From San Gimignano, we drove to Volterra. We loved the higher mountains and deep valleys green with vineyards and farms. At a food truck along the way, I got a hot dog and Mike a salami sandwich. We each enjoyed lemon sodas and cookies for dessert.
The drive got more scenic the closer we got to Volterra.
Right away, there was a hassle with the parking. Mike dropped me at the entrance and drove down into an underground parking garage with postcard-sized parking spots. It seemed I waited forever for him to come out into the light.
The town looked so pretty sitting on the hill, even with the ominous clouds. The town stands over Le Balze, a stunning panorama of hills and gullies.
Volterra is a Tuscan hilltop town with 3,000 years of history and 11,000 inhabitants. In the 9th and 8th centuries B.C., the first human settlements developed into a city state in the Etruscan era. In the 4th century B.C., imposing defensive walls were built, and it became one of the most important of the Etruscan City States with almost 25,000 inhabitants.
In the middle of the 3rd century B.C., Volterra was conquered by Rome. During a period of economic growth, Volterra became involved in a civil war and lost much land and property. During the Imperial Era, Volterra didn’t suffer the decline that other Etruscan City States did.
The town became a diocese around the 5th century A.D.. It was under the rule of powerful bishop counts until the 13th century. In 1472, Volterra was looted and conquered by the Medici and il Mastio, the fortress and tower, were built. The revolt against the Florentine Republic took place in 1530.
Right away, I found a leather shop and bought a deep teal leather bag for €49.
Soon, we climbed up the Casa Torre Toscano for views of the town.
The Romans, and later the Florentines, laid siege to the town to secure its supply of minerals and stones, particularly alabaster, which is still worked into handicrafts.
After enjoying the views, we walked around the town, looking at shops. I was in search of an alabaster necklace or earrings since the town is famous for its alabaster. I bought a necklace for €16.
We strolled into a park to see the ruins of the 1st century BC Roman theater, with adjacent remains of Roman terme (baths). We also tried to see the town’s Duomo, but it was closed for renovations.
Piazza San Giovanni is the religious square with the Cathedral and Baptistry, both consecrated in 1120. The Baptistry with its 15th-century dome is attributed to Brunelleschi. It stands beside the Cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta (the Assumption Mary), complemented by its 44 meter high bell tower.
We stopped to enjoy a glass of wine in a cozy shop.
We slowly made our way back to the parking lot, where we retrieved the car painlessly and drove back to San Gimignano.
The drive was beautiful, over rugged terrain. We listened to an Italian radio station that played Bing Crosby: “Lay that pistol down, babe. Pistol-packing mama.” The radio hosts kept saying “Nostalgia,” and I wondered if that was the name of the station.
Tuscan villas, cypress trees, umbrella pines, and neat rows of vineyards dotted the countryside. We could see the towers of San Gimignano in the distance. I wished so badly I could drive a Vespa through that landscape. Mike loved driving the sporty Mercedes over the winding mountain roads.
We weren’t game to go back into San Gimignano, but on the outskirts of the town, we stopped at Il Trovatore for an early dinner. We got to the restaurant at 6:30, and they let us sit and drink wine until they opened at 7:00. Opera played on the sound system in the opera-themed restaurant, of course.
We enjoyed Pizza Violetta, with mozzarella, mascarpone cheese, raw ham and arugula. Also, an Insalatona Falstaff: lettuce, arugula, radicchio, apple, walnuts, raisins and crispy smoked ham. This was accompanied by a side dish of Fagioli Cannellini all’Olio, white beans in extra virgin olive oil. What a lovely meal in an unexpected place. È stato squisito! (It was delicious, exquisite!)
Today was such a pleasant, laid-back day, even with the threat of rain, some cool winds, and heavy steely clouds.
Back in our villa apartment, we relaxed and I wrote in my journal. It was supposed to rain the next 2-3 days, but we planned to go to Siena nonetheless.
*Steps 14,388, or 6.1 miles*
*Friday, May 3, 2019*
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