Consorzio Turistico Volterra
The Porta all’Arco is the most famous monument of Etruscan Volterra, the only element that remains of the southern stretch of the Etruscan walls of Volterra, replaced in the 13th century by a more modern wall, which follows the same path.
Despite different materials and construction techniques, it has a stone arch roof decorated with three sculptures in the shape of a human head of the 3rd century BC. Its peculiarity lies in the stones used, with three different colors depending on the type of rock: yellow for the supporting structure, gray for the arch and darker gray for the three heads that carry a mystery.
The most reliable hypothesis is that they represent the three gods protectors of the city, the Etruscan correspondents of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
The most “fantasy” one, after the release of the saga of the novel “Twilight” set in Volterra, see in those shapes the three vampires hiding in the city. An urn in the Museo Guarnacci depicts a siege scene around a door decorated with three heads seems to be the oldest representation of the Porta all’Arco.
A plaque recalls an episode in June 1944 during World War II. The Nazi occupiers threatened to blow up the Gate to prevent American tanks from entering the city. When the news spread through Volterra, the population obtained that the gate would be saved if it was obstructed within 48 hours. In record time, the street was cleared and the pavement used to wall up a bulwark inside the gate, which was thus saved from destruction.