Visiting Volterra in a unique experience
Volterra: the pearl of the Val di Cecina
Those who stay in Siena should definitely take a trip to Volterra: this charming town is located on a 550 m hill overlooking the beautiful Val di Cecina. The valley is located in the central-western part of Tuscany and accompanies the path of the river Cecina in his last kilometers, before flowing into the Tyrrhenian Sea. One of the most fascinating parts of the valley are the Cliffs of Volterra, steep walls of shale where erosion has carved many parallel grooves. Volterra is about 55 km away from Siena and is easily reached by bus; some online companies organize trips throughout the whole day.
Things to see in Volterra
The Volterra area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, as evidenced by the still visible villanovan necropolis. The town was formed in the eighth century BC and soon became one of the twelve powerful cities that formed the Etruscan League. Today Volterra is one of the few centers that still holds substantial remains of that time: among them are the Acropolis with the foundations of two temples, some water tanks, numerous tombs, most of the city walls, the Diana gate and the famous gate fo the Arco. The Etruscans were the first people to make arches in the Italian peninsula, and this gate is proof of this. In the middle of the third century BC Volterra entered in Rome’s sphere of influence: the remains of that period consists especially the first-century BC theater, which retains the terraces and a part of the scene. After a period of decline from the late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the city has returned to shine, as witnessed by many religious buildings, starting with the wonderful cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. The present structure was begun in 1117, enlarged one hundred years later and embellished gradually in the following centuries. Inside are preserved precious works, such as the wooden Deposition of 1228 and the coffered ceiling of 1580-84. Among the civil buildings from the Middle Ages stands the Palazzo dei Priori; started in 1208, it is the oldest municipal building in Tuscany. The austere stone facade is softened by glazed terracotta coats of arms of the Florentine commissioners who governed the city. The crenellated tower, which rises from the top of the building was added in the sixteenth century.
Crafts, food and events in Volterra
The streets of Volterra are full of shops where the hands of local skilled artisans work the alabaster. The area around the city is rich in quarries from which the most valuable alabaster of Europe is extracted; used today to make sculptures and exceptionally elegant furnishings. A visit to Volterra is an opportunity to discover this ancient art, but also to taste the local specialties. Among these are the soup Volterrana and tripe Volterrana; the first is a soup made with bread, potatoes, cabbage and beans, to be eaten warm or cold. The second is a preparation made from cow stomach and tomato, which is consumed traditionally on the 1st of May at breakfast! The most evocative event of the city is the International Festival of Volterra, a theater festival that takes place every summer in the beautiful setting of the Roman theater. Also interesting are the nature excursions organized in the Val di Cecina.