Dear Traveller friends,
after visiting Siena and the beautiful nearby territories, such as Chianti and the Orcia Valley, it’s time to move to the north-west of Tuscany.
If you are doing the Grand Tour of Tuscany, your next stop after Siena will be Pisa. However, the highway that passes near Florence is often congested, and you’d probably want to avoid it. To reach Pisa, you’ll have to cross the entire region on another road, about 120 kilometres long. The long trip, however, will be livened up by an unmissable stop—Volterra.
New generations know Volterra thanks to the Twilight saga, but Volterra is known all around the world for being one of the most important Etruscan urban centres, and for the manufacture of the alabaster.
Volterra, however, it’s even more. It dates back in the ancient times, that’s why it’s an open-air museum where you can see remains and buildings from the Etruscan, Roman and Medieval times.
Volterra is invaded by tourists all around the year. So it’s crucial to arrive early (not later than 10 in the morning) so that you can find a spot in the parking lot below Piazza Martiri della Libertà. Arriving early, you’ll also be able to avoid the crowd of tourists.
The first place to see is Piazza dei Priori, a big plaza where you can see most of the historical buildings, symbols of the town. Among the others, the most important is Palazzo dei Priori. Built around 1250 and deeply restructured and changed during the Medicean period (at the end of 1400), the palace now hosts the town hall. Inside the building, there are also temporary exhibitions. If you want to visit the palace, you can purchase a ticket at the entrance, or you can buy the VolterraCard. This way you’ll be able to see the beautiful Council Room, completely decorated with frescoes, and climb over the Tower to admire Volterra from a vantage viewpoint.
Not far from Piazza dei Priori, you can see the Dome and the Baptistery. Unfortunately, the Dome isn’t accessible at present. Built around the year 1100, it’s the most important religious building in town.
St John Baptistery, instead, is open to the public. You can visit it and admire the marble baptismal font.
After exploring this part of Volterra, you can head towards Via Lungo le Mura del Mandorio. From here you’ll be able to gain a vantage viewpoint over the Ancient Roman Theatre.
Heading back to the centre, stop to see the Tower in Piazzetta San Michele and enter Via dei Sarti. Here there is one of the most beautiful palaces in town, Palace Incontri Viti. Here you can visit a museum, full of furbished rooms and rare objects, such as candelabra, porcelains, statuettes and much more.
After visiting the palace, you can head towards the Archaeological Park Enrico Fiumi. Inside the park, there’s the ancient Etruscan acropolis. On the surface, it doesn’t seem anything extraordinary but bear in mind that you are looking at building dating back to 2300 years ago, one of the most important Etruscan sites in the world.
You can end your visit to Volterra in via Gramsci, a charming street where you can find several shops selling objects made of alabaster.
If you have more than half a day to devote to Volterra, the Etruscan town has other attractions to offer: the Alabaster Ecomuseum and the Etruscan Museum Guarnacci.
Inside the Alabaster Ecomuseum, you’ll be able to learn all about this material, from its extraction to the final manufactures. There you’ll also be able to admire several alabaster sculptures.
If you prefer to learn more about the Etruscan time, you can’t miss the Etruscan Museum Guarnacci. This institution has been keeping several Etruscan objects for almost two centuries. Through the objects, you’ll be able to learn more about the first known civilization who lived on the Italian peninsula.
With the Etruscan Museum, you can conclude your visit to Volterra.
I hope to see you at our next destination in Tuscany, Pisa.