Tag: asian

Quick Trip to Pontadera (31/08/2022)

Quick Trip to Pontadera (31/08/2022)

My brother and I got up and had a walk, mostly inside the walls. We walked past Del Duca, up by the park walls and along the prison fences. We then walked back towards town on the road, but ducked right towards our carpark, before swinging a left at the Alab’Arte workshop. I don’t come here too often, as it’s purely residential – but a change is a good as a rest. We then took the stairs down towards Docciola, before swinging back on stairs to the left. My brother is a hiker, so I wanted to take him on an uppy-downy route (I think that’s what they’re officially called!).

The light that morning was strange, and somehow brighter and more yellow than normal than it usually is on a morning – perhaps some haze diffused the bright sun. Some of the photos as a result (I think!) are wonderful.

We wandered around the carpark in the north-eastern corner of the walls, before taking a look at the Roman theatre ruins and the hills and Apuan Alps beyond. Then we went to Porta San Francesco and from there to Porta San Felice. Finally, what killed us off was the monster climb up Via della Pietraia, at the top of which I took the last shot of the rainbow. It’s a good route, as it takes you all over the town, and keeps cardio going with hillclimbs. We were suitably sweaty by then and headed back to the apartment to eat and shower.

I used to get folded and battered weekly by a Thai lady (they call it massaged), and found it enormously beneficial. I hadn’t had one in a long time, and I felt a little tight after recent walks around Volterra. The problem is, you can’t find a Thai massage place within 20km of Volterra. In fact, the one I found that seemed reputable and was getting good scores on Google (Ban Thai) in Pontedera. We left our guest behind us, as we had every intention of returning in time for lunch.

We parked and I left Niamh off while I went to the place. Niamh crossed the railway tracks into the older part of town (recommended, by the way) for shopping. The shop was closed… d’oh! I called and found out she was open for appointments only. I managed to talk her into giving me an hour. She arrived a few minutes later, and I was suitably chastised into remembering to book in advance next time. In fairness to her, her anger didn’t show in the massage, and I was out an hour later – suitably energised and limber.

I found Niamh about 20 minutes later, and looking at the clock and feeling the aching emptiness in our tummies we decided to forsake my brother and go to lunch. A quick call later (we’d let him know he should take care of lunch himself), we went to a nearby Chinese place. If you are a regular reader, you’ll know that we are on an eternal quest to find a Chinese restaurant in Tuscany that does Western-Chinese stirfries tolerably well (fried rice and dumplings are pretty good). After talking to several ex-pats and Italians about this, it would seem that our quest is in vain – but we are nothing if not stubborn (and hungry), and so we carry on regardless.

So now we took our fight to Pontedera. We completely bypassed the Piaggio Museum (Piaggio being the manufacturer of the Italian ‘Vespa’ scooters and ‘Ape’ 3-wheeled mini-mini-vans. We’ll have to go there for another vlog and blog. La FelicitĂ  is tantilisingly opposite the museum, but we were just too focused on our bellies.

Some of the resulting meal was nice – again, the dumplings and rice – but the curry was ok, and the chicken with peppers we ordered was like so many other stir-fries: soy and salt. Cheap. I figure that Italians don’t particularly like their veggies mixed in with their meat, so Chinese restaurants tend to give less of a crap about stir fries. It bothers me! Still, there are worse things happening in the world!

Once fed, we waddled back to the car and headed home. I snuck a granita in from L’Isola del Gusto, and then chilled for the afternoon.

That evening we went to the piazza for dinner – to Ristorante Etruria to be precise. As we had all been fed that afternoon just had a single course. They gave us some nice salted flatbread to whet our appetites. It is a touristy place, but sometimes it’s nice to eat in the square, and it has something for everyone.

Ok, maybe more than one course!

We finished off a relaxing evening with a short stroll to Antica Velathri Café for a couple of beers/cocktails.

Home and screen-watching! Thanks for reading to the end. Please leave a comment or question, I’d love to hear from you!

Why are people so quiet about you, Follonica? (28/05/2022)

Why are people so quiet about you, Follonica? (28/05/2022)

Back in October of last year, we took an inland route to get to Castiglione della Pescaia. On the way back to Volterra, we drove part of the way hom by the sea. Cresting over the top of a hill, we got a dynamite view of Follonica – it looked so lovely from above, and so we promised to return some day. We drove through some of its suburban areas to get to the E80 and home.

It only took us about 7 months to return! Anyway, we went by the quickest route (the aforementioned E80 from Cecina), and I think it only took us about 75 minutes to get there. I thought I had selected a nice free parking spot. It was free for sure, but sadly when walking out of the urban area, Google led us astray a little and took us too far south. I thought we’d have a 5 minute walk. It turned out to be 15-20 minutes. However, it turned out to be something of a happy accident, as we discovered the free beaches south of the main part of the city.

As we were fully dressed and had no beach gear with us, I can’t say what the water was like, but the sand was nice and golden! So, we continued farther north back towards town. There were houses right on the beach, between which we got more glimpses of free beaches. There seems to be an enormous stretch of such strands immediately south of Follonica’s main promenade – a tip for those of you who are tired of the Lido-life and don’t mind lugging your own gear. One thing negative to note is that you would have a bit of a walk to get to any beachside amenities.

Something that it puzzling to me is that I heard Tuscans extolling the virtues of Castiglioncello, Rosignano Solvay, Marina di Pisa (the south part anyway), the Gulf of Baratti, Marina di Cecina – but nobody ever mentioned Follonica. Does it have a bad reputation? Do they just want to keep it secret? I don’t know either way – comment if you do know, though! Maybe Italians just prefer beaches with all the gear ready for use.

Another thing we found, which we wouldn’t have had we paid for parking in the centre, is that Follonica has a Centro Storico (old town)! It’s far from medieval, but is maybe a couple of centuries old. There only seem to be a few blocks in it – so it’s small.

Soon after, we followed the road over and snaked around to the left to get our first view of the main promenade, before which lay yet another free stretch of beach.

There was a ton of free space on this beach, even though it was a Saturday and quite warm. We might come here next time we have a hankering for some sea. We then hit the beginning of the proper part of the promendade and went a little deeper into town, a little past one of the apartment buildings that towers over the rest of the city, and past that pierside building you can see in the distance above.

It was by now the middle of lunchtime, and we were starving. We took the opportunity of being in a bigger town and headed to an Asian restaurant, in our ongoing quest to find somewhere that serves decent stir-fries. We didn’t quite find it. We went here, and found a pleasantly familiar menu, with a few cantonese favourites – it was typically extensive. Like many Chinese restaurants in Italy, they do fried rice and steamed dumplings very well, but it all falls apart in the stir fries. The meat is cheap, the sauces seemingly flavoured with soy or salt – apart from the curries, which are barely passable. I don’t know why this is! It’s annoying and baffling! The veggies were nice and crunchy at least.

We didn’t want to eat too much as we knew we had a dinner date later that evening. The portion sizes are actually quite small, so that was good.

When done, we headed out to burn some additional calories along much of the promenade.

We stopped after about 500m, and it seemed to go on for at least another 5-700m. It was getting warm, so we stopped at a lively gelateria – Sogni Golosi (greedy dreams). On the way there, we passed by a tented area – the town was getting ready to party! I can’t remember the flavours I selected at the gelateria, but I do remember being hugely impressed. Definitely worth a go if you’re in town.

We wandered inland a bit in a rough direction back towards the our parking spot, and I once again was impressed by the centre’s pedestrian areas, packed full of eateries, shops and bars. It was quiet that day, but I can imagine it getting very busy in high-season.

We enjoyed a nice (if lengthy – thanks, Eoin!) walk back to the car, and took the same road home.

Below you can find a very short and shaky video of footage of our day out.

Needless to say, we chilled after we came back, and then we went out for our last meal of this stay in Volterra. Where better than Del Duca? We skipped aperitivi (our lunch was big enough!), and got treated like minor royalty as always! The food was pretty damn good too! I will really miss that place when it closes.

And that was that! We few home the next day and life began as normal on the Monday.

The good news, though? We came back in mid-August to mid-September… met new friends, experienced the Medieval Festival and Red Night again and enjoyed weather than was hot, but thankfully not appressively so. More to follow over the coming months!

Please let me know if you enjoyed this, or if you had any queries about travelling in Tuscany – especially west-central Tuscany. I’d love to hear from you!