Volterra

(9/16)

Volterra, city of alabaster, was a “must do,” more for me than J. It was also the furthest away from Foresteria Il Giardino, about 2 hours in ideal condition, making it a specific planned event.

A bit of a digression: September is a lovely time to visit Italy. We’d missed one of the worst heat waves the country had seen in decades, and the days were generally just perfect. There were rainy days, however.

This day turned out to be a rainy day, but we didn’t know it until we were well past Siena and pretty much committed to either giving Volterra a try, or not doing it at all. (See the image at the beginning of this post — looks good, doesn’t it?) We decided to go forward, frankly hoping that the rain would move away from our destination, or that it just wouldn’t be a big deal. Us PNWers are pretty tolerant of many types of liquid falling from the sky. Besides, we had umbrellas. How bad could it be?

The rain slowed us some, and we decided to stop for lunch on the outskirts of Volterra. Trattoria da Bado was great. To say that they specialize in regional dishes would be accurate, but that’s pretty typical for any restaurant you find in Italy unless they call it out differently. (Our favorite place near Foresteria offered pizza in the style of Napoli.) For da Babo that meant the menu was heavy on meat and game dishes (if only because it was hunting season).

After sharing a green salad with J. I had a delicious pasta dish — pappardelle al cinghiale — with a wild boar ragu (meat sauce). Utterly superb. J. also had a pasta dish and we shared a dessert. Add in a couple of glasses of wine — our meal came to about $75. A touch spendy, but worth it.

As we were eating we noticed that every man who come in made a point of stopping by and saying hello to an older gentleman sitting at a central table. It wasn’t necessarily the first thing they did, but they all did.

We parked just outside the walls and entered the Porta all’Arco . . . and the heavens unleashed a torrential downpour. Even with our umbrellas quickly deployed, we were soaked from the waist down in minutes. we looked at each other and then huddled in the lee of those ancient walls for a confab.

To get from the parking area into the main part of town we walked through the walls themselves. This section (which runs from San Felice to Porto all’Arco was restored and modernized just the prior year. It was COVERED in graffiti, often gorgeously so. The pictures I took are basically the only ones I have of the city itself.

We had been looking forward to the Guanacci Etruscan Museum, one of the oldest public museums in all of Europe, having opened its doors in 1761. Mario Guarnacci, a noble, founded the museum with his large archeological collection, collected over years of research and purchases and included a library with over 50,000 volumes. In doing so, he ensured that the city not only had a rich cultural patrimony but that the collection stayed together.

We also wanted to see the Roman amphitheater with it’s baths and forum. And, you know, wander around, maybe do a little shopping. But the weather wasn’t clearing, and we chose to make the best of it and go home. Another reason to visit in the future, right?

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