The city of Volterra still has traces of its Etruscan past - it was one of twelve centers of power from the fourth to sixth centuries BC. BC - as well as their Roman past. You can see all of these bygone eras on your visit to Volterra. Starting with parts of the walls that go back to the Etruscan era, but were further expanded in the Middle Ages.

The city in the Province of Pisa attracts many fans of the Twilight series as the city was the location for the film. The city is in the south of the city Florence. You must definitely visit the Palazzo die Priori. From here you have a wonderful view of Volterra. The following explains various sights that you should see during your visit.

points of interest & sights

Priory Square

Piazza dei Priori, Volterra
Piazza dei Priori, Volterra

You'll appreciate the beauty of the 13th-century Palazzo dei Priori, which towers high above the piazza, as well as Palazzo Pretorio on the other side of the square. The Palazzo dei Priori is the oldest town hall in Tuscany, although the tower was destroyed during an earthquake in the 19th century. The tower of Palazzo Pretorio, on the other hand, is affectionately known as the Torre del Porcellino or Tower of the Piglet, for the small stone shape of the wild boar that you find above. The palazzo was the seat of the city's mayor.

Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta) and the Baptistery

The interior of the cathedral dates back to 1120 and was heavily modified in the Renaissance in 1584 after the Council of Trent. You get a mixture of Romanesque architecture (the facade) with an impressive and richly decorated, gilded Renaissance ceiling and several fresco chapels. The cathedral is home to many works of art by renowned Italian artists, including Andrea della Robbia, Mino da Fiesole, and Benozzo Gozzoli. The 13th century baptistery is opposite the Cathedral of Volterra with an octagonal base adorned with dark green and white marble. It's quite small and simple. Be sure to check out the octagonal marble baptismal font that Andrea Sansovino created in 1502.

Etruscan Museum of Guarnacci

The museum houses hundreds of Hellenistic and Archaic urns from the region, many of which are carved from alabaster and tuff. It is also one of the oldest public museums in all of Europe, opened in 1761 by nobleman Mario Guarnacci through the donation of his large archaeological collection. The donation, which includes a library with over 50.000 volumes, ensured that Volterra not only had a rich cultural heritage, but that the collection stayed together and was not sold. Why you should visit the museum: the bronze 'Shadow of the Night' statuette of a long nude figure, the 1st century AD urn cover entitled 'Urn of the Sposi', a terracotta sculpture of an elderly couple reclining on a bed, and the Stele di Avile Tite.

Etruscan walls and gates

There are six gates along the Etruscan walls into the city, with many sections dating from the 13th to 16th centuries. The Porta all'Arco is the oldest and only one that has largely remained intact. 5th century features such as the three-headed decoration. The Porta San Francesco still has traces of its original frescoes, while the Porta San Felice offers a magnificent view of the landscape around the city.

Etruscan Acropolis

The Etruscan Acropolis is on the top of the hill at one end of the park by the Medici fortress Parco Enrico Fiumi. It is an area with buildings of different ages, from Etruscan to Roman to medieval. There are remains of a cistern water system including an Augustinian basin and two buildings in the shape of temples named A and B. The first rectangular one dates from the 2nd century BC while the second dates from the 3rd century AD.

Medicean Fortress and Porta a Selci

At the top of the hill is the huge Medici fortress overlooking Volterra and the surrounding countryside. This massive building is visible from afar and characterizes the skyline of the mountain on which the city lies. The fortress was built in 1474, exactly two years after Florence captured Volterra after a major battle for control of the nearby alum mines, an important mineral used in the manufacture of textiles. The fortress should not only protect the city, but above all keep the city under strict control and prevent revolts against the new masters of the city. The fortress consists of two parts: the old rocca or fortress built in 1342 by the Duke of Athens, Gualtieri VI. Built by Brienne, the governor of Florence, remodeled by Lorenzo the Magnificent and the new fortress, also built by Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1475.

Roman amphitheater and its archaeological area

The amphitheater is just outside the medieval walls of Volterra at Porta Fiorentina. If you park nearby, you may come across the Roman theater first, which makes it a perfect first stop. The amphitheater was built in the 1st century AD and is located in an older Etruscan site. It is one of the most beautiful and best preserved buildings in Italy. The amphitheater is open daily between March and November and the rest of the year only on weekends. Behind the theater are the remains of Roman baths from the 4th century and the Roman Forum. During the Middle Ages, this site was used as a garbage dump, so the site was completely covered. The excavations did not begin until after 1951.

Pictures of Volterra

Last updated: 06.02.2024

Images courtesy of stasal, Photo by Ben_Kerckx on Pixabay, Photo by Gregorio Nuti on Unsplash and Photo by iessephoto on Pixabay

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