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The “Elegia Volterrana”, written in 1965 by Monsignor Mario Bocci, proudly reminds all visitors (and especially the inhabitants of the many historic neighboring towns) that Volterra “is a city“, in the sense that was born as a city, as Kingdom, State, City Hall, Municipality, with its own province, its own county and its own episcopate. It is precisely for this reason that Volterra, like few towns in Italy, has a very rich history made up of Lordships and dominions, of politics and great economy, with wars fought over the centuries followed by victories and defeats.

And the rich history of Volterra appears today in all its beauty along the streets, the alleys, the monuments of one of the most beautiful Italian towns, with an authentically medieval aspect, perfectly preserved. Walking in Volterra, rather than a tourist experience, is a bit like taking a step back in history, in which it seems to relive in first person an important piece of medieval and Renaissance history and culture.

When you arrive

One of the most complicated aspects when you visit Volterra is to find adequate parking for your car. In fact, on days with greater influx it can be difficult to find parking even in paid parking garages. A complete list of Volterra car parks can be found here (only in italian).

A good alternative, convenient and free, can be the parking area of Piazzale di Docciola, quite large, little known and therefore easily accessible. Parking is located here.

From the car park, in a few minutes on foot and going up some stairs, in less than 10 minutes, you reach one of the most important entrances of the town, Porta a Selci, composed of a simple round arch dating back to the 16th century century.

The visit

Once past the gate “Porta a Selci” and taking Via Don Minzoni (photo 1), you are in the heart of Volterra where you can already breathe the medieval air of the town.

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1. Via Don Minzoni

In a few minutes you reach Piazza XX Settembre, one of the meeting places of the town, where you can also visit the “Museum of torture” for lovers of the genre. Before reaching the square, on the left, between the street number 18 and 20, passing under an arch, it is possible to climb up a short staircase. It is a convenient shortcut suggested to me by a local who leads, in a few minutes walk, to the beautiful “Enrico Fiumi” Archaeological Park (photo 2), with important Etruscan remains.

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2. Archaeological Park “Enrico Fiumi”/1

It is a green area of the town, a green lung of great archaeological and landscape value, besides being a beautiful panoramic point of Volterra (photo 3).

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3. Archaeological Park “Enrico Fiumi”/2

Leaving the park and descending along Via Castello, you reach in few minutes in Piazza dei Priori, the true heart of the town.

The Square is in an austere style surrounded by fine period buildings, among which stands out the Priory Palace (photo 4), the oldest municipal seat in Tuscany, built in the first half of the 13th century, with Romanesque and Gothic mullioned windows, decorative crests and a towering double battlement tower.

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4. Priory Palace

On the ground floor there is a large atrium (photo 5) which was used for official meetings.

The most interesting room is the Sala del Consiglio (literaly, the Boardroom), on the first floor, entirely frescoed, unfortunately not accessible at the time of the visit.

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5. The entrance hall of the Priory Palace

The continuation of the visit is a succession of narrow streets, historic buildings and splendid views that are waiting to be seen, admired and photographed (photos 6 and 7).

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6. Streets at Volterra
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7. Views of  Volterra

You can also visit the the 12th century Duomo (photo 8), unfortunately in the process of being restored and therefore not easily accessible for visits, with a beautiful bell tower with mullioned windows and the adjoining octagonal Baptistery next to it.

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8. The Duomo and the Bell Tower

Inside the Baptistery, in the central part, the beautiful baptismal font by Andrea Sansovino of the 16th century (photo 9).

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9. The Baptistery

Other important monuments are the Palazzo Viti, which preserves collections of alabaster, porcelains and antique furniture inside (photo 10), and the Church of San Michele, of Romanesque form.

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10. Palazzo Viti

Surprising, finally, is the Roman Theater (photo 11), unearthed in the 1950s, dated 1st century AD, with a 36 meter long proscenium and a capacity estimated at 3500 seats.

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11. Roman Theatre

Where to eat

Look no further. If you are in Volterra you cannot miss a visit to “La Sosta del Priore“, a few steps from the homonymous square. It’s a tiny place where you can eat one of the best sandwiches in history with just 5 euros. The best expression of street food. It is in the first place in the Tripadvisor ranking and holds the Certificate of Excellence. For my full review, click here.

What to buy

Volterra is famous for alabaster, considered one of the finest in Europe. The town is full of shops selling beautiful handcrafted items that you can buy at affordable prices, with the guarantee of a high quality product.