Tuscany March 28

At the Villa Nencini in Volterra we had breakfast every day in this medieval wine cellar. It was always filled with the smell of steaming cappucino and hot croissants.

After breakfast we toured the countryside on the way to the 12th century village of San Gimignano. The landscapes were beautiful, lush, green and rolling.

San Gimignano seemed like a movie set of the 12th century. Endless narrow twisting alleys broken by open sunny piazzas and dominated by soaring medieval defense towers.

Later in the afternoon we returned to Volterra to do some more exploring. At one time, over 2000 years ago, the town had been a Roman outpost. There is still the ruins of a small forum, theater and drainage system clearly visible from the town parapets.

Toward the eastern end of the walled complex not far from the Roman ruins there is the most complete museum of Etruscan artifacts in existense. Filled with funerary urns and tools of everyday life from 700 BC, there is one piece that stands out. It is the “Ombre della Notte” or Man of the Night. Tall and exaggeratedly elongated, it appears to be 20th century modern. It is actually over 2500 years old.

We could hear drums beating in the distance getting ever closer. Suddenly a band of marchers swept past the museum and we hurried after them to see what was going on. They were mostly young men all dressed in the medieval costumes and colors that have represented Volterra for over a thousand years. We followed them to the main plaza, Piazza Priori, where they stopped. What followed was this amazing presentation of athletic skill, dexterity and showmanship. Singly, in pairs and in teams, they tossed, caught, exchanged and juggled huge flags in a dizzying swirl of reds and creams. It was a great way to end the day. As usual, the most unexpected in life is so often the most memorable.
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Tuscany March 27

Today was bright and sunny. We walked into town to the Saturday market on Piazza Priori and explored the booths. There was everything from kitchen wares to underwear. The nights were chilly so I bought a light merino wool gray sweater (goes with all my black) and drove back to Florence to pick up the last 3 of the group of 9. The others shopped, ate lunch and rested. By afternoon we had returned and we all drove to Frantoio dei Colli, a shop that markets all of the local farmers’ products from wine to cheese and salami. It was great fun and a wonderful introduction to the gastronomic specialties of Tuscany

Back in Volterra we enjoyed a delicious dinne of chingale (roasted wild boar) and ravioli washed down with several bottles of fine red wine.
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