Tag: airport

Our Return in October (09/10/2021)

Our Return in October (09/10/2021)

Time moved along, as it always does. I began to struggle a little more with work-based anxiety, and when I look back on it now (a little anxious/sad after having just come back after a Christmas visit), I see the fault really lay with me. My workload was not crippling, although it challenged me given my condition. I took on new things, and I am glad that I have been so well-managed throughout this stage of my life.

It must be remembered that when you are anxious, the quickest route to recovery lies through you. It look me ’til late November/early December to realise that (again!)… but… I’m projecting too far ahead.

In any event, Volterra proved, as always, a haven from my most of my symptoms. Oh, I always felt it lurking over my shoulder, but exercising my toolset always takes less effort when I’m back in Italy. I cannot rely on this, however. I should be the same no matter where I am or what I’m doing, more or less… Ireland or Italy, filiming/writing or watching the box, at home or exploring – it’s all the same in mindfulness.

Sorry about that! Back to the travel stuff!

We just went alone this time. The first thing we noticed: the airport was busier again this time, than when it was in early August.

I think I had sandwich for brunch at the airport. Hard to remember – it was a functional meal anyway, as it always is in most airports! We boarded without fuss – this time opting for zero checked-in luggage, to enable us to move through Pisa airport quickly. I had taken a note of what I had and didn’t have in my inventory in Volterra – so I didn’t have much to bring with me, outside of some slightly warmer clothes and, of course, my tech.

I got some snaps from the ‘plane – well, mostly alps…

Once off, we had a little bit of a wait, as immigration officers took our temperatures (electronically), and so with only 2 officials available, they could only release us slowly for identification, in order to adhere (somewhat) to social distancing guidelines. Once through, we skidaddled outside and headed to Sixt for our car. This time, we managed to fulfil a years’-long ambition of driving a Fiat 500!

It was a manual for a change, but the tech within it wasn’t bad, and we found it super-easy to bluetooth our phones so we could use CarPlay – fair play, Fiat. We sent the email to the Volterran Municipal Police that our resident’s parking permit would be associated with a new car registration for a week. Niamh did the honours once again (she always drives from the airport – I don’t think I’ve ever driven to/from the airport, as a matter of fact!).

Because we arrived a little while after lunch, no places were open for food. We did what any self-respecting visitor to Volterra should do: we had a walk (after having left our luggage in the apartment)!

We stopped off for refreshments at L’Antica Velathri Cafe and L’Isola del Gusto, before continuing on our way.

Later on that evening, after we’d been back to the apartment, we went downstairs to Porgi l’Altra Pancia. If you’ve read my blogs before (or are Italian), you will know that the name of the restaurant means ‘grow another belly’. Both the name and their food make me smile.

The food there was as delicious as always. To cap it off, they are also such lovely and welcoming people. After growing another belly, we took in the town at night.

If I recall correctly, it was the beginning of a dry, fine week for us – which was lucky as I think the weather was quite wet the previous week. I guess someone was smiling down on us!

And that’s it again for now. Please leave a like and a comment if you wish – questions and suggestions are also always welcome!

Prison, Tournament, then Home (22/08/2021)

Prison, Tournament, then Home (22/08/2021)

It was our last day of this August trip, but seeing as our flight wasn’t until the evening, we still had time to mooch about town. The fortezza (prison) had opened its gates again (so to speak), and one of its towers was available for a guided tour. Now, I had visited it before, but Niamh hadn’t.

We walked up the ramp and along the walls to the entrance to prison gardens. If I recall correctly it was still €5 per person, but this time there was a tour in English. Due to the pandemic and the different languages on offer, there was a bit of a wait to get in – they said maybe 30 minutes. We each bought a bottle of water, and explored the gardens – including the section out front which wasn’t on offer before.

No sooner than had we walked around the gardens, when we were called to take the English tour. I think our group was referred to as gli stranieri (the foreigners) between he tour guides, rather than ‘these people’, ‘this group’, ‘the English speakers’. This rankles with me a little, but it could be just an Italian thing. No harm, no foul. We went in… my disappointment didn’t quite end there.

Last time, the tour lasted a good 30 minutes, and a lot more information was given out. This time, the guide brought us from floor to floor, giving us no more than 2-3 sentences at each stop before moving on. We had time for shots from the windows, and there are some fabulous views of the town from the tower. Anyway, we were done in 10-12 minutes and bundled out.

If you have any Italian, I’d recommend taking the Italian tour, if you feel up to it; definitely more bang for your buck.

We had a lunch I’m afraid I don’t remember much about, and then Niamh and I went to Piazza dei Priori to have a look at the ceremonial opening of a competition between the medieval crossbowmen/women (balestrieri) from several different towns. We tried to get into the piazza by Ristorante Etruria, but unfortunately, the event was limited to certain numbers, and so by the time we got there, we had to wait until people started to leave before we would have been allowed to enter. We didn’t have the patience for that, so hung around the Torre del Porceillino, trying to steal glances over the temporary meshed fence.

Each team was fanfared-in by their accompanying medieval marching band and flag-wavers (sbandieratori). We hung around for 30 or so minutes, but as our time to leave was rapidly approaching, we decided to head back to the apartment.

There’s always a melancholy when we leave the place, and this time was no exception. However, as my anxiety symptoms were relatively low, I was almost excited to return to work to see how I’d cope (sadly, for the first time in nearly 2 weeks I had a sleepless night as soon as I got home to Kilcullen). We drove the usual route, always marvelling at the farmhouses in the valleys near the town. The hilltown of Peccioli still had some sunflowers in a field nearby, albeit wilting rapidly, but they made a pretty picture.

Finally, to Sixt to drop back the car, and head into the terminal for our flight home.

But we went back! These blogs will continue, detailing our week in October. I hope you enjoyed reading this – please leave a like and a comment. I would love to hear from you.

We Came Back, Baby (04/08/2021)

We Came Back, Baby (04/08/2021)

We had a short holiday in the West of Ireland back in June, and then decided to pick our date for our return to Volterra. Looking at the vaccination schedule and cycles and waves of Covid, we made our move to book a couple of weeks in August. This time with guests: Niamh’s sister for the first week, my brother for the second.

Then the nerves set in (what else is new?).

The weeks seemed to flow at times like treacle, and other days it sped by. There were hiccups, of course, mostly around flights. Aer Lingus cancelled a ton of their European schedule, so Niamh had to scramble to re-book flights with Ryanair and re-do the booking for the carpark and carhire. Our guests had to manage some of that too. Then Ryanair shifted both outbound and inbound flights to later on in the day… cue further nervousness.

Then we finally found a bit of a saving: we’d get Niamh’s sister to drop us to the airport, and my brother to bring us home… presto! No carparking charges!

The day finally came, and everything went off without any further hitches. I think my anxiety was possibly slightly higher during this airport experience than I was last year. You never know why… it is what it is. I never really felt truly uncomfortable, though.

The airport was certainly busier than last year.

We’d arrived at the airport in plenty of time, and so were able to shop and sit *twice* for food. The ladies had sandwiches, and after I had an overpriced burger. It was nice, though – it hit the spot!

At the departure gates, there were the usual checks of passports, but really only cursory checks of our vaccination certs and passenger locator forms. Some dickhead in the line mouthed off to a staff member when he wasn’t wearing a mask, but soon piped-down and masked-up when confronted a second time.

We got on the plane, and we pretty much left on time – certainly nothing like last year.

The flight was great, if fairly packed… social distancing not a thing on these flights – although everyone was wearing a mask unless they were eating/drinking. The people density on the flight was pretty much the same as last year – although people were adhering to mask-wearing more this year.

We didn’t have any carousel cases with us – just carry-on, so we… um… waited for a longish time at passport control while they slowly funnelled about 20 people at a time. Then we were off!

And off to Sixt! These guys are expensive, but service and vehicle-wise, they’re the best we’ve tried. There are no shysters here. Although when we opted for an upgrade to an automatic VW T-Cross, we considered the initial upgrade price a little too steep, and they discounted it – I’m not thrilled with that aspect, but it goes to show that you should always refuse the first offer!

We took the obligatory half-dozen shots of the car to ensure we had no scratches that were previously. We’ve never had issues with scratches or previous damage (that wasn’t clearly documented) with Sixt. In fact, the last time we were here, we brought back a car with a very light scratch across about half the length of the car – it was a finger-paint job, but still they didn’t charge us for it.

The car journey to Volterra went well too. The sky flickered with lightning a couple of times before settling down. It reminded me of the beginning of our longer stay a couple of years ago. We arrived similarly late – at least 23:30, if not later.

We didn’t have our parking permit arranged yet, so we had to find a free spot. Almost all (not the underground carpark) public pay parking sites are free from 20:00 to 08:00, and we found a free spot in the carpark next to the Roman Theatre ruins by the Porta Fiorentina. It would mean I’d have to get up and move the car to the large free carpark the next day, but I didn’t care. I was here!

I was told by Niamh and her sister, I was practically skipping up the street. I have to admit, I was pretty damn happy at being back, and many of my symptoms seemed to have melted away. That was probably because I only had one thing on my mind:

We’d had the apartment cleaned before we arrived, so the only thing we had to do was arrange the bedwear and hit the hay, which we duly did. If I recall correctly, I slept ok, depsite the heat. We only have fans; no aircon – and August is the hottest month there.

I’ll update the blog with what we did during our days here over the next month or two, but please do also check out my YouTube Channel (Our Man in Volterra; I’m learning, be gentle!), and specifically this short music video showing our journey to Volterra.

Thanks for reading and watching – I hope you enjoyed it!

Flying out to Italy – 22/07/2020

Flying out to Italy – 22/07/2020

Two things were bothering me about the trip:

  1. We were facing issues travelling to Italy during Covid; and
  2. Spending hours on end in a mask, whilst cooped up in an airport and in an aircraft with anxiety had me dreading the day – and going through security and temperature checks at both ends.

Well, the gods smiled on us, thankfully, as Italy at the time had just been announed to be on Ireland’s green list for travel (a far cry from the way things are over here and there currently, sadly). Secondly, I woke up feeling few symptoms! I worked a half-day, and then we drove to the airport.

I’ve never seen anything like the airport. It was downright spooky.

There was nobody around. Or almost nobody. The departures schedule on display took up one-and-a-half screens for the entire day. It was mad.

Anyway, our temperature wasn’t checked at Dublin, and we breezed through security. We grabbed something to eat, and hunkered down and waited for the flight. I wasn’t too bothered by my symptoms at all, thank goodness.

We got on the plane and waited. And waited… and waited some more. The aircraft wasn’t budging. Eventually, maybe the guts of an hour later, a member of Dublin’s Fire Brigade enters, wearing full PPE gear. Amazingly, a passenger down the back of the craft burst stitches he had, and had to be re-sewn up. Jesus!

The flight was smooth, and two-and-a-half hours later we floated a landing down into Pisa. Fabulous. In addition, we had no problems with the temperature check, and we were able to grab our baggage really quickly too.

We went to Sixt to rent our car (can’t recommend them highly enough – few hidden costs, good service and selection of cars), and drove to Volterra.

We had work the next day (work laptops enable us to work remotely), and so were mindful of the fact that we were in Volterra a bit after 23:00. Our bags rattled along the paved street, and turning towards Via Gramsci, I spotted Georgina (I apologise if that’s not your name!), and she spotted us while sweeping outside L’Isola del Gusto (best gelato in town – one of the best in Tuscany) and we waved at each other happily!

Trudging up the 76 steps proved not too difficult, as for weeks I had been climbing up and down our own stairs in the mornings before work as exercise. We set our laptops up to use wireless and then went to bed!

A Grand Lunch at Del Duca

A Grand Lunch at Del Duca

A short one today. I didn’t get up to much beyond writing and eating. During our cookery course a couple of days ago, we booked a table in the restaurant the instructor’s family owns. We toddled up there at around 13:00, and we sat in their lovely terrace at the back.

They were having a busy service, and as we had all the time in the world, we were prepared to wait without any fuss. We got our wine (‘Marcampo’, 50/50 merlot/sangiovese), and a nice little bruschettini with finely diced tomato on top. I usually shy away from ‘obvious’ tomatoes, but gave this a bash – it was lovely. I’d had it before, when we visited last time.

We ordered, and while the food was slow to come, we didn’t mind – we had time, and the staff who knew us, also knew we had time!  They brought out their restaurant-baked breads for us to nibble on while we waited.

The starters came.  The ladies had salads (Niamh the Caprese, our guest a salad with crispy bacon and cheese).  I had a carbonara with grated black truffle, which was excellent!

Myself and Niamh swapped main courses when compared to the last time we ate here: this time she had the beef cheek, and I the fish.  Our guest also had the fish.  I really liked it, but I think I preferred the beef.

Between courses, we engaged in conversation with the mamma and the daughter (our cooking instructor), who are both lovely, welcoming people.

Pigs that we are, we also had a dessert!  I had what I had last time – twirled 70% chocolate mousse – Niamh had a coffee mousse with cherry sorbet, and our guest had a fruit plate.  I loved mine, and had a taste of Niamh’s mousse, which was amazing.  I don’t do the fruit thing, but I was told it was nice.

When finished, we were given a selection of petit fours, and a glass of extremely potent limoncello.  The latter is made by the matriarch of the family, and uses lemons straight from the Amalfi coast.  It was nice, a little thick – and easily the most buckling limoncello I’ve ever had!

We paid the bill, and there were hugs exchanged, and afterwards had every intention of going to the pinacoteca (art gallery), but changed our minds on the way.  The ladies stayed out and about for a walk, while I went back to the apartment for a bit of a snooze and some screen-watching.  I took this little curiousity on the way there – I don’t know what it is… an accident, or a weird art installation, but the colours contrast wonderfully.

IMG_6522

Nothing done again last night, and this morning I didn’t go out for a walk (again!).  We had to get up at 04:30 to bring our guest back to the airport.  We went straight to bed when we got home, and to be honest, I’m still a little tired.

Don’t think we have plans today, but there are rumblings about us attempting to go to Florence tomorrow morning, so fingers crossed!