There's a tremendous amount of reasons why Volterra is an unmissable Tuscan jewel. It is a hill town surrounded by well-preserved Etruscan walls and walking though its narrow streets and squares you'll soon be able to immerse yourself in a medieval atmosphere. Maybe there are few things that you don’t know about this town, so here are 5 tips and photos to get an idea of Volterra and better enjoy your visit there.
The Volterra Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is a Roman Catholic Church rebuilt after a violent earthquake around 1120 on top of a pre-existing church dedicated to St. Mary and was then expanded in the second half of the 13th-century. The façade is divided into three sections with large quadrangular pilaster strips in the Lombard style. Don't simply look from the outside: in the cathedral, the central nave and the transept are covered by a majestic coffered ceiling, a beautiful combination of geometric, decorative and floral elements.
In the chapel of Our Lady of the Sorrows are preserved two sculptural groups in painted terracotta attributed to Andrea dealla Robbia, the Nativity, with the fresco of the Procession of Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli, and the Adoration of the Magi.
Visit also the Baptistery of San Giovanni, an octagonal 13th century religious building standing right in front of the cathedral.
Palazzo dei Priori is located in the historic centre of Volterra, in the namesake square. Dating back to 1208, it is the oldest civic building of Tuscany. The façade has been changed several times throughout the centuries and today you can see the coats of arms representing the families of the priori (commissioned by the Medici to watch over the town) two lions symbol of Florence’s power and a clock added after centuries. Upon walking inside the building, you’ll immediately be struck by the decorated walls, teeming with medallions and noble crests.
Climb the bell tower to enjoy a beautiful view of the whole city and the surrounding countryside.
In Piazza dei Priori, if look up at the top of the Torre del Porcellino, you'll see the stone statue of a curious small pig, leaning from above. To be more precise, it is a boar, an animal which is represented all around Tuscany though art and architecture (in Florence, for instance), maybe because it's common to see them in the Tuscan woods. It can also be considered a symbol of fortune and abundance.
Near Piazza dei Priori, you can visit part of the ecomuseum of alabaster, an environmental museum that connects the places where alabaster has been extracted, worked and sold over the years, connecting the towns of Castellina Marittima, Santa Luce and obviously Volterra, each with its own exhibition centre. Alabaster is a soft stone, much easier to work than marble, perfect for carving small sculptures and richly detailed ornamental motifs. The old town center features workshops where artisans still work the alabaster carrying on this old craft and making it popular again all around the world.
Volterra is home of many museums and archaeological sites. Here you can find a comprehensive list of attractions in the whole area, from archaeological sites to historical buildings.