Tag: furniture

Who wanted to go to Navacchio anyway?

Who wanted to go to Navacchio anyway?

We still had heard nothing from our furniture supplier, despite promises several times that they would call our representative back within 48 hours with a delivery date. This is our last week here, so enough was enough… we would have to go to Navacchio ourselves to get a date from them. This is no fault of the property manager looking after us – I have no doubt she did her best.

The route is virtually the same as takes us to the airport, and because we’ve done it so frequently now, it was a double pain in the arse to have to use the route again just to ask for a furniture delivery date. The round trip was a little under 130km!

Anyway, we got there and, thanks to Google Translate, were able to explain the situation to the person in customer services. She got next Monday as a delivery date, but when we explained that we were leaving on the 28th, she talked them down to this Thursday (26th). However, the reason for the delay was that they were missing a couple of the internal components for the wardrobe, and the piece which would be acting as our TV cabinet. So, we will get 90% of a wardrobe and both bedside lockers. I estimate this to be about 73.28% of our furniture. The rest will be delivered on a future date that will be arranged *shudder*.

The closest thing we got to an apology was a ‘tsk’ from the customer services rep – although she was kind and helpful. I did notice, as an aside, that there were about 15 people waiting in the customer services queue behind us. If they focused more on getting shit done right, they wouldn’t have this additional expense!

Anyhoo, there was a slightly happy ending to this annoying trip, in that we had a mooch around some shops, and ended up with some groceries (they have a HUUUUUGE CoOp there), and a WiFi network extender. We have attempted to use a powerline extender throughout this period, but it is too fiddly, and requires multiple logins, and on some occasions doesn’t work at all. We configured this when we got home, and while we’re stuck with 2 network IDs, the solution works an absolute treat. We also (again, sorry not sorry) had burgers in the Old Wild West branch in the same complex. Yummy! I think we’ll be sticking with Italian for the rest of the holiday, though, as we have Buckley’s Chance of getting decent Italian food almost anywhere back home.

So that was our day, really. We just screenwatched the rest of it. I did a little writing, but not enough!

This morning’s walk was fab – I walked the whole length of the walls and arrived home a disgusting, sweaty mess. I captured some lovely photos, though. We are currently above a ton of fog banks, so it looks impressive!

Going Up in San Miniato

Going Up in San Miniato

The previous night, Niamh whipped out the pasta maker and had a crack at making it for the first time – we settled on tagliatelle.

The result was excellent pasta, and a good taste to the sauce, but it was a little dry.  This was down to a couple of things, but principally it was down to the meat we were given was far too lean, sadly – and ended up being far too crumbly.  More lessons learned!  It will be interesting to see how our cooking course goes on the 16th.

Anyway, yesterday we dropped our guest off at the airport, and decided to make use of the fact that we were on the SGC FI-PI-LI (the main artery linking Florence, Pisa and Livorno), to go to San Miniato.   It is about 35-40 minutes away from the airport, by that dual carriageway.  We drove all the way to near the outskirts – a good way up, only to drive all the way down into an inexpensive carpark (50c/hr).  There is a lift which goes all the way up to the start of the old town.  The shaft is an impressive looking thing.


We went up, and had a little explore, to get our bearings, before heading into a bar for a quick pastry for brekkie.  The ‘touristy’ part of town is banana-shaped, and is very pretty.  We went to a more modern set of buildings, which contained some community buildings, a good example of which was the library, which had what can only be described as ‘face seats’ in an outside area.  A church just lay off one of the main squares – so we had a little explore in there too.

We then went to the more ‘quaint’ (I hate that word) section.  The square there is gorgeous and is often their setting for festivals and is where they hold their Christmas markets.  The cathedral lies above up some steep steps.  The roof and artwork within is worth viewing.

They were prepping for a wedding that was to be held there later that morning.  We were lucky to see it, as about 30 minutes later, they’d closed the door.

There are a bundle of panoramic viewpoints within the town, but the two highest are up the Torre di Matilde, or on the little green where the Torre di Federico II lies.  The former costs €3 to enter, while the latter is free.  We went to the latter, as (honestly!) it was the first one we saw of the two.  The views were amazing, as the green is completely open.  A bit of a climb up some steps is required, though – and you’re not actually allowed in the tower itself.

Check out the panoramic shot above!

It was a little cloudy, but still warm.  On our way back to the car, we stopped briefly at La Pennellessa (aka Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso – Sanctuary of the Holy Crucifix), a fat cross-shaped building topped with a dome.  Inside were pews, an altar, and yet again some wonderful artwork.  We then headed home.

Unfortunately, lunch back in Volterra was one of the worst dining experiences we have ever had.  I’m not going to name and shame the place, as sometimes you can just have a bad day – but our order was wrong, food came out at different intervals (often to be expected, but not at 20 minute intervals).  We just stared and watch each other eat.  My main was tasty enough (a veal cutlet), but Niamh’s was a travesty – a burger (on it’s own – no bun), dry, with dry grilled veggies and weirdly, slices of (dry) pecorino.  She barely touched it.  All around, people were looking pissed off with bad service and poor food.  It looked like they were completly unprepared for a busy service.  What a shame.  We’d been there before for pizza, which they’re great at (no, it wasn’t Ombra della Sera Pizzeria!), and so were shocked by how bad everything was.  They tried to make amends by not charging us for a portion of fries, but this damage is pretty much permanent – it’s doubtful we’ll ever return to that place.  

We went back to the apartment and chilled.  Later that evening, Niamh cooked herself a small meal and I just had some simple cold-cuts.  I ended up not going out at all, except to buy some sliced turkey and ham in the supermarket.  I have to get into the habit of going for a quick evening stroll again!

The day was interrupted by a hell of a thunderstorm.  We had a batten down the hatches, and wait for it to pass over.  Lightnight crackled overhead and there was the most terrific boom at one point – the windows seemed to vibrate in their frames.  And there was a lot of rain.  It looked like we were practically in the middle of the thunderhead itself.

This morning, I got up and walked down to the CoOp and took a long route back up.  It’s a loooong, steady climb up, so I got a decent workout.  I also wore my puffer jacket for the first time.  Temperatures have definitely dipped this week – but I have to admit I was a sweaty mess by the time I got back home.  Lovely cloud-lakes formed islands again in the hills below.  That always looks amazing to me.  Oh, for a camera with decent optical zoom, though.

We have a motorbike race timetrial on this weekend.  Part of the main road to Cecina/Siena will be closed, and we figure this leaves us stranded in town for the weekend.  Maybe I’ll catch some of it – might be a bit of fun.

I’m late with the blog today, as our Mondo Convenienza delivery of furniture arrived today.  Unfortunately, they had other deliveries in the area and so came with a massive truck, despite us telling them already on the delivery form that we were in a centro storico.  Our property manager even told them that a second time when the date was arranged, but still they messed it up, and will now have to phone *again* to re-arrange.  Bloody annoying, and not very professional.  The delivery lads themselves were apologetic, but I got nothing out of the lady in head office when I complained.

Anyway – there’s nothing we can change about it now, and so just have to get on with it.  

In other slightly annoying news, or wifi extender simply isn’t playing ball at all.  We’ve tried it several times, but althought it worked at first in December, it is now fiddly to get any signal – plus it often drops.  We might have to get a new one… not Asus, though.

See you in the next (hopefully happier) one!

Goodbye dosh, plus The Museum of Sacred Art

Goodbye dosh, plus The Museum of Sacred Art

The furniture store in Navacchio still hadn’t been in touch, so we decided to check out the artist’s store and afterwards head into the less interesting looking part of Colle di Val d’Elsa to purchase a single chair.

The artist is a lady, who is wildly effusive about her work, and from looking at her work on a current piece, operates solely from memory or imagination, with no recourse to reference images.  Quite a talent to have.  Her work is relatively inexpensive, but is nonetheless pretty and colourful.  We ended up choosing a wide piece, without a frame, of a bucolic scene with lavendar and poppies, with a farmhouse and cypress in the background, all overseen by magnificently painted clouds in a cerulean sky. Lovely.  

She boggled when we bought it and was extremely grateful – we’d only been in her store maybe 15 minutes.  I’ll slap up a photo when we hang it.  We have to wait ’til the end of the first week until the first piece we bought is framed.  I’ll show you this too when it’s ready and in-place.

Then onwards to Colle.  You might recall that this is our second attempt to visit this furniture store – they had been away on holidays the last time we called out.  We arrived and the store was open.  It was also a great deal warmer than Volterra at about 33 celsius.  We went inside, where it was nicely air-conditioned.  I think we might have been in the place less than 10 minutes when we had the chair selected.  I think it was her first day back after having nearly a month off, so she probably couldn’t believe her luck!  We managed to fit it in the car (the advantages of having a hatchback), and drove home.  I took snaps on the way back.

Once home, we carried the chair between us up to our apartment.  In hindsight, we should have driven into town and deposited the chair much nearer the apartment, but oh well – lesson learned.  The tendons in my arms were sore afterwards, leading to comic instances of shakey-hands when I tried to eat lunch.  Here’s the chair!


We went to Da Beppino for lunch, where I ordered the pici with lamb sauce, and Niamh sliced grilled beef with a side of greens.  Niamh got what she ordered.  I didn’t.  But I’m kind of glad I didn’t.  Instead I got pici with a sauce of Chianina beef and it was excellent, and proof why I prefer a stock-based ragù to a tomato one.


That afternoon, I had a little siesta, and then got up to go to the Museum of Sacred Art.  Whether you’re a believer or not, I think it’s an essential visit, just to see the progression of humankind’s skill in painting and sculpture.  I  got there around 17:50 and paid the €5 to get in.  They have a couple of touch-screen sections in Italian and English, explaining a little about their masterwork pieces.

I had a good nose around, and with some of the works, the sculptures in particular, it was hard to believe that many of them were about a half-millenium old.  One in particular, of Pope Linus (the second Pope, who was born in Volterra, and succeeded St. Peter in the role).  The bust is the one in the photos below with the robes in blue lacquer.

I was almost done, when a lady approached saying that they were closing the Museum – but they could give me a few minutes to finish-up.  The closing time was 18:00, and they only gave me the bum’s-rush at 18:25.  So a 30 minute visit should be enough – unless you are a student or historian of art.  I grabbed a few evening shots of Volterra on the way home, and snuck into L’Incontro for a cone of chocolate and coffee gelati (practically the only way you can get me to ingest coffee).

What could be more Italian than spaghetti (or bucatini) and meatballs?  Quite a lot, as it happens, as that dish is an American concoction, and can only be found in Italy in the hokiest of tourist restaurants.  Meh, we were going to have it anyway!  On our last trip to Ikea, we grabbed some frozen meatballs on the way out.  Niamh cooked these up in a tomato sauce with bucatini for dinner.  Rawr!  Those meatballs are worth a purchase, should you happen to find youself in an Ikea.


My right Achilles is giving out to me a little – most likely from all the hill-climbing – so I’m resting it this morning – therefore, no walk.  My brother is a keen hiker, so I need it to be ok for whatever he might put us through when he visits on Sunday.

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed it!

A Lazy Day, Mostly In

A Lazy Day, Mostly In

It doesn’t bode well for the readers’ interest when most of the photos today are from this morning’s walk.

It took me a while to draft yesterday’s blog, so after I’d showered we didn’t have much time before lunch to head out to Conad – a local supermarket. We need to get replacement trash bags – preferably clear, so the collectors can absolutely confirm what’s in the bags, rather than potentially having to read our scrawl. And if we could get those perfumed bags we got the last time, that would be aces!

Anyway, the walk there was under the midday sun, which sounds like it’s not a good plan, but the temperature (like in Ireland) increases between 14:00 and 15:00 generally, so it was a decent move. It didn’t get us the bags we were looking for, though – but the replacement ones were ok. We also got some stuff for the makings of a chicken and broccoli bake for the evening meal.

On the way back I wanted to go to La Sosta del Priore for one of their amazing burgers, but it was rammed with people, and a queue heading from their door to our street. I don’t really do queues, so instead I went to L’Hamburgheria di Volterra. You walk in, grab a ticky-box menu and tick what you want on your burger (meat, salad, topping, sauce, fries, drinks etc.) and hand it over. I opted for a beef burger, with pecorino, caramelised onions and ketchup, and a side of fries. I took it home, so I could be alone with it.


The burger was… quite good.  The fries are wonderful – they are made from fresh-cut spuds, and although their look thin, they are rather like what we call back home “chipper chips”.  The problem is the price.  The burger is the same price as the one in La Sosta, but La Sosta’s is definitely the better burger.  The onions and soy mayonnaise that they use has to be tasted to be believed.  Anyhoo – first-world problems!

We were waiting on the call from the furniture place, but it never materialised.  Niamh checked the receipt again, and it said “from the 26th”.  Oy.  Ok, we’ll have to play it by ear.  We were due to go out to an artist’s store in Volterra to see if she had anything we liked for the apartment, but instead I crashed and woke up in the middle of a thunderstorm, with bucketing rain.

So we stayed in again, and Niamh cooked up that chicken and broccoli bake, which tasted nice and gave me a veggie-fix.


I didn’t even go out that evening – just watched stuff on YouTube and Netflix.  I’ve been remiss about my writing lately, so I hope to get back into that soon.

This morning, I went a similar route on my walk, to the one that took me past the witch’s rock, but stopped off for a bit at the Chiesa di San Giusto Nuovo and took some snaps.

It’s a huge building, and pretty cavernous inside (I couldn’t go in this morning, sadly).  I stopped off at Pasticceria Migliorini to get myself and Niamh a sfogliatella (shell-like, cream-filled pastry) each.  It took a while, because a couple of Germans there seemed to be ordering the entire stock of the shop.  They kindly let me step in, so I could get away.  By that time, I was drenched in sweat, so it was a good idea.  Last time I undertook that route I was absolutely exhausted, but today I felt amazing – my fitness is definitely improving, thankfully!

We might visit that artist’s place today, and weather permitting I might go take in another museum.  Unless we get that call, of course 😉


August Strikes Again

August Strikes Again

We took things a little handier after yesterday‘s hectic day. When we were done hanging around the apartment, doing a little writing etc., we took ourselves downstairs and outside. We had to buy a pliers to tidy up a wire, currently suspending the net curtain over the door to our terrace. We grabbed one handily enough in the hardware store on Via dei Sarti, and had another little wander around some of the artsier stores on Via Porta all’Arco.

As we had a mind to eat out tonight, we decided, for the first time ever since we’ve been here, to grab a sandwich out of one of the few streetfood stores near us.  We chose La Sosta del Priore, just around the corner from the entrance to our apartment building.  It gets rave reviews on Trip Advisor, as do a couple of the other streetfood vendors in the area.

We both had variations on a porchetta (roast pork) sandwich.  They assemble it in front of you, and chop up the pork on a flat griddle.  I had sundried tomatoes, porchetta, pecorino with a little fig jam.  It was sensational, and we’ll be trying these streetfood sandwiches again soon.  They fill you right up, too!


I should have taken a photo side-on, as this shot doesn’t do it justice.

Niamh found a single-seater chair she wanted to buy for our living room, in a place in the industrial zone of Colle di Val d’Elsa, a town about 35 minutes drive away.  As it was after 13:00, we had to wait ’til closer to 16:00 before heading out.  Colle di Val d’Elsa also has a lovely medieval town, and a nice centre to its modern area, but we didn’t visit those today – some other time!

Anyhoo, we got there, and noticed that the carpark was suspiciously empty.  Niamh had checked the opening times online, but the message on the window nonetheless stated that they were shut from August 4th until the 27th.  Wonderful.  Back we went, but on the way home, I took some snaps of the countryside as we were driving.

Upon arriving back in Volterra, we decided not to blow our time at the apartment until it was time to eat, but did this instead:


A manly drink for a manly man, in the prime of his manly manhood.  I considered it one of my 5 a day, as it had pulped peach in it.  We got these in Antica Velathri Café (Velathri is what the Etruscans called Volterra back in the day).  There is a fabulous mixologist there, and he’s very friendly to boot.  They also have little bready canapés you can eat, if you like.

After we’d had a couple there, we went to Il Pozzo degli Etruschi for dinner.  Niamh ordered one course with a contorno (side dish) of grilled veg, and I two.  This is the second time we’ve done this, and neither restaurant has gotten the timing right, despite confirming it with us.  So I had my second dish while Niamh had to look on and wait.  We won’t make the same mistake again.

Anyway, she had roast cutlets of wild boar, and she said it was the most delicious meat-dish she’s had here.  I had a taste and had to agree – it was pretty sensational.  I had Zuppa alla Volterrana (veggies!), and after pici with lamb sauce.  The soup was ok – not as good as in a couple of other places I’ve had it, but the pici dish was great!  

As we both had very full bellies, we went home.

There was supposed to be hella rain this morning, so I had conditioned myself to not going out for a walk.  In addition, they were spraying for mosquitoes in the green areas around Volterra, and I didn’t want to be around that.  I tried to sleep in.  I really did, but there it must have been the commercial glass bin collection day today… and they must have set up a central collection point right underneath our bedroom window.  The sound of glass bottles crashing together can become unnerving after 30 straight minutes of it.  Still… it must be done to keep the town tidy.

Long story short: fat, lazy Eoin didn’t go out for a walk today.  Will do so tomorrow!


Hot deals, but not hot wheels

Yesterday, we drove a little outside Navacchio, to a complex of malls and stores and had a look at some furniture.

Although our rental is brand new, there’s something that rattles in it ferociously if you’re in too high a gear.  Couple that with the fact that it has all the power of an asthmatic sloth, and you have an object into which I am currently pouring much of my malice.  It gets us from A to B, and the aircon works a treat, so I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies.

We passed Peccioli on the way.  One of these days we’ll actually rock up there and explore it!  Here it is, looking very pretty by a field of sunflowers.


We were reminded how much hotter it gets several hunderd meters closer to sea-level when we got out of the car.  I think it peaked around 34 celsius.  

In Casa, we bought some bins and sun loungers, all of which we took with us and stowed in the car, and then in Mondo Convenienza we got ourselves a lovely, accessorised wardrobe and a couple of side tables, and a cabinet for the TV.  All-in-all, these weren’t too expensive and looked really nice, so it was a win/win.  The mall was great to look at and spotlessly clean.

We will have to wait until August 26th for the delivery unfortunately.  We were brought over to a desk to finalise the order (the wardrobes are modular, and can be completely designed from the inside out), and were introduced once again to peculiar Italian bureaucracy.  In order to buy furniture, we had to provide:

  1. A codice fiscale (the Italian social security number)
  2. A passport (after checking with her manager, she accepted Niamh’s passport number)
  3. An Italian phone number.  We don’t have one, so we had to give them the number of our Estate Agents, who also look after our house while we’re back in Ireland

Finally, at the cash desk itself, Niamh had to provide 8 digital signatures to accept and pay for the order and delivery.  Seems bonkers to those not living in Italy, but I guess it prevents money laundering and other nefarious activities.  However, I wonder if one of the reasons that Italian economic growth is so low is because their process and bureaucracy acts as a deterrant to commerce.  Anyway, I digress.  

After Niamh bought a nice top for herself, we did this for lunch in the mall, and I’m not one bit apologetic about it:


We went back home, the car struggling up the hills closer to Volterra.  It was still 28 degrees there, and we dragged the two sun-loungers and bins through town and up to our apartment.  We were a bit wrecked by the time we got there.  Hopefully, the loungers will get some use by us and the few guests we’re having over our stay.  Here they are on the upper terrace:


Niamh cooked again in the evening, but it was a light meal, given that we’d pigged-out earlier on.


The string beans here are so tasty and the fish was very tender and flakey.

We chilled for a while, and then I went out for a quick stroll about town.

The Irish Bar had no free tables, which was great to see.  A pair of seated gents were playing jazzy tunes on electric guitars outside another restaurant, while over-excited kids screamed and wheeled about in front of them.  I have to admit to having a little bit of ice-cream from L’isola Del Gusto on the way!  The lady behind the counter recognised me, and welcomed me back… it’s the small things in life that often make an impression.

For this morning’s walk, I took a route past the prison, on one side of a small valley, the other side of which houses both the modern-day hospital, and the closed mental hospital.  The road leads down to Porta e Fonti di Docciola, where the largest free car park for Volterra can be found (get there very early if you want a spot for a daytime visit, or if staying overnight you should be able to find parking spots after 20:00).

The font here was built in the mid-1200’s, and was an important source for water for both living, and for commerce back in medieval times.  Today, it houses both fish and pigeons!

I took the 200 steps back up to town, which gave me a decent workout.

Despite the pasta, pizza, and the occasional cakes and gelato, my belly seems to be slowly reducing, so yay!  A lot of that is down to portion control and exercise, but also to the fact that crisps and sweets simply aren’t as prevalent in the stores here, and we seem to have way less inclination to buy them as a result.

Today, we have to let our Estate Agents know that we are expecting an order for furniture, and to renew some sort of security dongle at the bank.  Other than that, it’s chillout time – we’ll proably eat out today, and I have to commit a few hundred more words of my novel to electronic paper! 

Thanks for reading this.  If you have any (polite) comments, questions or suggestions, please leave them below.