ITINERARY: Volterra old town

The rich architectural and artistic heritage of Volterra can be summarized in three different periods, covering over 2000 years of history: the time when Volterra (Velathri) was one of the Etruscan cities (Lucomonie) of greatest influence; the one in which it was a relevant Roman city worthy of having an amphitheater; and the medieval one, in which the city met, through various vicissitudes, a significant commercial recovery, before the final annexation to power of Florence, at the end of the 15th century. These moments of free expansion and civil and urban growth have left very high archaeological, architectural and artistic testimonies, that we can find in ancient nerve centers of the ancient city and in some prestigious collections and thematic museums.

Thanks to the Volterra Card, individual visitors and especially families, have the opportunity to visit calmly (it is valid 72 hours) the main attractions, representing over 2000 years of history: Acropolis and Roman Theater, Guarnacci Etruscan Museum, Art Gallery and Civic Museum, Ecomuseum Alabastro, Palazzo dei Priori.


First stop, in a chronological sense of the Volterra Card itinerary, is the Etruscan Acropolis, located in the Enrico Fiumi Archaeological Park. The Acropolis excavations have brought to light a neighborhood dedicated to religious activities of the 6th century. B.C. The area preserves the remains of a cistern system, including the so-called Augustan pool. Besides being the highest part of the city, it was also the most fortified place, where the most precious temples and the most important buildings were located.

A part of this exceptional find is inside the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci, which is the second stop on our itinerary. The Museum, one of the main in Italy, was born in the mid-eighteenth century. The main nucleus consists of about 600 small Etruscan funerary urns, destined to collect the ashes of the dead. The most significant urns are in alabaster, an easy material to shape and to be painted. Among the most famous finds is the Shadow of the Evening, an Etruscan bronze with the characteristic elongated shape and symbol of Volterra, the Stele of Avile Tite and the wonderful Urn of the Spouses.

Next stop is the Roman Theater, in the archaeological area of Vallebuona, an area that was involved in intense urban planning in Roman times, with the construction of a large monumental complex consisting of a theater and a thermal plant, built in different eras, of which today it is possible to visit the remains. The theater building of the imperial age is one of the most beautiful and best preserved in Italy: the rows of seats in the central and lower sections, that had been built on a natural slope, are still visible. The semicircle-shaped orchestra was originally covered with marble. The theater is used for events and concerts, especially in the summer with the International Festival.

We continue the itinerary passing from the Romans to the Middle Ages. We are in the marvelous setting of Piazza dei Priori, in the heart of the historic center, whose buildings bear witness to its past splendor. The oldest is the Palazzo dei Priori, the current Town Hall, whose construction was completed around the middle of the 13th century. On the first floor there is the splendid Sala del Consiglio Comunale, with Tuscan school frescoes. Above the main body stands the Tower, which makes the building more like a fortification than a public building, and from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Volterra and the Val di Cecina.

Next stop is the Pinacoteca and Civic Museum, in Palazzo Minucci Solaini, where paintings from churches and monasteries in the city, both medieval and Renaissance, are exhibited. Room by room, we discover preserved wooden statues, medieval ceramics, a rich assortment of coins. Among the most famous paintings of the Deposition of Rosso Fiorentino, a wonderful example of Florentine mannerism, a polyptych by Taddeo di Bartolo (early fifteenth century), an altarpiece by Ghirlandaio, works by Luca Signorelli and the Flemish painter Pieter De Witte.

Inside the Pinacoteca, the last stage of the itinerary, like a common thread that links Volterra for centuries to the processing of a precious stone known and appreciated since the Etruscans: alabaster. In the medieval tower-house Minucci, a section of the Ecomuseo of the alabaster has been set up, an environmental museum that shows a diachronic path that moves from the stone quarry in the area of ​​Castellina Marittima to Santa Luce and arrives in Volterra as a terminal of its production and marketing.