Tag: asylum

A Couple of Walks and the Trouble with TIM

A Couple of Walks and the Trouble with TIM

I dropped the bin down yesterday, and bumped into our neighbour, who’d been at the seaside for the last month.  His skin was as brown as an oak’s.  Fair play to him.

While I sat in and wrote, (the guts of 1,000 words – yay me!) Niamh went out for a walk.  She took a route I’m unfamiliar with (there aren’t many of those), in and around the south-end of the urban stretch, near the hospital.  She found that there are plenty of abandoned/closed buildings around there.  I guess these all must have been part of the overall complex that comprised the mental hospital – as there were 6,000 patients/inmates in there at one stage.  She took some pics.

For lunch, Niamh had some mixed meats and salad.  I continued my quest to sample as many street-food vendors as I could.  I stopped on the way, at Ristorante Enoteca Del Duca to book a table for two for Friday night, to help us celebrate a special occasion.  I’m looking forward to this – Del Duca has the best technical cooking in Volterra, and a fab selection of wines.  Anyway, my eventual destination was far from Del Duca; it was Mesopotamia, to be exact… Mesopotamia Doner Kebap!  It’s a simple Turkish kebab style place, but unlike other eateries, this place often stays open super-late.

I grabbed one of their kebap sandwiches and took it home.  The photo makes it look a little dry, but it was quite tasty – I added a little cabbage, salad, hot sauce and sour cream.  The meat isn’t bad at all – definitely a couple of steps up from the savaloy we’re used to over in Ireland.  For €4, I’ll be having one again!


We crashed for a while that afternoon – while boggling over the news in Britain – and then had to call into our property managers to see if she could assist us in setting up a direct debit for our internet service provider (TIM).  We thought we’d set one up before, but when we arrived back in April to spend 2 weeks in the apartment for the first time, we found that we’d been cut off, and had to go to a Tabacchi to pay the outstanding bills manually.

We got partially set up, but they have a blocker on completing the process, unless it’s done from our own Wifi connection with them.  We went home and did this, and we *think* we’re set up!  The lady at the property managers also called the furniture store in Navacchio to see when our stuff might be delivered.  They (eventually!) said that they would call back within 48 hours with a date.  They used the fact that we are in a Centro Storico (historical centre) to add bureaucracy, even though we pointed this out to them when setting up delivery in the first place.  Anyway… fingers crossed the delivery occurs soon.

We had our evening meal (some of the soup I cooked a couple of days ago) earlier than usual – around 18:30 – and sat in for a while, before heading out to Antica Velathri Cafè for a drink.  I had a couple of cocktails (Long Island Iced Tea variant (without tequila) and an invented cocktail with Kahlua.  He made the latter fun by attempting to roast coffee beans in the foam at the top of the drink, but the torch burned them and made them a little bitter.  Still, we had a good laugh with it, and the drink itself was nice.  Niamh had yummy Moretti – one of the few beers I actually will drink.  I still lament that Volterra (indeed, much of Italy) is devoid of cider.

This morning, I decided to do a full walk of the walls again (about 4.5-4.7km).  Halfway through, Niamh (who was jogging) frightened the living crap out of me by tapping me on the shoulder, as she moved past – the disadvantage to wearing noise-cancelling earphones!

And after having just completed it, I feel fantastic, but am in desparate need of a shower!

No plans today.  I might suggest somewhere out-of-town for lunch, but we’ll see.


Volterran Facts and Myth

Much like Ireland has been doing recently, Volterra has, over its millenia, been hitting above its weight, in terms relative to the size of its population. Here are some of the stories it has accumulated, which have add to Volterra’s cultural history and notoriety.

I have to admit that I haven’t read all of the criteria for being announced as being protected as a UNESCO Heritage site, but it just seems very odd to me that Volterra’s application has been waiting for so long.

etruscansVolterra (Velathri, in the Etruscan language) was one of the twelve principal cities of the Etruscan League. It was a cultural cradle while Rome was still an upstart village on the banks of the Tiber. (I still have mad love for you, Rome!).  In fact, it is Tuscany’s oldest continuously inhabited town.

alabasterIt is one of the principal centres for production of alabaster works in Europe, if not the principal centre. It was for centuries, and then trade fell off.  It picked back up again in the eighteenth century, from which time Volterra has ruled the roost!  Check out alab’Arte, from where I pilfered this photo.

linusThe second Pope, St. Linus, was born in Volterra.  His cathederal is one of the few places we haven’t visited yet, as it was being renovated.  It may have reopened by now, so hopefully we’ll take a look when we get over there.

palazzo_dei_prioriThe main building of office in Volterra is still the 13th century Palazzo dei Priori, in the main square.  It is the oldest town hall in Tuscany.  So enamoured were the Medici by its design, that it was ‘culturally appropriated’, in that they based their Palazzo Vecchio in Florence on it.  It’s still used for officialdom, but you can also visit a museum and the bell-tower there.

view_from_pdpIf you were to stand beside the bell in the Palazzo dei Priori, you would be about 560 meters above sea-level, making Volterra Tuscany’s highest hilltown.  I can see our house from here!

fortezzaThere is a Medicean fortress that dominates the south of the town.  There are only three ways you can visit it, however: (1) go to dinner there; (2) visit someone housed there; or (3) be a very naughty boy and earn a prison sentence.  Yes, it is, in fact, a medium-security prison.  However, it is a very progressive one.  Eight or so times a year, you can book yourself in to attend the so-called Cene Galeotte, where prisoners, aided by volunteering expert chefs help prepare food and provide waiting service, to help them get back on their feet by learning a trade.  More improbably, one of Italy’s finest theatrical troupes is made up of inhabitants of the Fortezza.

aradiaThe progenitor of your typical medieval witches was also reputed for have been born in Volterra, supposedly on August the 13th, 1313.  Her name was Aradia.  Read more about her here.  I haven’t yet visited the rock or caves, but that might change during my sabbatical.  

manicomioVolterra was home to a another town of sorts, on its outskirts.  During its dismal apex, it housed as many people as the walled town itself did – about 6,000.  It was a psychiatric hospital.  It began life as an institution which genuinely sought to help the mentally infirm, but became something much more insidious.  You can read more about it here and here.

It still remains, for all intents and purposes, abandoned, but I have now heard you can buy a ticket to visit.  Chalk something else up for our upcoming visit!

Another interesting story, is that patients helped dig up the trash heap that lay outside the town’s walls, and exposed the Roman Amphitheatre, which had lain there for centuries, forgotten.  Those that volunteered got clean bills of health.

rosso_depositionOne of the most famous and progressive scenes depicting the Deposition of Christ was painted by Rosso Fiorentino, and originally housed in the cathedral of Volterra.  It is now in the town’s art museum (pinacoteca), along with many other amazing pre-Renaissance pieces.  It features, unusually, a red-headed Judas (bottom right).

porta_allarcoOne of Volterra’s greatest treasures is on public display, and acts as one of the entrances to the walled town: the Porta all’Arco.  Part of it dates back to centuries BC.  During WWII, the German’s threatened to destroy the gate, to impede the approaching allies.  The remaining townsfolk (many of whom where women and children by then) begged the Germans to give them time instead to stop it up with rocks.  They were given 24 hours.  Incredibly they did it in time (it’s a big gate, with added depth) by forming a human conveyor belt, and so the gate remains intact today.

twilightMost recently, Volterra has seen movie and TV sets come and go, and been associated with modern young-adult urban fantasy.  Some scenes from the live-action version of Full Metal Alchemist were shot here, as well as much of Season 3 of The Medicis (still awaiting broadcast in Ireland, I think).  Most famously, Volterra has been associated with Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Trilogy, with some of the second book being set here.  Sadly, only a few scenes of the film where shot in Volterra, with the majority of the outdoor stuff shot instead in Montepulciano, 70 miles away.