It starts many months before. You're "booked" by the Italian Ministry of Justice on Rome. Heaven help you if your two-month long, criminal background check finds something dark in your history. On the date of your "incarceration" you are walked through the cold steel bars of Volterra's Fortezza--a high security prison for prisoners serving sentences longer than 7 years. The guards will inspect multiple forms of your I.D., you turn over any electronic devices and are scanned in the metal detector. Nothing than can be used as a weapon is allowed! Then they lead you into a large, cool, dungeon-like room with vaulted ceilings-where you are seated and given plastic cutlery.
You have just gotten a table at the most exclusive--and unusual--restaurants in Tuscany, and perhaps the world. The Fortezza Medicea is the name of a restaurant begun in 2007 in Volterra, Italy. It is housed in what the people of Volterra simply call La Fortezza (the Fortress), a Renaissance defensive castle built 1474 that is used today as a high security prison. The oddity here is that prisoners are the ones who cook and serve your dinners. That's right, now you know why you're given plastic utensils to enjoy your gourmet meal. (And perhaps so you won't do anyone harm if the dinner is not up to your standards).
In 2006, the prison's administration began operating a restaurant within the prison, using inmates as staff, as a rehabilitation scheme. Prisoners who are incarcerated for crimes involving drugs or violent crime are now learning culinary arts that will give them a new lease on life--and new job opportunities--after they are finished serving their sentences. The project attracts both gourmands and press from around the globe. The restaurant is always booked weeks, if not months, in advance.
Diners are also entertained with music provided by Bruno, a pianist with a life sentence for murder. The clientele eat inside a de-consecrated chapel set behind the 60 ft-high walls, watch towers, searchlights and security cameras. There are also meals served outside (in the exercise yard, perhaps?) The meals are reasonably priced at €25, which includes a glass of wine with each course.
So, if you want a truly unique dining experience, contact the Ministry of Justice in Rome and see if you can be booked... er, fingerprinted... uh, I mean get a table. Oh, and don't forget to ask how to get tickets for La Fortezza's theater to see a play while you're there. That's right, they also have a theater group.
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