One of the last towns we visited in our week in Tuscany was the town of Volterra. According to Rick Steves*, this vibrant and history-laden town was recently in the international limelight because it was used as the backdrop for one of the installments of the Twilight Saga. Although I’m not a fan of the movie series, I am well aware of its box office success. However, as we explored the town, I found that there is much more to Volterra than the snippets of scenes in the movie.
Volterra has Etruscan roots that date back more than 2000 years. It must have been quite an important town then as its location was key for trading and commerce. It was a town with its own industry and government. A little city-state of sorts.
As we walked through the town, we were able to appreciate the Etruscan Arch with three obscure shapes at the top of what must have been busts of important people or symbolic animals. The town is also lined with a sturdy protective wall that stretches for miles, that served to keep invaders and looters out.
We walked by many shops selling Alabaster wares – vases, urns, sculpture, lamps, and more. This has been a popular industry in these parts, where alabaster can be quarried from hills nearby. There are many local artists who have their workshops along the passageways. We were told that alabaster has a translucent quality when cut thinly and so, it was used as windows in medieval times.
One of the highlights of our foray into this town was the discovery of Massimo Scali’s Enoteca**. Massimo himself was on-hand to greet us when we walked in. In my usual O-C fashion, I asked him if he carried Isole e Olena Chianti Classico wine. In particular, I was interested in the 2008 or 2009. He smiled and led me to a corner where he had a shelf of them. Voila! My search has finally borne fruit! I had been searching for this wine ever since it was served to us with our dinner at Villa Campestri on our first night in Tuscany (See previous post, “Tuscan Heat“). My friends were also relieved to finally find it. We all helped ourselves to a few bottles to take home with us.
We noticed that the wine shop had a tasting room. Massimo explained that people can come and taste the wine, pair it with their preferred cured meats, sausages, cheeses. It was a way for people to see how the wine compliments the food and vice versa. This made for a richer gustatory experience and more satisfying purchasing decisions.
Massimo was also very helpful. He obviously knows his wines and the wines of the region. He even showed us a book where the Isole e Olena winery was featured. We discussed Amarone, Barolo, and Brunello with him. He weighed in on the vintages, old vines, ancient vines, and small wineries. All in all, it was a good visit. We wish Massimo was a drive away from where we live! Wouldn’t it be great if we could sit in his shop one Friday evening?
It was getting dark by the time we walked out of Enoteca Scali, with our finds in our hands. We decided to eat at Da Beppino’s, a restaurant nearby. The seafood plate was unexpectedly large. This was my first time to eat razor clams! The broth was full-bodied and flavorful. We ordered some good Chianti with dinner. The service though, was quite slow.
It was good to walk around the town one last time before we boarded our ride. The crowds had thinned considerably and the heat had dissipated. The town was quite pretty with its evening lights.
*Rick did speak very fondly of Volterra. He said it’s one of his favorite Tuscan towns to visit. Yes, in spite of the international media attention because of a sensational movie that did not do it any justice. It’s picture pretty without being pretentious or contrived. He was right.
**Enoteca Scali, Via Guarnaci, 3 – 56048 Volterra (PI), Tuscany, Italy. Tel. +39058881170. http://www.enotecascali.com
- More of Tuscany – San Gimignano, Italy (travelpod.com)
- Italy Week One- Tuscany (lmcniff.wordpress.com)
- Wine Tourism Adventures in Italy’s Major Wine Regions (vinoconvistablog.me)
- Tuscany, Im in love. (nataliatree.wordpress.com)
- In vino veritas – In wine there is the truth (millahallanoro.wordpress.com)