What to do in Volterra?
Volterra is a jewel of Tuscany that was made famous, mainly, by the notorious film Twilight – but we are going to tell you a little secret (let it be between us!). The city is typically Etruscan and offers tourists real treasures. With palaces, monuments and priceless works, it deserves a visit with affection. So, what to do in Volterra? Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patriciayou make the trip of your dreams!!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”
Tuscany From a Drone
(Source: Volare Aerial Videography)
Volterra is an Italian commune in the Tuscan region, province of Pisa, and still proudly preserves traces of its Etruscan past! From the 4th century to the 6th century BC, the city was one of the 12 most powerful centers in Italy; from that time, we can see the remains of the ancient walls that were built until the beginning of the Middle Ages. Volterra became world famous for the Twilight Saga film, but what few know, and now the secret comes: the film was not shot here, but in Montepulciano. In spite of everything, Volterra can be visited from its famous neighbor, San Gimignano, which is another reason to include it in its Tuscan itinerary. Today we are going to stroll through this little jewel called Volterra. 2-hour guided tour of Volterra by Night
1) What to do in Volterra? VISIT THE PIAZZA DEI PRIORI
We start with the fantastic Piazza Dei Priori (“Priori Square”), in its central square. The beauty of the place also houses the homonymous palace and another impressive building, the Pretorio Palace. Priori Palace is the oldest city hall in all of Tuscany, although the tower was destroyed during an earthquake and rebuilt during the 19th century. The Tower of the Pretorio Palace is also called the Torre del Porcellino (“the piggy tower”) due to the characteristic shape of the stone that is found on the summit.
2) What to do in Volterra? VISIT THE CATHEDRAL OF VOLTERRA
One of the most beautiful and undoubtedly unmissable points is the Cathedral of Volterra. The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption is close to the Baptistery and is splendid. Dating back to 1120, the interior of the cathedral was modified during the Renaissance, in 1584, after the Council of Trent and this explains the mixture of Romanesque architecture, on the façade and Renaissance architecture, mainly in the decorated and gilded ceiling in the chapels, several frescoes are present.
The cathedral houses numerous works of art by renowned Italian artists, such as Andrea della Robbia, Mino da Fiesole and Benozzo Gozzoli. The Baptistery is from the 13th century and is located on the opposite side of the cathedral. It has an octagonal base, with a facade decorated in white and dark green marble and, despite being small and simple, it preserves inside a beautiful marble baptismal fountain carved in 1502 by Andrea Sansovino.
3) What to do in Volterra? VISIT THE ETRUSCAN MUSEUM OF GUARNACCI
In the Etruscan Museum of Guarnacci, there are hundreds of funerary urns from the Hellenistic and archaic period found in the area. It is one of the oldest public museums in Europe, opened in 1761 by the noble Mario Guarnacci, who donated his large archaeological collection “the public of the city of Volterra”. The donation also included a library with more than 50,000 books on art, history and other themes and allowed Volterra to display a rich cultural heritage. In addition, Mario wanted his precious collection of art and books to remain at home, that is, in Volterra, and succeeded.
The main works are the bronze statuette “Ombra della notte”, which is a famous slim and long figure, the cover of the cinerary urn, which dates back to the 1st century AD and known as the “Urna degli sposi”, which represents a sculpture in terracotta of an elderly couple lying on a bed. It is worth the visit! The works are incredible!
4) What to do in Volterra? VISIT THE VOLTERRA WALLS
In Volterra, it is impossible not to visit the Etruscan walls and their access doors. There are six gates in the city along the walls and they are from the period between the 13th and 16th centuries. The Porta all’Arco is the oldest and the only one that has remained almost completely intact. The “door” has details from the 5th century. At Porta San Francesco, you can still see some traces of its original frescoes, while at Porta San Felice you can enjoy beautiful panoramas.
5) What to do in Volterra? VISIT ETRUSCAN ACROPOLIS
The Etruscan Acropolis is also interesting. Located at the top of the hill, at one end of the park, near the Medici fortress, called Parco Enrico Fiumi, it is an area that includes buildings from various eras, ranging from Etruscan to Roman and medieval styles all for religious purposes. There are the remains of a cistern to collect rainwater, an Augustinian swimming pool and two temple-shaped buildings nicknamed A and B: the A is rectangular and dates from the 2nd century BC, while the B dates from the 3rd century AD and is characterized by a stage with columns.
6) What to do in Volterra? VISIT THE MEDICI FORTRESS
Also worth visiting are the Medici Fortress and Porta a Selci. From the top, in a privileged position, the enormous Medici Fortress seems to dominate Volterra. The imposing building is clearly visible from miles away, and features the profile of the hill under which the city of Volterra develops. The Fortress was built in 1474, two years after the conquest of Volterra by Florence, after a violent battle to control mines of potassium alum, which is an important mineral used in textile production.
The Fortress had the function of, in addition to protecting the city, keeping Volterra under control and, thus, preventing revolts against the new lords. The building consists of two parts: the old Rocca, which was built by the Duke of Athens Gualtieri VI de Brienne – governor of Florence – in 1342 and was later modified by Lorenzo the Magnificent. Today there is a medium security prison there, which makes the visit inside impossible, but it is possible to observe it from the outside and be aware of the size of the place.
Good to know
- Good to know that a project works there, where the prisoners participate in a kind of rehabilitation and offers themed nights called “Le Cene Galeotte”, when the fortress is transformed into a kind of restaurant open to the public, and the prisoners themselves cook and serve dishes special. To make a reservation, simply access this website.
7) What to do in Volterra? VISIT PORTA A SELCI
Porta a Selci, adjacent to the Fortress, leads into the city through a simple arch and was built in the 16th century. For lovers of archeology, the Roman amphitheater and the archaeological area are unmissable! Located outside the medieval walls, near the Porta Fiorentina, you will find the beautiful Roman theater, in fact, it is where the parking is located if you go by car. Built in the 1st century AD, the amphitheater is located in an older Etruscan site and is very well preserved. There, behind, are the remains of the 4th century Roman baths and the Roman forum. Throughout the Middle Ages, the site was used as a landfill and was only rediscovered in 1951, after archaeological excavations.
- Enter the door inside the walls and go to the right, from there you have a view of the entire terrace area! Beautiful!
8) What to do in Volterra? VISIT THE ART GALLERY
For art lovers: the Art Gallery, at Minucci-Solaini Palace – which is also a splendid example of Renaissance architecture – houses incredible works such as the paintings by Taddeo di Bartolo, Alvaro Pirez and Cenni di Francesco. The Pietà, by Francesco Neri of Volterra, two wooden sculptures by Francesco di Valdambrino, an altarpiece of Christ in Glory, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, and the Sacred Conversation and the Annunciation, by Luca Signorelli de Cortona. A beautiful collection of medieval sculptures and ceramics, along with medals and coins that belonged to the Medici collection of works can also be seen there.
9) What to do in Volterra? VISIT THE ALABASTER ECOMUSEUM
Last, but not least, the Alabaster Ecomuseum. Walking through the streets of Volterra, you observe different objects made of alabaster, which is an old tradition of the city. If you are interested in learning more about the tradition, you can visit the Alabaster Ecomuseum. Here are the workshops recreated by the artisans and admire more than 300 pieces that range from the Etruscan to the contemporary era.
- If you are staying in Volterra for two or three days, consider purchasing the Volterra Card. It is valid for 03 days (72 hours) and allows entry to several sights. It costs 16 euros and saves you time, especially if you travel during the high season. For more information, click Click here!
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What to do in Volterra? Volterra is a small town that will surely enchant you! And if you feel insecure or have no time, and need help to organize your trip, do not hesitate to look for me! I will love to help you make your dream trip to Italy. And how can I do that? Continue reading this post until the end and you will understand how can we make your life and journey easier.
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