walk like an italian: days six & seven – volterra

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We wake on day six and pack again. Our accommodations in Pruno were magnificent and I wonder again at Anthony and Marina’s ability to not only find us great walks, but also wonderful places to stay.

After breakfast we take a tour of the church and the bell tower in Pruno then I say a silent farewell to this lovely quiet place and we walk again as a group, taking a leisurely stroll down through the villages surrounding Pruno. We stop for lunch in Il Mulino dei Frati. This is an ancient chestnut mill that is still in use today. Our forest guide Sylvia and her husband are the caretakers of this unusual dwelling and, before we all sit down to a sumptuous lunch that includes freshly made chestnut and cornbreads, we take a tour of the mill where chestnuts and other things (like corn) are still milled today.

After lunch and another leisurely stroll, it’s back into the vans for the drive to the ancient city of Volterra. We are now in Tuscany and this exquisite walled city is believed to be one continuously inhabited since 8th century BC. The history and old-ness of this place blow my tiny mind and I make almost no photographs during our two days here – it’s a place that has to be experienced I think as there’s no photo I know of that could adequately depict how it feels to walk on the stones of such an ancient place filled with so many stories of glory and sadness.

Our accommodations are again exquisite. We share an apartment with Lucas and Marianne that has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and dining room and a terrace from which we can see all the way down the valley to the Ligurian sea.

After dropping off our luggage, we wander down to meet the rest of the group and are taken on a private guided tour of Volterra by Annie – a local historian who is amazingly animated and passionate in the telling of the tales of this ancient Etruscan city. She walks us to one of the gates of the defensive walls and tells us a story of how the inhabitants saved the city from destruction during the second world war. I am not sure if it is the story, or the telling, or the city itself that moves me to tears, but I’m glad I’m wearing my sunglasses. I don’t mind being seen crying in public, it’s the attempts at comforting me when I don’t need it that I find unbearable. We also visit an alabaster workshop and watch as a bowl emerges on a lathe turned by a grand master’s hand, it’s thin translucent skin mottled and beautiful like the surface of the moon.

The end of our tour ends at a wine bar (of course), where Massimo turns pouring wine into a show all of its own. He does everything with a flourish. We buy more wine and take it back to our apartment for enjoying on the terrace.

Then it’s aperitivo time. I am coming to love aperitivo time and we carry on this tradition as we continue our journeys (sometimes with Aperol, sometimes with prosecco). We opt to go with the group to Ristorante Ombra della Sera for dinner and I have the most amazing pasta with black truffles I have ever experienced; there are great hunks of shaved truffle adorning my gleaming bowl of pasta and I eat until I am beyond full. I’m not leaving one single bite.

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We wake early on day seven and make a run for the laundrette as soon as it opens. We have a couple of hours to get all the washing done before we meet up with everyone again. Nic finds a cafe with wifi and he sits there whilst I dash back and forth to the laundrette to check washing, load the drier, fold etc. It’s quiet in the city at this time of the morning and I enjoy wandering the streets before the noise of the day begins.

After breakfast we take to the quiet roadways beneath the city and walk through olive groves, past villas, vineyards and huge fields of sunflowers, heads bowed, all waiting to be harvested for their oil.

My feet are sore today and so I opt for just the walk down the hill to where some of the group have stopped for beer. We climb into the van and Anthony drives us back up the hill where I spend the afternoon on our terrace drinking wine and reading a book. Somehow it feels right to be close to the city this afternoon, even though part of me is feeling bad for not doing the whole walk today.

Later in the afternoon we are joined by some of the rest of the gang to drink prosecco on the terrace and toast happy birthday to Lucas. We head out of the city for dinner, ending up at a local place where we are treated like family and Lucas is our chief wine selector. I think he’d be hard pressed to find a bad wine around here, it’s all so good. The food, once again, is also divine. I think the only reason Italians don’t get fat is that they do so much walking. I think the only reason I haven’t put on any weight whilst feasting here is all the exercise I’ve been doing!

After another amazing couple of days, we fall into bed happy again. And excited about our next two days on Elba Island.