Tag: sbandieratori

Prison, Tournament, then Home (22/08/2021)

Prison, Tournament, then Home (22/08/2021)

It was our last day of this August trip, but seeing as our flight wasn’t until the evening, we still had time to mooch about town. The fortezza (prison) had opened its gates again (so to speak), and one of its towers was available for a guided tour. Now, I had visited it before, but Niamh hadn’t.

We walked up the ramp and along the walls to the entrance to prison gardens. If I recall correctly it was still €5 per person, but this time there was a tour in English. Due to the pandemic and the different languages on offer, there was a bit of a wait to get in – they said maybe 30 minutes. We each bought a bottle of water, and explored the gardens – including the section out front which wasn’t on offer before.

No sooner than had we walked around the gardens, when we were called to take the English tour. I think our group was referred to as gli stranieri (the foreigners) between he tour guides, rather than ‘these people’, ‘this group’, ‘the English speakers’. This rankles with me a little, but it could be just an Italian thing. No harm, no foul. We went in… my disappointment didn’t quite end there.

Last time, the tour lasted a good 30 minutes, and a lot more information was given out. This time, the guide brought us from floor to floor, giving us no more than 2-3 sentences at each stop before moving on. We had time for shots from the windows, and there are some fabulous views of the town from the tower. Anyway, we were done in 10-12 minutes and bundled out.

If you have any Italian, I’d recommend taking the Italian tour, if you feel up to it; definitely more bang for your buck.

We had a lunch I’m afraid I don’t remember much about, and then Niamh and I went to Piazza dei Priori to have a look at the ceremonial opening of a competition between the medieval crossbowmen/women (balestrieri) from several different towns. We tried to get into the piazza by Ristorante Etruria, but unfortunately, the event was limited to certain numbers, and so by the time we got there, we had to wait until people started to leave before we would have been allowed to enter. We didn’t have the patience for that, so hung around the Torre del Porceillino, trying to steal glances over the temporary meshed fence.

Each team was fanfared-in by their accompanying medieval marching band and flag-wavers (sbandieratori). We hung around for 30 or so minutes, but as our time to leave was rapidly approaching, we decided to head back to the apartment.

There’s always a melancholy when we leave the place, and this time was no exception. However, as my anxiety symptoms were relatively low, I was almost excited to return to work to see how I’d cope (sadly, for the first time in nearly 2 weeks I had a sleepless night as soon as I got home to Kilcullen). We drove the usual route, always marvelling at the farmhouses in the valleys near the town. The hilltown of Peccioli still had some sunflowers in a field nearby, albeit wilting rapidly, but they made a pretty picture.

Finally, to Sixt to drop back the car, and head into the terminal for our flight home.

But we went back! These blogs will continue, detailing our week in October. I hope you enjoyed reading this – please leave a like and a comment. I would love to hear from you.

Another Visitor

Another Visitor

We got up early together to travel to Pisa to pick up another visitor: one of my brothers. It was the same flight as our previous visitor, and, as before, it landed 15 minutes early. He arrived safely, and had my long-lost wallet with him, so off we went to Hertz to get me added as a driver – to finally save Niamh from having to do all the driving.

We went to Pisa (again!), but this time just had a quick wander around the square. I only took a few pics this time.

On the way home, we stopped off at the Conad supermarket in Capannoli to grab some groceries, snacks and beers, as our guest isn’t a wine drinker.  Back in Volterra, we had lunch at La Terra di Mezzo before we dropped all our bags at the apartment.  We had a caprese salad, beef ragu with tagliatelle and I had pappardelle with truffle and a ricotta sauce – one of the best plates of pasta in town, in my opinion!  A couple of us had desserts afterwards, along with a freebie shot of limoncello.

We went home to chill, as our guest had been up since about 03:00, and was a little tired.  We just chilled and dozed.  At around 15:30, there was a hubbub outside our window – drummers were approaching the main square, but they were not recognisable as being Volterra’s own.

We went downstairs and out to the square, with the afternoon’s thunder booming off in the distance.  There was definitely an event on, but I couldn’t see it in Volterra City‘s list.  If anyone local is reading this – could you give me a definitive source for these events, please?  Anyway, it seems to have been a competition of sbandieratori (flag jugglers/wavers) from Volterra, Florence and Pistoia.  People were sat in the metal bleacher seats provided, and watched the entrance of each team.

About halfway throught, fat drops of rain began to fall.  Moments later, there was a flash, followed by an immediate booming – one of the loudest sounds I’ve ever heard.  We couldn’t have been more than a hundred meters away from a lightning strike.  People began immediately moving off the bleachers, and the restaurant in the square suddenly found a half-dozen people to take away tablecloths and fold up parasols of their outside seating!  Still, the sbandieratori remained in position, with their flags held high.

Nobody moved until the rain started coming down heavily.  Then all three teams scarpered under the archways of the civic buildings lining the east side of the square.  We stayed for a little while, but there was no sign of them coming back out, so we toddled back to the apartment.  I didn’t hear anything recommence until about 17:00, and it lasted until we were going out for dinner – around 19:30.  A cannon sounded off to announce the end of the competition.

I’m not sure what the results were, but I’ll have a look-out.  I still don’t know what the results of the crossbow competition were from the previous week!

Anyway – we headed out to Il Sacco Fiorentino for dinner, stopping off at the viewpoint for a couple of snaps.  

Niamh had eggplant parmagiano, and I the zuppa alla Volterrana to start.  Our guest’s single course was a burger, and looked amazing – but for some reason, I didn’t take a photo.  Niamh liked her’s – mine was merely ok.  Afterwards, Niamh had seabass and I had a sliced pork steak, served with cheese onions and cavalo nero (kale, more or less).  Niamh’s fish was well-cooked.  Mine was tasty, but the pork a little overdone.  We both had a side of fries, as they are amazing here.

I went home with a full, but worryingly, grumbling stomach.  I had contracted some sort of unpleasant gastric issue, which upset my sleep overnight.  I don’t think it was anything I ate yesterday, but perhaps the previous day.  We re-heated some chicken and broccoli bake – this might have been it, but Niamh had it and she was ok!  So who can say?  Either way, my tummy hasn’t settled properly yet, and I didn’t go out for a walk this morning – I just left the trash downstairs.  I need to remain close to the apartment until I can shake this thing off!

Apologies for ending on an unpleasant note – but that’s life.  Hopefully, I’ll feel better today and have something interesting to post tomorrow!


Volterra AD1398 Festival, Day 1, Part 1

Volterra AD1398 Festival, Day 1, Part 1

I’ve had to split this into two parts – both are reasonably photo-heavy. I’ve linked to some movies in public posts on Facebook.

I took to wearing shorts for the day, which is nearly unheard-of for me, but it was just as well – it was a very hot day.  We took ourselves outside and marched up to the ticket booth, after which we had to present ourselves for our re-entry band.


And then we went off to explore the stands.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  You hear of Renaissance Fairs in the US, and I suppose this is something akin, but when you have the setting of an actual medieval town, it makes it so much more special.  At times it was like walking through a movie set.  And fair play to the townsfolk, they were so into it, and many of them dressed up for their stalls, but also to just wander the streets, adding flavour and believability to the whole festival.  We exchanged some Euros for Grossi, the currency of the day, and used for purchases in the festival.

There were costumes for hire for the day.  We didn’t hire them today, but maybe it will be cooler next Sunday and we might be persuaded to grab some then.

There were stalls for food, and then various craftsmen showed how goods were made all those years ago – from hammering out delicate earrings, to demonstrating how salt was extracted from the source not too far from the town.  Volterra is still well-known for its salt.  Some scribes were drawing and performing delicate lettering, and there was even a medieval hospital set up!

Turning the corner to Via Roma, you could see stall after stall of wares, food and drink.  When you add in the backdrop of the arch between the two towers (everything has a name, I sadly can’t remember what the names of those two towers are – sorry!), it all felt more real.

Then we went off to the park.  There was a similar setup there, but in a more bucolic setting, along with more unique stuff like smithing, and crossbow and shortbow ranges (which I never got around to trying, dammit – maybe next week).  

The layout of the itinerary looks foreboding at first, but you see that many of the items are repeated, allowing you to stay in one location for much of the day to view most of what’s on offer, or alternatively bounce between locations to catch repeats.  In addition, there were a couple of marching bands who roamed the roads between acts, keeping everyone entertained (and on their toes), as well as stilt performers and a jester/magic act.

But there were some specialised performances that demanded either the square (dancing lessons) or the park (falconry exhibition) – see Part 2 for these, so sometimes you just had to travel.  It’s murder on your Achilles getting up that slope to the park!

You can see a couple of brief movies on this public Facebook post.

We were both roasted by this stage, and so went back to Via Porta all’Arco for  a granita, and then grabbed sandwiches to see off our hunger.  My one (in the background, with sausage meat and fried onion) was particularly yummy.


We needed a bit of a break, as it was getting extremely warm, and so went back to the apartment. It was so hot, that the fan was on the cusp of turning from friend into enemy. We struggled through our ‘rest’, and eventually headed out for the early evening part of the show. See all this in Part 2!