Friday, August 16, 2013

The Volturi land in Volterra and the hail descends

Wednesday saw us taking the car out further for the first time. Normally we go with the flow on holiday and have lots of down time, but, given our wait in the car rental, the sleepiness of the town during siesta and therefore the time for lots of reading, most of our literature had been devoured before the end of week one. We needed to get out and about more, sit and relax less.
On a serious note, many guide books do not truly cover this part of Tuscany. Florence is covered of course, as is Pisa and their surrounding vicinities, but if you really want to get an idea of where to eat in this part, you just have to get out there and discover it yourself. Mr Beehive had recently stumbled across an article in the Guardian about Volterra. He’d had the forethought to cut it out and hang onto it, so we decided to give it a go. I am SO glad we did.
Volterra is another hill top town, this time it dates back to 1398. The main square (as an aside of course!) is the setting used for Edward and Bella’s mad dash to save him from showing himself to the humans in New Moon – but that was (honestly readers) just an added bonus for me to roll on the floor where Edward Cullen put his brown clad shoes before that two timing love rat excuse for a girlfriend leapt onto him…ahem…moving on…
One of the most interesting parts of Volterra – aside from its abundance of artisan gelaterias, tourist snares selling medieval torture implements and weapons to highly enthusiastic tween boys, and open door policy on the alabaster workshops where the sculptors are able to create anything from coffee machines to knitted pullovers and suitcases out of the stone!!! -  is the fact that until 1950 the most highly prized attraction in Volterra, it’s amphitheatre complete with columns and pillars etc, was under around 200ft of rubbish as it was the community rubbish dump! 

Luckily it has since seen daylight and restoration and you can now admire the beauty of it from one of the roads above. Of course, if you want to wander around at the same level, it’ll cost you! However, for freeeeee, there is the road leading back up into the walled town from which there is the best view of all the angles.

The third best part of Volterra (I say third because obviously the fact that it was used to film a scene in Twilight is quite good, no?) is it’s zebra striped Byzantine cathedral! Yes folks, it’s a cathedral that is the same colouring as a zebra crossing! It is also pushed back off the square. I suppose, were it not disguised as African equidae, then it would pass unnoticed as a building behind the town hall. However, for the fact that it is so elaborately dressed, it really cannot be missed. Fantastic!
I’m sure the children would like to say that The Torture Museum in Volterra is one of its best features, however, as we have experienced Madame Tussauds in Blackpool before it was updated (even now it’s pretty bad) and various ‘Dungeons’ in various parts of the UK and abroad, we felt that perhaps this could be presumed to be one to put on the overated-tourist-trap- give-it-a-miss, lists. They are still reeling that we denied them the opportunity to gauge this for themselves!
However, we did count no less than FOUR artisan gelaterias and all of them the most elaborately decorated ice creams. So Volterra gelato scores high on the glamour front, equally high on choice, price and taste. We’re awarding Volterra gelato an overall 8/10.

Later next week we hope to return to Volterra as they have a medieval festival on and whilst we were there, they were setting up. It does look to be a lot of fun, so we may face the crowds once again to re-visit this lovely, underated in the guide books, town. It may on the otherhand, take LMB a bit of convincing as we experienced a rather vicious storm on departure. One minute we were eating gelato in the sunshine (Frutti di Bosca and Mango!), the next we were standing with others under the gateway to the town to avoid the deluge. After ten minutes we decided to be stoically British – this wasn’t rain for goodness sake…it was WARM!!...and make a run for it. Be warned, all rain begins as hail…you knew that right…normally it warms on the way down to become rain. On a hilltop high, high, high above sea level, it doesn’t! Golfball sized hailstones proceeded to hit the car (oh so glad for that blasted £600 paid out!). Fortunately we all made it back to the car before we were hit by them. Within 20 minutes of the storm starting, the vertical hairpin roads up to the village had become waterfalls, muddy water cascading down the hillside. As we slowly trundled out avoiding the worst of it and trying to calm down LMB who would scream everytime we were met by another sudden burst of water coming out of the side of the verge, we did begin to wonder if sitting it out may have been a better idea and whether Chryslers come with water skis and that may have been what we really paid £600 for!

As we steam dried on the journey home, we decided to top up at the supermarket. Back in Venturina, the sky was blue and the temperature was 31degrees. We opened up the doors and amidst a ball of stinking steam, five drowned rats fell out.  The land was flat, the sky was blue, there wasn’t a vampire in sight…all was right with the world again!

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