"Etruscan delights" Top 5 Page for this destination Volterra by iandsmith

Volterra Travel Guide: 192 reviews and 473 photos

Why I went

It was the museum. Touted as one of the finest Etruscan places of memorabilia I had pencilled it in on my itinerary.
The biggest frustration initially was just getting there. I actually gave up on my first attempt, continually frustrated by the lack of signage at key intersections, and went to Siena instead.
When I eventually made it my time was sadly limited but, while I was there, it did not disappoint.
Set just too far west for the normal tourist bus trade this is a hilltop town you can wander without the teeming throng of so many other better publicized places.
In the Guarnacci Museum I was surprised to find Iron Age artifacts, recently unearthed when they were trying to put a lift in to facilitate handicapped access and dug beneath the museum floor to discover historical artifacts no-one knew existed!
Another reason to go is the alabaster, the stone out of which the funary objects are carved.
Once the stone of the gods, the Etruscans were the first to carve alabaster for their cinerary urns.The beautifully sculptured urns portraying the recumbant deceased and scenes of everyday life , fantasic journeys to the world beyond and well-known episodes from Greek mythology are housed in the Guarnacci Museum in Volterra, the Archeological Museum in Florence, in the Vatican Museum, the Louvre and the British Museum.
The Etruscans chose the highest quality pure alabaster which they painted with minerals and sometimes decorated with a very thin layer of gold.
Very few artefacts from the Medieval and Renaissance periods have been found which suggests that alabaster was seldom carved during that era.
The alabaster craft was re-established in the 17th century and flourished at the beginning of the 18th century as skilled artisans and sculptors launched the reproduction of classical art and high quality artefacts renowned throughout the world.
In 1780 the Grand duchy of Tuscany registered 8 or 9 artisan workshops in Volterra. In 1830 the number had risen to more than 60 thanks to the innovative spirit of the “travelling crafstsmen” who travelled the world selling their wares, opening shops, taking part in fairs and auctions.
A noble Volterran, Marcello Inghirami Fei, a talented artist and craftsman was the first to extract alabaster from the mine in Castellina. He created new machinery, exclusively produced high quality artefacts and created a prestigious school-workshop where more than a hundred students under the guidance of skilled masters had the privelage of learning the art of the alabaster craft.
Hence until 1870 the alabaster craft flourished and harvested an excellent repute in Italy and abroad.
Yet despite long intervals of regression, the alabaster industry has continued to conserve the age-old tradition of the craft. Alabaster may no longer be the main source of the economy but it is still a distinctive feature of the culture and history.
Today, there are but a few alabaster workshops in the historical centre but those which remain have been entrusted with the preservation of this ancient tradition and the creative evolution of the craft.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Far less tourists, plenty to see
  • Cons:Lack of road signs on how to get there
  • In a nutshell:I'd sooner spend time here than the nearby San Gimignano
  • Last visit to Volterra: Feb 2004
  • Intro Updated Mar 29, 2005
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Reviews (12)

Comments (5)

  • windoweb's Profile Photo
    May 22, 2010 at 7:59 AM

    Good info on Medici Palace. We will be in Tuscany in the fall on a 10 day tour of Italy.

  • roamer61's Profile Photo
    Nov 18, 2008 at 7:43 AM

    Excellent page on this historic town. Great pics and good tips.

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    May 23, 2005 at 5:21 AM

    Love the ceiling motiff at Museo Guarnacci. Found it fascinating to have a prison in Medici Palace...Also enjoyed your "twist of fate" tale. For art and history, this speaks volumes.

  • jelw's Profile Photo
    Apr 25, 2005 at 7:25 PM

    Thank you for introducing me to a new place to go to. I love finding the less frequented gems.

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo
    Feb 18, 2005 at 12:57 PM

    Interisting tips on Etruscan art and culture.

iandsmith

“The shortest distance between two people is laughter (note sign in picture)”

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