Volterra | The “Maschio Tower”, Medici Fortress

The imposing Fortezza Medicea, which dominates Volterra and characterises its skyline, was built in 1474, two years after the city was conquered by Florence at the end of a bitter war for control of the alum mines, a mineral used in the manufacture of textiles.

The Old and the New Fortress

The Fortress was not only intended to protect the city, but to keep it under control by preventing possible rebellions. It consists of two military structures: the Rocca Antica and the Rocca Nuova, joined together by a double curtain surrounded by a patrol path.

The ancient fortress (known as La Femmina), semi-elliptical in shape and located near Porta a Selci, includes parts of the oldest fortification made visible by recent restoration work.

The Rocca Nuova, built by Lorenzo de Medici, consists of a large stone square whose corners terminate in bastions among which the massive, circular ‘Mastio’ tower stands out.

Fortress as a prison

From the beginning, the Mastio was used as a political prison: opponents of the Medici and patriots of the Risorgimento were locked up in its cells.

Today, thanks to the recent renovation, the Keep Tower is open for visits while the Fortress is still a prison and therefore inaccessible to the public.
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