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 roundtrips 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. During a city walk through the historic center you will discover romantic alleys, pause at picturesque squares and experience fantastic attractions. But also in the enchanting surroundings of Volterra, there is a lot worth seeing. Enough to spend a few days in this stunning region.
In this travel guide, we give you all the important information and tips for a visit to Volterra in Italy. In addition, we show you some wonderful pictures, the best attractions and things to do, exclusive insider tips and where you can find recommended places to stay in Volterra.
General Information about Volterra
Volterra is a small town in Italy with about 10,000 inhabitants and, moreover, it is one of the most important places to visit in Tuscany thanks to its old town and charming landscape. The town is located only 30 kilometers from the sea, 60 kilometers from Pisa and 30 kilometers from San Gimignano. The center of Volterra is spectacularly situated on a 550-meter-high hill above the Cecina Valley, the so-called Val di Cecina, surrounded by a barren, rugged hilly landscape. In addition to its numerous historical attractions, Volterra is also famous for alabaster processing, a craft that has a long tradition here and to which the town owes the nickname “City of Alabaster”.
The history of Volterra dates back to the 4th century BC, when the Etruscans already inhabited the region. At that time, it was one of the most important Etruscan cities and, like Arezzo, belonged to the League of Twelve Cities. On a visit, you can see several excavation sites and museums with remains of Etruscan art during a tour of Volterra. Later, the Romans settled this historic city, whose Teatro Romano has become an important attraction of Volterra.
Best Things to Do in Volterra
During a vacation, there is a wide range of 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!
Piazza & Palazzo dei Priori
Beautiful and one of the must-see places of Volterra is Piazza dei Priori. This main square forms the heart of the old town and enchants its visitors with an incredibly charming ambience. While having a coffee in one of the cozy café-bars, you can soak up the unique atmosphere and the hustle and bustle. Moreover, the view of the many historical buildings is just stunning, 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.
Walls & City Gates
The imposing wall as well as the city gates are among the most important attractions in Volterra. The old town is almost completely enclosed by the medieval city wall from the 13th century, parts of which even date back to the Etruscan era. Also fascinating 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.
Etruscan Museum (Museo Etrusco Guarnacci)
A pretty famous 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
Truly worth seeing and a real insider tip in Volterra is a visit to the Palazzo Incontri Viti, a museum with relics of the Viti family. The house dates from the 16th century, which the alabaster dealer Giuseppe Viti had bought back in 1816. Here you can admire, among other things, the beautiful and very precious furnishings, antique furniture, porcelain collections and works of art from all over the world. A museum that impressively reflects the wealth and life of the nobility at that time and takes you on a kind of time travel with the historical family photos.
Tip: The entrance fee of 5,- Euro includes a wine tasting! This wine tasting takes place after the tour in the cellar of Palazzo Incontri Viti.
The charming alleys of the old town of Volterra are a real highlight of this Tuscan city. During a stroll through a maze of winding alleys, there are many wonderful things to discover. Almost on every corner there is a cozy café with delicious desserts, a nice restaurant or a small trattoria with regional delicacies. In between, there are always stores and manufactures for shopping, which often also offer traditional handicrafts, such as alabaster jewelry and bronze work. The best thing to do in Volterra is just to get lost and to explore the historic center on your own.
Tip: At L`Incontro you can get some delicious Dolci, which are desserts, and mega good coffee at a reasonable price!
Roman Theatre (Teatro Romano)
Really worth seeing is the Roman Theater, the so-called Teatro Romano, in the north of the old town on Viale Franco Poretti. It was built as early as the 1st century A.D. during the reign of Emperor Augustus and is today one of the most important excavation sites in Volterra. It was discovered only in 1950 during archaeological excavations. Beautiful and a real insider tip is the view from the Via Panoramica, a footpath from where you can get a fantastic overall impression of this huge historic site.
Cathedral & Baptistery
A beautiful attraction in 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 impressive 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 of Volterra. Today this imposing medieval fortress is a prison for criminals and thus cannot be entered or even visited. However, right next to it is the “Enrico Fiumi” Archaeological Park. One part is used as a wonderful public park and the other part is an excavation site for which a fee is charged.
Places to visit near Volterra
Not only Volterra is worth a trip, but also nearby, you can make numerous recommended excursions in the surrounding area. Here are the best places to visit and attractions of the region, summarized at a glance:
Only 30 kilometers from Volterra is the Tuscan town San Gimignano, also known as “Medieval Manhattan” thanks to its many towers.
An excursion to Colle di Val d’Elsa, 28 km away, is nice, where besides the historic old town, the “Sentierelsa -Trail” along the cobalt-blue river will enchant you.
Along the so-called Etruscan Coast, which stretches from Livorno to Piombino, you will find numerous beautiful beaches that invite tourist to swim and relax.
Where 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 places to stay 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!
- Nice Apartment: The charming Appartamento San Francesco convinces with its central location, the cleanliness and the cozy Tuscan ambience.
- Dreamlike Town Villa: The Residenza Storica Palazzo Ricciarelli is a truly unique accommodation in Volterra. Guests love the antique furnishings and wonderful flair.
Find the best accommodation in Volterra:
More places to visit in Tuscany:
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