Tag: la notte rossa

Red Night with Friends (10/09/2022)

Red Night with Friends (10/09/2022)

Back in 2019, we experienced Volterra’s outdoor arts festival, La Notte Rossa (the Red Night) for the first time. Outdoor art installations and musical performances are dotted throughout the town, as private palazzi open for an explore. In the lead up to it, there are often some performances or talks you can attend. I covered off a couple of these in the last blog. If there was one thing that worried me a little about this year’s (even though Volterra was Tuscany’s capital of culture), there was a distinct lack of outdoor installations being worked on. In 2019 there were a bunch of them, but I didn’t really see any. In fairness, the world was still trying to pick itself up after Covid, so that too might be a reason.

Anyway, we were still excited as we would be celebrating it this year with our first Italy-based overnight guests. We mentioned Marie and Lorenzo before. They are a couple who live in Vicopisano, and manage properties as holiday-rentals as Authentic Tuscany. They are super-nice and very enthusiastic in showing their guests Tuscan delights, such as wine and oil tastings, truffle-hunting and cookery classes. They are definitely worth looking into if you want somewhere different and less-frequently visited (but nonetheless very lovely!) than the big names – Vicopisano is a gorgeous little town. While they had been to Volterra a number of times, they had never seen the Red Night, and so we were only too happy to show them around. One thing to note: I was probably a little shy in asking them if I could include them in photos/video, and didn’t assume either way, so you won’t see them in this blog, but you’ll see them at the above website and, of course, their Instagram accounts. Also, I was happy to limit video-taking, as I wanted to be more present at the festival.

But what did we do in the lead-up? I honestly haven’t a clue! There are no photo-memories, nor actual human memories available.

So, on with the main event! We met the guys at a corner outside the west part of the walled town and walked them back through Porta San Francesco, through the main square, where a band was tuning up for the evening. It’s uphill all the way, baby, but they hike quite a bit outside Vicopisano, and didn’t find it too taxing. As they had been to Volterra a bunch of times before, I we kept the tour stuff to a minimum. We had quick tour of the square and the streets near our apartment. Then we gave them a quick tour of the apartment. They weren’t exhausted by the steps up either, so that was a bonus!

When we were ready, we made for L’Incontro for aperitivi. The service was a little slow, but I think we had time enough for a couple of drinks and some nibbles, before heading directly across the road to La Vecchia Lira for a dinner before exploring the festival.

We enjoyed the grub, and skipped dessert.

We headed for the Piazza dei Priori to see how the festival was progressing. It’s a late-starting affair (21:00), and it was dark when we got there. The first thing I noted was that the band still wasn’t playing, and nor were there any demos or installations on display. I did like the projection on the Palazzo dei Priori, and the fabulous lighting.

As soon as I had the snaps taken, I ran towards the private palazzo that runs perpendicular to Del Duca. I just missed being able to explore it in 2019, and got stupidly scorpy as a result. I jogged there. And, of course, it was closed. Anyway, it was what it was, and with a shrug of the shoulders I went back to the rest of the gang and continued the exploration.

We went clockwise around the square, so I could check out northwestern end of Via del Mandorlo to see if there was any nice artwork installed outdoors. The town is set up so that wherever you see a red blobby asterisk, you will be assured of some sort of treat. The street had the sign, but nothing outside it. However, it was signed because one of the palazzi on the street was open – or at least their backyard was.

After a quick visit there, we wandered to Porta San Felice. It’s paths and stairs were lined with tons of little oil lamps, as it was in 2019. It looked stunning. From there, it was a climb up one of the steepest streets in Volterra: Via della Pietraia. At the top of it was the piazzetta where Osteria Fornelli can be found. It had a display of alabaster lit up from within – not just for the festival – it seems to be a permanent fixture now.

We completed a circuit by heading back to the Piazza San Giovanni, where the baptistry and cathedral can be found, as well as Volterra’s fab exhibition centre. There was a cool jazz band playing outside the exhibition centre, so we hung around for a couple of tunes before moving on.

Onwards towards the art museum, but you had to book it that night, so we had a brief glimpse. Luckily, we did get into a piano blues concert inside the beautiful Teatro Persio Flacco. While he was an excellent player, he didn’t have the gravelly voice needed for blues. He was a technically good singer – very clean with wonderful tone, but would have excelled in a different genre.

From there, we had a long walk up our street, then wandered past Del Duca again and up towards the park. We ambled along the prison walls to Porta al Selci. Near the ramp that leads to the prison entrance, there lies a large building which is also rarely open to the public – an arts building, which chiefly seems to be the resident to a dancing troupe. We had a nose around inside, while our guests chatted a little with the ladies who where hostessing the evening there.

At the back, there is a large space, with enormous trees – a backyard which few again see. In 2019, I was allowed to explore the garden fully. This year, the safety dance was in full effect, and we couldn’t wander farther than 5 or so meters. Still gloriously spooky!

We stopped off at L’Antica Velathri Café for a quick libation, before heading to Piazza Settembre XX, through Gramsci and back to Piazza dei Priori to witness the festival-closing fireworks display!

And now for some blog-exclusive content! Here is video footage of the fireworks display. It get’s pretty spectacular towards the last minute or so.

Thanks for reading, all. I hope you enjoyed it – please let me know in the comments!

The Red Night and the Prison

The Red Night and the Prison

Not a bad title for a novel!   Anyway – this post is a little media-rich – so beware.

It was more of an eventful night than day… I sat in and wrote a bit (maybe 600 words), and Niamh went out to mooch around town with our guests.  They went to the market, bought goodies and then went to lunch in I Ponti.  I’d never eaten there before.  They had a selection of panini and antipasti, and the reports were good!  Niamh also saw a waiter there who used to work in Da Beppino – he always recognised us.  A lot of waiters seem to circulate in Volterra from season to season.

I had a veg soup in a carton by Knorr.  This may sound blech, but as far as packaged soups go, don’t compare to what we get at home… it wasn’t bad at all!


We crashed and screen-watched in the afternoon, and had the last of the beef ragu that I made, with added oompf by Niamh.  It was nice and tasty!

A little after 21:00, a few of us ventured out to sample what the Red Night (La Notte Rossa) had to offer.

If the Medieval Festival appealed to the child in me, the Red Night appeals to the creative adult.  Throughout the town, there were art installations, gentle jazz/world bands and many of the museums were open free of charge until midnight.  As well as that, some of the town’s more well-to-do families opened their palazzi to the public – which is something they’d never do, except on nights like this. 

Firstly, we entered the main square (Piazza dei Priori), to a little bit of magic!

The walls of the buildings were lit up red and indigo, and a video of local hilltowns was being projected onto Palazzo dei Priori.  A band played soft jazz, while a young man used aerosol paints to create a stylised profile.  Just wonderful.  If I’d been here before on such a night, I might have stayed here and chilled with some wine or cocktails.

We instead moved on to have a look at the first palazzo, which was somewhere definitely lived in.  It was beautifully decorated and furnished, and a couple of ladies with a piano and melodica were performing some Italian jazz numbers in one of the rooms.

Another couple of places had also opened, revealing lovely, intimate gardens.

After exploring there and listening to a little music, we went to the Porta San Felice – where the crossroads of steps was all lit up with lamps, the oils of which were gently perfurmed.  It looked so gorgeous.

We had another final little explore together, before we broke company in Volterra’s sweet little theatre.

The other two went home, while I walked the town myself, taking snaps.  I went past Palazzo Viti, but it was only open to organised, pre-booked tours – as were a couple of other places, and I didn’t want to blow the whole night in Volterra’s wonderful pinacoteca (art gallery), where tons of renaissance and pre-renaissance goodies are on display – I will go back there another time and pay.

After a quick stop at a small exhibition by the astronimical observatory near Volterra, I walked to the prison, to see if there was anything else happening on the other side of town.  About three-quarters of the way there, I remembered they’d opened part of the prison – but they were closing up by the time I got there.  Fortunately, the lady told me that they were opening tomorrow (Sunday) from midday to six o’clock.  My Italian comprehension is improving all the time!

Fortunately, another building was open for the night – it seemed to be a dance school.  Behind it, though, was one of the creepiest gardens you’ll ever walk in at night.  I loved it!

On the way home, I stopped off at a cute little model railway.  I skipped the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum (I’ll document that some other day), and the Sacred Arts Museum – I already blogged a visit to that place here.  A nice band of aul’ fellahs was playing on Gramsci – so I stayed to listen to one number and then headed for home.

The crossroads of Gramsci/Matteotti (the latter being the road our apartment is on) was the busiest I’ve seen it.  Being on your own, though, is not so much fun, so I headed off and my head hit the pillow around 11:25… 

…only to be woken up about an hour later by the most tremendous salvo of fireworks I’ve ever heard.  It sounded like they let them off in the square or the park, and had them explode right over our apartment.  Our windows where humming with the noise, and flashes of colour burst through every few seconds.  The last time they let off fireworks here, they lasted about 30 seconds, so I didn’t bother getting dressed this time.  I missed a 10-minute display.  Typical.  Maybe next year!

This morning, we had to drop one of our guests off at Pisa Airport.  We had a now obligatory stop at the bell tower (nope – I refuse to post photos this time!).  On the way to lunch at La Pace, we had a lovely encounter with local artists who painted one of the pieces of art on display in our living room.  They are very enthusiastic, and our guest bought themselves a nice piece to take home.  We then had a wonderful lunch in La Pace – boar and pasta – quelle surprise!


As the restaurant is right next to the prison (housed in a fortress enhanced by the Medici in the 16th century), I took the opportunity to take the open prison walk.  It turns out, you only walk one of the walls, into a small garden area, where you can buy a ticket for a guided tour (Italian only) of one of the main towers of the medieval fortress.  YASSS!

I only understood about 25% of what was being said e.g. one of the 5m diameter rooms housed 12 guards… fun times!  You could take photographs freely, except through two windows, which looked out onto the recreation area for the prisoners.  A bundle of them were there kicking a ball around, or playing bowls.  I’m not sure I like the idea of us spying on them like that, but if some of the entrance fee (€5) goes towards their benefit, then it lessens the guilt a little.

Then I went home, and typed up this blog!  You are fully up-to-date.  There will most likely be no blog tomorrow, as there will be flip-all to report!

I’ll see you in the next one… A presto!

Lari and the Pasta Factory

Lari and the Pasta Factory

We have two guests with us for a short while, so we decided to take them to Lari. We had been there before, but the Martelli pasta factory tours were closed in August (when many Italians go on holiday). We wandered up to the carpark, only to see that they’d strung some brollies over Gramsci. Tonight is Volterra’s culture night (La Notte Rossa), where there are a ton of acts playing around the city, and many of the major attractions are open for free from 21:00 to 24:00. Why do they call it The Red Night? They light up the city with red lamps – like they do near Christmas. It will be a late night, but I’m looking forward to it. Below is a pic of one of our favourite restaurateurs, from La Terre di Mezzo – getting ready for the festivities.


We went to Lari by way of La Sterza, and Terriciola.  Why Google Maps changed our route to take is through Terriciola, rather than go around it is a mystery.  We were rewarded with a different set of sights this time around, as we were driven through village after village, past vineyards and olive groves.  It was pretty cool… except maybe for the driver, who insisted we travel a different route going home!  The roads were quite narrow in parts and can’t have been fun to navigate.

We parked near the old town, with about a 250m walk uphill to the archway which leads into the main area.  It was a warm day, and the climb was understandably a little draining.  There was an organised tour group ahead of us, but we only had to wait about 15 minutes for the next opening.  This afforded us a mooch around the town for a bit, including a trip to a jewellers who could only give us a price for an 18-carat bracelet after he’d weighed it.  I’d never seen that before!  When the price was given, we excused ourselves and left.

A large group of people had gathered from Ireland (including a pair of people other than ourselves), Germany, the US, the Netherlands and Switzerland to go in.  The tour was only about 15 minutes long, but you got to go into the areas where pasta (specifically spaghetti here – the rest of the pastas are made in the castle in the middle of the town) is dried and cut – and you were given a small sample of pre-cut pasta.  Martelli pasta is cut with bronze dies, which give it a very rough texture.  As the pasta is only made from durum wheat and water, there isn’t a flavour difference, but the sauce sticks beautifully to the pasta in the pan during the final stages of cooking.

The dude that came out to deliver the tour (in English) was dressed in video-game racial stereotype overalls, but he knew his stuff and was friendly.  The main area was really warm… maybe 35-36 celsius, and I wondered how hot it could get in August-heat!

Afterwards, we had a lunch with Martelli pasta.  We had done so before in the same restaurant, but the only new dish was the one I got – maccheroni with a tuscan ragu.

Our guests were a little tired, so we forewent trips to other towns, and headed home – capturing some lovely scenery on the way.  We had an obligatory stop at the ‘O’ on the road just past Volterra, on the way to Siena.

Apologies… you can see reflections in some of the photos.  On the way back to apartment, we grabbed some gelati, because we could!  We pretty much stayed in for the rest of the day, except when I nipped out to grab a little shopping, and Niamh went out to get takeaway pizza for herself and the other ladies.  

I’ve ceased being a fan of pizza at night (acid stomach), and instead got something even more trashy, but strangely nice for a change – a fishburger.  The fish was flaky inside the rough crumb, so it wasn’t the worst thing at all – I might try the burger in the same place (Attutapizza) some other time.


Afterwards, we watched Wine Country on Netflix, which was mis-labelled as a comedy.  Ah, I’m being unfair – it wasn’t a bad flick (although I left about 10 mins before the end).  The Napa Valley looks a bit like Tuscany, so that was a plus – and the characters in it were amiable enough.

Anyhoo, this morning I got up earlier than usual, and compounded by the fact that it is later in the year, the town was a little darker than usual.  I found a new part of the route (well… Niamh had gone that way before me), which made the walk a little more interesting.  I also captured a wide shot of Volterra’s buildings I’d never been able to capture before.  It almost looks like another town from that angle.

The guests are having a mooch about town today, so I will use some of this day to put a hole in my writing project.  I hope to stay out much of the night to capture as much as I can on La Notte Rossa too, so I’m really looking forward to that!

We are bringing one of the guests to the airport tomorrow mid-morning, but I hope to have a blog up before we go tomorrow.