Mystical Volterra : Winding roads and a landscape different from any other you have seen in Tuscany. A feeling of magic and mistery in the air, a mysterious town enclosed within a wall with stone arches as gates, narrow roads and signs of history at every corner. With only one way in and out for any vehicle entering the city, this timeless place is like a history coffer.
Driving up there , high on the hill, you will need to go through the “Volterrana road”, fantastic for bikers, painters and photographers. The massive brown/red circles , I cerchi, by the sculptor Mauro Staccioli, born in Volterra, add charm to this unusual panorama. Part of a project for environmental art installation: “Luoghi d’esperienza”, the huge circles act like picture frames for views that change continuously even within the same day, depending on light, weather condition or the mood of the spectator.
An Etruscan settlement as far back as the 4th century BC its original name was Veláthri. Under Roman rule, it became a municipium, and later it was occupied by the Florentines, the Medici family and then ruled by the Duchy of Tuscany.
Signs of history can be easily found all around with the many museums, galleries, ancient ruins and the Teatro Romano. The incredible excavation is amazing and leaves you with a sense of wander, feeling ancient history much more alive than you would have imagined.
The Archaeological Park E. Fiumi, an Etruscan site, is still being explored and the Etruscan urns, pots and artifacts lining the walls of the museum remind us of this ancient heritage.
Volterra City of Alabaster
Volterra has been the heart of alabaster work since, at least the 7th century BC. Alabaster, which is hydrated calcium sulfate, has been used by Etruscans for their cinerary urns as well as for alabaster ornaments, lamps, vases which are still being made and part of local artisan industry. Arts and Craft is prolific here: painters and designers of art and jewellery reflect the Etruscan designs.
Today, as testimonials of Volterra’s history, we can find masters of the art of carving and decorating alabaster living and working in Volterra in their workshops.
Like a movie setting
The central Palazzo dei Priori is like a movie setting and actually the entire town has really been one: it was in fact the ideal setting for the story of the Twilight series, where Volterra is home to the Volturi, powerful, ancient vampires, and more recently film setting for the second time for the Medicis series
Right at the top of the city the massive fort: Fortezza Medicea. In case you would like to visit inside, forget about it. It is not possible, as it is now used as a state prison… which just adds to the bizarre, unusual, mysterious personality of Volterra.
Visiting for the day
Besides history and museums, Volterra also has wonderful shopping: alabaster, olive wood, paintings , hand-made jewellery all within a net of ancient streets and alleys framed by coloured doorways and shuttered windows. Shopping truly Italian style
Food and local wines are a big attraction. There are numerous restaurants both formal and informal in the main streets, but if you have time, search for the ones tucked away, simply follow the delicious scent of herbs and spices of the Tuscan cuisine. In Volterra menus are diverse, but a must-try for me is wild boar (cinghiale) cooked with olives and served with black fava beans.
Are you not into meat? Completely Vegetarian ? Do not worry, in the hearth of the city centre a lovely new concept restaurant recently re-opened its door with a new and improved menu. Life Bistrot is a Food Experience. A rich buffet offers a wide choice of local and organic ingredients and guests can create their own dish combination , choosing type and quantity of food as they prefer and paying by the weight. Moreover, the venue is worth a visit as it is one of the most interesting archaeological areas in the centre of the town with Etruscan ruins visible from the floor covered only with glass.
If you didn’ t get it enough from my description, I feel a strong attraction for this ancient town. It is part of the Tuscan heritage but with a deeply unique and for me mystical atmosphere. Volterra and its countryside is rich in legends and misteries. Driving along the Volterrana at night feels like a surreal experience for me, but I’ll tell you more about this in another article…