I breakfasted, but got a little lazy and didn’t go for much of a walk – just around the local neighbourhood and back to the apartment. Here’s a snap from my favourite lane in Tuscany… Vicolo delle Prigioni.

We got to Pisa airport early and returned our smaller rental to Sixt. We walked to terminal and waited. And waited some more. We could see that our guests’ flight had landed, but there was no sign of them. We were clock-watching, as lunchtime was rapidly running out, and we had yet to get to the car rental place to pick up the vehicle big enough for four of us. Our original plan was to park at the carpark near the Field of Miracles, and walk into the centre of Pisa to look for a place to eat, but then it was thought it would be nice to get out of the city as soon as possible to grab something to eat. I found what looked like a great place (Hostaria “Il Granaio”) about 15 minutes south of Pisa Airport.

Back to the airport for now. Many people who were definitely Italian wandered out, but no sign of our guests (Niamh’s sister and her husband who were flying in from England). About 20 minutes later or so, the pasty folk began to make their way through the door, but we were waiting a good 10-15 minues more. They came out eventually, commenting that immigration took ages. Pesky Brexit wreaking its havoc once again, unfortunately.

We made our way outside and marched towards the Goldcar desk. Now we usually blow hot and cold on Goldcar, as they often try to sell you everything, and sometimes with strongarm tactics. This time, however, a pleasant slender man greeted us and before 10 minutes had passed, had handed us the keys to our car. We thought we were getting a Dacia Duster, but instead got an ‘equivalent’. I was happily surprised when I saw we had a Hyundai Tuscon instead, brand new, with a modern infotainment system. I was a little apprehensive, as parking such a beast can be problematic in many Italian hilltowns, let alone driving one around the curving, narrow roads. But we’d cross that bridge when we’d come to it. I was also surprised that it was a manual, rather than an automatic, given how new the vehicle was. Niamh and I lean towards automatics, as it’s just one thing less to have hassle about when you’re driving at night (remember, it was Winter, so the chances were that we would be driving sometimes without much light), possibly in rain on dangerous roads you may not be familiar with.

Anyway, we put the name of the restaurant into the on-board GPS and the nice robot-lady cooed that she had found a route. Niamh’s brother-in-law took the helm. He’d driven on the ‘wrong’ side of the road before, but it had been a while. Now when Niamh and I first came over, it was our first time driving a left-hand-drive car, and the first time driving on the right. We both were quite nervous at first as passengers, when the car seemed to get too close to verges and roadsigns. It didn’t take long for my inherent trust to kick in, but Niamh still gets very nervous as a passenger. Anyway, I found my nerves had returned somewhat during that first journey, wincing and shelling-up a little when it really looked like the car was going to smack off a roadsign. I was less concerned for myself, as the car is a beast, but more for the €900 deposit for the week that was paid! Anyway, minutes later I was all good again, and we drove towards the restaurant over what isn’t exactly the most enteraining terrain in Tuscany – the Arno flatlands – it’s like driving on wallpaper – featurelessness abounds.

We got to the restaurant in the allotted time, and found it closed. Damn you Google! It was 14:15, and it should have been open (just), but it was definitely shut-up and not just recently. I can only assume the owners hadn’t updated the seasonal opening times – so I can’t really blame Google. Disappointed, we decided that we’d just go straight home instead and maybe grab a sandwich. But providence often provides… which I suppose is what it’s designed to do! We got back to Volterra and walked to the apartment, and saw the Porgi l’Altra Pancia seemed to be still open. Rather than set another incorrect expectation, I checked inside and they confirmed it – still open at 15:30! Woohoo!

We went upstairs, left the guests’ luggage and before we raced out again, I remembered that we had a little box of Butler’s chocolates to give to the staff of the restaurant. What better time? We headed back down, and were shown to our seats. They were very surprised and delighted by the gift, and we found ourselves with a high-end bottle of Prosecco to start off the meal. Not too shabby! We also ordered wine, because it was nearly Christmas! Niamh’s sister had recently just completed a 3-month cookery course in the prestigious Ballymaloe Cookery School, and was eager to tear into some Tuscan goodies. Her husband, much like myself, is always keen to tuck in!

I didn’t take any photos of the meal (sorry!), as I wanted to relax with the guests without us having to feel like we were always on display. So remembering what we had becomes a bit of an issue for me. I know Niamh’s sister had a form of carbonara, and her husband some fab wild boar stew. I’m pretty certain I had peposo (beef slow-cooked in red wine and black pepper – they do it well there). I’d would put reasonable money on tiramisus too for a couple of us at the end of the meal. And I certainly remember wandering out of the restuarant a good deal more merry than when I’d wandered in!

It was dark out, so we could show our guests some of the Christmas lights in Volterra. It wasn’t a long walk, maybe 25 minutes, as I think we were all perhaps a little ‘tired’ after the meal! At least I got some shots of our meanderings this time!

We got home, chatted, screen-watched and imbibed a little, and that was that day! I hope you enjoyed the read, and I would love to hear some feedback from you! Thanks a lot. Next week: our trip to Montepulciano’s Christmas Markets!

A Volterran Walk, Art in La Sassa and a Cloudy Sunset in Micciano (21/12/2021)

A Volterran Walk, Art in La Sassa and a Cloudy Sunset in Micciano (21/12/2021)

I got up that morning to leave the trash out and film a walk around the town. On the way out of the apartment door, I bumped into the neighbour who was taking down his trash too. I offered to take it down for him, but he said he’d walk with me instead. We had a bit of a broken conversation, but he was saying he was surprised to see us as there are so many businesses closed for the season. I told him that it didn’t matter to us; that Volterra was lovely no matter the time of year, no matter the weather. He seemed pleasantly surprised by this. We said our farewells, and I went walking.

I didn’t take many photos, because I spent almost the whole time filming.

Here is the video I recorded – it’s a long one!

After I’d gotten home, showered and breakfasted, the neighbour called in again. He brought with him 4 shiny, freshly cut keys keys for the new lock on the apartment gate (see the previous blog). I paid and thanked him. He seemed hesitant to leave, but awkwardly spun on his heels and marched next door to his own apartment. That’s odd, I thought, but then head a revelation 30 seconds later: I’d forgotten to give him his own original back. I grabbed it, rushed to their door and knocked on it. I handed them the key back, denouncing myself as a mad idiot or somesuch, and got polite smiles (they are lovely, quiet people).

We hung around the apartment until we had an early lunch at La Sosta del Priore (as said in other blogs, this place was voted the best sandwich shop in the Pisan province). Ilenia (the owner) had advertised a burger with speck, and it looked lovely, so that’s what I had. Niamh had a split sausage sandwich. For the last year, Ilenia had owned the premises opposite, so people could buy her packaged produce, plus have a place to sit down and enjoy her fare. So, Niamh and I checked it out, and yummied down our sandwiches there.

Afterwards, we headed to the car. Why? We were going to another town I’d wanted to visit, but had never been to: La Sassa. But we had a mission there. An artsy one. We try to support artists in the region, and have begun a small selection which we have hung about the apartment. So far, we have art from:

  • Vanna Spagnolo, who has since left her premises in Volterra, to enjoy life in different ways. We have a couple of her lovely, colourful landscapes.
  • Fabrizio Ferrari, who produces abstract pieces. He sometimes uses acrylics, but frequently uses coloured Bic pens too – he produces some fantasticly detailed works – mostly sociological/political in theme, but not always.
  • Isabella Bisa – who produces some wonderful portraits, but mainly sells landscapes. She paints on canvases, handbags and purses. Although based in Pienza, she has a sales shop in Volterra.

This time we would be going to see Veronika, whose studio and shop is in La Sassa, in the Valdicecina – about 40 or so minutes drive from Volterra. On our way to the car, we stop off (yet again – they must have been tired of us by now) at our neighbours, to give them a little Christmas gift of Irish earthenware. It’s nice to be nice! Once again their apartment smelled wonderfully of slowly-cooking food.

We arrived at La Sassa, and as soon as we got out of the car, were immediately greeted by a local. The only person we saw at the time. Friendly place. La Sassa is perched improbably atop a narrow ridge, and the road heading up is winding and swirly, as you’d expect. The resulting views are wonderful though.

The town is small, but has a lot of higgledy-piggledy lanes throughout. Even though it’s barely larger than a hamlet, we were struggling to find Veronika’s studio.

I was on the verge of calling her when Niamh finally saw a tiny sign over a door in a hidden laneway which indicated the artist’s studio. We were greeted warmly (in Italian, although she is a Czech lady) and immediately ushered in to her small but busy studio where dozens of works lay leaning or piled throughout. We saw the work she had advertised on Facebook recently and offered the asking price. We had a look at a couple of other pieces, but decided we’d see how the one would do in our apartment for now. Here it is:

We left with work and had another potter about the village.

There was another little town I wanted to check out – Micciano. It looks like it’s nearby, but those pesky winding Tuscan roads make it otherwise. We bravely drove past the signs for Querceto (my favourite hamlet) and insisted we’d drive to our intended destination. There was a bar there which Google swore was open, but alas, it was still closed. Shame, as I was looking forward to interacting with locals a little and getting a chance to practice my Italian a little bit more. Plus there’s the “What they hell are these Irish people doing here?!” factor about it. Maybe it would open after – but it certainly hadn’t by the time we’d left.

Micciano is high up, and we manage to capture views of Saline di Volterra, from the other side – which isn’t something that happens with us too often. Sadly it was very cloudy, so the sunset was barely visible, but the colours were promising.

We then drove home. Not much happened on the way! You can see a very short video of La Sassa and Micciano below. I’d love to revisit both in sunnier weather some day.

Back home we chilled for a while, and hung the picure up. We were well-pleased with it. At the time of writing this, it seems that Veronika and Fabrizio have opened up a joint-venture store in Volterra, so we will definitely be visiting next time we’re over.

Then, as folk always do, we got restless and semi-hungry. We decided to head to Osteria Fornelli, and walked through the damp town to get to it. It was lit up so well and looked so inviting, but sadly it was hosting a private Christmas party, so back we went to Il Sacco Fiorentino.

Il Sacco Fiorentino is one of those places we don’t visit often enough – but I kind of know why. They used to serve the best wild boar burgers and fries, but seem to have taken them off their menu. Instead of still being huffy about that, we thought we’d finally give them another go (it’s been 18 months, Eoin – get over it!!).

We weren’t disappointed! If I had one complaint to make, it was that the portion of Zuppa alla Volterrana I got was freaking HUGE!

If I recall correctly, I had to finish off Niamh’s pasta. The sandwiches in La Sosta del Priore can leave you feeling fullish for a while. We rolled, groaning, out of the place… and took our shortest route home.

We got home, and Niamh went to bed while I stayed up for a bit and listened to music. Tomorrow, we would have to go to Pisa to pick up our guests!

Thanks for reading – please leave a comment or query – I’d love to hear from you!