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History, nature, and culture in an itinerary to discover what to see in Volterra

  • 17/06/2024

Volterra, a hidden gem in the heart of Tuscany, is a city rich in history, culture, and natural beauty, perfect for those seeking a vacation filled with discovery and relaxation. This small town offers a unique mix of historical attractions, nature trails, and a vibrant cultural life. We want to guide you in discovering everything this wonderful city has to offer, from historic monuments to the most picturesque hiking trails.


Volterra: an ideal destination

Volterra is a city that captivates with its medieval atmosphere, ancient walls, and narrow cobblestone streets. Every corner of the city tells a story, and every visit is a journey through time. But Volterra is also an ideal destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.


Piazza and Palazzo dei Priori

Let's start our tour from Piazza dei Priori, the pulsating heart of Volterra. This square is dominated by the majestic Palazzo dei Priori, the oldest town hall in Tuscany, built in 1208. The facade of the palace is adorned with terracotta and marble coats of arms, and inside you can admire splendid frescoes and artworks. Climbing up the tower of Palazzo dei Priori, you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside.


Roman Theatre

Another must-see stop is the Roman Theatre, one of the best-preserved in Italy. Built in the 1st century BC, the theatre could accommodate up to 3,500 spectators. Today, you can visit the ruins and imagine the performances that took place here during Roman times. The monument is located in a panoramic position, offering a marvelous view of the valley below, and it serves as a fascinating testament to the grandeur of the Roman era in the Tuscan territory.


The Medicean Fortress

For lovers of military history, the Medicean Fortress is a must-visit destination! Built in the 15th century by Lorenzo the Magnificent, the fortress offers spectacular views of Volterra and the surrounding hills. While part of the fort is still used as a prison, visitors can explore certain sections and learn more about its fascinating history. The imposing structure and its walls tell stories of defenses and conquests that have shaped the history of Volterra.


The Guarnacci Etruscan Museum

However, Volterra is especially famous for its pre-Roman heritage, and the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum is the ideal place to delve into this part of the city's history. Founded in 1761, the museum houses one of the most important collections of Etruscan art in the world, featuring over 600 cinerary urns, jewelry, coins, and other artifacts. Among its most celebrated works, don't miss the Urn of the Spouses and the Shadow of the Evening, a unique sculpture known for its elongated form that almost seems to dance in the light.


The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta

Moving on to sacred art, we highlight the unmissable Cathedral of Volterra, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta: it is an extraordinary example of Romanesque architecture. Built in the 12th century, the cathedral is renowned for its splendid frescoes, its coffered golden ceiling, and the magnificent high altar. Facing the cathedral is the Baptistery of San Giovanni, with its distinctive white and green marble facade, providing a visual spectacle both inside and out.


Palazzo Viti

Palazzo Viti is one of the most beautiful historic residences in Volterra. Built in the 16th century, the palace is now a house-museum that preserves furnishings, artworks, and historical relics. Did you know it was also the set for Luchino Visconti's film "Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa"? Visiting the palace allows you to admire how the Volterran aristocracy lived in centuries past, with richly decorated rooms and an atmosphere that transports you back in time.


The Alabaster Ecomuseum

The Alabaster Ecomuseum pays tribute to the ancient tradition of alabaster craftsmanship in Volterra. Here, visitors can admire artworks made from this unique stone, both ancient and modern. The museum also offers the opportunity to see reconstructions of artisan workshops and to discover the techniques used by master alabaster craftsmen. This visit provides an educational yet fascinating experience, ideal for anyone interested in craftsmanship and local history.


The Pinacoteca

The Pinacoteca and the Civic Museum, located inside Palazzo Minucci-Solaini, house a vast collection of artworks ranging from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Among the most important works are Rosso Fiorentino's Lamentation over the Dead Christ and numerous paintings by Tuscan artists. The museum provides a fascinating overview of the evolution of art in the region and is a must-visit for art enthusiasts.


Hiking trails

In our roundup of activities and attractions to see in Volterra, outdoor activities certainly couldn't be missed! Volterra offers numerous hiking trails for those who want to explore the breathtaking landscapes of Tuscany. Among the most scenic is the Monte Voltraio trail, one of the most panoramic and fascinating routes in the area, leading to the ruins of the castle of the same name.


The saltworks of Volterra

An intriguing activity is visiting the ancient saltworks of Volterra. These saltworks are a place where you can discover how salt has been extracted since Etruscan times. Today, the site hosts an interesting museum that showcases the history of salt production and the techniques used over the centuries. It's a great opportunity to learn something new and explore a different aspect of the city's history.


Where to stay in Volterra and the surrounding areas

Volterra, as we've seen, is a destination that offers something for everyone: history, culture, nature, and adventure. Whether you're passionate about archaeology, nature lovers, or simply seeking a relaxing vacation, Volterra will captivate you with its fascinating attractions. When it comes to choosing where to stay in the area, Tenuta di Monterufoli is the ideal choice for comfort and relaxation. Nestled in a vast forest that includes a nature reserve, it offers a unique experience in harmony with nature. 

Gabriele Macelloni, agronomist at the Monterufoli winery, spoke to us about this estate and its fascinating history.

"The Estate is part of the Monterufoli region, a historic property that has hosted illustrious figures and has a long tradition linked to the Volterra area", explains Macelloni. "The agriturismo La Villetta di Monterufoli is part of a larger territory, a forest covering 4,000 hectares, which also houses a nature reserve". "The owners of these forests were a well-known family, the Maffei, noble Volterran devoted to hunting and fine dining, who have owned these lands since the 1500s. The painter Salvator Rosa, a Neapolitan who took refuge in Monterufoli due to the good relations between the Maffeis and the Medicis of Florence, was one of the most distinguished guests of the family. Salvator Rosa wrote extensively about our forests, springs, and quarries in Monterufoli, which were already being used by the Medicis for the “opificio delle pietre dure" in Florence. The villa of the Maffeis, still visible today, dates back to the eighteenth century and retains the charm of that era".

With its welcoming hospitality, Tenuta di Monterufoli is the perfect place to explore vast forests, enjoy wine tastings, experience the tranquility of the nature reserve, and uncover the fascinating stories of the Maffei family. Whether you're passionate about outdoor adventures or historical journeys, Agriturismo La Villetta di Monterufoli will be the ideal base for your unforgettable experience in Volterra.​​​

 

 

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