Have you ever visited a foreign land and felt you had been there before? Or felt so comfortable in a place that you just keep wanting to return?
This is how Volterra in Northern Tuscany affects me, and although she is over 2000 year’s old, every once in a while my recent memories feel a “tug” from her beckoning me to visit. Similar to someone pulling gently on my shirt sleeve.
How meraviglioso (wonderful) to have what seems familiar continue to create such anticipation, isn’t that one of life’s gifts we can give to ourselves and each other?
“The years wrinkle our skin, but lack of enthusiasm wrinkles our soul”. – Socrates
My husband and I have been visiting Volterra since 2006 and with each visit, our appreciation grows. Each experience in Volterra is ricco (rich) and varied, except the drive there!
The road leading to the geographically “aloof” Volterra is steep, winding and requires a certain level of pazienza (patience).
There are literally corners along the way to this ancient Etruscan Gem, which require you to slow down to less than 10km/HR to safely get the car around its hairpin turns.
If you were performing yoga, I would liken the drive to having a move which literally makes you fold back on yourself, impressive flessibilità (flexibility) is required, albeit, challenging in a crowd of vehicles!
Your just reward, however, will be the breathtaking Tuscan landscape which accompanies you along your drive.
The landscape surrounding Volterra is different from much of Tuscany, although the beautiful vineyards, olive groves and rolling mountains make their way to her feet, the sharp edges that line the tops of the Tuscan hills are reminiscent of mounds of salt that if you just pinched them, they could easily fall away. Thankfully the landscape has resisted this type of human erosion!
Some may say this land is barren, cool and the people somewhat reserved. But, I appreciate Volterra as it is, not overrun with visitors and the people of Volterra are just that, they have remained true to their ancestry and not commercialised their world to suit those of us that are grazing their lands.
Don’t misunderstand me, the well-known alabaster and marble artisans, amazing oil painters and craftsman of Volterra will make any shopper or collector run up her steep hills in anticipation of a day meandering in the shops.
When I first saw the unusual artistic landmark in 2006, I thought, “How strange, why would anyone put a Big Red modern styled “O” in the centre of nowhere?” The Big Red “O” appeared to have been just thrown on a barren hill before approaching Volterra.
Funny enough, now I can’t wait to see the Big Red “O” as the landmark whispers to me, “you are almost there, hurry now” as we reach the cusp of Volterra.
The l’Anello (ring) or as I affectionately refer to it as the Big “O” is actually part of an art exhibition called Luoghi d’Esperienza (Places of Experience, 1972). The Italian artist and sculpture, Mauro Staccioli, created this modern yet simple beauty which is intended to encourage drivers to slow down (literally) as they are traversing the roadway, pause and take in their surroundings.
I am accompanied by many other travellers who have stopped and looked through the sculpture enjoying the view while having a picture taken to allow the vista to be further savoured.
It is truly glorious, I am so happy I took a “pause”.
“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”- Aristotle
By looking through the Big “O”, I am always acutely aware of the beauty of the artwork, the changing Tuscan landscape and my presence in this equation called Natura (Nature).
Am I an observer or a participant? I think this sculpture may aspire us to meet Aristole’s creative belief.
The trip to Volterra was not just to focus on the sculpture, but rather we were in search of “chocolate pizza” and to visit the Church of San Pietro, dated 1005 which we had not previously seen. I wanted to admire the 15th century painting of a Madonna with Child by a Master of Volterre, two canvases by Niccolò Circignani, a canvas by Francesco Brindi depicting an Immaculate Conception and a painted stucco with a Madonna and Child. Another memory making day, one gastronomic and the latter artistic.
Now, what is “chocolate pizza” ?, it is what I have called the delicious dark, milk or white chocolate wafer discs which are littered with golden nocciole (hazelnuts) or dried frutta (fruit) on top. We have purchased these chocolate discs at a small local grocery store (now closed) in San Gusme. The chocolate disc was the size of a “human head” in San Gusme and we were hooked, often going earlier, once a week just to fend off the local competition.
The chocolate pizza in Volterra is found at L’Incontro, one of our favourite cafe/wine bars, and we are looking forward to a relaxed European pranzo (lunch) with Vino Rosso della Casa (red house wine) and a slice of chocolate pizza on the slide.
The child in me will use the “chocolate pizza” as additional motivation to venture to Volterra, however, I have all the motivation I need in the bellissimo (beautiful) lands of the Etruscans!
AZ Quotes Website. (2017). Socrates. Retrieved from http://www.azquotes.com/author/37865-Socrates
BrainyQuotes Website. (2001-2017). Aristotle. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/aristotle104151.html
Mauro Staccioli Website. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.maurostaccioli.org/php?en_n_Overview9