Tag: del duca

Wine Tasting at Marcampo (13/08/2021)

Wine Tasting at Marcampo (13/08/2021)

I got up and had a nice walk. Here are some shots:

When we last ate in Del Duca, we were invited to a wine tasting by somelier, Claudia, and took her up on her offer. We’d been at their farm before for a cooking course, and so we knew that both their wine and their food are great. Who could resist?

Podere Marcampo is about a 5km drive from Volterra, and down a dusty, gravelled driveway, that is a little bit steep at times. We got to the house, and saw a few other cars already parked there. We waved hello to mamma Ivana, who was heading off to the restaurant for the evening service. In fact, she used to be head chef there, but those duties are now carried out by talented young Cypriot, Alessandro Calabresi.

Claudia greeted us then, and I saw she was wearing shorts, which is unusual for her. Why was that? Well, because down in the valley where the house is, it was pushing 38 degrees, and she informed us that further down into the valley it was 42. She couldn’t remember it being so hot! Despite the heat, they still live a little slice of paradise:

We waited inside their tasting room, while Claudia assisted some guests who were staying at the agritourismo. Waiting with us was an Italian gentleman (from the south, if I recall correctly) and a young couple from The Netherlands.

We all had a snifter of Marcampo’s wines, interspersed with a cheeses and salumi. They have a bunch of lovely reds – an award-winning Merlot, but I like the Merlot and Sangiovese mixes they have too. They start off with chocolate and cherry undertones, and if you’re having rich food, almost have a buttery finish. So yummy. Niamh in particular is a fan of their Vermentino. I won’t regurgitate all about them here. Instead, you can read about them directly on their website!

Later on during the tasting, a British couple came in, who were well-known to Claudia. They had a house on a hill somewhat north of Volterra, in lovely countryside. They also have a pool. As soon as I heard that, I joked with Niamh about how important it was to get to know people! They took it in good humour, and gave us good tips on where to explore and shop.

I didn’t take shots of the tasting (which was delivered in English), as you should go there yourself to experience it. When we were done, Claudia showed us their remodelled winery and cellary. It was certainly different to the last time we’d visited.

It was certainly much cooler than it was in the tasting room, which was surrounded on all sides by glass. Although there were a couple of air-conditioning units, it was still very warm there!

Then from there, we were allowed to roam between the vines. The soil was so loose, so you we had to watch our footing. I broke out my macro lens and took a few shots of the grapes. Claudia insist I send them to her, which I duly did.

At the end of it all, I bought a bottle of Marcampo (Savgiovese/Merlot mix) and Niamh a bottle of Terra-Blu (the Vermentino). We had a fun time, and we’d recommend it to anyone.

That evening, we didn’t stray farther than Porgi l’Altra Pancia, where I had pici with a Chianina beef sauce, and unsurprisingly topped that off with a little gelato!

Finally, a chat and a little drink on the terrace, and then to bed.

I hope you enjoyed the read. If so, please leave a like and comment. Thanks!

Of Markets and Fine Food (07/08/2021)

Of Markets and Fine Food (07/08/2021)

Well, I got up and left the trash out (organico, aka compostable bio waste on Saturdays). Bio waste always has to be taken out, as things get stinky in 35+ degree heat!

I was on my own for the walk, so I decide to go anti-clockwise around the outside of the walls. On the way, I pass by Serena – one of the ladies who works for our property managers, who greets me with a cheerful yell and wave – she was out jogging. Minutes later we pass by Enrico – also out for a trot – the man from the bank who held our hand through the mortgage process – and still is our man contact in the Cassa di Risparmio di Volterra (the bank who gave us our mortgage). It took a few moments for us to recognise each other, and wave a greeting. A wonderful feeling of belonging washes over me – I feel like I’m at home again. I pass by him again on the other side of the town, still running.

Saturday is also market day, and early on in the walk I get to see a little bit of the market setting up in the carpark beside the Roman Theatre.

You can find a video of the walk, followed by a walk around the market I took later on.

Some shots of the walk too:

After I was done and had breakfast, we chilled for a while and then headed out to the market. The wonderful thing about the market, and about Italian markets in general, is the noise. The mingled sounds of laughter, chatter and cries of stall-owners, as they try to capture the attention of shoppers, just warms my soul.

Markets are great to shop at, because not only is the produce generally fresher, as it has travelled far less than it has to get to a supermarket, but it is also usually a good deal cheaper! A complete win-win.

I didn’t get anything, but the ladies got some fruit, and then we walked back to the apartment.

The previous day (I forgot to blog this!) I had ducked into Ristorante Enoteca Del Duca to book a table for us this evening. I was hungry for something for lunch, though.

I decided to head to La Sosta Del Priore for a sandwich. You may have read in a previous blog, that they were recently voted the best sandwich bar in Pisa county (province), so I had to queue for about 20 minutes. Eventually, I grabbed a mortadella with truffle sandwich on focaccia. They added fried fresh pecorino cheese to it. It was so tasty.

We had a lazy afternoon in. I honestly don’t remember what we did, so I assume it was napping, gaming, video-editing and screen-watching!

However, come the evening, we were heading out to dinner! We decided to leave the apartment early to grab an aperitivo at L’Incontro. We sat inside, and if I recall correctly, it was the first time (outside of an airport) we had been asked for our ‘Green Pass’ – which was the Italian name for the Covid Vaccination Certificate. We had our digital versions, and they were scanned quickly enough.

I had an Aperol Spritz (manly!). L’Incontro service nice mini sausage rolls and pizzette (tiny bite-sized pizzas) with the aperitivi. They were yum, as was the drink! It got us in the mood for dinner, which is exactly what it should have done. I don’t go into L’Incontro often enough – and this visit was no difference – this was our only time there. We were going to go in another time, but they had music blaring inside, and we didn’t fancy it. But it’s so good at what it does: drink, sandwiches, pastries. A shame it doesn’t seem to do gelato any more, as used to be lovely there.

Onwards we went to Del Duca for dinner, after a brief stop at the panoramic viewpoint to burn some time and calories. Then we went in, and got our usual warm welcome. In addition, the talented head chef, Alessandro, recognised me from Instagram and Facebook, and smiled and waved at us.

We had food and wine… quelle surprise. It was wonderful, and while we were eating, we had a quick chat with Claudia Del Duca, and we agreed to visit their farmstead (Podere Marcampo) later in the week. Here’s most of the grub!

We had attended a cookery course at Marcampo a couple of years ago, and Ivana – Claudia’s mom and ex head-chef at Del Duca, asked us if we had baked any bread since. We had to tell her no, with a little mortification – she just chuckled. At the end of the meal, we were presented with a glass of her legendary limoncello – it’s the without a doubt the strongest limoncello I’ve ever had, but I yummied down two glasses of it (I had mine and someone else’s, if I recall correctly!).

We were certainly fit for bed after that, and that’s exactly where we went.

Thanks for reading. Pleae leave a comment below if you liked the blog, and if you have any questions about Volterra, or staying nearby.

Virtual Tour of Volterra #1

Virtual Tour of Volterra #1

With the rollout of the vaccines (particularly for us in Ireland), and the fact that Volterra’s positive case numbers seem to be falling rapidly again, we have gotten a hankering for visiting Italy again. Truth be told, it’s on our minds daily!

So, we’ve decided to take our brains on a tour, and we’ll take you guys with us. This will be a little different to our regular older posts about Volterra in a couple of ways:

  1. We’ll be following a set route;
  2. Most of the photos we’ll be showing will be at full iPhone resolution (some iPhone 7, some iPhone 11)

Let’s begin. Below is a map of the route:

Starting at ‘1’, we’ll move in numerical order, through to ’17’. On the way we’ll be showing some sights, giving little insights here and there. We will skip some sights so we can show them on other tours – we’ll see how this one goes.

This will be lengthy, and will require a bit of data consumption, due to the size of most of the photos.

#1: Ok! Welcome to Via Giacomo Matteotti! This is the street on which the entrance to our apartment lies. A curious thing about some of the streets in Volterra. They’ve had their names changed (probably multiple times), but many streets have two names: the current one, and the one it was previously known by, which is still frequently used by locals. In this case, our street will have two labels: ‘Via Giacomo Matteotti’ and ‘Gia Via Guidi’, the latter being the ‘previously known as’ street name. Anyway, here’s the entrance to our block:

There are a couple of restaurants, a bar and a pasticceria nearby, but we will cover those another time.

There is a bit of history to the palazzo in which our apartment lies, as we think it might have been a sixteenth century customs building. We will dig around and see what we can find for another tour. For now, though, we’ll carry on uphill towards the main square.

#2: Let’s take the first right. If it’s during the busy season, you will always find tourists here taking this shot.

For us, this is one of the prettiest lanes in Tuscany, and is called Vicolo delle Prigione (Lane of the Prisoners). Up this laneway and almost immediately to the right is a sandwich bar called La Sosta del Priore. It was recently voted best sandwich bar in the province (think of provinces as counties over in Ireland). Volterra is in Pisa ‘county’. We’ve eaten here more than a few times. It may seem expensive, but the sandwiches are huge! Our faves are porchetta (roast whole pig) and their burger… both with pecorino cheese. On top of that, the welcome from Ilenia is always heart-warming!

We’ll continue upwards through this lane. Whenever exploring, and you find yourself blinkered on a path forward, please also remember to look behind you every now and again, for views you may be missing. This goes for towns and nature! Here’s a pic looking back down from where we’ve just come.

There’s a slight difference in the sky here! Many photos were taken at different times – we hope the 4th wall isn’t completely shattered for you!

#3: We’ll head back to to the T-junction at the end of this laneway and then swing a right up the remainder of Via delle Prigione (note Via rather than Vicolo). You may be able to see part of Volterra’s main piazza from here Piazza dei Priori.

#4: We’ll head steadily upwards towards the square, and under the archway. Turning back and looking up gives us…

You might just be able to see a tiny statue peeking out near the top of the tower on the left. This is the Torre del Porcellino (there is a restaurant of the same name, not covered in this tour), which is Tower of the Piglet. Why there is a piglet there, is not fully known, but it is guessed that it was a show of wealth by the original owner, given that meat would have been so expensive many centuries ago (the tower having been completed in the early 1200s).

It is with no small sense of irony that Volterra’s municipal police are stationed here! Here’s where we need to go when we need to renew our annual resident’s parking permit.

#5: We’ll pivot back towards the piazza.

Dead ahead of us is Ristorante Etruria, with its covered seating area. We have eaten here a bunch of times, and always receive a warm welcome. Eoin likes the Zuppa Volterrana here, and Niamh swears by the grilled boar chops. At the end of the night, we’re given a grappa or limoncello on the house, and a half-bottle of Chianti to take away. Inside, while Eoin isn’t a huge fan of the clear plastic chairs, the restaurant itself is beautifully decorated.

Turning our heads to the far side of the square, length-ways will give you this view, which is our bank in Volterra (Cassa di Risparmio di Volterra).

Banks in Italy are actually quite local, and yet are quite feature-rich. This bank also is deeply involved in providing funds and sponsorship to various arts and humanities projects, which is pretty cool.

#6: Turning back towards the main near side of the square, is the Palazzo dei Priori, essentially the ‘town hall’ in Volterra – and is the oldest continuous seat of local government in Tuscany, at nearly 800 years old.

There are many council buildings in a similar style throughout Tuscany, most notably the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, but this is the origin of the species – the Florentine seat of government for the Medici was inspired by the Volterran original. The main council office is here.

Inside, as well as local governmental offices, are rooms for exhibitions, and the bell tower, which can be climbed up for some wonderful views.

Coming out of the palazzo gives us a view of the arch and the Torre del Porcellino again.

#7: We turn right after leaving the palazzo and continue south a bit. Just past the palazzo is a foodie place called Volaterra.

We have ordered pasta sauces, olive oil, cantuccini (hard nutty biscuit ‘slices’) and limoncello during the pandemic crisis, to give us a little taste of our second home.

Walking past it we note to the left what we think is Volterra’s most moody laneway: Vicolo Mazzoni. Here’s a suitable shot of it.

We fondly call it ‘Pigeonshit Alley’, as the place is replete with those little flying rats. However, it’s worth a stroll, as it’s quite snappable – we’ll reserve it for a different tour. Walking on again, we hit a crossroads of the street where we live, to the left, and Volterra’s artisan street, to the right, that leads down to an Estruscan gate (some would say ‘the’ Etruscan gate): Via Porta all’Arco. Again, we will reserve this amazing road for a separate route, but here’s a preview.

We’ll continue on, walking past the road that leads to Volterra’s premier panoramic viewpoint (you guessed it – another route!). You may remember what I said earlier: always look back to see you’re not missing anything. Here we are looking back at the main piazza, and again further on and looking back. One of the most dramatic views in Volterra, infrequently snapped by visitors… who never look back!

Lovely.

#9: For now we’ll make a stop at Ristorante Enoteca Del Duca. This is one of our favourite places to eat. The Del Duca family is so nice, and this year are celebrating 30 years in the restaurant business. They run an agritourismo called Marcampo (think a bed & breakfast farm-stay) about a 5-7 minute drive outside the town – and we love the wines they produce there – principally by sommelier Claudia Del Duca. We always get a warm welcome, and the restaurant features the best technical cooking in the area. The outside seating area in the back is perfect if you need a little calm from crowds.

We’ve also attended a cooking course in Marcampo – well worth the money, as you get to eat your efforts and drink complementary wines.

#10: With full bellies, we swing towards the east, and somewhat uphill, past another of Volterra’s prettiest views.

#11: Heading up the steep lane, we hit one of the entrances to Volterra’s municipal park (Parco Archeologico Enrico Fiumi). We’ll walk around this park some other time – as well as having a green area, there are a couple of archaeological ruins of note (the clue is in the name!).

Opposite the entrance is the back gate to Albergo Etruria (its Cafe Etruria entrance, essentially). I’ve never gone in there (to my shame), except to take this lovely shot:

We carry on through this laneway, until we hit a set of stairs heading down towards our next stop.

#12: Antica Velathri Cafe. We love this place. The manager here is a mixologist of some skill, and is super-friendly. He always encourages our use of Italian, so we get rare opportunities to practice our spoken Italian here. The cocktails are sublime, and the nibbles all home-made. They make lovely almond-based cookies to take away here too. It’s primarily an apperitivo place, so it often closes early as a result (21:30-22:00), so go there before dinner!

We leave the Cafe and swing a right. Here we can see Piazza XX Settembre (a tour on some other route), and the junction of Via di Sotto and Via Antonio Gramsci. We will take the left fork down the latter street, one of Volterra’s premier pedestrian ways.

#13: Almost every time we re-visit Volterra, La Taverna di Terra di Mezzo is the first place we eat. Why? The welcome from Robbi, the owner, and Aurora the ever-present waitress. The second time we visited Volterra, Niamh had been driving and was super-tense, so Robbi gave her an honest-to-God shoulder massage! Not to feel left out, Eoin pointed out that his glutes were similarly tense. Robbi didn’t take him up on the offer, much to the amusement of Aurora, Niamh and a couple of Belgian guests who where sitting near us.

Niamh loves the penne arrabiata here, and I love the Zuppa Volterrana (the best in Volterra) and pappardelle (thin, wide pasta) with bacon and black truffle in a gentle lemon ricotta sauce is one of the best plates of pasta he says he’s had. Robbi also puts together killer antipasto plates and is skilled on the grill. Tourists stop all the time to take a shot of the cute exterior (of the restaurant, not of Robbi).

We carry on down Via Gramsci… a pretty and busy street.

#14: Next stop: La Mangiatoia, the first canopied place you can see in the photo above. When we feel like a pizza and a beer (although we usually go to Pizzeria Ombra dell Sera for that), or some other grub like a hot dog or burger and fries to change the food-mood, we stop off here. A fun, busy place. The food is good and service is pretty fast if you’re in a rush.

One of the features we love most about this street is how the rooftops are all higgledy-piggledy with many towards the one end of the street not forming anything like a straight line. It just gives a sense of character to the place.

#15: Whenever Eoin goes out for a morning walk in Volterra (which is most days) he ends up either here or at the stop after this. Welcome to Pasticceria Migliorini!

This place is perfect for an Italian breakfast, and has a range of delicious pastries, and some gelati later in the day. You can, of course, take some pastries away!

#16: This might seem weird. We don’t have a photo of this place. Another reason why it’s weird it’s because it’s a mini-market (La Bottega, previously known as Il Punto). They see Eoin in here most mornings, topping up on water and sodas, and maybe later we’ll call in to the deli section at the back for some of the most delicious bresaola (cured beef) and prosciutto alla griglia we’ve ever had.

Couple that with a lovely welcome every time from the lady who usually works there in the mornings, and this has become one of our favourite places to give our business to. In fact, she welcomed us back with an enthusiastic ‘Bentornati!’ after almost a year after not having seen us. All too often it’s the little things in life that make you happiest.

#17: Like a good gelato, for instance! Almost opposite the mini-market is one of Tuscany’s finest gelaterie: L’Isola del Gusto. Propietor Ersilia Carboni has been a regional finalist and/or winner in competitions for several years now. The mint, chocolate, hazelnut, cherry and ‘crema di Ersilia’ flavours are just amazing, as is their deliciously cooling lemon sorbet and granita. Do you ever get a hug from food? Well you’ll get one from the gelati here.

And the ladies serving you are always super-friendly too – even welcoming us back to Volterra with grins. We love this place, and honestly, we suspect we buy something from here every second day we’re in Volterra. Not to worry, though – gelato has less fat and fewer calories than ice-cream!

Well that’s it! That’s tour route number 1. We’re just a 30 second walk back to our apartment building! Did you enjoy it – please pop us a comment if so and we’ll have a good think about the next route!

Cosa sta succendo a Volterra?

Cosa sta succendo a Volterra?

In an effort to remind folks that this blog is supposed to be about Volterra, we thought we’d post something at least themed in that direction – even if it is rather short!

First and foremostly, we’re not there. Bummer. But our property manager is, and managed to grab some shots – one of our kitchen, and a couple of angles from our terrace. Thanks again to Alice of Milianti. If you’re looking for property in the region (hi-diddly-ho, neighborino!), we would sincerely recommend them… not only for their portfolio and assistance, but also for the peace-of-mind they give us by looking in on the property from time to time (for an annual fee).

We wish we were there!

The last time we wrote about Volterra, they only had 2 or 3 Covid cases. Unfortunately, that has rocketed back up again to 57, due to a large outbreak discovered over the past few days in the medium-security prison, housed in the Medicean Fortress (Eoin managed to get a tour of one of the towers some time back). As there is a real chance that not only prisoners are impacted, the schools are closing for a week to ensure tracing can be carried out and potential carriers identified. Scary stuff – but hopefully it’s reasonably well-contained.

We also hear that while Italy has been slow to vaccinate, Tuscany is one of the better regions (albeit now an Orange Zone region again). Although we only have anecdotal evidence of that. Anyway… we hope it gets moving there, for their sake. No idea of what’s holding things up!

In better news, Volterra will be the inaugural City of Culture for Tuscany in 2022. We’d love to get involved in promoting it in some way, even if it’s informally like this. A typical calendar in Volterra is usually replete with festivals, so we imagine the stops are really going to be pulled out next year. The site still lists it as a finalist for Italian City of Culture, so we assume it will be updated soon enough.

Volterra has also been named a ‘Salt City’, to add to its tourism-feathered cap. Salt has been mined there since Etruscan times, and it was an important source of salt during the Medicean regime. Nearby town, Saline di Volterra, still produces, and it is known as a the purest salt in Italy.

Lastly, but by no means the least, Agriturismo Marcampo will be hosting a free Wine Tasting and Foor Pairing session through Ciao Tours. You have to register for the Zoom link. Given how fantastic their wines and the Del Duca restaurant is, it’ll be worth a look!

A presto!

Eoin & Niamh.

The Borghi, the Balze and Dinner at Del Duca – 16/08/2020

The Borghi, the Balze and Dinner at Del Duca – 16/08/2020

Borgo Santo Stefano and Borgo San Giusto are small villages, pretty much appended to Volterra, just outside the current medieval walls, found just outside the north-eastern gate (Porta San Francesco). They would have been within the much older Etruscan walls, which stretched as far as the cliffs (Balze).

We took our walk there in the morning, starting off with Santo Stefano (it’s hard to get to Giusto otherwise, without seriously going out of your way!).

First through Volterra…

Then down to Borgo Santo Stefano…

Then to Borgo San Giusto, one of the main attractions of which is the colossal Chiesa di San Giusto Nuovo – always gloriously cool during hot weather.

After visiting the church, we continued going through the rest of Borgo San Giusto, until we saw some views of the Balze.

We took a brief stroll down past the camping grounds carpark, but the main hiking route seemed to have been closed off. I presume this is because of the current pandemic situation. Anyway, we were walking back towards the witches’ rock (see below) to close off our walking loop, when we spied some blue wobbly stuff beyond some fencing. It was a swimming pool!

We wondered… Heading back again towards the rock, we stopped off at the camping grounds reception (Camping Le Balze), and asked if it’s ordinarily possible to use the pool. They said ‘Yes’! This was a huge revelation to us, as we had thought the closest bathing place would have been Marina di Cecina, over 40km away – not 2-3km away! The provisos were that the pool was principally for campers, so if it is full, it’s full. Secondly, you must bring your own stuff, and wear a swimming cap. We could use the camping grounds carpark whilst using the pool too. They have some basic refreshments and snacks on offer too. What a win! But a win for the 2021 season.

Feeling happier, we walked past the witches’ rock (which I talk more about towards the end of this post).

On the way back to the apartment, we took the stairs from the main resident’s carpark (again, due to my improved fitness, not as bad as it used to be!) and past the ruins. I celebrated with a granita from Isola del Gusto – naturally!

We didn’t hang around the apartment too long. Rather than stock up on food, we decided to eat out a bit today. We masked-up and headed out to Ristorante Il Poggio. This is a place which hasn’t exactly blown me away in the past, but I fancied a schnitzel, and thought this place did them, as it has one or two German items on its menu. I now can’t remember whether I had a change of mind due to health reasons, or if schnitzels weren’t on the menu, but either way I went for a Zuppa Alla Volterrana, while Niamh had a Caprese salad. I really liked their soup!

We had booked a table for two in Del Duca, and went that evening. It’s one of our favourite places to go, and I was able to polish off 3 courses, plus a glass of wine and a limoncello that evening! Yay!

I didn’t take shots of all courses, but here you go!

Home again, and slightly merry – probably the first time for me in a long time!

Lunch in Del Duca – 07/07/2020

Lunch in Del Duca – 07/07/2020

Niamh started the day of in artsy fashion by taking the two masks we’d bought (one last year at the medieval festival on the right, and the fancier one in Florence on the left), and hanging them in the corridor between the living room and bedrooms.

Then we had a challenging walk, partly around the walls, and then up the 200 steps at Portal di Docciola. I found them less challenging this time around because (a) I’d lost weight, and (b) I’d been walking up and down our stairs 10 times in a row as early-morning exercise before work, almost every workday.

Then it looks like I insisted on our particular lunch venue:

We went to Ristorante Enotect Del Duca! Yay! This place features the best technical cooking in Volterra. I had home-made gnocchi with mushroom, drizzled over by a barley-laden broth. I could have drunk a pint of that broth! Niamh settled for the lasagne, and once again, had me beaten. It was amazing.

Afterwards, we headed to Antica Velathri Cafe, and had a couple of cocktails each. I can only assume I was having a good day, health-wise, as I’d been keeping away from drink up to now.

As always, we got a lovely welcome from the guy who runs the place… he’s a fantastic mixologist. He had a helper-lady with him this time, who was very friendly too.

I have no other record of what we did for the rest of the day, so I assume Niamh rustled something up to eat, and the pair of us screenwatched.

Volterra still seems kind of quiet… hmmmmmm.