Well, we didn’t run into Edward Cullen, Bella Swan or that creepy little girl that can induce pain in people’s mind (I suppose the world’s largest and most powerful coven of vampires was in hiding) during our visit to Volterra in Tuscany.
Now this is Tuscany!
For the Tibetan monk that has been living in isolation in Bhutan… and my sister, the only two people in the world that haven’t a clue who Edward or Bella are – I am making a playful reference to the Twilight Series. Buddhist monk and Michelle, listen up – the premise of the fictional story is simple. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy happens to be a blood-sucking vampire. Girl also falls in love with another boy. Boy happens to be a shape-shifting werewolf. Love triangle ensues. They all get in trouble when the Volturi (fictional Vampire royalty from the non-fictional town of Volterra, Italy) get involved. Giant battle rages. Extend story over five books. Produce six movies and collect hundreds of millions of non-fictional dollars. You know – your classic love story.
Julia reading in Volterra
Julia’s new pose while strolling
While we didn’t see any vampires (darn), we did find something better in Volterra. We found an amazing city with an incredible history and beauty worthy of a hundred stories – let alone a few blockbuster movies.
A government building in the main piazza
In the main piazza
Torture museums are popular here
“Come take a load off”
Another street scene
Remains of Etruscan-Roman Acropolis
I call this… “lonely albero“
Love the roofline
About to break into a run
I love this little peanut
We were given the opportunity to see Volterra with a local, Beth – whom we had recently re-connected with via Facebook. We stayed with her family in their amazing farmhouse for a long weekend that began with a wonderful party you can read about HERE. The first day of we partook in the festivities of Festa della Liberazione. The next day, we woke up and enjoyed our coffee and breakfast in true Tuscan style – piano, piano (slowly). I drank my coffee in Beth’s amazing backyard and watched Julia play while soaking up the scenery.
Beth and her son Indi
Beth’s backyard… what a yard!!
I could spend all day soaking this up
After lunch, we ventured to Volterra and spent the day strolling through the wonderful city. I was particularly interested in the large castle, Medicean Fortress perched at the main gate of the city. We decided to visit the caste and include this large fortress among the many we plan to see this year. I was greeted at the gate (and then turned away) by an armed guard. That seemed odd. Then I noticed armed guards on the roof. And industrial-size surveillance cameras. Boy, these Italians take the preservation of their historical treasures seriously. Or maybe the Volturi do exist…
Medecian Fortress in Volterra – no vampires living here as far as we could tell
Beth told us that there was a prison in Volterra, but we all agreed that it didn’t seem to make sense to convert a 14th century landmark positioned in the center of a tourist town into a prison for hardened criminals. I just discovered (thank you internet) that we were wrong. The castle was converted into a high-security prison for criminals that are serving sentences longer than seven years. I have also learned another interesting fact about the prison – there is a restaurant inside that serves gourmet food. This was part of a rehabilitation project and has been highly publicized. The food is prepared and served by inmates and the restaurant is open to the public (provided you pass a security clearance, don’t mind eating with plastic silverware and have some stones of your own). I think I’ll have to make a reservation next time we visit – my kind of joint.
One of the main city gates
The drive from Beth’s home to Volterra was simply amazing – we got to see some of the incredible Tuscan country-side. Beth explained that there are essentially “twelve colors of Tuscany” throughout the year. A painter had once told her that the look of Tuscany changes each month with the growth of new plants and flowers each month. We must have come during the most vibrant green month – because the scenery was just stunning.
Julia and Indi ready to go
Vibrant green hillside
Tuscany in spring is a dream
Couldn’t wait to make a panoramic photo
We picked up some cheese, salami and sott’olio (“under oils” which are a variety of vegetables stored in olive oil) and headed back for a late dinner. Andrea (Beth’s husband) arrived home just as we were setting out the food and we all ate and drank until we crawled into our beds.
The following day was particularly exciting for both me and Andrea. You see, Beth is a vegetarian and so he relishes any opportunity to cook meat. I happen to love meat and so a match was made in heaven. He was particularly excited to try a new lamb recipe and was particularly excited to be his guinea pig (having grown up loving lamb). The women prepared for the feast and tended to the children while the men asserted our male dominance and hunted for the meat…at the local grocery store. We were triumphant! Andrea set to work preparing the lamb and I was eager to assist him. I gathered some rosemary from the yard – and evidently snapped a living branch in the process. He casually brushed it off, as he had “only been growing that plant for three years”. I felt awful – they were kind enough to laugh. Andrea selected a great bottle of wine they had been saving for the right occasion. I took this to mean that they liked having us and we hadn’t yet worn out our welcome. The meal surpassed all my high expectations! But we made a critical mistake – eating that much meat had put us in a food coma. We needed grappa (Italian alcoholic drink used to aid in digestion) – stat! We drove to a local pasticceria (pastry shop) for some sweets and grappa. Eventually, day turned into night and we each fell into bed, sleeping quite soundly.
Andrea preparing the rosemary
Andrea was excited to make a meat dish
Baby swap – feeding the kids early
Beth shows Julia how to twirl like she’s “up in the club”
Andrea showcases his cooking skills and great taste in wine
Full-bodied, flavorful Tuscan wine
The table is set…
…with copious amounts of succulent meat…
…and the best roasted potatoes we’d ever had!
The gang’s all here
After lunch, Andrea played some music for the kids – both drums and guitar. He had an instant collection of groupies (I’m including Jen in that lot).
Andrea lays a beat
And has a collection of fans
Julia had to get in on the action
Somehow we had already arrived at Sunday and our magical weekend in Tuscany came to a close. We enjoyed our morning coffee and some of Beth’s homemade muffins (Jen borrowed the recipe) and hit the road. We had such a nice time with Andrea, Beth and their son Indi – we hope to host them in our home in Como soon.