Posts Tagged ‘Volterra’

Volterra – an Etruscan Treasure

In a country as steeped in history and culture as Italy, it would be impossible to overlook the importance of Volterra, one of the lesser known hilltop towns in Tuscany. Its rich Etruscan heritage and extensive collection of medieval and Renaissance art, sees this tiny Tuscan gem as a destination in its own right; and its close proximity to Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa makes it an ideal base from which to explore the rest of the region. Walking in Italy is practically a national pastime and the area around Volterra also offers some of the most beautiful hiking in the country.

A walled hilltop town, Volterra is set amidst the sunburnt rolling hills and deep valleys that typify this region of Tuscany. Surrounded by a landscape of vineyards, crop fields and forested tracts, it is a wonderful place to explore on foot. The area is criss-crossed with hiking trails and walking in Italy is the best way to get under the skin of this incredibly diverse country. There is nothing quite like a gentle hike through undulating fields splashed with poppies and sunflowers, to arrive at a vineyard for a welcome of the house vintage and a traditional Tuscan feast.

Volterra itself makes for a delightful sojourn. As was the practice of these medieval Italian hilltop towns, it is completely enclosed by a fortifying wall. If your accommodation is outside the walls you have a steep but short climb to enter the town through one of the “Porte”, but once within the cloistered walls its true charm is revealed. A stroll around the perimeter will afford you not only a great orientation, but you will also experience uninterrupted views across the surrounding countryside. And what views they are. Volterra can lay claim to some of the best vistas in Tuscany. For as far as the eye can see, the patchwork of rural land and ubiquitous Cypress groves stretches out before you like a painted canvas.

Known as a ‘citta d’arte’ for its wonderful collection of Renaissance artwork, Volterra is also renowned for its unique alabaster which is mined around the region. Soft and fragile to work with, it is carved into intricate art objects and sculptures. Volterra has been the centre of alabaster production for nearly 2,500 years and it has become a valuable and sought after medium. Although there are plenty of tourist shops selling alabaster, there are also many local artisans, that you can visit in their studios and workshops within the city walls. Walking in Italy around the hill top towns and villages of Tuscany is a charmingly authentic experience, and Volterra is no exception. It is a pleasure to wander the narrow cobbled streets and traffic is strictly regulated and kept to a minimum within the walls. Whilst Volterra has every facility, it has retained an historic village feel, with local businesses outnumbering tourist shops and the delightful Piazza dei Priori (the town square) serving as the hub of day-to-day activity.

You can sit quietly in the piazza sipping a coffee and watch the locals going about their business; or play your own part walking in Italy’s evening ritual of “la passeggiata” – the nightly parade as the Italians stroll through the streets, stopping for an ‘aperitivo’ in one of the town’s many bars or cafes. Take a walk at sunset around to the Roman Amphitheatre, one of Volterra’s most important historic sites; or marvel at the imposing exterior of the Fortress, the town’s original defence built right into the walls. If you get the taste for Italian history and you want to learn more about Volterra’s fascinating Etruscan and Roman roots, a visit to the Guarnacci Museum is a must. It is the jewel in this tiny town’s crown and one of the most comprehensive Etruscan museums in the country.

Tony Maniscalco is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. Operating since 1946, they now offer over 250 guided group walking holidays in more than 90 different countries. On walking in Italy with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, you can walk the most scenic locations & landscapes at the best value prices.

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