Volterra

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Volterra, Italy is a city to be marked on the map of Tuscany. It is difficult to describe the atmosphere of the landscape that surrounds it and the emotion aroused by the traces of its Etruscan past. It is no coincidence that some scenes of the film saga 'Twilight' were filmed in Volterra!

When it is not lit by the natural summer sun, Volterra may appear at times severe and mysterious. On a cloudy day its impressive towers and medieval buildings at times appear dark, but not devoid of charm. The scenes of the American blockbuster vampire that were shot here have meant that in Volterra tourism took advantage of the presence of many young fans of the film. In any case, even if you do not know the novel, the love between Bella and Edward the sweet vampire, the events and the struggles between clans and enemy families told by the American author Stephenie Meyer, you will nonetheless be struck by the city of Volterra.

What are the things to do in Volterra? Be patient and we'll tell you! Among one of the first and essential Volterra attractions to visit if you don’t have a lot of time available is without any doubt the Estruscan Museum. At Volterra , history and landscape are the key elements to understand its magical Etruscan nature. For this reason the Etruscan Museum is one of the most interesting destinations which is also fun for the children.

Volterra and its surroundings are characterized by an unusual landscape and very different from the 'classic' Tuscan one made up of hills and solitary cypresses. In this area of Tuscany, you will find, in fact, the true wonders of nature known as the Cliffs of Volterra. These are huge chasms created from landslides of sandstone layers (during the Pliocene era!) superimposed on clay, in which the water was able to produce gullies in the ground. The erosive power of water created a quite extraordinary territory and that deserves attention and some pictures to treasure. After arriving from the road you will have no doubt about what to see in Volterra and be happy to be travelling in this area of Tuscany.

The hills around Volterra are among the valleys of the Era and Cecina rivers. Geographically, the city belongs to the province of Pisa and is located near the coast and not far from another interesting destination: Livorno.
If you are travelling in a season less suited to diving and beaches, from here you can travel around and explore the Chianti region, as well as beautiful towns like San Giminiano and Monteriggioni.
In short, Volterra is an excellent strategic point from which to set off.

Volterra, Tuscany history, once called 'the Windy City' for its elevated position, can be read through its beautiful landscape and evident geological processes, its archaeological sites of ancient times and the distinctly medieval character of its buildings. 
On arrival, after enjoying the terraced landscape, you will see the imposing 13th century walls that stand out from the clay hill on which the town stands. Compared to other places Volterra in Tuscany, Italy has something different and lives in a quiet and rare atmosphere which was able to charm even the great director Luchino Visconti, who chose it as the setting for his 1965 film Vaghe Stelle dell’Orsa (the Glimmering Stars of the Great Bear) starring a beautiful Claudia Cardinale and a young Jean Sorel.

 

WHAT TO VISIT IN VOLTERRA. When you arrive, what to do in Volterra? At the foot of the wall, it is best to go south and search first for the famous Porta all’Arco (Gate Arch) (IV-III century B.C.) to have an immediate impact with the traces of the Volterra Etruscan past.
There are three heads carved in stone and the different colours between these elements and the arch are caused by the use of three different types of rock. It is thought that the heads should represent Volterra Etruscan divinities that served to protect the city. This port is one of the main entrances along with the Gate of Diana, located north. The opportunity to gaze at this monument should not be taken for granted if one considers the historical events that affected the city in 1940s! The Second World War with its tragic events touched on Volterra exactly on 30 June 1944. The German command chose to blow up this very door to prevent entry to the Allies, the only chance that was given to the residents to save this historical relic was to obstruct it and within twenty-four hours. Thus, the city of Volterra met and strove to block the passage with stones that people found along the way and managed to prevent the fall of this great and legendary port.

Returning to the more distant Volterra Etruscan past, we suggest you continue with the second milestone of this city: the Mario Guarnacci Etruscan Museum. This Archaeological museum is an incredible treasure trove of ancient artifacts, but it is best to double check the opening times according to the season in which you are to avoid disappointment. The more than 600 funerary urns are on displayed in different rooms, that date back from the 6th to the first century B.C. and that were produced by local workshops. The representations show the dead as heroes, in other cases, they are characterized by a remarkable realism; the boxes are decorated with floral motifs or scenes from Greek myths related to the topic of the afterlife.
We also suggest you pay attention to the slender figure bronze votive known as Shadow of the Evening (named by Gabriele d'Annunzio) and dating from the2nd century B.C. Sometimes it brings to mind the style of Giacometti sculpture of the 20th century!
Finally, personal items such as amulets, mirrors and gold earrings are of great interest and stimulus for imagination. The presence of this priceless collection makes a city like Volterra, worthwhile seeing and studying for scholars of the ancient world from all parts of the world.

If you're passionate about the Volterra Etruscan civilization, move to the archaeological area of Marmini di Sotto just a few minutes from the village to learn about the two graves remaining as testimony of the ancient necropolis. Volterra allows you to get in touch with all aspects of the Volterra Etruscan civilization!

After seeing the main Esruscan museum and the necropolis, other things to visit in Volterra include, the Volterra Roman theatre! It was in fact, the Roman civilization that gave this place the name of Volaterrae modifying it from the previous Etruscan Velathri. Besides the name, fortunately, today the beautiful Roman theatre is in excellent condition. The Volterra Roman theatre can be reached on foot starting from the Porta Fiorentina and is known as Theatre of Vallebuona. During the summer it comes alive with the presence of the International Festival of the Volterra Roman Theatre, part of the Volterra events, which are always framed by a beautiful view.
An evening sitting at the foot of the city listening to music and getting lost among the colours of the sky is something that does not often happen!

 

TOURISM ITINERARY: MEDIEVAL VOLTERRA. The things to see in Volterra also offer medieval monuments, works of art and interesting churches apart from the mysterious charm of archeology to explore the medieval old town.

You may know that there is another element that makes this town famous: Volterra alabaster. The city since ancient times extracted and worked this valuable material that helps to increase the degree of uniqueness of the place. You will find along a few streets, artisan shops (Volterra alabaster )makers still active in which to admire the techniques of this centuries old art and if you're still curious, you can go to discover the Ecomuseum of Volterra alabaster in via Sarti.

Among the most interesting things in the centre you should visit the Romanesque Volterra duomo (Cathedral) of St. Mary of the Assumption, built in the12th century on a pre-existing structure. There are several elements that are mixed in this Volterra cathedral, including Renaissance ones and especially the gilded ceiling which will catch your eyes. The aisles house two chapels decorated with painted pictures and wooden palls depicting episodes from the Bible and saints.

After visiting the Volterra cathedral, head to the Baptistery Volterra Italy of San Giovanni: you will recognize it immediately because of the splendid facade in white and green marble. Inside you will find decorated two baptismal fonts and a font carved on a stone of Volterra Etruscan origin.

The second stage is dedicated to the Piazza dei Priori, one of the most beautiful medieval Italian squares. When you have arrived you will get another confirmation of the importance and the value of dedicating a day trip to Volterra!
The massive building is the Palazzo dei Priori, from the early 13th century and one of the oldest in Tuscany. We advise you to climb the tower of the palace to see the city and the beautiful landscape around the walls. Another monument to note is the 'Porcellino' Tower next to the Town Hall, in which a nice picture of the animal appears on the high shelf of the building.

Volterra museums also boast a remarkable art gallery that is a perfect destination in case of rain or if you are simply interested in art. A further reason to visit this gallery is its location in the beautiful Palazzo Minucci Solaini. Aside from its paintings and sculptures by artists such as Domenico Ghirlandaio (The Redeemer and Saints), Luca Signorelli, Andrea della Robbia, Rosso Fiorentino (The Deposition), Nicola Pisano and many others, it allows you to look out over the landscape and the archaeological excavations of the area of the Roman Volterra ampitheater. Other interesting works are housed at the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art.

Finally, we suggest that you reach the top of the peaks of Volterra: the Medici Fortress. From here you will be at the highest point and look at the city and photograph it in its entirety. This military structure is the result of the joining of the Old Fortress with a new one, on order of Lorenzo de'Medici, via a wall ring that you can walk along (Cammino di Ronda). Along the way between the two fortresses you will enjoy the most spectacular view of all the valley and the city. Warning: the fort is closed to the public as it is home to a maximum security prison!

 

EATING IN VOLTERRA. The local cuisine in Volterra is especially characteristic for autumn dishes in which one indulges with mushrooms, truffles and especially the game from the nearby wooded areas. The speciality dishes include pappardelle with hare or wild boar, the Volterra soup with vegetables, wild boar stew, in sweet and strong and mature cheeses to match with local wines. Desserts that should be tasted include Volterra Etruscan gingerbread and dry biscuits in a typical restaurant hidden in the narrow streets of the centre  remember not to stop at the first one you see!

 

OTHER THINGS TO SEE IN VOLTERRA. Volterra is just over half an hour from the spa baths of Casciana, a true haven of relaxation in the Tuscan countryside! If you are visiting Volterra during the summer then it is very close to the seaside resorts of the Argentario coast: Castiglioncello, Vada, Marina di Bibbona, Donoratico ... you only have to choose! The salt pans of Volterra is another interesting place! Discover territories where salt was extracted until recently!

Volterra will stimulate you and give you a lot of ideas to read the distant past of the Etruscan civilization and the more recent Medieval past!