Volterra is a beautiful walled city in Tuscany, Italy built on the top of a hill. The town is built over one of the Twelve Cities of the ancient Etruscan civilisation and has some of the original gates from that era still standing along with a dedicated museum packed with Etruscan and Roman relics.
Buses leave San Gimignano for Volterra (4/day 2 hours, change in Colle di Val d’Elsa). Buses arrive in Piazza Martiri della Libertà.
For drivers, the town is ringed with easy & free parking lots. The most central & only underground one is at Piazza Martiri della Libertà (€1.40/hour or €10/1 day)
The town is compact and great for walking.
File:Glittica etrusca, scorpione.JPG
Etruscan carving (glyptic) of a scorpion, displayed in the Museo Guarnacci
- Porta all’Arco The town’s best site is this gate built of massive volcanic stones in the 4th century B.C. It’s part of the town walls that were 4 miles around, twice as big as it is now.
- Duomo Great pulpit & altar. Notice how the entrance is through the baptistry, you couldn’t enter until you were baptized, as the layout is here & in Pisa. Free & open daily 8:00-12:30 & 3:00-5:00.
- Sacred Art Museum A small 3-room museum of church art. €8 combo ticket includes Etruscan Museum & Pinacoteca, like it or not. Open daily 9:00-1:00 & 3:00-6:00, morning only in winter, well explained in English, next to Duomo.
- Etruscan Museum (Museo Etrusco Guarnacci) One of the best places in Europe for Etruscan art, it is filled top to bottom with it, though there are few English explanations. €8 combo ticket with Sacred Art & Pinacoteca Museums, open daily 9:00-7:00, November to March it closes at 1:45. €3 Audioguides, on Via Minzoni. Telephone: +39 0588-86-347.
- Pinacoteca This is a 14th century palace filled with great paintings, the highlights are the Annunciation & the Deposition of the Cross. €8 combo ticket includes Sacred Art & Etruscan Museums, open daily April to October 9:00-7:00, November to March closes at 1:45, on Via dei Sarti. Telephone: +39 0588-87580.
- Roman Theater Built in 10 B.C. and has great acoustics, plus a great view, but a just as good view can be found at the city wall promenade for free. €2, but the theater can be viewed for free from Via Lungo de Mere, open April to October daily 10:30-5:30, November to March it closes at 4:00.
- Palazzo dei Priori Volterra’s city hall is probably the oldest in Tuscany, at nearly 800 years, and inspired the design for the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The lavishly painted city council chambers are open to the public when not being used for official meetings. Open daily April to October 10:30-5:30, November to March on Saturday & Sunday only, 10:00-5:00.
- Via Matteotti is the main street of the town, named for a socialist leader killed by the fascists. It’s lined with wonderfully decorated palaces & houses.
- Alabaster Workshop The Alab’Arte is a great place to see the beautiful stone displayed. A showroom is across the street from the Etruscan Museum at Via Don Minzoni, with the workshop at Via Orti Sant’Agostino. Both open Monday to Saturday 9:00-1:00 & 3:00-7:00, closed Sunday.
- Wine Tasting La Vena di Vino is a great wine bar across the street from the Etruscan Museum, on Via Don Minzoni. They serve samples of a number of bottles a day, with food & music, and an unusual, bra-decorated interior. Open Wednesday to Monday 12:00-midnight, closed Tuesday. Telephone: +39 0588-81491
- Medici Fortress This unusual fortress is actually a prison for mob figures from Sicily. The park nearby was the Acropolis of Volterra for 3000 years until Florence burned it down & turned it into a park.
- Tourist Information. The office is on Piazza dei Priori, open daily 10:00-1:00 & 2:00-6:00, with €5 audioguides.
- Market Day is Saturday
- Ristorante Enoteca del Duca. Serves Tuscan food under medieval arches along wine bottle-covered walls or out on a patio, with €8 pastas, truffles, and a great wine list. Closed Tuesday, near city hall on Via di Castello.
- La Vecchia Lira. A quick, cheap, locally popular, self-serve eatery, serves fancy fish at night. Open Friday to Wednesday 12:00-3:00 & 7:30-10:30, closed Thursday, on Via Matteotti.
- Ombra della Sera has the town’s best pizza Open Tuesday to Sunday 12:00-3:00 & 7:00-10:00, closed Monday, on Via Guarnacci. Tele: +39 0588-85274
- Ombra della Sera. Is also one of the town’s best restaurants. Closed Mondays. Via A. Gramsci 70.
- Ristorante Il Sacco Fiorentino. Is a local favorite with traditional food, open Thursday to Tuesday 10:00-2:45 & 7:00-9:45, closed Wednesday, on Piazza XX Septtembre.
- For sandwiches and wine, try Enoteca Scali, open daily 9AM-10PM, on Via Guarnacci. Tel: +39 0588-81170
- For picnics, try Spar Market at Via Gramsci
Where to stay in Volterra
- Albergo Etruria , fax: . In an ancient stone building, this hotel on Via Matteotti has 21 spacious & modern rooms. There’s a TV lounge & rooftop garden. Single w/bathroom €70, Double w/bathroom €90, Triple w/bathroom €110.
- Albergo Villa Nencini just outside of town, is big & modern with 36 rooms, a large pool, & free parking. Single w/bathroom €62, Double w/bathroom €81, Triple w/bathroom €112, on Borgo San Stefano, a 10 minute walk to the main square. Tel: +39 0588-86386 Fax: +39 0588-80601
- Albergo Nazionale , fax: . Has 38 big, clean, & simple rooms steps from the bus stop. Single w/bathroom €56, Double w/bathroom €81, Triple w/bathroom €112, cheaper off-season, on Via dei Marchesi.
- Seminario Vescovile San Andrea A priest’s school that rents 30 rooms. Single €14, Single w/bathroom €18, Double €28, Double w/bathroom €36, Triple €42, Triple w/bathroom €54. Breakfast €3, closed at midnight, groups welcome, on Via Vittorio Veneto. Tel: +39 0588-86028
Bus connections go to Florence, Siena, & San Gimignano (4/day 2 hours, change in Colle Val d’Elsa, all same). There are also buses to Pisa (9/day 2 hours, change in Pontedera). Practically no buses in or out on sundays & holidays. All buses leave & arrive at Piazza Martiri della Libertà, buy tickets at a Tabacchi shop. Tra-In bus tickets only get you to Colle di Val d’Elsa, you’ll need to buy tickets for another bus company at the newsstand near the bus stop there.
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