Tag: volterra

A Walk and Some Stunning Pasta at La Vecchia Lira (02/05/2022)

A Walk and Some Stunning Pasta at La Vecchia Lira (02/05/2022)

Got up for my first morning walk of the holiday! I intend to walk in the morning more often than not. Today, I headed down towards San Giusto to see if there some sights I’d rarely or never seen. I hit a couple of minor jackpots! The day broke with better weather than the previous day, that was for sure! Of course, to get out to try to find some obscure stuff I would have to go through the humdrum of walking to a perennially beautiful medieval town.

I stopped briefly at a Tabbaccheria to pick up a stamp for €16 to pay the annual renewal for our property-owner’s parking/ZTL permit.

I had a wander down Borgo Santo Stefano, to the fork and found a water font I had never seen before. Ok, it’s not hold-the-front-page news, but I find it amazing that there are still little secret niches in Volterra after over 4 years of coming here.

I headed from there downhill (I knew I would pay the price on the way back!) towards a section of Etruscan wall, that I’ve even see some Volterrans wonder where it is.

I walked onwards past the liceo and the retirement home, into Borgo San Giusto, towards the huge church also bearing his name. It’s rarely open when I visit (usually the early morning) and today was no exception, but I always marvel at the size of it, for an ‘ordinary’ church.

The church’s grounds run parallel to the SP15, along which some old Etruscan wall also runs. I walked along a bit of a greenway I hadn’t explored before – some lady was walking her dog, and there were narrow trails created by previous walkers there. I got an impressive shot of the surrounding countryside there, slightly spoiled by the sun being in the wrong place.

Between the church and Pizzale XXV Aprile, there are a couple of things: firstly, a few underground Etruscan mini-crypts, and secondly an open space where soccer practice or celebrations can take place. It was May 1st the previous day, so the town was out celebrating on it. May 1st is a big deal in many parts of Italy, and in Volterra they celebrate it with Trippa alla Volterrana: a tripe dish cooked in a tomato-based sauce – always accompanied by red wine. The former is not my bag, the latter certainly is. Anyway, there were signs of partying in this area, and the food and drink stalls were still there. I didn’t take photos of that, because a tidy-up job was sorely needed. Instead, I took a photo of some street art celebrating the alabaster workers of the city.

On the uphill slog back to the town, I spotted the mural below. I hadn’t seen it before – I think it was only painted recently, as I had walked past the place a bunch of times – it’s near the Conad supermarket. The artist’s name is Nico Lopez Bruchi, a self-proclaimed oneironaut (one who travels within dreams) and I think he has been responsible for a few murals around the town.

I went home via Vallebona carpark, and climbed up a the steep slope there to the walled part of town. I gazed back towards Santa Giusto, and took the shot of the magnificent church dominating the midground skyline.

I was on my way back to the apartment when I got a message from Niamh asking me what I wanted to do for breakfast. She suggested Migliorini, and who am I to say ‘NO!’ to that? We had a wonderful breakfast there where I completely undid all my good work on the walk!

Once we had loaded our bellies, we headed over to the Municipal Police to renew our parking permit. This was the first time where we wouldn’t have to ask Alice from Milianti (our estate agents and property managers) to come with us. Everything went smoothly, until we had to fill out an official form. We got through it though, and I did well by grabbing the stamp earlier on in the day. On top of that was a €20 admin fee, and Lo! We had a permit which allowed us to travel on a couple of the streets inside the walls, and park in a few nearby residents’ carparks. I was a big boy today!

On the way back to the car, we snapped a little more, including in a courtyard which usually remains behind shut doors on our street.

Once done, we celebrated by going to the Coop to do some shopping (we sure know how to celebrate), and grabbed some antipasti for lunch. Everything tastes better over here, most probably because everything *is* better over here. The Italians selfishly (and cleverly) hold on to their best ingredients. We had salumi, cheeses and rocket. All fab. We then settled down for some vegetating in front of various screens!

After resting and screenwatching, it was time for dinner. But first: aperitivi! This time, I thought to myself, we are going to add a ‘Cheers!’ factor to a local place. Somewhere where someone would shout “Norm!” (or equivalent) whenever I walked in the door. We went to L’Incontro. It’s only about 50 meters away. We had a prosecco and an Aperol Spritz, and nommed on some crisps (potato chips) that came with the drinks.

Yummy! And we only had a quick hop across the road to La Vecchia Lira. This is a restaurant we seriously under-used until last year. If you’re a reader of the blog, then you may remember this is where we had Christmas dinner last year. We were greeted warmly and joked with the owner that, once again, we had made no reservations. He replied that he’d always find a spot for us. Awwww! We are devils for not making reservations, but felt we didn’t need to in early May on a Monday evening!

I was looking forward to having their cod and leek-filled ravioli in a shellfish veloute, but sadly I didn’t see it on the menu. Instead there was ravioli filled with lamb, with a light stewed apple sauce and crispy pancetta. I wasn’t too sure about this, but my adventurous side took over and I opted for it in the end (fruit not being my friend, or really vice-versa). What an inspired choice it was. Rather than the apple having been stewed sweetly, it was stewed in a savoury broth, and the result was simply the nicest filled pasta dish I have ever had. Just when I thought they couldn’t beat last year’s cod and leek! Wow! At one stage I remember saying after I’d had the first one “And there are four more!” with glee! Niamh had their cacio e pepe, which she had been looking forward to for the past 5 months. For secondi, Niamh had stewed wild boar and I had duck done porchetta style. All very nice.

We had the necessary quarter litres of wine too, of course.

Once done and fully satisfied, we headed out for a brief walk before going back to the apartment for screen-watching/music-listening and bed.

Another trip back! (01/05/2022)

Another trip back! (01/05/2022)

For the first time in a long time we wouldn’t be flying RyanAir. Don’t get me wrong, I will always be grateful to them for flying during the pandemic, as we managed to get to Volterra in both 2020 and 2021, but a change is as good as a rest, as they say. The problem with the Aer Lingus flight was that it was at 06:00. We took the never-before-taken step of booking ourselves into the Maldron the previous day, so we could get to bed and rise early. We also had the bonus of Aer Lingus allowing you to drop your bags off the airport, should your flight be at sparrowfart the next day.

So, that’s just what we did! We got a lift from my brother on Saturday afternoon and checked our bags in. We had more difficulty walking back to the front entrance of the hotel than we did checking in the bags. It all went so smoothly. We dined in at the Maldron itself, and to be honest I was expecting a duff meal at a one-night-stay traveller’s hotel, but the food was actually pretty good! Well done, The Maldron! I was caught between wanting a pint after and just wanting to rest so I wouldn’t be destroyed the day after. The latter won out, and we went back to the room and stayed there ’til 03:30.

We got up and dragged ourselves the 7 minute walk to the airport. Truth be told we were excited, and there was no dudgery involved. We were quite hungry, however, and didn’t grab anything from the hotel (not sure if that was even possible at that point). We’d looked up the Dublin airport site, and sure it looks like there was a bunch of stuff opening at 04:00-04:30, so we’d be ok.

Because we’d checked in the big bags, we went bull-headed for security, and were stopped in our tracks by a 30+ minute wait. Not so bad, really, when you consider that a few weeks ago the queues were hours long thanks to an inept firing/rehiring policy. Anyway, we got through, and marched towards the shopping and dining area. We were stopped in our tracks again by the fact that absolutely nothing was open, but there were big queues outside everywhere. We joined the one at Starbucks, but left it after about 15 minutes, as people were busy behind the bar, and maybe it was going to open soon, but then Butler’s did open… and was instantly mobbed as we ran to it. Oh well.

We went to the gate hungry instead. Café Bar near the gate wasn’t open at all, even though it should have been. We were hangry. First world problems. On the plus side, Aer Lingus were super-efficient at getting us onto the plane, we were seated in a jiff. How nice it is not to be treated like a farmyard animal. I’ll always be grateful to RyanAir for flying during the pandemic, but I much prefer the treatment you get Aer Lingus. We had comfy seats, jacket holders, SEAT POCKETS!!

I think the flight was only about two-thirds full. We had to wait a bit before takeoff, as there was some air traffic control snafu. No biggie. We were up, up and away 20 minutes later, and as it happens more or less made up the different on the flight over.

If I had one gripe, it was that they didn’t begin their service until about an hour into the flight. We managed to get sandwiches, crisps and drinks and were happy at last. However, I believe got the last toasted sandwich, and I was suddenly reminded that Aer Lingus often run out of hot food by the time they get to you if you are sitting in the middle of the craft. I have to say, I was still surprised, given that the flight wasn’t packed. Anyway, enough of that – I got my grub and it satisfied perfectly.

We landed with no issues and with no temperatures or other checks of Covid documentation we were through passport control quite quickly, and into a 15 minute wait for our bags. All went smoothly, and off we went to Avis (for a change) to pick up our car. We love Sixt, but it was just too expensive for a full month, especially given that we’d be travelling little in the latter two weeks of our stay. It took a while to process our rental at the desk – the colleague of the person who was dealing with us had two rentals processed while we were still waiting for our keys. We weren’t in a rush, in fairness. We picked up the keys to a Citroen C3. I have to say, aside from the fact that it’s a manual, it’s one of my favourite vehicles so far. It has a little bit of power, and the hookup of to Apple CarPlay was near-instantaneous. Why doesn’t our Hyundai Kona at home play ball?!

We motored towards Volterra, and got there without any scrapes – it was just raining a little. Niamh dropped me off in Piazza dei Martiri delle Liberta with my backpack and the two large suitcases, while she had to go looking for a free parking spot in La Docciola. We had yet to renew our resident’s parking permesso, and so had to look for something else. This is something we’d have to take care of tomorrow.

Being a man, we are not given to multiple trips involving bags. This rule most often applies to dragging shopping bags from the car. The effort to wear my backpack whilst shifting two 18+ kg bags up a flight of 76 taller-than-average steps was nothing short of Herculean. I was quite wrecked by the end of it. Niamh arrived at the apartment 5-10 minutes after me – ok, she had 276 steps to manage, but only one light backpack. I took a couple of shots outside the guest bedroom to sicken a friend back home.

We rested a while, before heading out to Terra di Mezzo for lunch. It’s a general tradition that we dine here first whenever we arrive in Volterra, opening hours permitting. We said our hellos and were greeting with the same enthusiasm as always. After an antipasto sharing platter, Niamh had pasta with zucchini, I had pici alla boscaiola…. mushrooms and sausage. Tasty indeed.

We skipped dessert, as I had a very important date to keep. I hadn’t seen this in nearly 9 months!

We went back to the apartment, and burned off some of the calories by cleaning the apartment. I was on sweeping duty. We had the bathroom remodelled, and some repainting done, so the place was a little dusty. I’m glad we got it done, rather than sleeping in that overnight.

As it was our first day in Volterra, and we (believe it or not) considered our lunch rather light, we headed out to La Mangiatoia for pizza and beers. It was the first time I ordered speck and marscapone, and boy did it deliver. This place, along with Ombra Della Sera Pizzeria do the best pizzas I’ve had in town (so far).

We took a stroll around the town during the latter half of golden hour to burn off some more of those dreaded calories! The town and its surroundings are simply beautiful and video and photos rarely capure the true essence of the light there, nor the vastness of the landscape opened out in front of you.

I took some video of our journey and also included a little footage of golden hour.

We were very tired by then due to our early start, and so went to bed early enough, having thoroughly enjoyed the day (apart from those stairs!).

Volterra 2022 – Tuscan City of Culture – What’s On?

Volterra 2022 – Tuscan City of Culture – What’s On?

Last year, Italy announced its 2022 Capital of Culture. There were a bunch of cities in the final mix, and Volterra was among them. Unfortunately for Volterra, Procida, the colourful little island in the Bay of Naples, was given the honour. Well done Procida! Tuscany decided to not let the campaign money go to waste, and got behind its candidate, and for the first time ever announced a Tuscan Capital of Culture. This is no mean feat, as Tuscany could be considered a cradle of western culture, given its association with the Renaissance.

The committee that was put together has recently published its event schedule. There are a whopping 500+ event instances from March1st to the end of the year. Many of them are repeated, and the site (https://volterra22.it/) has listed them all. The site lists them all when you visit the page, so it can take a while to load. There are filters you can use to assist your search for something in which you have a particular interest. My job here is to attempt to pick out the nuggets and look for specials which may appear infrequently – looking from May onwards.

Note that the number of events rapidly drops off after September!

Without further ado, we’ll start with the repeated ones.

  • Guided Tour of Palazzo dei Priori. The oldest townhall in Tuscany (and the highest!). As well as the main civic hall, there are museums and spectacular panoramic views from the top of the bell tower. I am unsure if the guided tour covers the bell-tower, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if you’re thinking of going on the tour. This seems to be available every Saturday and Sunday and runs from 11:00 to 13:00.
  • Guided Tour of the Pinocoteca (art gallery). Some wonderful works here, especially some mannerist works, the most famous of which is Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition. Every Sunday from 16:00 – 18:00.
  • Guided Tour of the Roman Theatre. Excavated in the 1950’s, largely by inmates at the psychiatric hospital, this complex of theatre, temple and baths is one of Volterra’s most popular sites. Every Saturday and Sunday from 15:00 – 17:00.
  • Volterra Through the Ages. Running every Sunday until October 31st, this is a guided tour which aims to uncover Volterra’s many layers of it’s 3000-year history from Villanovan and Etruscan, to Roman and Medieval times. The rub here is that no time is mentioned on the site, bookings can be made by contacting volterratour@gmail.com or by Whatsapp on +39 347 5749818. This is one I’d like to go on myself, once I figure out the times!
  • Experience Volterra – the faces and the stories. A family-oriented tour, taking a more interactive look at Volterran history culture. No time is mentioned on the site, bookings can be made by contacting volterratour@gmail.com or by Whatsapp on +39 347 5749818.
  • Children Under the Clouds. An outdoor art class for kids with their parents. Held every Thursday in Piazzetta dei Fornelli from 16:30 to 19:00.
  • Guided tour of the ex psychiatric hospital of Volterra. This is available by appointment (seemingly) all year round. Email: info@volterratur.it, phone: 0588 87257 or email: onlusigp@gmail.com, phone: 379 1868622. I’ve been *DYING* to do this for nearly 4 years. Will this year be my year?
  • English Language Walking Tour of Volterra (in season only) – every day from April to October. Leaves from Piazza Martiri della Libertà, in front of Ali Alabastri. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 12.30 and Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 18.00. Only €10 per person; no booking needed – just show up. These are a fabulous introduction to the city.

Events Elsewhere – See the main Volterra 22 site for further information

I don’t embellish much on these – please feel free to investigate them yourself. Many of the commune will have their own sites, as may some of the events. Google is your friend!

Date(s)Where?Event
May 8thButiMay of the Passion of the Palms
May 13th, 14thVicopisanoFlower Festival. Not on the site, but I happen to have heard that this is when the festival takes place.
April 2nd to May 15thCastelfranco di SottoTheatre Festival – remaining dates are 30/04, 07/05, 15/05.
April 8th to May 17thMontopoli in Val d’ArnoInclusive series of art exhibitions
April 2nd to May 28thCastelfranco di SottoTheatre Award ceremonies
May 27th-29thRadicondoliMusic events dedicated to Maestro Luciano Berio
May 27th, 28th and June 2nd-5thLariSagra of Cherries – might be fun!
May 1st-31stMarina di BibbonaMountain biking event
May st to June 5thCalcinaiaRegatta event and sagra for a local dessert. Intriguing!
June 11th, 12thRiparbellaLiterary competition
June 17th-19thSan Miniato BassoThe Blue Moon. Family fun shows in the historical centre.
June 25thSan GimignanoFestival of Bright Nights. Music, theatre, visual arts festival with a strong youth bent.
June 25thCasole d’ElsaThe beautiful Casole d’Elsa hosts a Film Festival.
July 7th, 14th, 21st, 28thRivaltoMarkets of local produce in this quiet village near Chianni.
June 27th to July 10thForcoliA theatrical performance in this ghost-village.
July 9th, 10thMonteriggioniTheir medieval festival. I imagine this will be fun!
July 13th-16thCertaldoMerchantable crafts and visual arts performances abound in this annual event in the gorgeous Certaldo.
July 15th-17thRiparbellaEvent celebrating local produce, especially olive oil, wine and other foods.
July 17th-18thRivaltoRetro evenings celebrating the 80’s and 90’s. Food and wine will assist in the merriment. It’s all going on in Rivalto!
July 21stCasale MarittimoEcological discussions and arts in my favourite Tuscan village.
July 22nd CrespinaA classical orchestra plays well-known pop and rock tunes
July 23rdPomeranceStefano De Lellis fashion show
July 20th-27thSan MiniatoOutdoor theatre festival
July 29thLajaticoAndrea Bocelli in concert in the stunning surroundings of the Theatre of Silence, just outside the lovely village of Lajatico
July 29thSanto Pietro BelvdereSummmer concert
July 15th to August 1stRadicondoliRadicondoliFestival. Contemporary art exhibitions and performances
August 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th
RivaltoMarkets of local produce in this quiet village near Chianni.
August 5th, 6thRocca SillanaStreet Music Festival, held within the amazing surroundings of the fortress Rocca Sillana
May 7th to August 7thCasole d’ElsaArt Exhibition on Francesco Rustici, known as il Rustichino (Siena, 1592-1626)
August 11thElbaThe Iron Island. Historical festival on the theme of Etruscan origins and ironwork
August 14thSanta Maria a MonteFeast of the Assumption’s Eve
August 1st-15thCapannoliMusic Festival
August 25th-28thLa CaliforniaFestival celerbating Chianina beef. Family oriented (and food!).
August 25th-29thSan GimignanoVertical Horizons. Festival for the performing arts.
June 1st to August 31stSan GimignanoIN3C Intrecci Festival… they seem to give the same description as the Vertical Horizons festival above. Best check it out yourselves.
July 1st to August 31stCastelmaggioreCalci – VerrukARTfestival. Unsurprisingly, an arts festival!
Sept 3rd, 4thMonteverdi MarittimoHistorical re-enactment
Sept 3rd, 4thVicopisanoVicopisano’s medieval festival! It would be great to be there. I imagine it will be great fun!
Sept 4thStaffoliAnother medieval festival!
July 1st to Sept 10thCapannoliFestival of the Stars, Villas and Wonders. This sounds like it might be similar to Volterra’s Red Night (see September below), but I’m not sure.
Sept 9th – 11thCastelfranco di SottoLET’S Festival. Youth-oriented festival of music, art and food!
Sept 10th, 11thPomeranceA Palio between the neighbourhoods in Pomerance, but rather than it being a physical Palio, it is based on theatrical performance. Sounds very interesting.
Sept 10th, 11thMontopoli Val d’ArnoAnother medieval festival. Fun!
June 15th to Sept 15thVicopisano, CapronaSummer in Vicopisano. This year’s series of events of all types.
July 1st to Sept 15thCastelmaggioreCertosa Festival. Multi-disciplined arts festival, promoting new people.
Sept 16th-18thCecinaFOMO Festival. Youth-oriented fun and arts, with civic-mindedness as its theme
Sept 23rd-25thGuardistalloEmbracing Europe. Arts festival with international participants.
Sept 2nd-20thGelloArts festival; music, literature, theatre.
July 1st to 30th SeptLajaticoArtinsolite: exhibition and reviews of contemporary art
July 1st to 30th SeptCalcinaiaCalcinaia – Chiare, fresche e… dolci sere – XXII edizione. It’s summer schedule of events.
Oct 1st, 2ndCastelnuovo d’ElsaFestival celebrating that monster hike from Canterbury to Rome: the Via Francigena
Oct 9th, 10thPonsaccoSan Costanzo Fair. Funfair, markets, culture, food… what more do you want?
May 14th to Oct 14th CastelfiorentinoOutcrops: Art/sculpture exhibition featuring the works of Brunivo Buttarelli
Sept 15th to Oct 31stSignaExhibition around the manufacture of the straw hat.
Oct 1st-31stUlignanoCinema in Ulignano (the one nearer San Gimignano). Not sure if this is outdoor movies, a movie festival, an exhibition.
Nov 12th, 13th and 19th, 20th and 26th, 27thSan MiniatoThis town is famous for its white truffle, and this is the annual festival they have to celebrate that! Would be awesome to attend!
Nov 7th-20thChianniIt’s a Wild Boar sagra! God I wish I could attend – it will be fantastic, if you fancy a bit of game!
Dec 4th, 11thSanta Croce sull’ArnoShow of “Il Baule dei Sogni”. I have to expose my ignorance here and declare not to know what this is.
Dec 8thSanta Croce sull’ArnoAmaretto festival. Niamh, take note! This celebrates the biscuits, not the liqueur. I think!
Dec 19th, 20thRadicondoliChristmas market! This is great to know! I wish Volterra had one 🙂 This is a good deal closer than Montepulciano for sure!
All YearComune di Cascina – MarcianaThe annual theatre and music programme for the locality. See here.
March 19th – Dec 31stCastelfranco di SottoIndoor and outdoor art exhibitions about in Castelfranco this year, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of painter Antonio Puccinelli.
Dec 24th to January 6th (2023) RiparbellaYouth themed nativity-scene art competition (art, music, poetry)

Specials and Once-offs

I can’t codsense the whole site, so here is a list of stuff I can recommend or have interest in attending. It may have a strong focus on language-agnostic fun, or exhibitions and tours where knowledge of Italian isn’t paramount. This removes a couple of items I would have otherwise liked e.g. a day around studying the new archaeological discoveries – in particular the amphiteatre, a half-day discussing Carlo Levi (of “Christ Stopped at Eboli” fame), but which will be delivered in Italian – and technical/difficult Italian at that. Also not covered, very sadly, are the items dealing with the progressive programmes they have in place in the prison in Volterra. I would love to catch these, and if your Italian is good, I would strongly recommend them – look for the blood red items on the main site.

I’ve also removed the items which are designed for Italian schools and universities only.

I will continue to add the rest of the months when I get the chance on an on-going basis.

May

  • Labour Day Celebrations – May 1st. Something will be happening in Borgo San Giusto. If I am not wrecked from travel, I hope to tell you exactly what it is.
  • Exhibition of Ancient and Contemporary Art – May 6th to May 8th. An exhibition designed to compare and contrast the art styles through the ages. In the Consortini Museum in Borgo San Giusto, opposite the (enormous) church.
  • Exhibition of Eva Fischer’s (mixture of styles, much of it abstract) works – April 14th to May 10th. In Palazzo dei Priori, you might be able to combine it with the guided tour of the Palazzo.
  • Corsa di Alcide – May 14th. One of the legs of this Classic Car racing tournament begins in Piazza dei Priori.
  • Exhibition of Luciano Sozzi’s (modern, mixture of styles) works – April 30th to May 15th. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Guided walk of the Forest of Tatti – May 15th. Starts in the Volterra hospital carpark at 09:00. The walk is free, lunch is provided for €15. Mentioning this, as you can enjoy the walk in safety without having to understand the Italian.
  • Exhibition of Beatrice Lari’s (iconography, gilded iconography) works – May 7th to May 16th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • International Bee Day – May 20th and 21st. Heck yeah! Down with waspzzzzz! A celebration of all thingzzzz ‘bee’, with market stallzzzzz within Volterra, fun thingzzzzz for kidzzzzz to do and muzzzzzical entertainment in the evening. Not been to this before, and unsure if it’s a recurring thing, but it sure sounds like fun!
  • Beauty and the Beast live musical – May 21st. In the Persio Flacco theatre from 21:15 to 23:30. Ticket prices and booking details unknown for now. Will update when I know more. The proceeds are given to charity, so that’s pretty cool.
  • Volterra Comics & Fantasy – May 21st and 22nd. One of the big calendar dates for Volterra, this is essentially its Comicon, and celebrates all things comics and cosplay, and features a fantasy film festival for the first time ever. This weekend is shaping up to be a ridiciously busy and fun one in Volterra.
  • Modern Antiques markets – May 20th to May 22nd. Stalls within the historic centre. Sounds like a slight oxymoron, but if it’s anything like Vicopisano’s market, then include me in (I doubt it will be of the same scale, but we’ll see). Volterra will be crawling with folks this weekend with all the other stuff going on!
  • Public opening of historic houses – May 22nd. This usually happens during Red Night in September (which I’ll detail below). The description of this event is a little confusing. It seems to suggest multiple Palazzi are open, but then just mentions Palazzo Dello Sbarba Ricciarelli on Via Ricciarelli, so I suspect it’s just this one. It will be open from 10:00 to 18:00. Maybe a different one opens every month…. we’ll see!
  • Weigh some Salt – May 28th. Ok, I’ve broken my rule here, as this event will be held in nearby Saline di Volterra, famous for its salt production. But what this event is, I have no clue, but I am intrigued, as we’ve never set foot out of the car in Saline – and I’ve been wanting to visit the salt production facility there.
  • Renault Classic Car rally – May 28th. Kicking off in Piazza dei Priori.
  • Paralympic sports day – May 28th. The location of the event isn’t known yet. The exent to which it may include practical demonstrations, or be a series of talks is also unknown. I’ll have to complete this entry when I have more information.
  • Exhibition of Giancarlo Barsotti’s (photographer) works – May 13th to May 29th. This is in the Saletta del Giudice Conciliatore. I need to locate precisely where this is, but the site’s map is pointing towards the southwest corner of the public park – this doesn’t make sense to me. I strongly suspect it’s in the Palazzo dei Priori!
  • Crossbow men and women – May 29th. Most likely in the Piazza dei Priori, I am unsure if this is a demonstration, or a competition – but it’s a must-see, especially if you’ve never seen them in action before. Some of these folks can hit a euro coin from 50 metres.
  • Painting exhibition: Between Fantasy and Reality – May 16th to May 31st. Featuring the works of Riccardo Muci, Emanuele Garletti and Fabrizio Ferrari. I’m a big fan of Fabrizio’s work and have bought an item of his before. The other’s should be interesting too. Looking forward to this!
  • Frames: An exhibition of Mario Matera and Giuseppe Scarangelli’s (painter, photographer, cinematographer) works – May 18th to June 7th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants, from 10:00 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 19:00 each day.
  • Terra: An exhibition of the sculptures (ecological theme in clay/terracotta) of Monica Mariniello – April 30th to June 30th. This is on in the Sotterranei Pinacoteca, which is part of the main Pinocoteca.
  • Exhibition of Raffaello Gambogi’s (theme of psychiatric patients, portraiture, late impressionism(?)) works – April 16th to July 9th. In Palazzo dei Priori. So much you can cover by visiting this Palazzo!
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.

June

  • Guided tour of the Restoration of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition – June 1st, and every Wednesday until the end of July. By reservation only – phone 0588 87580. Two tours – one at 17:00 and one at 18:00 at the main Pinocoteca.
  • Palio del Cero – June 2nd. This is the annual tug-of-war competition between the contrade (neighbourhoods) in Volterra. Fun to be had in the main square! Time not yet known.
  • Cerimonia dell’Avvinta – June 4th. Religious festival. This is in honour of the death of San Giusto (Volterra’s patron saint), this is evening is part 1 of the event, where in the light of torches, a waxed rope will be made, which will surround the church of San Giusto. Subsequently some ladies, discouraged by the knights, will bring to the church a casket containing some gold cords, which will then used to surround the altar. Usually starts at 20:00, but that’s not cast in stone for sure – I’ll have to find out.
  • Processione del Patrono – June 5th. Part 2 of this religious event, again at the church of San Giusto held on the day of the death of the saint. The rope surrounding the church will but cut into wicks and distributed among the people for use at home. Not sure of the time this kicks off at. I’ll have to find out more.
  • Youth Choral Festival – June 6th. Held in Piazza dei Priori. Time is unknown right now.
  • Frames: An exhibition of Mario Matera and Giuseppe Scarangelli’s (painter, photographer, cinematographer) works – May 18th to June 7th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants, from 10:00 – 13:00 and 16:00 – 19:00 each day.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – outdoor dance interpretation – June 11th. This will be to the music of Ennio Morricone. To be held in the not often opened Parco di San Pietro behind the School of Dance, about 80 metres past the Porta al Selci. From 21:00 to 23:00. Reservations and contact detail status unknown at the moment. This sounds like a fab evening!
  • Exhibition of Giusi Velloni’s (exotic animals, colourful) works – June 1st to June 15th. In the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Astiludio Federale. Medieval-style flag waving/tossing competition with other cities – 18th June. In Piazza dei Priori. Not sure of the time, but it’s usually the mid-afternoon. If you’ve never seen Volterra’s amazing sbandieratori in competition before, now is your chance!
  • Guided walk indicating new urban trekking routes in Volterra – 18th June. Starts in the Coop carpark outside the walls of Volterra. Goes from 15:00 to 19:00. Will probably clash with the Astiludio above, sadly – but we’ll see. If I were around I would definitely do his – I’m always up for new walks, as you would know if you’re a regular reader of this blog.
  • Photographic exhibition of the Artisans of Alabaster – June12th to June 19th. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Exhibition of Arno Studio Art Association (multiple disciplines) – June 17th to June 26th. In the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Terra: An exhibition of the sculptures (ecological theme in clay/terracotta) of Monica Mariniello – April 30th to June 30th. This is on in the Sotterranei Pinacoteca, which is part of the main Pinocoteca.
  • Exhibition of Raffaello Gambogi’s (theme of psychiatric patients, portraiture, late impressionism(?)) works – April 16th to July 9th. In Palazzo dei Priori. So much you can cover by visiting this Palazzo!
  • Participatory art project: Imaginary correspondence – dates in June to be defined. This may well be in Italian, but if you can excuse yourself as a non-Italian-speaking foreigner (if you are that!), you may be able to observe. The reason why I mention it here is that it appears that it will be held in the ex-psychiatric hospital, and am more than a little jealous of those who may be able to attend. I will post more detail when I have it.
  • Participatory Art: Artists under the clouds – June 5th to September 4th. This is Exact days and times to be decided. This will be held on the road by the wall, south of Piazzetta Fornelli.
  • Exhibition of art celebrating the female soul – artists Erica Conti, Michela Giachin and Mariarosa Stigliano (mixed style, performance) – June 8th to September 11th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Exhibition of the works of Mauro Staccioli – June 12th to September 18th. If you’ve driven around Volterra’s countryside, you won’t have failed to notice occasional scultures of ring/circle and other shapes dotting the landscape. This exhibition is a ways outside Volterra in the charming hamlet of Mazzolla (nice traditional Tuscan restaurant there, by the way – Trattoria Albana – you’ll see photos of one of Staccioli’s works in that blog too!).

July

  • White Nights in Volterra – July 1st to July 3rd. Alabaster-themed open air shopping and open air exhibition in the main square (Piazza dei Priori). Seems to culminate in an outdoor dinner, for which diners should be dressed all in white. Should be a good event – I doubt I’ll be there. but will be jealous of anyone who is!
  • Guided tour of the Restoration of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition – June 1st, and every Wednesday until the end of July. By reservation only – phone 0588 87580. Two tours – one at 17:00 and one at 18:00 at the main Pinocoteca.
  • Music under the Clouds – July 6th. A family-oriented night of music and arts. On Via Lungo le Mura, just sloping down towards the Porta all’Arco from Piazzetta dei Fornelli.
  • Exhibition of Raffaello Gambogi’s (theme of psychiatric patients, portraiture, late impressionism(?)) works – April 16th to July 9th. In Palazzo dei Priori. So much you can cover by visiting this Palazzo!
  • Vintage Cars in Piazza dei Priori – July 9th. The title says it all, really. No time mentioned, but I suspect the late morning would be the best time to attend.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 1 – July 11th. The first of 4 days of classical music and opera. An opera: Comique Rita, or The Beaten Husband by Donizetti, with the Symphony Orchestra of the Netherlands. In the Villa Palagione. If Google Maps is correct, this is a few kilometers outside Volterra, so car or taxi needed. Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 2 – July 12th. Brahms’ Clarinet Quinter in B minor. In the Villa Palagione. In Palazzo Ricciarelli, Volterra, from 11:30 to 13:00. Combine it with a dinner in Trattoria Albana! Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 2 – July 12th. Mozart’s Flute Concert #2 in D Major. In the Villa Palagione. In the gardens of Villa Viti, in Mazzolla – again a car will be needed to visit this gorgeous hamlet. From 19:00 to 21:00. Combine it with a late dinner in Trattoria Albana! Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 3 – July 13th. Bach’s Coffee Cantata. In the gardens of the Pinacoteca, from 11:30 to 13:00. Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 3 – July 13th. Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #4. In the Volterra’s main theatre: Teatro Persio Flacco, from 19:00 to 21:00. Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Punto Arte Festival, Day 4 – July 14th. Alessandro Marcello’s concert for trombone and strings. In the Volterra’s main theatre: Teatro Persio Flacco, from 11:30 to 13:30. Ticket purchases found here: https://www.puntoarte.eu/.
  • Art Exhibition: Emotion in Pencil – July 1st to July 14th – the works of Daniele Campoli (photorealistic pencil drawing). On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Volterra Project – inaugural concert – July 16th. Volterra Project is a group of classical guitarists that have had this group going for some time now. It would be nice to see them perform in public. Place and time to be decided. Here’s their YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/Volterraproject).
  • Art Exhibition: artwork by Carlo Delli – July 1st to July 17th (photgraphy, mixed media). In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Visit to the Consortini Museum (sculpture) – July 20th, 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 29th, 30th. In the Consortini Museum in Borgo San Giusto, opposite the (enormous) church – 15:30 to 18:30.
  • Anti-Social Social Club – July 22nd. This began life during the pandemic as a way to enable younger adults to get together for a bit of a bop and a drink. Circles were drawn on the ground in the main park, indicating the social disancing boundary each person could inhabit. A fun idea… I presume this time it will be without the circles, and so will effectively be an outdoor nightclub! It’ll still be in the main park (Parco Fiumi).
  • Dance Festival dedicated to Astor Piazzolla – Day 1 – July 23rd. Tango lessons by reservation in Palazzo Dello Sbarba Ricciarelli, from 15:00 to 19:00. Booking contact details unknown at the moment.
  • Dance Festival dedicated to Astor Piazzolla – Day 1 – July 23rd. Tango dance evening in the main square (Piazza dei Priori), 21:30 to 23:30.
  • Volterra Project – concert by the students of the project (Classical Guitar) – July 15th – July 24th. Held in the Scornello agriturismo. I think this is the Fattorie Inghirami – really only reachable by car. Time and booking details not yet known.
  • Dance Festival dedicated to Astor Piazzolla – Day 2 – July 24th. Showing of the ‘Milonga’ video dedicated to Piazzolla, in Palazzo Dello Sbarba Ricciarelli, from 15:00 to 19:00. Booking contact details unknown at the moment.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Alberto Martini – July 16th to July 26th (surreal/illustration). On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Anti-Social Social Club – July 29th. This may not be the nightclub version, but a more sedate project-oriented item. Time unknown.
  • International Arts Festival at the Roman Theatre – July 9th to August 7th. One of the chief events every year in Volterra. This is their main site. Sadly, I cannot see the programme they’ve put together – the website seems a little light. I will keep an eye on it and update accordingly. The programme is usually very extensive – here’s what they had last year, for example.
  • Alabaster exhibition focusing on the works of Aulo and Velio Grandoli – July 19th – August 11th. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Second Hand market for Uganda – July 28th to August 18th. A worthy cause – plenty of potential treasures for sale, to aid the pediatric surgical centre in a Ugandan hospital.
  • Extraordinary Opening of the Church of San Dalmazio – July 1st to August 31st. I’m given to believe it’s not normally open, and has some interesting art in situ. It’s an abbey near the Porta San Francesco, on Via San Lino.
  • Participatory Art: Artists under the clouds – June 5th to September 4th. This is Exact days and times to be decided. This will be held on the road by the wall, south of Piazzetta Fornelli.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: Timeless encounters – July 8th to September 4th. Contrasting and comparing contemporary art with Etruscan art. From 10:00 to 19:00 each day in the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Exhibition of art celebrating the female soul – artists Erica Conti, Michela Giachin and Mariarosa Stigliano (mixed style, performance) – June 8th to September 11th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Exhibition of the works of Mauro Staccioli – June 12th to September 18th. If you’ve driven around Volterra’s countryside, you won’t have failed to notice occasional scultures of ring/circle and other shapes dotting the landscape. This exhibition is a ways outside Volterra in the charming hamlet of Mazzolla (nice traditional Tuscan restaurant there, by the way – Trattoria Albana – you’ll see photos of one of Staccioli’s works in that blog too!).
  • Art Exhibition: Fatal Error – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Gianni Lucchesi. In the underground rooms in the Pinacoteca.
  • Art Exhibition: Rosaforte – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Giada Fedeli. In the cloister in the Pinacoteca.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.


August

  • The Spiritual Way: Musical experiment – August 2nd. Inside the Roman Cistern in the main park. Saxophone solo, with natural echoes.
  • Visit to the Consortini Museum (sculpture) – August 3rd, 5th, 6th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 24th, 26th, 27th, 31st. In the Consortini Museum in Borgo San Giusto, opposite the (enormous) church – 15:30 to 18:30.
  • International Arts Festival at the Roman Theatre – July 9th to August 7th. One of the chief events every year in Volterra. This is their main site. Sadly, I cannot see the programme they’ve put together – the website seems a little light. I will keep an eye on it and update accordingly. The programme is usually very extensive – here’s what they had last year, for example.
  • Anti-Social Social Club – August 5th and 6th. This began life during the pandemic as a way to enable younger adults to get together for a bit of a bop and a drink. Circles were drawn on the ground in the main park, indicating the social disancing boundary each person could inhabit. A fun idea… I presume this time it will be without the circles, and so will effectively be an outdoor nightclub! It’ll still be in the main park (Parco Fiumi).
  • Argentinian Tango concert – August 9th. Held in the main art gallery from 21:00 to 23:00. I don’t think this is participatory. Admission is €15. Not sure if it’s by reservation, but I suspect it will be on the night on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The Etruscan Jazz Orchestra in Concert – August 10th. Seems to be free, and held in the main square (Piazza dei Priori). Exact time not yet known, but I suspect will be in the evening.
  • Jazz Concert with dinner – August 11th. Again in the main square, but again time unknown as are the details for food. Will post more when I know.
  • Alabaster exhibition focusing on the works of Aulo and Velio Grandoli – July 19th – August 11th. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • A Guided Observation during the night of the Shooting Stars – August 12th. Italian language or no, I’ve included this here for those who are fond of star-gazing. It is being held at the Volterran Astronomical Observatory and surrounding area, which can really only be reached by car, and is on the way to the lovely hamlet of Mazzolla. Other details not yet known.
  • The Feast of San Lorenzo – August 13th. A fun day and night to be had in Mazzolla, a ways outside Volterra. If I am around, I’ll go to this for sure!
  • A Baroque Music Masterclass – August 6th – 13th. Held in St. Peter’s Theatre, near the Porta a Selci (the prison gate). Not sure if this is participatory of a series of demos and concerts.
  • Volterra AD 1398 – August 14th and 21st. Yesssss! It’s finally back after the pandemic. This is definitely one of the chief events in the whole Volterran calendar. I have blogged about it a couple of times. It’s incredibly fun, and I might be over for at least one instance of it myself. People dress up in mediaval costumes, spend medieval currency, play themed games, watch shows, eat and drink and go to medival-style markets etc.
    https://ourmaninvolterra.com/2019/08/12/volterra-ad1398-festival-day-1-part-1/
    https://ourmaninvolterra.com/2019/08/12/volterra-ad1398-festival-day-1-part-2/
    https://ourmaninvolterra.com/2019/08/19/medieval-festival-day-2/
  • Second Hand market for Uganda – July 28th to August 18th. A worthy cause – plenty of potential treasures for sale, to aid the pediatric surgical centre in a Ugandan hospital.
  • Crossbow men and women – August 27th, 28th. Most likely in the Piazza dei Priori, I am unsure if this is a demonstration, or a competition – but it’s a must-see, especially if you’ve never seen them in action before. Some of these folks can hit a euro coin from 50 metres.
  • National Finals of the Historical Archery Competition – August 28th. It’s somewhere in the walled city, but exactly where and when not yet known.
  • Extraordinary Opening of the Church of San Dalmazio – July 1st to August 31st. I’m given to believe it’s not normally open, and has some interesting art in situ. It’s an abbey near the Porta San Francesco, on Via San Lino.
  • Participatory Art: Artists under the clouds – June 5th to September 4th. This is Exact days and times to be decided. This will be held on the road by the wall, south of Piazzetta Fornelli.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: Timeless encounters – July 8th to September 4th. Contrasting and comparing contemporary art with Etruscan art. From 10:00 to 19:00 each day in the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Exhibition of the works of Mauro Staccioli – June 12th to September 18th. If you’ve driven around Volterra’s countryside, you won’t have failed to notice occasional scultures of ring/circle and other shapes dotting the landscape. This exhibition is a ways outside Volterra in the charming hamlet of Mazzolla (nice traditional Tuscan restaurant there, by the way – Trattoria Albana – you’ll see photos of one of Staccioli’s works in that blog too!).
  • Art Exhibition: Fatal Error – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Gianni Lucchesi. In the underground rooms in the Pinacoteca.
  • Art Exhibition: Rosaforte – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Giada Fedeli. In the cloister in the Pinacoteca.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Art Exhibition: Valerio Paltenghi (graphic artist) – August 25th to September 5th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Exhibition of art celebrating the female soul – artists Erica Conti, Michela Giachin and Mariarosa Stigliano (mixed style, performance) – June 8th to September 11th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.

September

  • Tuscan Festival of Ancient Music – September 1st. Held in the cloister of the main gallery (pinacoteca). No times given. You’ll have to pay to get into the pinacoteca to get to the cloister, but I am presuming this is the only charge.
  • Visit to the Consortini Museum (sculpture) – September 2nd, 3rd. In the Consortini Museum in Borgo San Giusto, opposite the (enormous) church – 15:30 to 18:30.
  • Participatory Art: Artists under the clouds – June 5th to September 4th. This is Exact days and times to be decided. This will be held on the road by the wall, south of Piazzetta Fornelli.
  • Astiludio – flag tossing competition with medieval pageantry and processions – September 4th. Always the first Sunday in September, at around the 15:15 mark – this is definitely worth attending if you’re in the area. Sadly, we only partly covered the one in 2019, due to it being temporarily interrupted by a storm.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: Timeless encounters – July 8th to September 4th. Contrasting and comparing contemporary art with Etruscan art. From 10:00 to 19:00 each day in the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Art Exhibition: Valerio Paltenghi (graphic artist) – August 25th to September 5th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Guided tour of the Restoration of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition – September 7th, and every Wednesday until the end of September. By reservation only – phone 0588 87580. Two tours – one at 17:00 and one at 18:00 at the main Pinocoteca.
  • The Red Night – outdoor art exhibition and visits to medieval palazzi – September 10th. It’s back! To me, this is second only to the medieval festival. Maybe a bit less family-friendly, in that really only adults would be interesting the majority of what’s going on. Volterra comes alive at night, with many artistic exhibitions, including live demos. Owners of private palazzi open their doors to the public, and within the buildings and their gardens you will experience many local musicians playing while you take a breather and experience the moment. Much of the walled town is worth an explore for hidden little artistic troves. There may be a jazz concert in the main square later. It generally starts around the 19:00 mark, and ends around 23:00, but palazzi will close their doors around 21:00-22:00, so wandering early will help. I’ve blogged about our 2019 experience. Combining this with the 5 Senses night on the 11th will make this a weekend to remember!
  • Meeting of Dance – September 10th and 11th. Tango festival, in Palazzo Ricchiarelli. Dates and times are TBD, and I’m unsure as to the extent to which it’s participatory.
  • Classic Car Meet – September 11th. If you’re into your classic autos, then a visit to Piazza dei Priori is in order! I suspect a mid-morning visit may be required to avoid disappointment.
  • Exhibition of art celebrating the female soul – artists Erica Conti, Michela Giachin and Mariarosa Stigliano (mixed style, performance) – June 8th to September 11th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Volterra of the 5 Senses (culture and gastronomy) – September 11th. This is a new one on me, and sounds intriguing. Interactive sensory exhibitions and gastronomic experiences outwill be scattered throughout the town, so another explore is in order. This weekend sounds like it will be fantastic, with the Red Night having been on the previous night.
  • The Saline to Volterra Motorbike Race – September 17th and 18th. Best experienced actually from Saline di Volterra, and on the SS68 from there, leading up to Volterra. This annual event attracts motorcycle racers from all over Italy. The road is twisting and winding, but also has some wonderful views along the way – not that they’ll be slowing down to appreciate them!
  • Choco Volterra – September 16th to 18th. Well now I’m pretty certain that between the Red Night, 5 senses and Choco Volterra, I will try my level best to make it back over for the entire month of September. This seems to indicate a participatory chocolate school, but I’m pretty certain that given that it is on Via Gramsci, there will be market stalls there too, chock full of… well… choc. Yes, please.
  • Exhibition of the Astrofili Group – September 8th to 18th. The site’s graphic screams ancient alabaster works, but Astrofili are astrophiles – astronomy-buffs, so I’m confused. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Photographic exhibition (40th anniversary of the photography group) – September 8th to 18th. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Exhibition of the works of Mauro Staccioli – June 12th to September 18th. If you’ve driven around Volterra’s countryside, you won’t have failed to notice occasional scultures of ring/circle and other shapes dotting the landscape. This exhibition is a ways outside Volterra in the charming hamlet of Mazzolla (nice traditional Tuscan restaurant there, by the way – Trattoria Albana – you’ll see photos of one of Staccioli’s works in that blog too!).
  • Sculpture Exhibition of Mino Gabellieri (modern) – September 8th to 22nd. In one of the halls of Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Art Exhibition: Fatal Error – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Gianni Lucchesi. In the underground rooms in the Pinacoteca.
  • Art Exhibition: Rosaforte – July 1st to September 30th. The works of Giada Fedeli. In the cloister in the Pinacoteca.
  • Guided Visits to the newly discovered Amphitheatre – throughout all of September. Oh my God, yes. This seals a September visit. Along with guided visits to the ex-psychiatric hospital, I have been waiting for this. Back in 2015, a Colosseum-style amphitheatre was found just outside Volterra’s walls (albeit on a smaller scale). All other amphitheatres have been known about and knocked down, used for purpose or sold as a tourist attraction. Volterra’s is the world’s first where people simply didn’t know it existed. If fact it is known as ‘L’anfiteatro che non c’era’ (the amphitheatre that was never there). It is a huge and exciting discovery. I can’t wait to go there. I will post more details when I have them.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Claudio Ciompi (photorealistic paining) – September 20th to October 3rd. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants. I’m very fond of photorealism. Would be nice to catch this.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Adriano Fida, Gianluca Sità and Michelino Iorizzo (modern, mixed media) – September 10th to October 5th. Within the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Mark Brasington (ummm… neo-impressionism?) – September 15th to October 5th. Near the top of Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Franco Benvenuti (modern, abstract I think) – September 15th to October 15th. In the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.
  • Art Exhibition – WorkWalk (LavorareCamminare) – October 15th to January 8th 2023. Types of work – possibly sculpture given that (I think) he’s based in Pietrasanta. It’s on from 09:00 to 19:00 in the underground gallery of the main pinacoteca.

October

  • A walk among the Volterran foothills, with lunch – October 2nd. I would love to do this. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the colline around Volterra rival those of the Val d’Orcia, but simply are not marketed. This walk is leaving from the Balze carpark at 09:30. The walk is free, but lunch is €30. This is a total guess: but maybe lunch will be in an agritourismo – an experience of itself!
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Claudio Ciompi (photorealistic paining) – September 20th to October 3rd. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants. I’m very fond of photorealism. Would be nice to catch this.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Adriano Fida, Gianluca Sità and Michelino Iorizzo (modern, mixed media) – September 10th to October 5th. Within the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Mark Brasington (ummm… neo-impressionism?) – September 15th to October 5th. Near the top of Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Saline di Volterra’s town festival – October 7th to 9th. Ah man… so much on – I would love to go to this too. Maybe I should just retire early! This will be scattered throughout town, but largely focused in the main square (Piazza dell’Orologio). If you’re staying over in Volterra that weekend, I would strongly recommend a trip to Saline. Bus or car will do you – it’s about 8-9km away on a wonderfully twisty road with amazing views.
  • Motocross Competition final – October 8th & 9th. A grand couple of days out for 2-wheeled petrol-heads! The guide says it’s in the Palazzo dei Priori. That would be a strange course indeed. A lot of rallies kickoff in the main square, so that’s probably what they mean!
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Franco Benvenuti (modern, abstract I think) – September 15th to October 15th. In the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • San Luca degli Alabastrai (alabaster-themed art festival) – October 14th to October 16th. Although alabaster-themed, this celebrates the artisans through music, art, food, installations and pop-culture. This is in Borgo San Giusto somewhat outside the walls of the town. This would be very interesting to visit if you’re about.
  • Marcia Rosa – a non-competitive walk through Volterra in support of Female cancer victims – October 16th. Starts in the main square (Piazza dei Priori) at 09:30 and is due to carry on until 13:00.
  • Wheels in History – classic car exhibition – October 15th and 16th. This will be in the main square. Mid-to-late morning attendance suggested.
  • Mounds of the Colombaie – archaeological exhibition – October 15th to October 20th. This exhibition will be in the Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Volterragusto – October 22nd and 23rd, and October 29th-November 1st. This is another premier fixture in the Volterran calendar, and one of the yummiest. It’s the annual gastronomic festival! I *still* haven’t attended this, and this year isn’t looking too good for me either, but never say never. I would love to attend, and would strongly recommend it to anyone staying in cenrtal Tuscany.
  • The Volterra to San Gimignano footrace – October 23rd. Starts in Piazza dei Priori, ends (unsurprisingly) in San Gimignano. Cheer the competitors on! I am unsure if the race is open to those who wish to compete – try looking at this site closer to the date.
  • Palio dei Caci – October 30th. Who wants to race a wooden ‘cheese’ wheel down one of the steepest streets in Volterra, dodging haybales? Well, not me – but it would be super fun to watch. This annual event is back after the pandemic. I’ve never attended, but would love to!
  • Alabaster Exhibition: the works of Luisa Bocchietto – October 1st to 31st. Unsure where this is, sadly. Hopefully details to follow.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.
  • Art Exhibition – WorkWalk (LavorareCamminare) – October 15th to January 8th 2023. Types of work – possibly sculpture given that (I think) he’s based in Pietrasanta. It’s on from 09:00 to 19:00 in the underground gallery of the main pinacoteca.


November

  • Volterragusto – October 29th-November 1st. This is another premier fixture in the Volterran calendar, and one of the yummiest. It’s the annual gastronomic festival! I *still* haven’t attended this, and this year isn’t looking too good for me either, but never say never. I would love to attend, and would strongly recommend it to anyone staying in cenrtal Tuscany.
  • Exhibition: the Treasures of Alabaster – April 10th to November 1st. In the Santa Maria Maddalena Study Centre, in the sqaure where you can find the cathedral and baptistry.
  • Mycological Exhibition (Mushrooms!) – November 5th to November 8th. The Italians sure do love their mushrooms. This is an exhibition of the local stuff. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Rally Liburna – modern car competitive rally – November 11th, 12th. It mentions the Palazzo dei Priori. Not sure if racers begin or end there. Or both. Might still be fun, and possibly your chance to finally appear on television. Who knows?
  • Public Opening of the Restoration of Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition – throughout November. Before it was only available by private tour (see prior entries above), but now it’s open for all.
  • Art Exhibition: the works of Mark Brasington (ummm… neo-impressionism?) – October 30th to November 30th. Near the top of Palazzo dei Priori.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.
  • Art Exhibition – WorkWalk (LavorareCamminare) – October 15th to January 8th 2023. Types of work – possibly sculpture given that (I think) he’s based in Pietrasanta. It’s on from 09:00 to 19:00 in the underground gallery of the main pinacoteca.

December

  • Exbition of Classic Motorbikes – December 4th to 10th. In Palazzo Pretorio, opposite the Palazzo dei Priori in the main square.
  • Christmas Concert – December 23rd. Family oriented fun in the Persio Flacco Theater from 21:15 to 11:30. Booking details unknown as of yet.
  • Christmas in Saline – all through December. Some fun in the nearby town of Saline di Volterra, small market included.
  • Charity Market – December 12th to 31st. On Via Turazza, not far from Volaterra and Il Sacco Fiorentino restaurants.
  • Sculpture Exhibition: the works of Mino Trafeli – July 8th to January 8th 2023. Within the Palazzo dei Priori, some may be at the ex-psychiatric hospital too.
  • Art Exhibition – WorkWalk (LavorareCamminare) – October 15th to January 8th 2023. Types of work – possibly sculpture given that (I think) he’s based in Pietrasanta. It’s on from 09:00 to 19:00 in the underground gallery of the main pinacoteca.
An Extraordinary Christmas Lunch! (25/12/2022)

An Extraordinary Christmas Lunch! (25/12/2022)

Happy Christmas everyone! Sorry – it’s just the timing and nature of these blogs. I have a busy working life, and between that, social balance, blogging, vlogging and writing fiction I just don’t have enough time to post more frequently. As it is, this blog may be going on hiatus for about a month after a couple more weeks… we’ll see.

Anyway, we got up and exchanged gifts – that was fun! I got my main Christmas present early: a gimbal to help me shoot video more steadily with my phone. I got a fab bottle of Jo Malone from Niamh’s sister and brother-in-law. I will wear any scent if it smells good on me, whether traditionally male or female. I love what I was given, and will buy another bottle of it for meself in Dublin airport next time I fly to Italy!

Here’s what Christmas looked like from our terrace this year:

We had another breakfast of cereal and panettone, and settled in for a couple of hours screen-watching or reading. A good few weeks previously, I had booked Christmas lunch with La Vecchia Lira. Their main fare is traditional Tuscan, but they do have some modern twists. Both of us have a few favourite pasta dishes there, and we couldn’t wait to show them off to Niamh’s cheffy sister. Unfortunately, none of them were on the menu. The menu itself seemed a little small, only offering what we thought were a few choices for each course. None of us would be going for the tongue, we joked. I saw that it included wine, and surmised that whatever we will choose would be cooked excellently. And it was all for only €60 per person.

Irish and English people might balk at the idea of not having roast turkey or goose for Christmas, but it really does pay to expand your horizons. Here’s the menu:

We arrived slightly ahead of time, and gave our now ubiquitous cylinder of Bailey’s truffles to the owner, whose name we sadly don’t know (yet!). He was extremely grateful, and thanked us for coming to his restaurant today. It was at least half full, but he was disappointed, because a few tables had cried off, leaving some space empty. Later on in the meal, I saw he actually also turned over a couple of tables with new families/couples, so it wasn’t that bad a day for him, attendance-wise. The owner’s English is pretty good, but he has waiting staff there with excellent English. I still tried my hand at Italian!

We were sat at a decent table in the back where it was warmer, and were given a printed menu each, and then set about deciding what we’d have. We had a glass of prosecco each… very nice!

Anyway, we were wondering where the waiting staff were to come and take our order when the first dish arrived: fried pumpkin fritters. I began to wonder.

We were then given a glass of red each. And when we were done with the fritters, the artichoke came out, and finally the penny dropped: we would be getting everything on the menu! I still marvel at the value of it all, not least the amount of work put into it all by the chefs. I had never eaten in Italy on a celebration day such as Christmas, New Year’s or Easter – so I now assume that all restaurants that pubish a special menu mean for customers to experience everything on it. Please correct me if I’m wrong. If I’m right, I’ll be doing this again!

To round out the antipasti, we had a carpaccio of Chianina beef. Very tender and lovely. The salad was perfectly dressed.

Next up – the first primo: a beautitful onion veloute/soup. It was souper flavourful (sorry!). But it really was!

Ok, it isn’t the sexiest looking morsel, but the heck with that – it went down very well! I could have downed a pint of it (I like soup – always have – what can I say?).

Then we had the pasta course. People who aren’t familiar with Italian cuisine, please take note. That’s one pasta course, out of nine courses. And not a pizza in sight. See? It’s not just a carb-fest in Italy! It was agnolotti (a filled pasta), stuffed with cinta senese, with a sauce of mostly chicory. Now I’m not a fan of chicory – I find it bitter, but don’t mind a little bit of it. If the stuffing and sauce had been swapped, I would have been a bigger fan. Having said that I know the others liked it, so it was a matter of personal preference. What I *will* say is that the pasta was, of course, cooked to perfection.

Then it was on to the first secondo, and the most contentious dish of the night. Certain among us Irish and English – those of us of a certain age – may remember offal being used much more frequently back home than it is today. In particular, I remember my grandmother having tripe with milk, onions and bread, and to this day I have rarely seen anything so gross. This is why I shy away from Trippa alla Volterrana and Lampredotto. For the ladies with us today, it was tongue. They couldn’t do it. In fairness they gave it a quick go, but pushed their plates towards me and Niamh’s brother-in-law. We both yummied down both portions!

I can sort of see why it might not be to some peoples’ tastes… again it’s a texture thing. It was very soft, but at least it wasn’t gristley or chewy. To me it was gently, broke down very quickly in the mouth and had a fabulous beefy flavour. The sauce complemented it really well.

Another thing slightly contentious in certain circles is veal. I almost never order it when I see it on menus, as there is rumoured cruelty involved in raising veal-cattle. However, I think modern methods are supposed to be more humane than they used to be. The Irish and British are also voracious consumers of lamb, so the ‘baby’ aspect has to be somewhat muted. Anyway, we all got a plate of it, and we all ate it!

I think we’d well moved onto our second bottle of wine by now, and to be honest, I think we were beginning to get a little bit merry. The veal was tender and delicious, and served with fanned, roast pear and pomegranate seeds. These added alternated hits of sweet and sour to the meat.

Finally, there was my favourite dish of the night. Roast fillet pork with a light gravy and delicately curried creamed potatoes.

Niamh’s sister isn’t a huge fan of pork, so there was more for her husband, the lucky b….. blighter! I loved the meat, and the creamed potatoes were sublime – I could have eaten a kilo of the stuff, despite it being the eighth savoury course. It was so delicious.

The final course was lovely and light – a nougat mousse and a local vermouth. I then asked for an amaro, and was was given a shot glass of it. I asked what it was and when the waitress (whose English is excellent) told me it was Jaeger and asked if I’d heard of it, I couldn’t suppress my laugh. The poor girl asked if I would rather something else, and I said no – that it was perfect. Jaeger is a fine digestif, but has become much maligned because of how it’s been abused in British and Irish drinks cultures. You basically drink it to get pissed. In this situation, however, it’s absolutely fine.

The mixture of prosecco, wine and digestivi were bolstering my bravery somewhat. As you may recall, Niamh’s sister had just completed a 3-month intensive course in the prestigious Ballymaloe cookery school, with distinguished results. I knew she would have loved a tour of a busy Italian kitchen, so I got up out of my chair and asked the owner if he wouln’t mind. He was only too delighted, but given the space in the kitchen and the need for a translator (the waitress), I wouldn’t be able to accompany. That was ok – she couldn’t believe her luck and spent about 20 minutes in there, having a good look and a good chat.

Incidentally, she has her own business as a private chef, so if you’re planning a stay in Suffolk and want to impress your friends, family, or colleagues please do check out Noble Prawn‘s feasts!

We finally left and left a pretty big tip, which, much to my embarrassment, the owner trumpeted all over the restaurant. You have to be careful with tipping in Italy. I do it frequently, but I have made a mistake on at least one occasion where I left a tip with someone who was in fact offering a gift to me – that still haunts me, although she was ok about it – if a little mock-grumpy at first.

On the way out, the owner offered Niamh’s sister a chance to volunteer in the kitchen for a week or two, and she grabbed at that with both hands. I tried my best to let the guy know that this wasn’t an offer made ‘to be nice’; she really wanted a shot at this, so I told him so. He still seemed amenable, so she has that to look forward to now too.

We went for a walk through the town in an attempt to burn off the excess alcohol. It was mostly misty and very quiet. There were one or two breaks in the cloud, but then the sun dropped very quickly. I remember that when I’d posted these shots in Instagram and Facebook, that a couple of the residents were upset at how quiet it was. I reminded them their town is still lovely, no matter what, and that it was in the early evening; not quite passeggiata time. And it is lovely, and always will be.

We then went back to the apartment, where we bloated and still had room for wine and the occasional chocolate or olive. I was last up, as I’d found Ed Wood (the biopic of the worst ever film director) and watched it through. I hadn’t seen it in years – a good little movie!

I hoped you enjoyed this oddly-timed Christmas-themed blog. Please share it with your friends if you did. If you have any other recommendations for spending Christmas Day in Tuscany, please let me know!

Christmas Eve in a foggy Volterra – a meal at Terra di Mezzo (24/12/2021)

Christmas Eve in a foggy Volterra – a meal at Terra di Mezzo (24/12/2021)

‘Twas the day before Christmas! We decided to stir, but only stay in Volterra for the day. We had our breakfasts (including some yummy chocolate and orange panettone). It was market day too. It’s usually held on a Saturday, but that would have been Christmas day, so they brought it forward.

Out we went out to a very misty Volterra. I know many locals were lamenting the weather, but to me it made the whole town look enchanting, even mysterious. The first thing we saw was that the market was somewhat lighter that it usually is.

The food market is in Piazza San Giovanni, where the cathedral and baptistry lie. We turned into the square…. and there were only a few stalls available, much to our disappointment. However, it turned out that these stalls had everything we needed.

You might remember in the last blog, that samples are the way to go when operating a stall, and the lady working the fruit and veg one below very much subscribed to that school of thinking.

She had several different types of olives and nuts, and almost everything we sampled, we bought. We had good fun there too. We ended up buying some olives, including some chili-enfused ones which were delicious. We also grabbed a couple of hundred grams of some amazing roasted almonds, and some grapes. I was just a little annoyed with myself that I didn’t film at the time.

We went over to the salumi and cheese stall, and sampled some more! We ended up buying a boar salami (if I recall correctly) and several cheeses (pecorino, parmiggiano, a creamy gorgonzola). We then left the market and extended the walk.

The cathedral beckoned, and we went in. Earlier in the year, they were charging €7 for entry. This is a recent thing, and annoyed me somewhat. Today, the stall was inside the door, but it was unmanned, so we skipped inside. They’re not keen on filming there, and because I’d been there a couple of times before, I just took the one photo.

We continued our stroll.

On the way back to the apartment, we stopped in L’Incontro for a coffee and cake. I had a hot chocolate, not being a coffee-drinker. I also threw a cornetto con crema into me. Ahhh… I wish we had more bakeries where we lived, although in fairness Armelle (a French lady who moved to Kilcullen) makes some amazing treats, so I can’t be too upset!

After having had a lunch of what was bought at the market, plus a few other salumi from the local mini-market, we thought that to spend the day vegetating wouldn’t be a good use of our time, so we took another stroll. Niamh’s brother-in-law was wondering if the Irish bar (Quo Vadis) was open. I was wondering too, as when I took my morning walk a few days previously, I’d noticed that there was a bunch of recycleable boxes left there for collection.

Unfortunately, it was closed, but the Roman Theatre by the pub entrance gave me an idea.

Would our guests fancy a look-see at the new archaeological site of the newly found amphiteatre? Turns out the answer was ‘yes’! We headed through the Porta Fiorentina, and wandered down towards the cemetary. You can’t enter the dig site itself without a a guide, but we were able to have a good look anyway.

They have secured a ton more funding for the dig, so hopefully we’ll soon see a colosseum-like ruin someday in the next few years.

When we’d finished checking it out, we went inside the cemetary grounds. I rarely get a chance to do this, as almost all of my walks are early in the morning, and the cemetary is never open. Anyway, we went inside and had a look. The cemetry here is typically Italian. Some are buried in the ground with ‘traditional’ tombstones, but many are in drawers in the walls of the grounds. This is really typical throughout Italy.

I noticed a couple of things about these “drawers”. Firstly, they were very well taken-care of. Many had lights and fresh flowers. The other thing I noticed was that of those that had photos, almost none of them featured people smiling. I found these two, and one of them moved me somewhat.

That young girl. She was only 14 or 15. It looks like she died during the war. I wondered what her story was. Was it by disease, misadventure or was she a casualty of the war itself. It’s such a wonderful photo, that it was upsetting to think she died so young. If someone from Volterra is reading this by any chance, I’d love if you left me a comment or mailed me to let me know.

We left and headed back up towards the apartment. I took a few shots of the town’s distant skyline on the way back. She is lovely from any angle!

We rested back at the apartment, dollied oursselves up and then headed out to Terra di Mezzo for our Christmas Eve dinner. I had booked it a couple of months previously. We took one of our cartons of Bailey’s truffles with us to give to Robbi and Aurora. We got there and found the restaurant quite empty. We were nonetheless welcomed warmly, and asked where we’d like to sit. It was cold out, and the only table large enough for us is pretty near the door, so I suggested we head down to the cellar. In hindsight (in fact, not just in hindsight) this was a mistake. The cellar here dates from Roman times, and was probably used to keep foods fresh etc. It was cold and a little damp down there. They hadn’t been open all week, so the sting of cold hadn’t been taken out of the air by the time we arrived, and there were heaters and dehumidifiers working overtime there.

Still, aside fromt that, it’s a really nice environment – it’s not often you get to eat in a near 2,000 year-old cellar! We’d eaten in the cellar a couple of times before, and so were not expecting the cold. Anyway, we got settled-in, a couple of us throwing on a scarf or light jacket as an extra layer and presented our gift. Robbi came back down to thank us, but said “Next year two, eh?” which made us crack up. Fortunately, the tube of sweets have separate bags of truffles within, so sharing wouldn’t be a problem.

I had to go back up to Robbi before our food landed, to see if we could do anything about improving the heat situation. He adjusted and moved a couple of heaters, and it did get a little bit better. I did notice, however, that there was only one other table occupied upstairs. I had been expecting the restaurant to be a bit more full, but remembered then that Italians often celebrate Christmas at home on Christmas Eve. I wasn’t going to let the lack of bodies reduce our enjoyment.

We ordered, and got an antipasti sharing platter. I followed that up with some Zuppa alla Volterrana (che sorpresa!) and a pici cacio e pepe with truffle. I think the winners of the night were Niamh and her brother-in-law who order a beefsteak, each about the size of an adult face! I’d had it before in August, and it was very tasty.

I didn’t take photos, as I knew tomorrow was going to be a day for food photographs, and I didn’t want to make a nuisance of myself. Although I did grab another bad selfie!

When finished, we said our goodbyes (and tipped well for Christmas). I saw that the restaurant was still so empty, and not only did I feel a little bad for Robbi – and I hoped he hadn’t opened just for us – but I was beginning to wonder about our Christmas lunch the next day. Would it be similarly quiet?

Thanks a lot for reading – I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave a comment to let me know!

Return to Volterra for Christmas (20/12/2022)

Return to Volterra for Christmas (20/12/2022)

Hot diggity! Volterra time!

The past few months felt up and down with respect to my anxiety, but I always know in my heart that the condition is in a decline, and although I still have some rough months ahead I will be fine in time. I just have to have patience.

Anyway, back to the healing holidays. For the first time ever, we had decided to leave the country for the first time to spend Christmas in Volterra. We had been there in December 2018 to pick up the keys of the house, and it was coooold! We stayed for a couple of weeks, and witnessed the turning on of the lights, but we left a good week shy of Christmas itself. The wind cut right through us when we were outdoors. But we didn’t mind. The town is lovely during all weathers. I know that people who have lived in Volterra tend to get tired of the winter months, the cold and the fog – but for now, Niamh and I find them enchanting. We packed for multiple layers each day. The ceilings in most rooms in the apartment are quite high, so we were unsure how well the central heating worked. The radiators get piping hot, but the volume of the rooms might be too much. We would probably have to look at getting a convection/air heater or two.

We’d also have to make sure that our guests were comfortable. That’s right! We’d have guests for Christmas – Niamh’s sister (who’d just successfully finished a cookery course in Ballymaloe School) and brother-in-law (with whom I go to an annual Prog Rock festival (pandemics not withstanding)). It would be fun!

And because it was our first Christmas in the apartment, we’d have to get Christmas decorations. We picked up the first of these from Robbi – the owner of Terra di Mezzo restaurant – in August, and some others in Valdichiana back in October, but more were needed.

The airport was a great deal busier than I remember it being in July 2020, that was for sure! It still didn’t take us long to get through security. We bought tubes of Bailey’s truffles for various folks in Volterra, and grabbed breakfast, and of course the obligatory bottles of water for the flight and initial stage in Italy. I rarely have an Irish/British breakfast, but today I felt like it. Pork products abound!

We boarded with no issues – I think a cursory glance at our tickets and and passports is all it took. There may have been a check of our vaccination certs, but certainly nobody looked at our Passenger Locator Forms (PLF). We landed on time and with no issues – a good flight!

Because we would be picking up guests two days later, we didn’t go all-out on the rental car. We grabbed something small from Sixt – I think it was some sort of Kia, but I’m not sure. Our guests would pick up something larger. Always good service from them (both Sixt and our guests!).

We didn’t have too far to drive to our first stop: Navacchio! We went to the CoOp first to see if there was anything there we could pick up. We were a little disappointed by what was on offer there. Not keen on the decorations, and the trees were too large for our need, so on to Casa instead. We picked up a bunch of tiny baubles, and a modern spindly tree – the kind that is often used outdoors, but we would use inside the apartment anyway. I was modestly successful in my use of Italian with the shop assistant, but one was soon called who had lived in London for a year, and who could converse more fluidly with the pair of us. She was very helpful, in fairness. They boxed up the tree we selected (it was the last one, and they had to raid their stockroom for the box), and once again we had to explain that we can’t tap for larger transactions (Irish cards max out at €50 per transaction for tapping). Anyway, we were on our way, and with festive goodies in tow.

I am proud that we didn’t stop in Old Wild West this time for a dirty burger/ribs. I am less pleased that we also walked past CoOp’s gelato stall – which was still operating. I think I whimpered. My only real problem with Volterra is that all artisanal gelato stores shut for the off-season – so it becomes a ‘dry’ town. First World problems.

Anyway, we got to Volterra at an awkward time. As we were hungry (and the apartment was cold), we turned the heat on – checked that it was working – and headed out to grab something smallish for lunch, as we generally favour larger meals at night. There was something about the security gate inside the apartment entrance, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It’s often left open during the day so people can get to the insurance office above, and today was no different – but something was off.

We had a brief walk around town to take it in.

They had a tree this year in the piazza. Last year they had an alabaster display instead. I love alabaster creations, but really at Christmas, you can’t beat a tree. I really liked the constellation theme this year, and I think they may still be left up in the main square. I think they look fab. Somehow, even if understated, the Italians dress up their shops at Christmas better than they do back home. Each one is worth examining.

Anyway – back to the food – fortunately, Volaterra was still open. I asked if we could have a snack, but got a strange look. It wasn’t until literally weeks later I discovered that I had pronounced ‘merenda‘ as ‘meranda‘. Oops. Fortunately the latter isn’t offenesive, or even extant! Anyway, we fumbled through it and I got a yummy bean and mushroom soup, and Niamh some bruschette. A glass of wine was also had.

On the way back, it had begun to get dark. We wanted, for the first time ever, to try some genuine artisanal panettone. It’s a kind of sweet bread – I think with the consisency of donuts (but better), and with some sort of finely diced filling – frequently fruit. We popped into Pasticceria Migliorini to see if they had prepared any. Indeed they had – a few varieties. We opted for chocolate and candied orange peel. It was pre-boxed, and we knew we would have to exercise God-like restraint in not opening and devouring it before our guests arrived.

We thought it chilly in the apartment, and so we thought to give our central heating a boost. There is an appliance store 20 seconds walk away from the pasticceria, so we grabbed a fan-heater in there and brought it back to the apartment (yes, we paid for it!). Marvelling at both Vicolo delle Prigioni and the amazing lilac-lighted tree just inside the foyer of our apartment block.

After mooching about the apartment for a couple of hours (what was it with the security gate – it was bugging me!), it was dinner time. We didn’t go to some of our favourites, as we had booked them for later in the week. However, we had another favourite up our sleeves, and we wouldn’t have to brave the cold for too long in order to get to it!

Porgi l’Altra Pancia (the name always makes me smile – Grow Another Belly) is right beside the entrance to our apartment block, and the people who run it are just lovely, and we always get a warm welcome. They might even change the seating configuration to accomodate us during busy periods, or even grab a reserved table, knowing how quickly we can eat! But most of the time, and I especially during off-season, we can take our own sweet time in a set-up that looks like a deli, then becomes a wine-sellers (it’s down as a wine bar in Google for some reason), then finally a restaurant. It’s a great place. We got a seat no problem, and said hello to the waiter who always recognises us… I swear that next time I will actually ask the guy his name. I’m a devil for not doing that.

We walked to the security gate. It was closed. We pushed the button to escape and it duly obliged. Then we noticed what we failed to notice before: the gate’s lock had been completely changed. We checked to see if we could unlock it from the outside anyway. Of course we couldn’t – the lock was changed! We stood like a pair of idiots for a couple of minutes until I had the bright idea of heading all the way back upstairs and asking our neighbours (the people who sold us the apartment) to see if they had a key. There were in, fortunately, and I managed to use my Italian successfully! They have absolutely no English, but I managed to grab a spare key from them, and not only that – the man of the house said he’d get a bunch of copies cut for us and deliver them the next day. They are lovely people! Anyway, with key-in-hand (yes, we tested that it worked), we took the fifteen more steps to the restaurant!

We discovered that we were still a little full from our meal in Volaterra, so we decided just for a pasta course each. Of course, by the time that had finished, dessert was also on the cards. We had opted for a bottle of Rosso di Montepulciano – Niamh rarely goes for red, but she joined me this time. I was to buy a bottle of this in Montepulciano itself a couple of days later – but you’ll read all about that in a few weeks’ time. Our food, unsurprisingly was great!

We said our goodbyes, and although we were fit for our beds, we thought it better to begin the digestion process by having another little walk around to check out the Christmas lights at night.

When we had our fill, we put up the tree, put lights and baubles on it, wrapped lights around our weird upright lamp and toasted the beginning of our Christmas!

Thanks for reading this episode. Please leave a like and a comment – I’d love to hear from you!

Going Home Again – A Meal in Kilcullen (16/10/2021)

Going Home Again – A Meal in Kilcullen (16/10/2021)

Extremely short one this week!

The very worst thing about going to Italy is having to come home again. Again, like last time, the flight was in the early evening, so we had time to mooch about in Volterra for a while before having to head to the airport.

I got up for a walk again, and just for you folks took a bunch of snaps.

My walk continued!

I wandered out later with Niamh to check out some of the market. We didn’t get anything this time. It was so busy in town, for some reason – great to see. It’s the life I miss the most – and the food, wine, gelato, towns, beaches, history, gentle lifestyle…. you get the picture. Here are some more:

What do you do when you have to head home, assuming you don’t permanently live in Italy? How does it affect you? For me, it’s always a sad time. They may seem obvious to most, but with my having to deal with general anxiety disorder over the guts of 18-24 months, it becomes a greater challenge. I’m always better when I’m back in Volterra. But, when I think about it, why should I be? Mindfulness dictates that we should be unaffected by our state and place. Acknowledging the change in circumstance and location, and accepting it fully means that by rights I should be able to be happy anywhere. I think this is key. I had to learn to be happy in Kilcullen too. Strangely, this has become easier for me as the lockdowns, particularly the ones early on, only allowed us out to walk in our respective locales. Up to then, I really had thought of Kilcullen only as a functional place to live. However, on exploring every day for the last nearly 2 years, I now realise that it is a lovely place, with huge potential. I really can be happy anywhere, and be content with what I’ve got – and not compare the current me with the old me, or my current place of living with those able to live permently in Italy. Every place has its merits and demerits.

If you like, please follow me on my Instagram account – I post photos and video stories from Ireland there frequently enough. I hope you’ll like my homeland as much as I’ve come to learn to like it.

On the flight home, Niamh took a couple of shots – one over Italy and one over Ireland.

The next day, to compensate, we realised one of our favourite eatieries in Kilcullen: Fallons was open. I even celebrated my homecoming with a pint of ‘plain’. That’s the way – acceptance and gratitude.

Of course…. it has to be said, that it really helped that I knew we were returning to Volterra for Christmas. During the intervening period, I booked meals for the evening of the 24th and Christmas lunch itself on the 25th. So, I start all over again next week with our return to Volterra. Something I, again, gratefully accepted.

See you then!

Thanks for reading. Please leave a like and/or a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

The Lovely Castiglione della Pescaia (15/10/2021)

The Lovely Castiglione della Pescaia (15/10/2021)

There’s a bit of write-y stuff in this one, but there are photos and a video below – I promise!

The town of Castiglione della Pescaia is one of those rare coastal places which has an old-town feel to it. This is because there was a profusion of dwellings settled nearby a large fortress, protecting them from potential raiders. The possibility of Saracen (and others) attacks was so high, that people tended to settle on hills inland, rather than risk slaughter. Perfectly understandable. Tuscan towns with an old-charm feel are incredibly rare in Tuscany, with many places with beaches having become more settled in post-war Europe. So, it’s always cool to find something that matches the tastes of the culture-vulture, the history-hound and the beach-baby. The foodie? Well… see below…

But first, bathroom remodelling! After our failed attempt to engage the builder, our appointment was properly set up for this morning. Our nice lady from Milianti (estate agents and property managers), Alice, arrived early, and although she’s young and slender she commented that climbing the 76 steps to our apartment whilst wearing a face-mask was tricky! A few minutes later, there was another ring at the door, and we let two gentlemen in: one was the builder, the other was an older man. This latter guy turned out to be the consulting geometra. What is a geometra? They are essentially internal building surveyors. One of their responsibilities is carrying out technical reviews of buildings for extensions and changes etc. We took them through the changes we want, with Alice translating all the way. All was tickety-boo.

Once gone, we headed out and took our 8 minute walk to the carpark, to our little stick-shift Fiat 500. Definitely one of our favourite rides we’ve rented since coming here. We stuck on Missus Google, and headed down SS68 towards Siena.

I don’t have any photos of the journey, because I was filming! You can catch the video towards the end of the blog. We decided to head the ‘country’ route, rather than along the coast. That made the journey very long, but it was interesting to see new towns appear on the signposts. I love to explore, so even new signposts alone sometimes give me an endorphin rush.

We passed tantalisingly close to Casole d’Elsa. We have visited it a few times (blogged about it once), and it’s a lovely little borgo, but we had a schedule! We blasted past it. Other highlights include also blasting past the Instagrammable Ponte della Pia. We didn’t stop. You can hear me squeal about it in the video below. We drove through the lovely Rosia, and shortly afterwards the 12 year-old in me was pleased by seeing signs for a town called ‘Orgia’ (literally ‘orgy’ in Italian). I imagine the property prices there are quite steep, but the people fit and healthy. Just outside Rosia, we were stopped for the third time this year, by a randomly parked police checkpoint. Once they found out we were tourists, they waved us on – but we found it prudent to carry identification documents with us at all times just in case. Just past Siena earlier in the year, they had us pulled over checking passports and licenses for a good 15 minutes.

When we were in the latter stages of the journey, on the multi-laned SS223, we flew past another hilltown. I checked my phone, and I’m pretty certain it was Civitella Marittima – one on my list to visit… but we ploughed-on!

If there’s one thing I really enjoyed about the journey, it was it showed us how hugely varied the countryside is in Tuscany. From the typical undulating hills and olive groves and vineyards, to winding valley roads with streams. Sometimes, yellow-golden, sometimes grass-green. Here and there farmhouses dotted throughout, with the occasional castello or hamlet crowning a lonely hilltop. It is beautiful land.

We knew we were getting close to the coast when we started seeing the coastal pines (I think they’re sometimes called Stone Pines) – tall trees topped with wide, flat foliage. They began to line to roads, once we left the highways.

I think that the journey took us a good two hours. Blame me… I just wanted to see more of the countryside. It took us 20 minutes less on the route home. Anyway, we got handy parking here, and had a quick stroll by the marina before heading up into the town itself.

It was close to lunchtime, so we just wanted to explore a little before having food. We strolled up the what we considered to be the main tourist drag, checking out some restaurants and a gelateria (for later!) on the way.

Now for some much-needed controversy. I have often considered my blog to be something of a hagiography of Italy, so a little criticism is overdue. For a while, I have been exploring the Italian coast on Google Maps (yes, I have a sickness). So far, I have gone from the French border, and have just past Naples. It takes a long time! Anyway – one of the chief observations I have made is that generally, restaurants in touristy coastal towns are poorer than you will find a little inland – especially those along promenades. There are, of course, exceptions – but many… hmmm… I would say most, would seem to rely on seasonal, transient trade. My chief point is: do your research on Tripadvisor, Google etc. before selecting a place to eat, if you have a definite preference of quality over location.

Despite the time of year, there were still a few restaurants still open. We went to Pane e Vino on Corso della Libertà. It was open and seemed to be getting favourable reviews. We were shown to our outdoor table and were attended very quickly and enthusiastically. We needed the bathroom, and apart from a little lighting issue, all was good – the bathroom was nice and clean. We had a little struggle with the menu, as we aren’t huge seafood fans – mostly whitefish, salmon and mussels – I sometimes eat tinned mackerel too. Although, one of the nicest things I have eaten – in fact the very first thing I ever ate in Volterra – was an amuse bouche in Del Duca, of which anchovies were a part. I also kept hearing how anchovies in Italy were way better than they are elsewhere. Anyway, we found stuff we thought would be interesting and ordered. The results were…. mixed. The ingredients were cooked well, and some of the ideas novel, but in the main, they just missed the mark – one in particular was frankly bizarre. I laud restaurants for trying to experiment, and I think these guys were trying to do that – so, hats off on that front. One thing that bugged me outright, was that I had wanted a fritto misto, but didn’t see it on the menu. Nonetheless, a couple of parties came in after us and were served plates of it. Grrr! Off-menu items annoy me. Anyway – back to what we *did* get:

The staff were lovely I have to say, and attentive, but we left in something of an unsatisfied daze. If you love seafood, good presentation and experimentation (and what looked like amazing fritti misti – grrr!) then this place could be for you. I have to stress again, that the cooking was good. And Niamh’s coffee was great too.

Once we were done eating, we decided to delay our gelato fix until we were done exploring the old fortress part of town. What a lovely place it was. And hilly. Also, cats – cats everywhere! On our way we passed by an Irish bar – Tinakilly Pub. At first I thought that was a bit of a spurious name, as Irish town/townland names often derive from an Irish name that actually means something. However, I see that there is a Tinakilly House Hotel just a little over an hour from us – so it’s the real deal! Tinakilly is derived from the Irish words ‘Ti’ (house), ‘na’ (of/of the) and ‘Coille’ (woods) – so ‘House of the Woods’. There you go – very interesting! Of course, having blown a paragraph on that, I now have to tell you that we didn’t go in.

We briefly and indadvertently walked outside town through a porta at the top end. Beyond it was a carpark and what looked like a school, plus a hint of the bay view to come.

Next, we returned back into the town, and found a church. It was nice and cool inside, but not as decorated as many you’d find. There was another cat guarding the door.

Upon leaving the church, we walked uphill past some lovely houses – passing by yet another cat – an enourmous fluffy lad, and then looked left. Wow. The view of the gently curving bay was amazing. I think you could also make out Monte Argentario farther along the horizon. The closer mountain I think is the Parco Rgionale della Maremma.

We walked over the hill to the other side of the village, and down to another porta in the fortress walls. We jostled for our space with some other tourists there to get our shot by it. There wasn’t much beyond that porta, so we headed all the way back town to the newer part of town. It was gelato time! We grabbed some yumminess from Bar Gelateria Angolo Gelato and sat on a bench around the corner in the shade.

We headed back to the car after our gelato and, driving past the cemetary we saw earlier behind the church, opted to go home via the more coastal route. It was a good bit quicker. I was too slow to grab a shot of Follonica and its bay as we crested a hill to look down upon it. It was a gorgeous sight. Follonica itself looks to be an interesting place to stop for a modern beach-city – I have read that it’s promenade is nice (remember the tip about restaurants, though!). We skirted around the outside of the town, through its more suburban areas, and shortly after there joined the multi-laned E80. We turned off just before Cecina, and headed through Saline di Volterra back to our home-from-home.

You can watch a video of that part of our day here:

I took a couple of shots of Volterra on our way back from the car to the apartment. I do this because all too often I only catch some shots during my morning walk when the light favours some scenes, but not others.

We weren’t quite done with the day yet, though.

We wanted some way to help celebrate my writing competition win (see last week’s blog), and it was going to be our last night for this trip. We decided pizza and beer was in order. We headed out later than usual and were very lucky to find La Mangiatoia still open – they closed shortly after we left. Many Italians eat very late when compared to the Irish – often at 21:00 or 22:00 – but La Mangiatoia looked like it was closing around the 22:00 mark. They looked a little worried when we ordered, but brightened up when we selected pizza – I presume we’d be told that a lot of the stuff was off the menu otherwise. I like their pizza – it’s second only to Pizzeria Ombra della Sera. The didn’t have any Moretti left, so we had one of their own beers. I wish I had taken a photo of it – it wasn’t bad at all!

Once done, we had a walk to the Piazza dei Priori, and then thought… No! We’re not done yet!

I wanted something sweet, but already had a gelato that day – so we went to Antica Velathri Café and had a couple of cocktails (ok, I had an amaro). But then I saw a homemade panacotta on their menu, with a variety of different sauces. I think I grabbed one with a chocolate sauce, or it might have been caramel… I do remember it being eye-rollingly delicious, though!

And then we were fit for our beds. Thanks for reading – I really hope you enjoyed it. Please leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!

To See a Friend in Florence (12/10/2022)

To See a Friend in Florence (12/10/2022)

I chose not to walk that morning, as I thought we’d have a full day of it in Florence. We still didn’t leave ’til mid-morning. There are two main routes to Florence – one takes you through the countryside for the first two-thirds of it, as you head through some wonderful rural scenery, and emerge on more modern roads somewhere between Gambassi Terme and Montaione. We took the other route, which, although shorter in terms of time (just), is a little bit more dull. If you haven’t driven it before, then it’s a fine route, but annoys anyway, because it takes you so far south so you can join the Florence-Siena Autostradale, before taking you all the way north again. At least it takes you past Colle di Val d’Elsa, which always impresses.

As usual, we parked by this Coop. It’s free parking there, and is just beside the tram station which will take you into the heart of Florence in 12-15 minutes. There’s more about it in the video later on in the blog.

This time was a little bit special for us, though: it would be the first time we had taken any form of public transport since we started working from home due to the pandemic – around mid-March 2020. It turns out we weren’t freaked out about it. It wasn’t packed, but there were a still goodly number of people on it, and everyone was adhering to the mask-wearing protocol. I regret I didn’t take any illustrative photos.

We got off at Alamanni (the station for Santa Maria Novella), and it was another 10 minute stroll to the Duomo. Once there, unless you actually work beside the thing, it’s almost impossible not to be impressed by it. We papped our little hearts out!

We noted for the first time that there were armed soldiers outside the bell tower. We neatly skirted around them, and headed to the back of the Duomo. From there, we wandered around some back streets, stopping in a quirky stationery shop, in which (of all things) we bought some Christmas tree baubles. We were hoping to come back in December, and get a little tree for the apartment, so these would do splendidly. Then onwards towards Piazza della Signoria.

We had a look around (we’ve been there before) the square, and then went inside the Palazzo Vecchio to see what could be seen. The courtyard is pretty impressive, and it’s such a huge building. We didn’t have the time to go on one of the tours, as we had a lunch date!

We did have time to check out the Ponte Vecchio. That and the riverside were both busy and beautiful!

It was almost time to meet my friend. We wandered back towards the square on back streets, bypassing it altogether and heading down a narrow lane to find the osteria: Vini e Vecchi Sapori. It’s tiny on the inside, and seemingly with no space for seating outside. It was also almost completely full, so I wondered if my friend had taken the booking correctly.

I should explain the ‘friend’ part. I had actually never met this guy face-to-face. For years, we had played World of Warcraft in the same guild together, and kind of had similar senses of humour. I had his number and so gave him a call. He assured me he was only minutes away, and, a man of his word, arrived soon after. By ‘eck was he tall! That’s the problem with online friends – they’re like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. But within seconds we had bumped elbows (me reaching up slightly), and all three of us were comfortable. He then entered the restaurant and began rattling in Italian – pretty much fluent, which raised an eyebrow. I didn’t know he could speak Italian. I had assumed that, yes although he worked in Florence, he did much of his work online, and chose to settle in a town in which English was spoken by many. It turns out he’d spent many of his formative years in Rome.

Anyway, the restaurant staff recognised him immediately and gave him an effusive welcome, in cajoling Italian. He confirmed the booking, and said that we could eat inside, but that they also had a part of the north-east corner of the Piazza della Signoria cordoned off for diners. It was such a nice day out that we decided to eat outside and people-watch.

We had lunch for almost two hours. Three full courses and a glass of wine. We just chatted about personal stuff, how we found Italy, what we were doing generally, how the pandemic had treated us, and so on. I skirted around my anxiety issue, as I didn’t want to bum everyone out – we were having a good time. Working-from-home inevitably cropped up, and he was adamant he was staying in Florence, even after his boss asked him to work in the London office. He pointed out to his boss that he himself was working in Spain! I lamented that we might not be able to work in Italy, as most employers didn’t want the hassle of having to register for tax in the various countries in which employees were thinking of settling. Even if that country was also in the EU. Not that we are thinking of settling, as our Italian isn’t up to snuff yet, but it’s good to have options. He pointed out that after his employer registered in a few countries, they realised they had the unexpected benefit of now being able to hire people at will within those countries – thereby expanding their market for a potential labour force exponentially. An interesting point.

The food was excellent, but sadly I didn’t take many photos. There were pastas, fried chicken and zucchini, boar stews and tiramisu.

You know you’ve eaten well, when you get up for a multi-course meal, and only feel comfortably full – and this is how we felt. My friend brought us to a bancomat (ATM), as we needed to grab some cash. He pointed out the opening times of the bank – it only opened for 45 minutes after a lunch break that day. Nice work if you can get it, I guess. We got what we needed and headed back towards the Arno for a stroll. He gave us little tidbits of information in his very English accent. I have to admit I was a little jealous of both his skill with Italian, as well as his height!

We headed over the Ponte Santa Trinita to the less touristy Oltrarno, where he promised us gelato that, while may not be the creamiest, was among the most flavoursome you can find in Florence. We struck a south-eastern route at a 5-road intersection and wandered down a narrow lane until we entered a lovely, almost hidden, piazza – so small it could have been called a piazzetta, where a couple of bars’ outdoor seating was stationed. At another end was our destination: Gelateria delle Passera.

We got ourselves some gelato (unsurprisingly), and it was here that my friend pointed out Zabaione for the first time to me. I’d never heard of it up to then, and now since Christmas has passed, I can’t stop hearing about it! It’s a sort of a thick, alcoholic eggnog – thick enough to be eaten rather than drunk – and also used to dunk biscuits into. Niamh got a scoop of that, and it tasted nice enough. To be honest, while Niamh liked the gelato, I thought it merely ‘good’. The portion sizes were certainly small for the money, but the flavours natural and fine. Not as good as L’Isola del Gusto, but maybe I am biased when it comes to my favourite Volterran gelateria. In fairness, the setting in which it was enjoyed was lovely.

Shortly after, we walked back to the Ponte Santa Trinita, and said goodbye to my friend. It was a merry meeting, and I’ve no doubt we’ll see each other again in Tuscany! He did recommend Palazzo Pitti to us. We chuckled and said we were all too unfamiliar with it. We have wandered in front on it several times, and for some reason or another have never either entered it, nor it’s wonderful Boboli Gardens. But we would rectify that this time! Oh yes!

But oh no – we didn’t.

Once again, we wandered outside, and looked at the remaining light of the day, and the queues outside and decided against it, preferring not to drive home in the dark. We took some snaps, and with a shrug of our shoulders, Niamh and I vowed to each other not to visit it again next time we’re in town!

We decided to cross the Arno at the Ponte Vecchio – photography ensued here too.

We walked back to the train station and got on the tram back to the Coop carpark. It was much busier, as we figured some people were heading home from work (office workers, maybe), or shopping. Everyone was still wearing masks. We took a seat near the front, and an older lady soon sat beside Niamh. She was looking through printed photos, but let the envelope holding spill the contents to the floor of the tram. Naturally, Niamh gave her a hand to gather them back together (Covid bedamned!), and was then caught up in a mostly 1-way conversation in staccato Italian about the older lady’s family, where they were from (Calabria – followed by an explanation of where Calabria was), what they did on holidays etc. It was a lovely encounter, but a shame our Italian wasn’t up to speed enough to reciprocate.

Here’s the video of our day:

The journey home wasn’t eventful, save that Niamh slowed down outside a Chinese/Japanese restaurant in Colle di Val d’Elsa to see if I could snap the opening times. We never ate there in the end, but maybe some other time.

Instead, with bellies still a little full, we had sandwiches from Sosta del Priore.

And that was the day that was! Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think in the comments section – I hope you enjoyed the read.

Dedication – In Memory of my Father
I would like to decicate this piece to my Dad, who recently passed away. The last couple of years of his life were rough, as he was coping with Vascular Dementia. He always loved reading these blogs, and more towards the end the vlogs I recorded in Italy. His eyes lit up whenever he saw the old Italian towns, and always had high praise for the beauty and architecture of the places I visited. He never got a chance to visit Florence, and would have loved to have seen David. But at least he got to Rome.

I will miss showing him how much I love Italy, and I will miss him too.

The Vicopisano Market (10/10/2021)

The Vicopisano Market (10/10/2021)

I didn’t go for a walk that morning, as I knew we were heading off early to travel. I did take a pic from the terrace, and one on our way to the car, though.

We’d been following people from Vicopisano on Instagram for a while (Authentic Tuscany – check them out). It seemed like a nice town, but what really clinched the deal was the collectors’ and antiques market they hold the second Sunday of every month. We’d passed it by on the way to Montecatini Terme in August too (and yes, it still galls me that I lost the video footage of that trip), and there were a couple of historical features that certainly looked worth checking out.

We set Mrs. Google to the carpark that looked most promising, and got underway. The trip is about 54km and took a little over an hour. I didn’t take any photos, because I was filiming! You can scroll further down the page to check out the video of the journey and the market itself.

We arrived around 11-11:30 and found that it was only a short stroll to the market itself. And what a market! I’d heard that Arezzo had the biggest regular antiques fair in Tuscany, which is probably true – in that it is strictly antiques. But Vicopisano’s market is absolutely enormous, and so lively. I’m struggling to think of anything that wasn’t for sale! There were books/comics, toys, old wireless radios, furniture, crockery (including very fancy dinner sets), cutlery, wonderful stalls with gramaphones (being demonstrated), clothes, weapons, musical instruments, old bikes, alabaster and terracotta-ware, mirrors, glasses, genuine war memorabilia. The market wrapped around Piazza Cavalca – a large square just west of the oldest parts of the town, and snaked its way along multiple adjoining streets. We really couldn’t get over the size of it. It was so huge, that while we didn’t buy anything (we came close), we still spend a good 60-70 minutes simply strolling through it while stopping only briefly to check out a few stalls of interest.

One of the best things about Italian markets (I think I’ve noted this before), is how lively they can be – the excited chatter of Tuscan accents buzzed about us and really added to the overall atmosphere. I really couldn’t recommend this enough! There was one stall in particular that grabbed me. A man was demonstrating a gramaphone, and despite the age of the technology, the massive horn was blaring out the old tune ‘Roses of Picardy’. You can check it out in the video towards the end of this blog.

It was time for lunch, though, and perhaps we were a bit optimistic in thinking we could walk-in just about anywhere – especially during the pandemic. I saw the reviews for Ristomacelleria Testi seemed to be quite good on Google, so I chanced my arm. They looked like they were opening, and I approached who I assumed was the manager/owner, who was on the phone. I waited until he finished, and said to me ‘Dimmi!’. So I asked him in Italian if there was a table for two available now. Unfortunately, there wasn’t. In hindsight, that was probably just as well, as we were going to go out to eat at Terra di Mezzo in Volterra later that evening, so something smaller would have been better. We walked past that restaurant again after we’d explored the old town, and the smell coming from it was amazing (definitely for meat lovers!) – so one day we’ll return with a booking!

Instead, we went to Le Belle Torri, and ate inside. Our waitress was so enthusiastic and friendly, so in the end our choice was right for that reason too. We had a pizza each – they were pretty nice, and just what we needed.

We had a ramble through the old town of Vicopisano afterwards, hoping to maybe catch an attraction or two, like the Palazzo Pretorio and the recently re-opened Rocca buttress for walking over – part of the fortifications created by Brunelleschi (yes, the same lad who fashioned the dome of the cathedral in Florence).

So we walked through the town, and were delighted by its old charm. It seemed to be built on terraces, and towers dotted the views throughout. At one point I thought that it might even rival San Gimignano for its towers, but that was just my over-active imagination. But just look at the pretty:

We walked to the Rocca and found it closed to public tours. On our way back we passed by a large group of Italians outside the gate, and assumed that they had organised a special private tour. It was Sunday, and we probably should have realised that many places stood a good chance of being shut, just slightly the wrong side of the tourist season. Onwards we went to Palazzo Pretorio (pausing to let a massive 4×4 perform a complicated 17-point turn), and saw that it too had closed just after lunch on Sundays. D’oh! I had a little explore of its courtyard, and then we had a look at a sequence of switch-backing steps leading all the way down to the river. A little disappointed (as much in our lack of preparation as well as ill luck), and wandered through the more residential area of the old town.

By the time we’d gotten back to the newer part of town, I was pleasantly surprised at how the two seemed to successfully mingle. The blend is very subtly balanced. The old with the new – the border isn’t hugely evident. We entered a bar to grab a coffee/hot chocolate, but for some reason we lost confidence on the protocol on grabbing a table. Some tables seemed to be for dining – or maybe all of them, but we weren’t sure. We chickened out, sadly, and went for one final stroll past the restaurant in which we had failed to secure a lunchtime seat – the smell of grilled meat was wonderful – even after having eaten. We walked past Le Belle Torri, and saw a gate beyond which were other gravelled-and-green-area seats and a couple of other establishments. It was a lovely little mini-park. What a fine little town this is! We wandered up and down it for a few minutes before heading back to the car.

I have to say, we didn’t do Vicopisano full photographic justice, as we missed the ‘classic’ shot of the tower with sloping battlement – but it’s best captured a little way out of town. Maybe next time.

Should you wish to make Vicopisano your base, rather than Volterra, then please out these excellent people – Authentic Tuscany!

Here is the video of our journey to, and exploration of, Vicopisano:

A little while after we had returned to Ireland, and I had published the above video, Vicopisano was awarded the Bandiera Arancione (orange flag) from the Italian Touring Club – basically a recommendation to visit one of the finer towns in Italy. I’m pretty sure it was coincidence! *wink* To be honest, I was amazed it wasn’t already on their list.

But the day wasn’t over. When we got home, we found we had a fondness of our own little town, and had a little walk before heading back to the apartment.

Later that evening, we went to one of our favourite places for food: La Taverna della Terra di Mezzo. We were welcomed warmly, as always, and then had a three-course dinner.

Afterwards Robbi, the owner, handed us a bottle of dessert wine – an almond variety. We haven’t tried it yet, but I look forward to the day we can crack it open.

Before I go… a quick art update! You may remember a few blogs ago that we bought a little original painting from a lovely old gent in Montecatini Alto, just outside the funicular station. I promised I’d post a pic of it next time I got over (and remembered!), and so here it is!

Well that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Please leave a like and a comment or question. Thanks!