Tag: chianni

Strawberry Fair at Terricciola, lunch in Casciana Terme (08/05/2022)

Strawberry Fair at Terricciola, lunch in Casciana Terme (08/05/2022)

I was true to myself and got up early for a walk around the walls. It’s such a good (and sweaty workout), as it involves a lot of inclines and declines on the 4.5km route. I’m always looking for a way to change the route up a bit and actually found one! But first, it was out the Porta Fiorentina for a clockwise path around.

About a week earlier, I had a walk outside the walls, looking for things I hadn’t seen before (or too often), and I came across the workshop of artist Nico Lopez Bruchi. Well along the walls of the town, in the south-east on Viale dei Filosofi you’ll find another of his murals. Clever and striking it is too!

There’s a section outside Volterra I hadn’t been to before. It contains the old bus station, and an emergency helicopter pad for the hospital. The Bus carpark (if that makes sense) is there too. Now that alone doesn’t make it sound very attractive, but couple Italian architecture, sculpture and the Tuscan countryside and you could have something a little special. Not sure if hiking routes begin from here, but if anyone more familiar with hiking around Volterra is reading this, please let me know!

Once done there, I carried on with the rest of the familiar route.

I stopped off at Migliorini for a mille foglie for me and a creamy rice tart for Niamh. We spruced ourselves up good, as we wanted to check out the Strawberry Festival in Terricciola, about 30 minutes drive away from us.

We headed for the carpark we used the last time we were here. Well, that was a little too optimistic! The place was jam-packed. In addition, Terricciola a town some of whose roads are narrow, but are nonetheless 2-way. We had some fun navigating our way through the town which, incidentally, also had a market on that day. We had to drive the guts of a kilometer out of town to a carpark beside a restaurant. Not the worst thing to have happened, as we didn’t miss the lovely framed views!

The roads were initially quiet as we made our way back to the town centre. It turns out that was because people were making their way towards a park where a few stalls were set up. Outside, a menu indicated what was going to be served for the communal lunch, and sure enough, there was already a huge queue for food. Rather than queue, we wandered deeper into town, past more stalls and wonderful panoramic viewpoints (see the YouTube video below). People kept streaming past us, presumably on the way to the commmunal lunch area. We didn’t see much in the way of celebration of the strawberry outside the park – just one bar was advertising strawberry produce, and a string of cardboard strawberries were to be seen nearby. What I thought was cute, was that outside many places, people had left colurfully painted chairs, with pots of flowers resting on them. I am not sure if that’s a general thing in Terricciola, or if was just done for the festival.

We took in some more panoramic viewpoints and when on the way back to see if we could join the communal lunch, stopped instead at the marketplace and bought us some sugary goods (jellies, sugared almonds, nougat). We passed by a restaurant and were tempted, but it looked busy. Unsurprisingly, the communal lunch area still had a huge queue. It might have been fun to stay anyway, but we were too hungry – so we made the counter-intuitive move of driving while hungry instead of standing while hungry. We went back to the car (the restaurant we parked next to was closed, sadly), and headed to Casciana Terme to see if we could find anywhere to eat.

We had been there before and found it quiet. So, I was thinking (forgetting it was Sunday) that perhaps it would be a good bit busier than last time. Sadly, maybe due to on-and-off drizzle, it was even quieter! We were pushing our luck for lunch, as it was a little after 14:00, but we did manage to find a place that would serve us. Yes, many Italian restaurants close between dinner and lunch services. Inside, Il Merlo Pizzorante was pleasantly busy with couples and small families noisily enjoying their food. We experienced a nice meal – I think I enjoyed it a little more than Niamh. The one thing that will stand out, though, is the service – and for strange reasons. There was a 2-person team… I’m calling them father and son, but they could be easily much older and much younger brothers. Anyway, the father greeted us and told us our menus were online. We papped the QR code and chose. We saw the younger man, with a moustache, flit from table to table in almost all cases not saying a word to anyone at the table when he delivered food. I think a family near us got some words out of him, but he was the definition of ‘taciturn’, to the point of it actually being amusing. In fairness to the main, he was efficient at his job! He delivered our drinks – standing on Niamh’s toe in the process, not a word… – barely even looked at us. By stark contrast, the father was warm and generous with his time, and we chatted with him briefly using my broken Italian. Now the food:

Would we go back? Ah yeah – the food was nice, even though there was a large choice on the menu. There was something for everyone, and I have little doubt that just about anything you try will be well-cooked. Their pizzas might be interesting. But I would also personally come for the comedy value of the curiously quiet, moustachioed server!

Once finished, we headed out to explore the town a little again. We walked past the spa – there were a handful of people frolicking around in the pool. The weather had flitted from dry to wet and back again, but eventually setted on dry and warm. It’s a nice town, but very quiet – maybe the spa is worth a visit for sure. They had bleacher seats set up in the main square, so maybe a festival is imminent. One strange thing about the town – it seems to end abrubtly in most directions. Whereas most towns trickle out – this one seems to have hard borders.

We drove back to Volterra, but by that time there were diversions active around Terriccciola as they were having a concert to help them celebrate their festival. It added about 10 minutes to our drive home, but at least we explored roads we hadn’t been on before.

Here’s a little vlog of our day up to that point:

Back in Volterra, before we returned to the apartment, I took a couple of snaps of Via Gramsci and for the first time I saw my favourite server at L’Isola del Gusto: Giorgia. She is a truly lovely and generous person (who also happens to speak 6 or 7 different languages). She also lets me practice my Italian, but I don’t delay her too much as the queues here can be long. I was in desparate need of a granita, as although it was probably 25 celsius, the day was quite humid and I had been out a long time. Unfortunately, it was not quite the season for granite, so I had to settle for a cup rammed full of lemon sorbet instead. It did the trick!

Back in the apartment we napped, screenwatched and edited some video footage. Then we did something a little piggish: headed out for more food. Just a pizza (just!) this time, with a beer, in Ombra della Sera Pizzeria. On the way there, we bumped into the builder we had been dealing with recently – he let us know that the wine bar he was entering (Enoteca Scali) was the best one in town. It’s a nice place, and we’ve been there once or twice, but dang it, he closes around 21:00-21:30, so we rarely get a chance to visit after typical Italian eating times. He has an excellent selection though.

Back to Ombra: We skipped fries this time. For me, pizza can get samey about halfway through, so I like to break it up with the occasional mouthful of fries. Anyway… we ate and drank everything up!

We rolled out of the place, and went for a nightime walk. I captured some lovely photos!

Afterwards, we sat up screenwatching for a while, then went to bed!

I hoped you enjoyed the read – please let me know what you thought!

Separate Walks and a trip to Chianni (21/08/2021)

Separate Walks and a trip to Chianni (21/08/2021)

A short one, this!

While my brother and I walked together, Niamh took a separate walk. I took some pics of my walk – how much of a surprise is this to you by now?

And Niamh’s photos are below. There is one in particular which is incredibly striking.

After having had a couple of longer trips recently (to Val d’Orcia and Chianti), we decided to stay a little closer to home, and drove to the town of Chianni. As we were still in August, it was still quite sleepy. We had a short wander around. I decided not to film, just so I could have a break from it and enjoy the day more mindfully.

It is a cute little town, and worth a little walkabout. But we were hungry (what else is new?!), so we found a hotel still open. Now, I blow hot and cold on hotel-based restaurants, but I’m glad we stopped at Le Vecchie Cantine.

The welcome at first seemed a little indifferent, as we were shown to our table (inside because, you know, blasting furnace outside), but it turns out they had a couple of other groups there, who must have arrived shortly before us, so they were a little busy. Once we got personal attention for our order, normal Tuscan service had resumed and our waitress was warm and enthusiastic.

We made our choices, and it seemed that I would be driving back home, which was fair enough. I think I had one glass of red. Only I had both an antipasto and a primo. Niamh had a Caprese salad she raved over, and my brother went for a pasta.

I have a vague memory of having had a a tiramisu too… but I’m not certain. It sure sounds like the kind of thing I would have done.

Afterwards, we got a little lost in Chianni. Ok, not so much lost as not being able to find our way to the church, the apse-end of which met flush with cliffs at the end of the town. Google was throwing us everywhich way and back again, so we eventually abandonded the idea in the heat, took a few more snaps and headed back to the car.

We drove past the church on the way home. Sadly, I don’t have much of a memory of what else happened that day, apart from the ubiquitous:

I hate to leave on a bitter note (sorry!), but I hope you enjoyed this shorter blog. Please leave a comment!

We Blitz-Visit 4 Hilltowns

We Blitz-Visit 4 Hilltowns

Warning! This page is photo-heavy!

We showered and made ourselves pretty, then went to the bank (Cassa di Risparmio di Volterra) to renew our online banking security token. They are our mortgage provider. We had to go to an Italian bank, as Irish banks at the time (and still maybe today) were refusing to grant mortgages for foreign properties. Anyway, we were super-lucky that a local bank was willing to assist, and we felt comfortable with them from the get-go.

We entered, took our ticket and glanced at the digital display of which number was being served next, and at which teller. There are many institutions and stores at which you have to take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. It’s not a bad idea, as it means you can find somewhere comfortable while waiting, and not be worried about being queue-jumped.

Our number was called, and we explained that we didn’t have much Italian, and then showed them a Google Translate of what we wanted. Fortunately, she gave us an immediate appointment with the representative with whom we were dealing for our mortgage. He greeted us enthusiastically, and in about 15 minutes we were done and dusted. Excellent!

With that done, we stopped to get a quick bottle of water each and headed to the carpark. We drove a familiar route (which takes us to the airport) for much of the way to Lari, before Google Maps showed us an alternative route. We took it, and were glad we did. There were some fantastic views to be had. Unfortunately, as we didn’t know the road, I didn’t take any photos, as I was fixated on the route displayed on the phone (our Lancia POS does not have on-board GPS). In addition, there were no points on the road at which you could stop and take a few snaps in comfort. It can be frustrating sometimes, but we will take this road again and do our best to capture it for you at another time.

We got handy parking (with just a short walk), and wandered up to the main walled part of the town, which is quite small. The whole area is dominated by the fortress, which lies in the middle, atop huge, conical walls. The views from there were impressive.

One of the main reasons we visited Lari, however, was to check out the Martelli pasta factory.  Unfortunately, the August curse struck and the place was closed until September.  Generally, unless you’re in an area likely to be swamped with toursists, you take your holiday in August if you’re Italian.  This was a bit of a recurring theme later on.  Almost everything was closed, including the factory.  We’ll go again in September with guests, so all is well.  Plus, we consoled ourselves with food in a nearby restaurant.  Niamh had a salad and spaghetti all’aglione, and I had a carbonara, but with sausage instead of pancetta or guanciale (the latter is pork jowl, and is the preferred cut to use for carbonara).  The pastas were Martelli and were nice and toothsome.  

I then had a chargrilled pork steak in one of the most unusual sauces I’ve ever had: gorgonzola, green peppercorn and paprika.  I’m still not sure what to make of it… I think I liked it, but I might have to have it again to be sure!  

We decided to wait for dessert until the next town.  This was a mistake.

Seeing nowhere open we could actually buy Martelli pasta, we headed back to the car, and contemplated just heading home, but then I suggested we visit the spa town of Casciana Terme, as it was only 20 or so minutes’ drive away.  We arrived from a height and saw the town neatly nestled below us.  It is not an old medieval town, but still has its charms.  It was getting very warm, and so we hunted for a place near the spa itself for gelati.  We found one, and sadly it was one of the worst ones I’ve ever had.  The lemon sorbet had a sort of cardboard-like undertone… not pleasant at all.  I won’t name the place.  At least it did it’s job of cooling us down.

Casciana Terme also fell foul of both August holidays and the afternoon siesta.  There was virtually nobody on the streets.  It might be an idea to try again in September, complete with a visit to the spa itself (which, in fairness, was open).

We returned to the car, and I spotted that a couple more places were nearby: Rivalto and Chianni.  We drove to the former, almost via the latter thanks to a bum-steer by me.  I must say, that while all the literature proclaims Volterra to be the highest hilltop town in Tuscany, Rivalto can give it a run for its money.  Maybe it’s not included in the list, as it’s really more of a village.  But the views were impressive, especially as you could see Volterra on its plateau way off in the distance.

Onwards to Chianni.  I’m sorry to say we didn’t spend nearly enough time in it – maybe only 20-30 minutes, as we were seriously beginning to cook under the sun at that point.  It was about 32-34 again yesterday.  Chianni looks gorgeous, and we will definitely be back soon for a better mooch.

We drove home after that, and chilled.

In the evening we used up some perishables in the fridge and Niamh cooked a little vegetable pasta dish, which was nice – althought I wasn’t especially hungry after my afternoon meal.  I then went out for a passeggiata (a stroll, usually taken en-masse by Italians in the evening), and took some snaps.  There was a jazz orchestra playing in the Roman amphiteatre, so I stayed a while and listed to that.

This morning I headed to the balze (the cliffs and bluffs of the Volterran plateau), and realised that I was very near the Witches Stone.  Here, it is said, the mother of all witches, Aradia the daughter of Diana, held her masses, during which orgiastic and sapphic pleasures occured with avatistic abandon.  Sadly, today there was only an old font 😉

No strict plans today, so lets see whats what.  I hope you enjoyed this post.  Please let me know what you’d like to see more of.  Cheers!