Volterra, situated in the heart of Tuscany at a short distance from San Gimignano and Siena, is considered as a living sanctuary of Etruscan, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance architecture and art. The historic citadel, surrounded by deep fortified walls, is standing on a hilltop, at 545 m above the sea level, overlooking and dividing the Cecina's and Era's valleys.
Volterra was already inhabited in the Neolithic Age. In the 8th century BC it saw the birth of the Etruscan civilization in the area. In the 4th century BC as Velathri (its Etruscan name) was one of the main towns of the "Etruscan League" it was encircled into 7 km. of huge defensive walls. Under Etruscan's dominion Velathri reached a notable economic development registering a population density of 25.000 people circa.
In 283 BC Etruscans were defeated by Romans in the battle of Lago Vadimone and some years later the "Italic Confederation" changed its name to Volaterrae.
In the 5th century AD Volterra became the diocese of an extensive area and its first church was built. During the Carolingian period Volterra passed under the dominion of the Marquisate of Tuscany who remarkably developed the economic, social, religious and jurisdictional life of the citadel. In the 13th century the citadel was concerned with the struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines. As Volterra pertained to the latter faction Florence's Republic undertook it in 1254 passing definitively under its dominion in 1361.
As Florence had been gradually weakening its self-government and, consequently, disproportionately increasing taxation over the common people, in 1472 a popular revolt led by Giusto Landini unleashed against Florence exploitation. Most of them lost their life and the citadel was dispossessed of many of its ancient rights. In the second half of the 16th century Volterra went into the jurisdiction of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In 1860 Volterra voted for Italy's Unity.
Enclosed within its 12th century fortified walls, Volterra is preserving above all medieval features because of its town planning with winding streets, tower houses, churches and palaces. Renaissance has also had an important architectonical influence, perfectly harmonizing with the ancient structures, not changing its medieval character.
Its history is indivisible from the locally mined alabaster extraction and manufacturing. From ancient times and over the centuries alabaster crafting has been Volterra's main economic and artistic activity. In the 19th century the aristocratic Marcello Inghirami Fei, a brilliant local artist and skilful technician, increased this activity designing new machinery for alabaster's extraction and also founded a well-known school where young people learnt advanced techniques for working this malleable and semi translucent stone. Nowadays, alabaster crafting is still distinctive of Volterra's culture but is not its main source of income anymore.
For more information click on: Main sights to visit in Volterra
Where to eat:
Volterra hosts an ample and good variety of restaurants, Enoteche and coffe-shops. However, we are suggesting to you:
-"Trattoria del Sacco Fiorentino": a beautiful original local where you can enjoy an imaginative tasty cuisine coming from local roots. The wine's list offers a selected local variety.
-"Pizzeria da Nanni": a popular superb pizzeria. Pizza is made and baked according to the best traditional style. Wine cellar is noteworthy.
- "Osteria dei Poeti": A rustic pretty restaurant. Its traditional cuisine is excellent. The wine's list is as ample as good.
To enjoy a glass of good Chianti, a delicious snack or a cup of coffe:
- "Web&Wine": a wonderful structure divided into a stylish Enoteca, a coffee shop and an Internet point. The Coffee shop's floor is glass made. Through the glass guests can admire some Etruscan vestiges and a Renaissance grain silo which is standing deep underground.
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