What are the top places to visit in Italy ? One of many stunning places to visit in Tuscany is Volterra, an ancient hill town that has one of the best preserved medieval centers in Italy.
Volterra was one of the main Etruscan cities from the 4th – 6th centuries BC and you can still admire large blocks of the wall built in those days, however, most of the town wall as it is seen today was built in medieval times. The most splendid example of remaining Etruscan city gate is Porta all’Arco. When the the Nazi Army threatened blow it up in 1944 the locals worked for hours taking stones from the paved streets around and piling them up to seal the gate thus saving it for the following generations.
The magnificent Piazza dei Priori is the most spectacular reminder of the town’s glory days. The Palazzo dei Priori that dominates the square is the oldest town hall in Tuscany built in the 13th century. Around the same time, many fortified palaces were also constructed to protect the city’s noble families from constant feuds and revolts. Volterra went through tumultuous times, plague epidemics and invasions but, miraculously, it managed to preserve its character and many priceless artefacts. The best way to enjoy this stunning town is to stroll along its quiet medieval streets, taking in its relaxed atmosphere, discovering its numerous churches and palaces.
Perhaps, the most impressive structure in the city is the Renaissance-era fortress built by Lorenzo the Magnificent when Florence occupied Volterra in the 15th century. Today it houses a high security prison that is, naturally, not accessible to the public. However, a few times a year the restaurant located in the fortress opens its doors for visitors. Famous Italian chefs along with prisoners cook fantastic dinners that are served in a candle-lit chapel. These gastronomic events have become so popular that tables have to be booked weeks in advance.
Volterra is also famous for its natural deposits of alabaster, a beautiful decorative material used since Etruscan times. There are many alabaster shops around the city where you can see artisans creating beautiful figurines, picture frames, vases using traditional methods that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Potos by: Sébastien Bertrand, Francesco Sgroi, Gabriele Cantini