Tag: alabaster

Miniatures at the Theatre (15/08/2021)

Miniatures at the Theatre (15/08/2021)

Buon Ferragosto! Or so it was. Ferragosto is a national holiday in Italy, which is held the same day as the Assumption of Mary. It has Roman roots, in that it is thought that the holiday is dervived from one celebrating Caesar Augustus. Who knows?

What we did know, is that we weren’t going to leave town and brave the usually crazy traffic that day. So we had a nice day pottering about in Volterra instead.

We started off with the morning walk. This time, my brother came with me, as he is an avid hiker, and weathers the hills and steps of Volterra very well. Some snaps ensued!

Then we screen-watched, gamed, wrote until lunch time. Then we wandered out to the flea market. Niamh subsequently went back there later and might a coupld of sets of drinking glasses (I broke one later that week – d’oh). I spotted this little piece of art, but we didn’t go for it in the end – it was a bit mismatched with most of the other pieces we had in the apartment.

Getting a table without a booking was proving tricky in Volterra again this year. It wasn’t in 2019, but since the pandemic Volterra’s tourist numbers have risen. Fortunately, we were able to find a table for three in La Vecchia Lira at a pinch… it was the second-last table in the place.

Niamh and I had been there a couple of times, and remembered enjoying the food, and that the owner was really enthusiastic. But it was this visit for me that really caused its star to shine. It leapt up mightily in our estimation.

I went for ravioli stuffed with cod and leek in a seafood bisque, while Niamh had cinghiale (wild boar) stew with grilled veggies and my brother a plate of pappardelle al cinghiale. We were all astounded by the quality and taste of our dishes – everything was simply amazing. As it was lunch, our plan was just for one course, but we had tirimasu afterwards, and it was superb too. Put La Vecchia Lira on your map.

After lunch, we had another stroll about the town. It was (unsurprisingly) a warm day. Our stroll took us to the ‘modern’ theatre (Teatro Persio Flacco), a whippersnapper with a birth-year of 1820, as opposed to the older Roman Theatre, which was in the 70’s AD.

Apparently Niamh had already been inside the theatre with her sister on an earlier day, and so opted not to go in.

Once inside, we gave a decent donation and proceeded to the first exhibit. It seemed to be a modern art show. A man was sitting down, and he seemed to perk up when I showed an interest, so I asked him if he was the artist. I guess my Italian was so broken, that he immediately sought help, which arrived in the guise of one of the museum’s volunteers. I thought it a little comedic at the time that we proceeded to completely skip the modern art exhibition, and continued onto the next two. The first of these was an alabaster exhibition, the highlight being band instruments made from alabaster (Volterra being very famous for its alabaster works) which were arrayed in front of the proscenium. Escepcially impressive was the complete drumkit forged in that delicate medium.

The next exhibition was the one I wanted to see: a series of perfectly-made sculptures of Volterran buildings and ruins by Mauro Parenti. We were led along by the guide with whom I conversed in my awful Italian (it’s getting better, though, I swear!). He was kind to give us his time, and he definitely gave us some useful information, but like many things imparted verbally, much of it is lost to me now.

The miniatures looked so perfect, that afterwards my brother and I searched for broken stones in the real versions to see if they matched the miniatures. They didn’t but the sculptures were a marvel, nonetheless.

The real-deals:

Later that evening we went to La Mangatoia, and had pizzas. I like the pizzas there, and wolfed-down a lovely 4-cheese! And yes, it included Gorgonzola… if there isn’t blue cheese on your 4-cheese pizza, then you’re doing it wrong.

Finally, to walk off the essentials carbs and fats we had a walk around town.

Once home, I took a couple of shots from our upper and lower terraces – one featuring a fun bit of shadow-play by my brother. Then it was beer, screen and bed.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave a comment and I’ll answer any (sane) question you send my way.

Volterra’s Art Museum

Volterra’s Art Museum

We crashed after bringing our guest to the airport, and then lazed about the apartment, screenwatching.  We headed out to Il Pozzo degli Etruschi for some lunch.  We were sat down the back, which we’d never been before, and so saw that they had a covered Etruscan well!

I had pici with lamb sauce, and Niamh had a boar chop with baked rosemary potatoes, with a side of grilled veggies.

A small thunderstorm forced us back to the apartment, where I stayed for a little sleep.  I got up around 17:00 and headed out to the town’s pinacoteca (art gallery).  It’s €8 for an adult to visit and allows entrance to the art museum and the neighbouring alabaster museum, which I visited first.  I think this museum is also covered by the Volterra Card, which you can buy for €16, which allowed entrance to many of the main attractions over a 3 day period.

As I said in one of my introductory posts, Volterra is the European centre for alabaster art, and has been for millenia, on and off.  The Etruscans carved it, which you can see in their funerary urns.  The museum here, has small mixture over a few floors of new and old pieces, spanning the near 3,000 years alabaster has been worked here.

At the top, is a reconstruction of a medieval alabaster workshop, along with a couple of nice views of the town below – including a little peek at the Roman ruins.

You can access the art gallery from the mezzanine below the top floor of the alabaster museum.  This takes you to the floor which houses the museum’s masterpiece: Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition from the Cross.


The red-haired, lamenting figure in the bottom right is often though to be the painter himself (‘Rosso’ being a nickname).  It’s interesting, though, that there is evidence that Judas Iscariot also had red hair, so the figure acts as a handy double.  It’s a pre-Renaissance piece, which is commonly believed to be one of the best early examples of Mannerism, which led to adoption of the style in Renaissance works. 

Most of the artworks on display are pre-Renaissance, ranging from mid 1200’s to late 1400’s, and thematically are religious in nature – inevitably, really – they were the ones with the money to commission the pieces.

There are also a couple some classic Renaissance works.

And this fresco by Daniele da Volterra (Daniele Ricciarelle), which was painted for the Medici family in the mid 1500’s.  The family crest is one of the main eye-catcher’s of the scene!


You can also make out the coat-of-arms of Volterra on the left-hand side – the shield-mounted dragon.

There is also another room with works by a collection of Volterran artists, with works ranging from Renaissance to mid-1700’s.

I think it’s a worthwhile visit, if you have a passing interest in historical art, whether you like the theme or not.

On the way home, I stopped off in La Sosta del Priore and grabbed a couple of sausage and onion sambos for us.  We stayed in and screenwatched for the rest of the evening.  Talk about settling in!  I went to bed early, as I knew I wanted to get this blog written before we (hopefully) head to Florence in the morning.  We have two routes open to us: a slightly quicker route, two-thirds of which is on dual-carriageway, or a route through some wonderful countryside.  Hmmmmm…

Hopefully, we’ll park successfully, learn how to use the tram and tell you folks all about it tomorrow.

A Trip to Massa Marittima

A Trip to Massa Marittima

I took a day off blogging yesterday – apologies! You didn’t miss much from the day before yesterday… we stayed in town all day. We had food we’d had before and just lazed about. No wait… we will have a guest on Friday, so we had to buy and assemble a second fan. That’s as exciting as it got.

Moving on to yesterday, I skipped my usual morning walk and did a little writing, and after we’d breakfasted and showered, we got in the ‘car’ and headed off towards Massa Marittima – a gorgeous little town in The Maremma, an area in south-west Tuscany less frequented by tourists, but no less beautiful. It had been so hot the past couple of days, that, after we’d turned on the aircon, I sighed in huge relief; it was great to have some sort of ambient temperature controller, rather than just having to rely on fans!

I took a few snaps of the countryside on the way. You’ll see silver pipes running throughout the landscape in a couple of the shots. The area is geothermally active, and energy companies are using this natural resource. There is a hot debate (pun intended), between the locals in the area and the government in Rome as to whether geothermal energy is actually ‘renewable’, and therefore deserving of certain tax-breaks being given for renewable sources. I hope that the Tuscans win out, or it could spell trouble for the employment and businesses of thousands in the area.

We drove by Pomerance, Montecerboli and Castelnuovo Val di Cecina, and half-promised to stop in one of them on our return journey (we didn’t – sorry – some other time!). You’ll have to forgive the occasional reflection in the car window, and the filth of the windscreen.

We arrived, and parked in an area that was free-of-charge last year, but was €1 p/h this year.  We bought enough time for a little over 3 hours’ parking, and attempted to guess where the sun was going to go, in the hope that we’d parked in a spot that would soon be in the shade.  Then we headed up to the town… more hills!  

We got up to the main square, and saw that works were ongoing on bleecher seats for their own medieval activities here.  In fact, there were drummers and pennant-folders marching within the town, but I failed to get a good shot of them.

We had a mooch around the shops to see if we could pick up any quirky, artsy objects for our apartment.  There was some nice stuff there, and not too expensive, but not fully to our taste.

Yes, that 13th century painting of a fertility tree does have penises for fruit hanging off of it.  Can we all be adults about it?  No?  Good 😉

A couple of cute restaurants were nestled up one of the characterful, narrow side lanes.  We chose one called Il Gatto e la Volpe (The Cat and the Fox – it’s not the most brilliantly kept website, sadly), you can see in the large picture above.  We sat outside at one of the small tables.  Niamh had bruschette and I had ribollita (a twice-boiled soup, thickened with bread).  Both were excellent.  Then we waited for our mains.  And waited.  And waited some more.  We always appreciate we are on ‘Italian time’ over here, and are usually chill about lengthy mealtimes.  However, that’s usually when we know we can have a few drinks and get back to our apartment.  Niamh was driving, and we had our minds on the parking ticket aswell.

About 45 minutes later we were told that our food would be arriving subito (immediately), and it came 2 minutes later.  Phew – well in time for getting back to the car in the end.  Niamh had large pasta parcels (I don’t recall their name), stuffed with ricotta, smothered in a minced beef ragú and I had pici with a white ragú – the meat was rabbit.  Again, the food was fab – I just had to watch out for bones in my ragú, which is often the problem with slow-cooked, stewed sauces, I have found.

We got back to the car, and found it in open sunlight.  I guess I’ll never make a navigator!  The temperature guage read 43 celsius in the car, so we had to let it cool down in the aircon, while we readied Google Map’s GPS for the journey home.  

Again, I took snaps – including one of part of the older quarter of Pomerance.  When we got home (taking a quick photo of the workshop of probably Volterra’s finest alabaster sculptists), I had an icecream from L’Incontro.  They had coconut – one of my faves!  It was needed too, as the forecast was for 29 degrees, but it was 33 when we returned.

Tired, we lazed about the apartment and watched a bit of telly.  I’ve started watching Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix.  Not bad at all, although if you’ve got a queasy disposition, maybe give it a miss!  

Still, it wasn’t enough to put me off my food.  We wondered what we were going to eat in the evening.  There was pasta and some leftover veggies in the fridge – and some vacuum-packed grilled peppers.  But while I am not a fan of wasting food, I also hate just throwing crap together on a plate to get rid of it.  Recipes were invented for a reason, and I want to enjoy what I eat!  Sooooo… we, um, did this:


Our first evening take-out.  Sorry, not sorry!

After more telly, we went to bed.

I got up, put the smelly organic trash out, and walked a route I’d walked before – past the prison gate, down through some shortcut steps to the road that would lead me to Volterra’s best free carpark (by the Docciola font).  I walked up the steps and was reminded of something else I’d seen on my previous walk of this route.  

On the Friday before the Medieval Fair, I’d walked up some of the steps that led to Docciola, when I saw two women at work near the top of the flight of 200 stairs.  They were pulling weeds in time for the large influx of fair-attendees.  Turns out they did it for the other staircase too.  That was a pretty Herculean labour – well done to all who managed to do this in the time allotted!

No firm plans today, except that I might get my hair cut.  The experiment to see how we could live, and I guess all the mundane stuff is part of life.

See you next time!