Tag: shopping

Lunch in the Middle of Nowhere and Exploring Poggibonsi (12/05/2022)

Lunch in the Middle of Nowhere and Exploring Poggibonsi (12/05/2022)

I stayed in bed a little while longer this morning, but still got up and did my walk. I could have been a lazy so-and-so, but I did it, so yay me! I had a short walk in mind, just around the block to walk up the stairs at Docciola. Short, but challenging. However, from there I just went on and on, past Piazza XX Settembre, up to the park, and from there to the panoramic viewpoint. The photos speak for themselves. I was in need of a wash at the end of it, so that’s good enough for me!

I also busted out my macro lens and took some nice floral shots.

After eating and making ourselves beautiful, we refreshed some toiletries and bought some cleaning and painting supplies, as there were a few jobs Niamh wanted to do before we headed home. We didn’t quite find the paint we wanted – so we thought we’d head out to Navacchio or Pontadera to grab some. We changed our minds later on, though – more below.

I thought I’d check in on the framers to see how he was getting on with the drawing we bought. It wouldn’t be ready until the next day. No worries – we’d pick it up then.

Once done, Niamh went to a Bancomat (ATM) got some money out, while I grabbed the goodies and brought them upstairs. Three quarters of the way down, I realised I’d forgotten to bring the bag Niamh asked me not to forget, so back up I went. At least I was getting some exercise in.

We’d driven the SP4 road a bunch of times before, especially to go to Florence, Florence and Florence, and that time when we checked out Gambassi Terme and Montaione. We passed by a couple of restaurants that were in the middle of nowhere. We’d pass them by and swear that one day we’d try them. I think you can guess what’s coming next. We decided to do lunch at one of them, called Osteria del Castagno, especially since it had a large, easily accessible carpark. It was only 30 mins away, so we walked slowly to the car to build up a hunger.

When we got to the carpark, we saw that it would be closed tomorrow, so we’d have to park elsewhere overnight tonight. Bummer. Small price to live in paradise, though.

I drove to the restaurant. As promised, it had plenty of parking and lovely surroundings. We decided to sit outside, but in shade. It had lots of lovely outdoor nooks and crannies where you could enjoy your meal.

The food was nice and the service very friendly. We played a guessing game with the waitress while she guessed what nationality we were. We even threw in a few random languages to throw her off the scent. In the end, she was pleasantly surprised to discover we were Irish. A subsequent conversation saw her recommending us places to visit, and being amazed again at how we had visited not only all her recommendations (“Have you heard of San Gimignano?” we had a chuckle at that one), but tons of other less well-known towns besides all over central, west and south-west Tuscany. We had a small chats with one of the male waiters too. Everyone was disarmingly lovely.

The food was very nice, but we felt that the prices were extraordinarily high. Here are the food pics:

I think the tortellini may have cost €24 (please correct me if I’m wrong, if anyone from the restuarant ends up reading this). I have had pasta dishes with truffle for 2/3 of that price. I would recommend the place, though, if you’re flush. The food is good and the service is friendly. I imagine that the setting in the evening would be amazing; very romantic – so maybe try it then.

As we were so far from Navacchio, and the route would be a little annoying, we decided to check out Poggibonsi for the first time. We knew it had a huge shopping/industrial area to its north, and we were sure we could pick up the paint and odds and ends we needed there. So off we went. Little did we know, this is also a route to San Gimignano, and on the way we had a jaw-trolley moment when we saw said Tuscan Manhattan in the distance, the centre-point of one of those Tuscany-in-a-bottle scenes that you have to pull over for. We did just that, and took a few snaps.

We skirted around San Gimignano, and were then taken along an unfamiliar road into Poggibonsi. We got some easy and free parking at Parcheggio Vallone – some Saturdays it’s closed though, so be careful. The old town was quiet, but we both really liked it. It has a few really chill piazze, and we sat a while after our explore to wait for the shops to reopen after riposo.

There were curious little sculptures of figures made of cuboids scattered throughout some of the piazzas. We made friends with them.

We wandered some more and I kinda fell a little in love with old Poggibonsi. It was very sleepy when we visited it, but there were places to eat and drink and I’d say it turns into a lively enough place during the evening. We found more alleys, another cubic friend and then a lovely circular piazza. All the benches in the shade were taken, and at one stage we had a little race with a local to grab a recently vacated seat – we lost; probably for the best.

We got back to the car, and drove north to the ‘Industrial Zone’ which is a large series of mini-malls and strip-malls in which you can find just about anything. It’s not the most salubrious of areas, so I didn’t take shots, but from a practical standpoint it will be a fabulous place to source holdhold and hardware stuff, and get food shopping into the bargain, should we be lacking in that department too. We also noted what could be a cool Sushi place to go to should we have a mind – we’ll go there some day. We stopped off in Casa and Brico and got what we wanted – terracotta paint for Niamh’s little job, and then got back in the car for home. I really enjoyed driving that day. We avoided a mini sports-car rally at a roundabout coming out of the town, and noticed a big frantoio, should we ever decide to grow olives!

Upon getting home, we screenwatched, edited, wrote a bit, and we had a rare moment of not going out to eat again! Niamh cooked up a pork-chop dinner (yum!) and after that we headed out for gelato!

I hope you enjoyed reading this. Let me know what you think. Have you ever visited Poggibonsi?

A Wet Florence and another Farewell (26 & 27/12/2021)

A Wet Florence and another Farewell (26 & 27/12/2021)

It was St. Stephen’s/Boxing Day, and I was tasked with driving to Florence. We had a mission: the ladies wanted to buy some gloves. I went with our usual idea of going the country route there, and parking in the Coop Carpark, and then going back via mostly the autostrada. I was thinking to myself “Gosh, wouldn’t it be great to be able to show Lily and Mark (Niamh’s sister and her husband) some of the wonderful countryside, in particular between Volterra and Montaione!” Three unfortunate things occurred, which somewhat spoiled the journey:

  1. The weather. It was foggy in Volterra, then we got further down to a corner of the Val d’Era where it was relatively clear, but the climb began again into more fog. Well…. dang! Then came the rain, which further reduced visibility. It’s a shame, as some of the countryside is beautiful – so reserve it for a sunnier day if you ever wish to explore.
  2. I was perhaps driving a little too quickly. Niamh and I are usually so used to both the road and having no people in the back seats, but about 20-25 minutes into the drive, I was informed that the ladies in the back were feeling queasy, so I had to slow down (sorry, ladies!).
  3. I joined a much busier road a little after we passed Montaione. I took a left onto the route, and saw a huge puddle in the road – a lane wide, which chunks of asphalt aroud the rim of it. I had no doubt that if I had driven into the puddle, I’d have probably hit a hidden pothole – a bad one. I swerved to avoid it, but didn’t properly notice a mini-cooper coming up behind me in the other lane. He was still a little away from me, but made a show of his anger by blasting me out of it with his horn. Almost a kilometer down the road at a roundabout, he blasted me again as we parted ways. I can never get over the fact that Italians are so chill, but put a good number of them behind a steering wheel they can turn into demons!

We got to the Coop carpark in the end, and from there hopped onto a tram into the centre. We were hungry, and somehow all had a simulataneous hankering for pizza, not having had any while Lily and Mark were with us. I tend to lean away from restaurants where the staff are selling seats outside the door, much preferring to let the food do the talking. However, we were ravenous, and the establishment into which we were being ushered had some pretty good reviews (Lorenzo di Medici), so in we went and had our pizzas. They were delicious! In fairness, the service was good and the staff friendly too.

It was damp when we got out, and getting damper. Fortunately, we dressed for the occasion! We wended our way towards the Duomo, passing a few landmarks on the way, both old and new.

On the outside of the Basilica, at its north-eastern an alternative presepe (nativity scene) had been set up, but instead of a stable, it was a medical facility where doctors and nurses working to exhaustion in surgical PPE. This was a wonderful mark of respect to them during these past couple of years when the pandemic had put us, and them in particular, to the sword.

This is not my photo – it belongs to Firenze Today.

We reached the Piazza del Duomo, and wandered about the front of the cathedral. We had never seen the presepe there, nor the Christmas Tree, so it we covered off visiting Florence in yet another season. You’ll see that the town was pretty busy!

We then wandered to the Piazza delle Signoria. The city still looked great in the rain, and there were no complaints about the weather. I’ve seen videos of Florence’s Christmas lights in the evening, and they look amazing, so some of the following photos don’t really do them justice.

On the way to the Ponte Vecchio, Lily pointed out a shop where they were selling what looked like artisanal gelato. I checked the window briefly, and saw that they were serving the creamy goodness from little sunken tins (I forget what they’re called). I hopped straight in, without checking the awning on the store. I’d made my order when I noticed that it was a well-known brand of coffee (and despite trawling the map, I’m having difficulty locating the brand), who just so happened to be selling gelato in their store ‘on the side’. Too proud to cancel my order, took a goodly sized cup of it away. It was ok – not really artisanal, but ok – but it was still ok gelato, right? Yay!

We wandered over the bridge, all the way over to Palazzo Pitti, and guess what? Well if you’ve been following these blogs for a while, you’ll be pleased(?) to know that we kept up our habit of not actually going in! One of these days, I swear!

We were happy walking around and exploring though. Staying on the Altr’Arno, we headed over to the Piazza Santa Spirito. We were overdue a coffee (me, a hot chocolate), and found a place with indoor seating (Café Cabiria), and were promptly greeted by a lady with a Dublin accent! The world is too small. She sounded pretty fluent when she was talking to Italian customers, and had been over here a while. We had a 20 minute pause for refreshment, to chat with the Irish lady and to use the facilities.

Once finished, we had one more errand before the trip back home: the ladies needed to buy some gloves at Martelli on Via Por Santa Maria. It was only a trip of a few hours, but we really wanted to limit the time we would be driving in the dark. Anyway, we re-crossed at the Ponte Santa Trinita and made our way there. The ladies went in. Mark and I waited outside. And waited. And we waited a little more, a little more impatiently. It began to rain again, so Mark waited across the road, by the awning of a fancy men’s shop while I stood outside Martelli.

Then I was accosted by one of those African doo-dad sellers. Listen, I agree that every person needs to make a living, but the hucksterism some of these guys pull-off really try my patience. It began well, and we fist-bumped and chatted for a minute. Then out of nowhere he held out his hand to shake. This is where you back off, or move on etc. What happens here is that they attempt to pull and bracelet over onto your wrist and get aggressive when you refuse to buy it. I refused the handshake and immediately moved away, despite some weak protestations from him. He wandered off, while I joined Mark on the other side of the road to wait some more.

The ladies certainly spent way more time in that shop than we did in th café… not much fun, I have to say, when it’s grey and drizzling. But we bucked-up (glove-buying was our #1 mission after all), and waited stoically. They came out eventually, mission accomplished and very happy – and even a little apologetic. Satisfied, we walked back towards the tram.

We had a couple of unscheduled stops on the way. First, we paused briefly at Piazza di Santa Trinita to admire the conical Christmas tree there.

The one thing I regret this trip (no, not not Palazzo Pitti!) is not going to check out the lights at Piazza delle Republica. I saw videos of them afterwards and they are spectacular! Anyway, we instead continued farther north, and stopped in the vestibule of the Strozzi Palace to check out Jeff Koons’ balloon bunny. We didn’t go into the exhibition proper, as it was beginning to get dark.

Time for one final touristy photo-op before we boarded the tram. Yet another visit to Florence with too much time spent outdoors. We really have to pop inside some of these landmarks!

Mark had to drive home in the dark and rain… not the most pleasant of drives, but we got through it! We didn’t head out that night, but instead we had antipasti bought at La Bottega and the market a couple of days previously. Then Lily made a wonderful risotto with the blue cheese and kale, topped by a parmesan crisp (we picked up everything for this at the market). It was absolutely delish. Below is a photo of an adulterated one: Niamh doesn’t like blue cheese.

Unfortunately, the next morning it was time for us to once again leave Volterra. At the time of writing this blog we haven’t been back yet since, but are looking forward to going some time in May. Our guests were staying another couple of nights on their own, so we were more than a little jealous – but we had to head home to get our booster shots, which was more important in the grand scheme of things.

It was actually quite a nice day in Pisa itself, and Mark and Lily joined Niamh and I for one last cup of something hot and a slice of cheap pizza before we headed into the airport for the flight home. It was at a circular kiosk outside. The coffee and pizza were ok, but the hot chocolate I almost spat out. I had taken one watery mouthful that was barely tepid and left it at that. In hindsight, I should have taken it back to complain, but at the time I didn’t want to end the holiday on a downer.

So, this wraps-up this series of blogs until some time in May. I will have another one or two in the offing, in particular about Volterra being Tuscany’s inaugural capital of culture, so keep an eye out for that!

I hope you enjoyed reading this and admiring Florence’s beauty, even in the rain. Please leave a like and a comment to let me know, and please ask any questions. I’d love to hear from you.

Valdichiana Shopping Outlet, Foiano and Lucignano (13/10/2021)

Valdichiana Shopping Outlet, Foiano and Lucignano (13/10/2021)

I skipped the morning walk again that day. This is a feature that plagued me for much of my December visit too, I’m sorry to say. The best I can offer was that it was down to simple laziness, rather than anxiety. Anyway, I knew we had a journey and a half ahead of us.

For ages I had wanted to go check out one of the few outdoor retail outlets in Tuscany. Probably the most famous is The Mall, in Leccio, a short ways southeast of Florence proper. But it was a little too high-end for what we needed. Another is Designer Outlet Barnerino, but as it’s a good bit north of Florence/Prato, and we didn’t really want to take the car through that traffic-filled nightmare, we opted instead for the much more leisurely Valdichiana Village, which is a good bit east and slightly south of Siena – near the town of Foiano della Chiana.

That would mean another trip on the Siena road, but it’s a far less stressy drive than going through Florence or Prato. The lengthy motorway stretch is very boring, however. So boring, in fact, that I didn’t film the journey part of the day at all – the rest of the day you can see in the YouTube video further on down in the blog.

The first third of it – the part before you hit the motorway – has some special moments:

  • The countryside immediately outside Volterra (around the ‘O‘) and a good bit beyond.
  • The section before Campiglia, where you’re surrounded by vines and hills, and you cross the Via Francigena and hit those hairpin bends (even better on the way back).
  • As always, going past Colle di Val d’Elsa – the part where the old town meanders along the ridge made our jaws drop when we first saw it. Despite dozens of passings-by now, it still impresses!
  • Even when you’re on the motorway, you’ll get to see Monteriggioni on the way there, and it’s easier to see Siena on the way back (if I recall correctly)

But the rest is kinda yawns-ville. The outlet itself is just off the autostrada, so yeah – you’re looking at a lot of multi-lane driving. Anyway, we got there in the end, and very safely!

It was a nice enough day, as you can see – I just wore a light jacket. Much of the perimeter of the outlet was lightly cordoned off, and where we entered a man was taking temperatures to ensure you could enter. Even outdoors in the outlet, you had to wear a mask. At other locations on the perimter, you had to engage with machines to take your temperature – so if you left (which we did to use the bathrooms at the perimeter walls), we had to get our temperatures checked again on the way back in.

There are some nicely appointed stores there – most of them containing clothing or household stock items. We noticed with a little amusement, that there was a youngish nun wandering around with a group of lay-people friends heading into the stores with tremendous enthusiasm. I thought she looked like one of the nuns we saw wandering around Il Teatro del Silenzio a couple of days previously, but then I have an over-active imagination! The first store we entered was, in fact, a pop-up Christmas store! We got a couple of decorations for the apartment, which we put up when we came over for Christmas – more on that in a few weeks’ time!

Niamh was looking for a couple of throws for our couch, which she managed to get (by going past the perimeter). We got them, and put them in the car, and once again went through to get our temperature taken. Fun times.

We continued to wander.

I had half a mind to buy myself a form-fitting jacket, as I had lost a lot of weight in the first 15 months of the pandemic. Unfortunately, I discovered to my cost that my belly had grown back a little. A shame, as I found a couple of lovely looking jackets I really wanted to get.

What better way to console myself than to grab some pizza? I think I might be in denial! We had wandered up to the food court and were on the verge of, once again, heading into Old Wild West for a burger or ribs, but reminded ourselves that we shouldn’t eat too much prior to dinner that night. Maybe a pizza with a thin base might be an option….especially if we skipped dessert! We knew the place we were going to that evening didn’t do pizzas, and so didn’t want pasta either. Our minds were made up!

We saw a bar/restaurant on the perimeter which looked like it did pizzas – Al Borgo. We headed in, and selected a couple from the menu, and a couple of soft drinks to keep the fluids up. I noticed that they had their own sauces (pasta, pizza etc.) for sale, but the place had more of a ‘franchise’ feel to it, than it being a once-off place. In any event, I have to say we really enjoyed the pizza!

Once done, we went back into the outlet to reach our car on the far side (temperature check!), pausing briefly for cash at a Bancomat. We hopped in, and we had plenty of time to visit the nearby town of Fioano della Chiana. It was only a short drive, but to get to the carpark we had chosen, Missus Google took us through parts of the older town. One always gets nervous about straying inadvertently into a ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato) and having to pay the resulting fine. Google, in fairness to it, has never done so before – but the worried glances between myself a Niamh didn’t cease.

We wound our way through the town to a carpark at the bottom of a very tall section of the walls of the even older town! A forlorn duvet rested at the bottom of the wall and for some reason I immediately thought that this was the rough end of town, where homeless people kept their domains. We were getting ourselves ready outside the car to explore, when a young lady marched towards us, speaking energetically on her phone. Without word or gesture to us, she snatched up the duvet and marched back towards the small opening in the wall. I looked up, and there it was: the ubiquitous washing line beneath a window, overlooking the carpark. This was probably a common occurence, then.

We followed the young lady a couple of minutes later, and climbed the stairs between an even higher set of walls and a church. We saw part of the road we had travelled on to get here, but to our left another collection of steps led through a lovely arched entryway into the ‘even older’ part. We went up, and within minutes were blown away by the beauty of the place. Curved laneways lined with red-bricked 4-storey buildings, strewn with potted plants – almost as if there was constant competition between the neighbours as to how many plants they could pack outside their front doors. We had a wander, and took some photos.

All was quiet, as it always is in a non-touristy town during riposo. There wasn’t much to wander into, as this area seemed largely residential, but the main square was nice. Unfortunately, we seem to have missed Bell’s Pub – I only see it now when looking at maps. An auld pint would have been nice, but such is life.

Instead, alternative refreshment was in order, as we left our exploration of the old town, and headed (past hordes of emerging schoolchildren). We stopped off at the improbably-named “Gelateria Fiordilatte Di Presenzini Mattoli Manuel & C” for (as the name would suggest) gelato. I had coconut and white chocolate, if I recall correctly – I really liked the coconut.

Back in the car, we checked the clock and realised we had a bit of time before we had to get home, spruce-up and head over to the restaurant for dinner. So, we decided to head to Lucignano! It’s only about 15 minutes away. The carpark, while decently located – just outside one of the arched gateways to the old town – was almost completely full. We managed to squeeze into an awkward spot on a bend, and headed into town!

We were enchanted as soon as we entered the town. Like Foiano, the central part is arena/oval shaped, but Lucignano is just a little bit nookier, a little bit crannier – if that makes sense. It just appealed to us a little more. We found ourselves going ‘Oooh’ and ‘Ahhh’ every time we turned a corner. There were stairs here and there leading up to a higher level of town, on which lay a residential area and what must have been nearly a dozen churches or chapels.

For some reason, the photos just don’t do the town justice. We honestly both came away from the place thinking it was one of the top 3 towns we’d visited.

We ended our trip under an arch, on which little platforms were placed to provide seats (presumably for the customers of a nearby bar) – I thought this was was very cute. If there was any regret, it was that we visited just after lunch/during riposo, and during the off-season – so it was extremely quiet. I would love to see it a little bit more lively – even at night – at least we have excuses to come back!

We headed home via a petrol station. It was a fun, busy day out! You can watch a video of it below:

But we weren’t done yet! No, after a rest and a shower back at the apartment, we headed out to Del Duca for dinner.

We were greeted enthusiastically as usual, and shown to a table we’d sat at a couple of times before; a round table in a corner, which gave us a complete view of the rest of the dining room. A certain level of amusement ensued, when Claudia Del Duca – her English usually being excellent – fumbled a little at explaining a course that had, just that night, taken over from their previous lamb dish. She couldn’t call it anything other than ‘boiled beef’. She assured us it was delicious through laughter from all parties. The phrases ‘sauce’ and ‘baby cabbages’ were mentioned, and the beef was boiled in a stock. I was intrigued, so I ordered it.

About ten minutes later, after we had gotten our wine, a well-dressed couple with a kid sat at the table next to us. Being the people-watchers we are, we snuck glances and listened. Then there was confusion. I could have sworn that she was Irish, and that maybe he was American – but then here and there, there was snatches of a Scottish lilt from him. On top of that, the kid definitely had a north American accent. What was going on here? Anyway, we settled down eventually, and the food came out.

Halfway through the food, the head chef, Alessandro, saw us through the round window of the kitchen door, and gave us a cheery wave. We returned the favour. It’s so nice to be surrounded by people who care deeply about what they do, and who they do it for.

During the meal, the speculation continued around where this other couple and their child were from, but just when I was near to bursting with curiosity, the lady turned to us and said “I couldn’t help myself, but I heard the accents and had to talk to you.” She was definitely Irish, and as it turns out, so was he – but from the North. I reciproated the sentiment and told them that it was killing me not knowing where they were from!

They were living in Switzerland, and their kid was going to an American school, which explains the accent! They were so lovely. We chatted with them for a while. They were staying at a friend’s house a ways outside Volterra, but decided to come into the town for the first time for a bite to eat. They just happened to have chosen Del Duca. Life is full of coicidence and serendipity. It was a fabulous meeting, and, as if the food and the attention from the staff at the restaurant wasn’t enough, it really made our evening.

At the end of the meal, Niamh had a coffee and I an amaro (Ivana (the Del Duca matriarch) was still waiting on a batch of her limoncello to mature). We left the restuarant less high on caffeine and alcohol, but more on life.

Thanks for reading this. I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave a comment or question – I would love to hear back from you!

A Trip to the I Gigli Mall (11/08/2021)

A Trip to the I Gigli Mall (11/08/2021)

Today was the day we wanted to go visit a good-sized mall, to shop (of course), but also to see what they’re like over here. After exploring the map, I came to the conclusion that Prato seems to be ground-zero for malls. There are 3 in the vicinity, and it looked like I Gigli was the one easiest to get to… more or less slightly closer to us. Having said that, I think I Gigli still has an address in Florence, but to me it looked closer to Prato.

We told Google where we wanted to go, and I saw the ‘preferred’ route took us all the way south to the autostrada at Colle di Val d’Elsa, so we could join it and go all the way north to Florence. Instead, I chose the country route, which was more direct, if perhaps taking longer, and we headed out. We promptly lost signal as we were leaving the carpark, and Google unhelpfully recalculated to the autostrada route.

What followed was a reasonably dull drive (except that bit where you go past the O), to the outskirts of Florence. Niamh drove like a boss, and remained (mostly) calm through Florence, until we got close to the other side. A couple of double-backs later (more my fault than Niamh’s) and we were good again, but vigilance was the watchword on some of the spaghetti-like junctions heading out of the urban area.

We had barely left one urban area before we were in another, and ready to find parking at I Gigli. Fortunately, there’s tons of parking to be had on the roofs of the mall! We parked… no shelter to be had, so we left the car out in the sun, in 35+ degree heat and went inside to the cooled air of the mall itself.

The ladies did a little shopping for bedclothes, towels and some wicker baskets to use as temporary trash receptacles. Niamh was ages waiting in a queue that was only 3-deep to pay for those baskets! I spotted a lovely pair of blue Bugatti shoes, but didn’t go for them in the end. At the time of writing this, I annoyed I didn’t.

Afterwards, we’d read that there was an oriental place we could go raid for food, but we couldn’t find it until we’d already eaten. We did find what looked like a dim sum place, but we needed something a little more substantial. We briefly eyed the branch of All’Antico Vinaio, but there was a literal queue of 30 people… just like there is in Florence! Soooo…..

We ate in Old Wild West. We’d eaten there a few times in Navacchio, and sometimes you just need a break from Tuscan and Mediterranean flavour-palettes. The only downside to it, was that it didn’t seem to have any working air-conditioning, so the atmosphere was a little thick and heavy there. Still, I enjoyed my ribs!

Once done, we took a little more time than was warranted in finding the car, then roasted the backsides off ourselves for a few minutes until we got ourselves air-conditioned. I did the driving home, and completely forgot that Niamh took some footage – which was a shame, as we drove home the country route through some towns. Here’s some footage from the day I did take!

Later in the evening I found myself hungry enough to have visited La Sosta del Priore and grabbed one of their yummmy burgers there. I took a couple of snaps and then must have gone home and collapsed in some sort of food coma!

I hope you enjoyed the read. Please leave a like and a comment or question about living/holidaying in the Val di Cecina!

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!

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!

Back to La Rosa

Back to La Rosa

This will be a short one!

We lazed about in the morning. For lunch, I put together a selection of meats and some cheese we had in the fridge. Niamh tried out a couple of slices from one of the pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) places. She gave me a bit of a ham and mushroom slice – I found it pretty insipid, to be honest. Niamh seemed happy with them, though.

After Niamh had a nap (and I ‘rested my eyes’), walk to the car and drove to La Rosa, to a discount department store called Magazzini Mangini. Niamh wanted some extra bed clothes, and more pillow cases besides. I just wanted out of the apartment! We got some nice stuff there, and then (of course) went around to see what else might we need. I’m kinda glad we did now.

The black puffer jacket I bought in Volterra last year, has a lot of frayed threads, and it probably won’t be too long before it starts unravelling. In addition, I have a heavy red overcoat, which acts as my walking winter duvet. It’s not very good at keeping out the rain, and has a large rip in the inner lining in one of the sleeves. I got a replacement for both coats, and will probably leave the black one behind in the apartment when we leave.

We stopped off in Conad in Volterra on the way home, to pick up some bits and pieces, including the rest of the ingredients Niamh needed to make a chicken curry.

After another couple of hours of screen-watching, we had the aforementioned curry.  I love Italian food, make no mistake, but you need a break from having the same flavour palette over and over again.  When we were in Hong Kong, we went to an Italian for lunch one afternoon!  So a curry was just the thing, and it was fantastic!

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We slept the sleep of the just after that (and a couple of glasses of wine each!). 

This morning, I took a walk past the Cathedral (among other places).  Niamh told me that they had removed the scaffolding, and looked like they were in the process of tidying up and getting ready to ship the construction gear away.  It could only mean that the Cathedral will open soon – it’s one of the few places we haven’t seen yet.

No mad plans today, although it’s our last day before guests arrive, so we might get something done.  A lot depends on our property manager being able to contact the furniture delivery folks – apparently it’s proving tricky.  Fun times!

See you in the next one.

All is Quiet in Peccioli

All is Quiet in Peccioli

Our guest wanted to assist us with getting some sort of environmental solution in, other than having to rely on fans. Niamh looked up mobile air-conditioning units in Comet, and then we went off to their branch in Pontedera to see what we could get. I’d previously remembered it as a bit of a dull drive, but as we went along this time, I found it quite pleasant. The second half of it is rather flat, but there are still hillside villages dotted about to go ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ at.

We got there, and found they only had units which needed to be fixed to the wall, and were very expensive. No sign of any of the products on the website. I asked one of the store’s assistants, and she confirmed that they no longer had any of that stock. In addition, she said that there was no other large domestic electrical retailer around, unless we wanted to see if the CoOp had anything. It wasn’t a wasted journey, though, as Niamh grabbed a pasta-hanger, an egg brush and a fancy food processor.

Driving to the CoOp took all of a minute as it’s not too far at all from the Comet.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have anything there either, but we did get some plums and felt padding for our chair in the sitting room.  No more groaning as we pull it into position!  I also took this photo, which proves I am 47, going on 8.

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On the way back, we decided to stop off at Peccioli.  We’d driven by the old town a couple of dozen times now, and never visited it.  The bell-tower in the distance always intrigued us, as it looked almost Moorish from a distance.  We were also hungry enough to have a two-course lunch, and were on the hunt for a good, sit-down restaurant.

Peccioli was, unfortunately, as shut as it was pretty.  There were a couple of bars open and I did see an enoteca, but it was advertising pizza and cold platters, so we didn’t bother going in.  I suspect it was called Il Grano E L’Uva, and if so, going by the TripAdvisor page, it looks like we might have missed out!  The town probably doesn’t get a lot of tourist traffic, and is probably busier from June through August.  I know it had a Moon festival sometime in July.  So we left hungry, but still impressed with this nice little village.

We high-tailed it home to Volterra, parked in a pay-spot just outside our gate (residents get two free hours parking in pay-spots), and went to Il Pozzo degli Etruschi for food.  Strangely, they didn’t have wild boar sauce to go with the pappardelle our guest wanted (they had dove sauce, which I ordered!), nor did they have the boar cutlets Niamh wanted.  She opted instead for a Chianina beef sauce (yummy) and our guest went for spag-bol.  Niamh also got grilled veggies, while I went for steamed.  We all seemed quite happy after the meal.

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I must have been exhaling in that photo! 😦

Our guest and I grabbed the shopping from the car and carried it back up to the apartment.  Niamh took the car to our residents car park, but unfortunately our luck had finally run out – she had to wait 10 minutes or so for someone to pull-out so she could park.  Meanwhile, I was happy watching telly. 

We stayed in for the rest of the day – we were all a little bushed.  Our guest and I did go out at around 19:45 for sandwiches from La Sosta del Priore.  When I say ‘sandwiches’, I also include burgers in that definition.  As always, they were delicious.  

We sat back and watched a couple of episodes of Conan Without Borders on Netflix and hit the sack.

Our walk this morning took us down to the stairs at Docciola, and up past view looking down at the hospital/asylum area – then up to the prison gate and past the entrances to the park (which was closed, unfortunately).  We spent a couple more minutes at the panoramic viewpoint taking snaps before heading to the pasticceria.  If ‘C’ can be short for ‘Cream’, then my breakfast this morning consisted of plenty of vitamin C! 

No travel plans today.  Niamh is going to have a crack at making pasta, and I will make a ragu to go with it (hopefully lamb).  We also have to see about getting a frame for that art I bought, seeing if the other picture we were getting framed is ready, and hanging up as much as we can!

There will also be no blog tomorrow, as we have to go to Pisa to drop my brother off at the airport for his flight home.  Another guest that will be missed!

Cheers!

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 😉

Ciao!