VOLTERRA: Volterra is another medieval charm of Tuscany and another town that attracts thousands of tourists every month. Like San Gimignano or Siena, this is one of many walled cities of Toscana. Situated on a hill, Volterra gives beautiful views of the countryside and nearby small hills. Getting lost in the cobble-stoned alleys and being surrounded by enchanting old buildings make this city awesome. For us, iIt was a small and sweet trip. If you are in Florence or Siena, making a day trip to Volterra would be perfect for few hours.
TIME of TRAVEL: It was our second time in Tuscany in October of 2013. After visiting Siena, Florence, and San Gimignano, Volterra was our last town to visit in this region of Italy. When we arrived here it was almost dark and it got a bit windy because of the elevation. I think it’s always a good idea to carry a light sweater, especially around this time of the year.
OUR HOTEL: We stayed in “My One Hotel in Radda” for the whole time in Tuscany. It’s located in the hills of Chianti…a place which is not only famous for its wine, but also for its art, history, natural beauty, and simplicity. This was a 4 or 5 star resort. We had free grand breakfast buffet, spacious room, clean linens, and excellent customer service. But above all of those, the best part of it is the view from our balcony or from the hotel terrace. Standing on the upper terrace one early morning, I got the perfect glimpse of Tuscan hills and trees hugging the autumn clouds…it was a breathtaking feeling. I felt like I didn’t need to get out, I could have just sit in my hotel balcony all day and enjoy Tuscany right from there. It took us about hour and half from Volterra to our hotel, thru some winding and hilly roads.
EATING and SHOPPING: We were in Volterra for a very short time, only about couple hours. We had lunch in San Gimignano before coming here. But if you are hungry in Volterra, you can find plenty of bars, grills, and restaurants in the Old Town…unfortunately most of them were closed or getting ready to close by the time we were done visiting all the spots.
Volterra is very well-known for its alabaster items, ceramics, and pottery arts. There was a big souvenir alabaster shop right before we entered the Old Town, very close to the parking lot. Alabaster can be very heavy depending on the size of gifts you are buying but they all looked very gorgeous with reasonable price tags.
PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We only got to spent couple hours in Volterra historic Old Town. We decided to take a trip to Volterra when we figured we still had enough time to kill after visiting San Gimignano.So made a short stop here before heading to our hotel in Radda in Chianti. The drive was absolutely breathtaking from San Gimignano to Volterra. But once we reached there, it was almost end of the day and it quickly started to get dark outside. We parked our car outside the Old Town and started walking towards the main sights as soon as possible. Here are some of the places we could see during our short trip in Volterra.
1) PIAZZA dei PRIORI: This is where we first stumbled while trying to figure out what we want to see and do here. Though it was late and the square looked empty, Piazza dei Priori is the main square here. Volterra Town Hall and Palazzo dei Priori were located in this square. Palazzo dei Priori was open till 5pm, so we couldn’t really explore what that really was. By the way, the tourist information center is also in this piazza, if you need to pick any maps or talk to anyone for help.
2) MARIA ASSUNTA CHURCH CATHEDRAL: After the piazza, we walked few minutes following the sign to go to the Duomo or Santa Maria Assunta. The first mention of Church of the St. Mary dates back to 992 AD. This is a Parish cathedral of Volterra in the heart of the town. Some of the most important sites of this church are the main altar, splendid pulpit, Bishop’s chair, and mesmerizing ceiling, which represents the heaven. The interior differs from the exterior in that only a little of the old Romanesque structure remains in it. There is a Baptistery in front of the Duomo and they both are located in Piazza San Giovanni. Inside the Duomo was very dark and Gothic looking. It was about to close, so we entered and exited after getting a quick peek inside the Duomo. Both the Duomo and the Baptistery are free to enter. The Baptistery was very small, had a marble wall and a painting…another brief look for me.
3) ROMAN THEATER: Roman Theater was about 10 to 15 minutes of walk from the Duomo. It was only ruins and the site was not a well-maintained area. We saw some ancient columns and grass-covered steps from the Roman times. Tourists can walk and go closer to the decayed site. We only browsed it from up above, where you can stand and enjoy some other views as well.
4) ALABASTER MUSEUM: We kind of got lucky with this museum. It was already dark to do anything else. But the Alabaster Museum was still open and we had only an hour to look around. If I can remember correctly, the museum had three floors in total with old alabaster items on display from different eras of Volterra. Volterra had its own alabaster mines at one time and all the items you see here are mostly local artifacts. It is 8 euros per adult for both Alabaster and Pinacotec Museum.
5) PINACOTECA MUSEUM: Alabaster Museum and Pinacoteca Museum are both in the same building. The building, known as Palazzo Manucci, is from the 16th The museum has a collection of paintings from the 14th century which includes religious arts and paintings on woods. You can see some medieval sculptures, some church ruins from the 12th century, and old altarpieces.