Sunday, May 1, 2011

Arrivederci Manarola, Salve Volterra

This morning I sat on the terrace of our little Manarola apartment for the last time, sipping a cup of tea and dunking my biscotti. The sky was a clear blue, edged with pink and white clouds. The sea was quite agitated, unlike our previous mornings when it was smooth and quiet. I have tried to memorize each moment of our time here, the sea and sky, the hills and stairs, the colors and the lights. This has been a wondrous place that has etched itself into my soul.
We were a finely tuned machine this morning, getting all packed up, cleaning up the apartment and then schlepping our many bags up a steep flight of stairs (about 30 in all!) and then down the 1/4 mile long hill to the bus stop. The little shuttle bus arrived at 8:55, we loaded everything in (fortunately we had the bus all to ourselves), and headed up to the parking area where Big Bertha awaited us.
We had an uneventful trip over to Volterra until it came to actually parking the Ducato. We tried following our GPS directions to a parking lot, but it appeared we had to actually go inside the walled city to do that and we were reluctant to try maneuvering through those narrow streets so we opted for an underground garage. Oh my! We went down in the tightest circle imaginable until the fourth level, where we found a spot. Mike jumped out and threw himself in front of it so no one else would take it until Brian went around again to back into the space. It was a tight fit, believe you me! But we were soon ensconced in a very enviable spot and were ready to begin our tour of this lovely hill town.
Volterra dates from Etruscan days and there is an ancient (4th century BC) arch that is one of the first to use a keystone. I always thought the Romans were the ones to come up with that architectural piece of genius, but they were inspired by the Etruscans from Volterra. We also visited the Duomo and Baptistery, then went up to a look out point for some lunch. Mike had the May 1 traditional dish of tripe followed by fava beans and peccorino cheese. We all opted for something more mundane....tagliolini with duck ragu. It was very tasty, but the service could have been better.
After lunch we headed over to the Roman theater. During the middle ages this was turned into a garbage dump and eventually the whole area was filled in and forgotten. It wasn't until 1950 that excavations began and the arena was discovered. It's a beautiful piece of work. Then we went down Via Matteoti for some shopping and snacking. Alabaster shops abounded, as did pastry shops and of course gelaterie. We stocked up on some biscotti for later and had a nice little artisanal gelato for dessert.
We left Volterra and headed to our agriturismo (Molino d'Era). It was quite a trip down the same kinds of twisty hilly roads that we have gotten so used to now. It has some lovely grounds and a little brook that bubbles through the garden. Quite pretty. We hope to have a good rest here tonight because tomorrow is a five hour journey down to Aversa and on to Cervinara. It will be good to get home, to settle into our little nest in the hills and start getting back to normal. Life on the road is wonderful, but it is always better to sleep in one's own bed!

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