Volterra, Italy: The Etruscan City in Tuscany!
Volterra in Italy not only fascinates with its medieval old town but also with its rich Etruscan heritage. Situated in Tuscany, more precisely in the province of Pisa, it is a popular destination for tours and excursions. Above all, the beautiful location on the 550-meter-high hill overlooking the picturesque landscape and the historic old town with its countless attractions and archaeological sites make this Tuscan jewel very special. The surroundings of Volterra additionally offer a lot of things worth seeing, enough to spend a few days in this region.
In this travel guide we give you all the important information for a visit to Volterra in Italy. In addition, we show you the most beautiful attractions, the best pictures and the best places to stay.
General information about Volterra
Volterra is a small town in Italy with about 10,000 inhabitants and is one of the most important places to visit in Tuscany. The town is located 40 kilometers from the sea, 60 kilometers from Pisa and 40 kilometers from San Gimignano. In addition to its historical center, Volterra is also famous for its alabaster processing, a craft that has a long tradition here and to which the town owes its nickname “City of Alabaster”.
The history of Volterra dates back to the 4th century B.C., when the Etruscans settled in the region. At that time it was one of the most important Etruscan cities and also belonged to the Twelve Cities League. Today you can still visit the archaeological sites and admire remains of Etruscan art. Later the Romans settled in this historical city, who’s Teatro Romano has become an important attraction of Volterra.
Things to do in Volterra
During a vacation, there is a wide range of many amazing things to do in Volterra. Among the main attractions are the historical center, the beautiful main square Piazza dei Priori, the interesting archaeological sites and the many museums. However, also the surroundings with the picturesque vineyards and the many other medieval towns are worth seeing!
Walls & City Gates
The old town of Volterra is almost completely enclosed by a medieval wall dating back to the 13th century, with parts of it even dating back to the Etruscan period. Also interesting are the 6 ancient gates that still provide access to the city today. The Porta dell’Arco is the oldest city gate and at the same time one of the most important attractions of Volterra. It was built between the 5th and 4th century B.C. Stone heads, whose importance is still unknown today, decorate the archway.
Piazza dei Priori
Beautiful and one of the must-see places of Volterra is Piazza dei Priori. It is the main square of the old town and enchants its visitors with an incredibly beautiful ambience. A coffee in one of the cozy café-bars is a great way to take in the hustle and bustle. You can also enjoy a wonderful view of the many historical buildings, especially the picturesque Palazzo dei Priori, which has been the town hall of the municipality since the 13th century.
Tip: The Palazzo dei Priori can also be visited from the inside. If you like, you can also climb its tower and enjoy a magnificent view over the roofs of the old town.
Another important attraction in Volterra is the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci, the so-called Etruscan Museum. Founded in 1761, it is actually one of the oldest museums in Europe. During a visit you can admire a comprehensive exhibition about the Etruscan period. Innumerable exhibits such as ingeniously decorated urns, Etruscan art made of bronze and beautiful ceramics are the focus of attention here. The heart of the museum is the “Urna degli Sposi”, the urn of the bridal couple and the L`Ombra della Sera, the so-called Silent Evening Shadow.
Palazzo Incontri Viti
A visit to Palazzo Incontri Viti, a museum with relics of the Viti family, is a real insider tip in Volterra. The house dates back to the 16th century and was bought by the alabaster merchant Giuseppe Viti in 1816. Among other things, you can admire the beautiful and very precious furnishings, porcelain collections and works of art from all over the world. A museum that impressively reflects the wealth and life of the nobles in those days.
Tip: The entrance fee of 5,- Euro includes a wine tasting in the cellar of the Palazzo!
During a stroll through the narrow streets of Volterra there are many beautiful things to discover. Almost at every corner there is a cozy café, a nice restaurant or a small trattoria. In between there are always stores and manufactures to shop in, often offering traditional handicrafts such as alabaster jewelry and bronze work.
Tip: At L`Incontro you can get really tasty Dolci (desserts) and mega good coffee at a reasonable price!
Also worth seeing is the Roman Theatre (Teatro Romano) in the north of the old town. It was built in the 1st century A.D. during the reign of Emperor Augustus and is one of the most important archeological sites in Volterra. The view from the Via Panoramica, where you can get a good overall impression of this historical site, is beautiful and a real insider tip.
Cathedral & Baptistery
Another important attraction of Volterra is the Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The history of this church dates back to the 9th century. It had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in 1117. From the outside it is somewhat inconspicuous, but from the inside it is a real highlight. Here you will find beautiful frescoes, paintings and precious green and white marble and alabaster works from the region.
Just opposite is the Baptistery, an octagonal baptistery from the 12th century, which like the cathedral can be visited free of charge.
The Fortezza Medicea was built in the 13th century and is the highest point of the city. Today, this imposing medieval fortress is a prison for criminals and therefore cannot be visited. Right next to it is the Archaeological Park “Enrico Fiumi”, which is partyl a public park and partly an archaeological site.
Places to visit near Volterra
When traveling to Volterra you go on some really recommendable excursions in the surrounding area. Here are the best things to do in the proximity summarized at a glance:
Only 30 kilometers from Volterra is San Gimignano, also known as “Medieval Manhattan” thanks to its many towers.
A trip to Colle di Val d’Elsa (28 km) is also very lovey, where, besides the historical center, the “Sentierelsa -Trail” along the cobalt blue river is also very popular.
Siena, 55 km away, can also be explored from Volterra. On the way there is the castle of Monteriggioni, a real insider tip for Tuscany.
Best places to stay in Volterra
In Volterra, but also around the city in the beautiful vineyards, you will find a fabulous selection of beautiful accommodations. From the well-kept wineries, agritourism apartments with pool to the apartments in the old town and B&BS, everything is represented here. Here are our tips for the best accommodations in Volterra…It’s worth a look!
- Agritourism with pool: The Agriturismo Podere Marcampo is a family run farmhouse near Volterra. Unique here is the pool with a view, the excellent restaurant and the wine tasting.
- Hotel in the old town: The Hotel La Locanda is located in the beautiful old town and enchants its guests with tasteful rooms, delicious breakfast and lots of flair!
- Apartment: The charming Appartamento San Francesco convinces with its central location, the cleanliness and the cozy Tuscan ambience.
Find the best Accommodation in Volterra:
More places to visit in Tuscany:
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. Meaning that if you click on certain links, and then subsequently purchase a product, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.