Mansions dating from the Middle Ages border the Piazza dei Priori. The Palazzo
dei Priori, one of them, is a 13th century building and may have
been the building on which Florence´s Palazzo Vecchio was
modelled. Not to miss are Piero Francesco Fiorentino’s
Crucifixion, the council hall’s vaults and the views of the square from
an antechamber on its first floor.
Built in the same century is the Palazzo Pretorio (Picture 1) and the remarkable Piglet Tower crowned by the statue of a wild boar.
Just a bit older than the buildings above, the cathedral houses Benozzo Gozzoli’s Procession of the Magi, a terracotta depiction of the nativity scene and Mino da Fiesole’s alabaster tabernacle created in the 15th century. The black and white marble banding and the Renaissance ceiling are also worth mentioning.
The baptistery was built in the13th century. It sits west of the cathedral and is covered in marble stone designed by Andrea Sansovino.
Another site to see is in Piazza San Giovanni: the Ospedale di Santa Maria Maddalena, which stands out due to its attractive porticoes. Nearby is the Museo Diocesano d’Arte Sacra (tel. 0588 8 62 90 on via roma 1), recommended for its exhibition of vestments, reliquaries and Andrea della Robbia and Rosso Fiorentino’s artwork.
The Palazzo Minucci Solaini houses the Pinacoteca Comunale (tel. 0588 75 80; Via dei Sarti 1) which exhibits pieces by both Sienese and Florentine artists, among which is Deposition by Rosso Fiorentino, resembling work by Goya. This piece combines late Renaissance and Mannerist features.
An alabaster museum could not be forgotten in a town devoted to its quarrying since the Etruscan period. The Ecomuseo dell’ Alabastro (tel. 0588 8 75 80 on via dei sarti 1) together with the Picture Gallery shows modern creations on the ground floor, and the first and second floor are devoted to pieces from the Etruscan period onwards. There is even a life sized model of a workshop. To conclude a visit make sure you head to the upper floor for the best views of the landscape around Volterra.
Highly valued due to its great collection of local Etruscan pieces, the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci (tel. 0588 8 63 47) is yet another must-visit in Volterra. Most pieces are labelled in Italian only. Fortunately, there is a multilingual audio guide which will help you make the most of it. Its collection of funerary urns reaches the grand total of approximately 600. The collection is divided by subject and date. Most urns are made of alabaster and tufa. If you don´t have time to see the whole collection focus on the the 2nd and 3rd floor of the museum.
You´ll be stunned by the bronze statue known as Ombra della Sera, a figure elongated in such a way that it resembles a contemporary museum piece. Something else a bit different is the terracotta Sposi which represents a couple in their old age.
The Fortezza Medicea (Picture 2) can only be observed from the outside as it has been turned into a prison. The fortress dates back to the 14th century and was modified by Lorenzo II Magnifico.
The archaeological park sits to the west of the fort, and was created to protect the few Etruscan tombs there and some other archaeological vestiges. The place is fabulous for children because of the play and picnic areas.
The Roman theatre (Picture 3) is part of a complex which includes a bath house and is situated in the north of Volterra.
Le Balze, a ravine situated a short way from the centre has seen many churches fall to its depths. What has had luck until now is the 14th century monastery… though it doesn´t look like it will be around for much longer. To reach Le Balze leave Porta San Francesco (the northwest one), drive along Via San Lino, then Borgo Santo Stefano and Borgo San Giusto.
On two Sundays during August Volterra is revived as a medieval town as the people dress up in medieval costumes and celebrate with much colour and fun.