"Etruscans rule!" Top 5 Page for this destination Volterra by Bunsch

Volterra Travel Guide: 193 reviews and 477 photos

A marvelous place to begin my Italian trip

Somehow, I managed not to go to Italy during my first five decades of life. I was saving it as a special place. I suppose I had a whole lot of half-baked ideas about what I'd discover and experience once I got to Tuscany or Umbria. Whatever I imagined, the reality was far better once I actually arrived -- to celebrate a milestone birthday with my closest law school friend. She had rented a place just outside Volterra, a walled city where she'd previously visited. It was an inspired choice, since Volterra is an easy jumping-off place for Siena, San Gimingiano, Pisa, etc. and is also both small and interesting enough to allow a visitor to explore and enjoy the sights and shops over several days. (Please see my album for more photos of the surrounding landscape.)

Where have all the Etruscans gone?

Volterra was a major Etruscan city in the second century BC, well before the Romans imposed their roads and government throughout Italy. Many of the walls remain, in whole or in part (some have been incorporated into the later Roman and medieval walls, much less extensive than the original Etruscan city limits); there is a large necropolis, and the Etruscan museum is full of fascinating tomb statuary and burial urns.

There aren't any Etruscans left. I know; I looked in a whole bunch of cities and towns throughout Italy. But these artisans and craftspeople with a well-developed civic system simply disappeared at some point. Thank goodness they've left such a great legacy in architecture and art.

How physically fit are you?

In keeping with many Tuscan hill towns, Volterra is approached by driving or climbing up a steep hill. Vehicle access is restricted in some parts of the walled city, and parking inside the walls is problematic, so even if you have a car, you're more likely to leave it in one of the municipal lots "down below" which means you're hoofing it. For visitors who suffer from arthritis, the descents may be even tougher than the climbs -- especially when carrying loads of the local alabaster, available everywhere in small shops and ateliers. On the other hand, you can take your time -- stop to have a gelato, drop in at a wine- or olive-oil tasting, or simply sit in the Piazza dei Populi and watch others navigate the streets!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Small enough to explore completely in a few days
  • Cons:Could be forbiddingly gray on an overcast day
  • In a nutshell:Twenty-four centuries of Tuscan life
  • Last visit to Volterra: Jun 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (35)

Comments (2)

  • Nov 23, 2010 at 5:05 PM

    Do you know the name of the store in Volterra that has the pottery displayed in it's window with the red poppies? Do they have a web site, phone number or address?

  • Sep 12, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    I've never been but this sounds like a wonderful night. I'd like to have one like it.


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