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Volterra
Volterra is one of the finest and lesser known hilltop towns tucked away in the heart of Tuscany only a short distance from Florence 72 kms, Siena 50 kms,Pisa 64 kms,S.Gimignano 29 kms.
Idyllically set amidst an evocative landscape of soft rolling hills and lush woodland abruptly defined by barren ,deep clay walled chasms, gullies and ravines, Volterra, 545 metres above sea level, dominates and divides the Cecina and Era valleys
For more info on Volterra click here


HISTORY
Volterra is a town of Etruscan origins. From the 8th century B.C. the Etruscans began to spread out over the slopes and this Etruscan town, called Velathri, registered as a remarkable economic development based on the mineral deposits of copper and silver in an area rich in forests, agriculture and husbandry. Velathri became one of the twelve city-states of Etruria with a territory that extended from the river Pesa to the Tyrrhenian sea and from the river Arno to the basin of the Cornia river.


During the Roman period the name of Volterra changed from Velathri to Volaterrae and the relations with Rome were good. Volterra continued to prosper in the last years of the 1st century B.C and this can be seen in the urban development during this period which included the construction of the theatre and of a residential area in the neighbourhood of Vallebona.


During the early Middle Ages Volterra became the diocese of a vast area and a small temple dedicated to Mary, the first duomo of the city, was erected. Giusto was the first bishop and patron of Volterra and a legend tells of how he miraculously saved the city in the 6th century by encouraging the populace, exhausted by famine, to throw bread over the defensive walls; convinced that the city was capable of resisting a long siege the Barbarians withdrew and the city was saved.
During the 9th and 10th centuries the growing prosperity not only enhanced the religious life but also the social, economic and jurisdictional life of the city. Four markets and just as many religious feast days were conceded by the Carolingian emperors.


After the last Hungarian invasion the increase in population (after the year thousand) encouraged the formation of the first medieval quarters of the city, mostly around the area of Castello: Borgo di Santa Maria (today Via Riccirelli), Borgo dell’abate (today Via Buonparenti and Via Sarti), one perpendicular and the other parallel to the Castello walls.
In the 13th century the newly formed commune purchased rights on the extraction of salt (the city’s main income),sulphur, vitriol and alum in the areas of Larderello, Sasso and Libbiano but soon found itself struggling for independence against the expansions of Pisa, Siena and Florence.
Many house towers including the Tower of the Little Pig were erected as fortifications to defend the noble families from their frequent and bitter fights for power. The Medieval defensive wall was built, with much expense, to enclose a residential area inhabited by a few thousand people.


Volterra was also involved in the factional struggles between the Guelfs and Gibellines.
In 1361 the city fell prey to Florentine rule and although independence was formally conceded, government autonomy was strongly limited.
During the Renaissance period while the city was being fortified the wealthy Volterran families set about embellishing their palaces in Florentine style.


At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century agriculture and the alabaster trade began to thrive, the roads were improved and the urban centre elaborated. As the post war economy was based on the alabaster craft and industry, the extraction of salt and a few chemical and industrial plants, Volterra recorded a great increase in population. Today tourism is gradually becoming one of the main economic resources, as Volterra is not only endowed with historical monuments that illustrate three thousand years of history but also offers three extremely interesting museums: the Guarnacci Museum, the Art Gallery and the Museum of Sacred Art.


ETRUSCAN GUARNACCI MUSEUM
The Guarnacci museum is one of the earliest public museums in Europe. Founded in 1761 when the noble abbot Mario Guarnacci (Volterra 1701-1785), a collector of antiquities, donated his archeological collection to “the citizens of the city of Volterra”. The donation also included a rich library of more than 50.000 volumes.
The ground floor elucidates the Villanovan, Orientalizing, Archaic and Classic eras and continues on the second floor where the economic and artistic splendour of Etruscan Volterra from the IV-I centuries B.C. is comprehensively expounded.
Etruscan Museum Via don Minzoni 15
ph. +39 0588 86347
Approximate opening times: every day except 1/1 & 25/12
16/3-2/11 - 9.00-18.30
3/11-15/3 - 9.00-14.00

THE ART GALLERY AND CIVIC MUSEUM
The Palazzo Minucci-Solaini situated in the centre of Volterra, built at the end of the 15th century, is the palace which now houses the Art Gallery and Civic Museum with an important collection of paintings from local monasteries, churches, the cathedral, the Saint Linus conservatory in San Pietro, Spedali Riuniti and medieval and contemporary works of art property of the Guarnacci Museum.Palazzo Minucci - Solaini is a splendid example of Rennaissance architecture, meticulous restoration work has recently revealed its original structure, the exquisite symmetary of the façade and elegant harmony of the interior courtyard.
Art Galley and Civic Museum Via dei Sarti 1  ph. +39 0588 87580
Approximate opening times: every day except 1/1 &25/12
16/3-2/11 - 9.00-18.30
3/11-15/3 - 9.00-14.00

MUSEUM OF SACRED ART
The Museum of Sacred Art is housed in the Bishop’s Palace.
The museum was established and officially opened on the 20th December 1932 by Canon Maurizio Cavallini. The Museum displays works of art from the cathedral and the churches of the diocese and a particularly interesting collection of wooden and fictile sculptures, holy vestments, ecclesiastical furnishings and the only remaining 14th century marble sculptures once housed in the Cathedral.
The stairway leading to the museum is decorated with splendid 10th century architraves from the Pieve di San Lorenzo in Montalbano.
Museum of sacred art
Via Roma
Approximate opening times: every day except 1/1 & 25/12
16/3-2/11 - 9.00-13.00 15.00-18.30
3/11-15/3 - 9.00-13.00



ALABASTER: THE CRAFT
Volterra is a city of stone. Its narrow streets, looming towers, and majestic palaces and fortifications are made of stone.
A yellow-grey stone, a sandstone effused with fossils of rare beauty.
Alabaster is also a stone and so is the craft.
The name “alabaster” is undoubtedly Egyptian and probably derives from the city of Alabastron that was famous for the manufacture of vases and amphorae made as perfume containers.
The alabaster craft flourished at the beginning of the 18th century as skilled artisans and sculptors launched the reproduction of classical art and high quality artifacts renowned throughout the world.

ALABASTER HANDICRAFTS:
Alabaster Scali
Loc Campiano
SS 68 km 33
VOLTERRA  ph. +39 0588 87737

Società Cooperativa Artieri Alabastro
Via Pisana 28
VOLTERRA  ph. +39 0588 86135



ASTILUDIO (Flag throwing)
The historical group Sbandieratori and Balestieri has reinstated the medieval art of flag throwing and archery. In 1981 the group became a part of the Italian Federation of Flag Throwers and in the same year the first edition of the Astiludio, a spectacular tournament in medieval costume between other historical groups from different parts of Italy took place in the evocative setting of the Piazza dei Priori. The Astiludio is now an annual event that takes place once a year on the first Sunday of September.


Porta all'arco: Important remains of Etruscan engineering dating back to the 4th century B.C., it preserves the imposing jambs made with big blocks of stone.

Piazza dei Priori: In the heart of the town, it represents one of the most harmonious and scenic medieval piazzas of Tuscany. 

Palazzo dei Priori: Built in the 13th century, it is one of the most ancient City Halls or "Palazzo Comunale" of Tuscany. It is enriched by elegant two-light windows, numerous coats of arms and maiolicas belonging to Florentine families. Palazzo dei Priori is surmounted by a nice tower with turrets.

Duomo: A Romanesque building (12th century) characterised by a nice portal, big rose window and richly decorated. A 3 nave interior, several works of art: "Deposizione" a notable ligneous sculpture, a marmoreous ciborium by Mino da Fiesole dating back to 1471 and "Annunciazione by Bartolomeo della Porta. Inside a chapel "Natività" and "Adorazione", 2 painted terracottas attributed to Andrea della Robbia. On the left is the fresco "Cavalcata dei Magi" by Benozzo Gozzoli (1479). It also preserves other works by Taddeo di Bartolo, Antonio Vanni, Neri di Bicci, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Luca Signorelli.

Battistero: Octagonal building dating back to 1283, with a very nice Romanesque portal. Inside are the baptismal font by Sansovino and the decorated altar by Mino di Pietro.

"Quadrivio dei Buonparenti": Cross road between Via Roma and Via Ricciarelli, it is one of the most evocative corners of the medieval center of Volterra. Here stands the Tower-house of Buonparenti that emerges among the ancient palaces and towers.

Palazzo Viti: preserves a rich collection of alabasters, ancient porcelains and sacred vestments.

The Church of San Michele Archangel: It preserves works of art by Pomarancio, Carlo Maratta and a terracotta by Andrea della Robbia.

The Roman Theater: Discovered in 1950, it is a very important ruin of the Roman Era.

The Fortress: A stately defensive construction which nowadays hosts a penitentiary.

Balze: Striking chasms created by landslides.



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