While part of our group chose to use their “free day” to visit Siena, the remainder of us decided to forgo the pleasures of the early breakfast and spend time relaxing in Volterra. We had an active previous day walking and sightseeing around San Gimignano. The torrential rain and (very close) thunderstorm of the first day’s walk from Pignano had long been forgotten and Saturday’s weather proved ideal for a leisurely stroll around the town.
Passing through the busy market in progress near the Roman amphitheatre, we made our way down the hill to two subterranean Etruscan tombs, one circular and the other cruciform. These had been identified as being of the Hellenistic period, (4th to 1st century BCE), and had been excavated in 1880.
They provided an interesting comparison with current funerary arrangements viewed en route, and complemented our visit to the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum earlier in the week, which contains thousands of urns, jewellery, pottery, and other objects from local archaeological digs.
The walk back to Volterra seemed to approach D+ in severity, but gave us an appetite for a meal at the restaurant La Pace, recommended by Howard, the group’s leader. However, our peace was shattered firstly by the proprietor’s method of rodent control, (of which Basil Fawlty would be proud), and then by the arrival of three cars with darkened windows, complete with armed police and security personnel, accompanying a dignitary (??) who was being entertained at the same place as ourselves.
Nevertheless, the meal was excellent, and we felt well-protected by the guards remained outside.
Walking back to the hotel, we passed the park where, earlier in the week, two of us were nearly locked in, foolishly believing that it was unlikely to be closed two hours before the time stated on the gates! The 5m walls would have presented quite a challenge.
The remainder of the group was due to return from Siena by early evening, but a medieval pageant had already started with drummers, trumpeters, sbandieratori (i.e. flag throwers), and others in costume converging on the Palazzo dei Priori.
After dinner we could still hear the sounds of the events from the square as we prepared to move to Massa Marìttima for the remainder of our holiday, the transfer taking in a walk through the geothermal region of Le Biancane in the “Valle del Diavolo”, from Sasso Pisano to Monterotundo Marìttimo.