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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 24 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Nicky Swallow

The fortified hilltop town of Volterra boasts an impressive setting atop a 530-metre outcrop, set in an area rich in mineral and alabaster deposits. Steeped in history, it was a very wealthy Etruscan, then Roman settlement, but the town today dates mainly from the 12th and 13th centuries.

It’s ideal to gently explore on foot; combine dipping into the Roman remains and historic churches with a leisurely coffee or lunch on the impressive main square, Piazza Martiri della Liberta.

Close to Palazzo dei Priori (which looks like a miniature version of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio) is the 13th-century Cathedral and its Baptistery.

While you’re there

Volterra is still known for its production of alabaster. Artisan studios and shops selling alabaster are to be found on every corner of the old town; you can wander into the studios and watch the craftsmen at work (most don’t mind, but it’s polite to ask first). The most skilled makers produce unique creations costing thousands, but there are also lots of shops selling cheap but attractive trinkets.

Etruscan Guarnacci Museum

Volterra, Tuscany, Italy

Etruscan Guarnacci Museum

This museum houses an important collection of Etruscan and Roman artifacts – look out for the famous ‘evening shadow’ statuette.

Adult price: £7

Best for ages 18+

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Volterra Pinacoteca

Volterra, Tuscany, Italy

Volterra Pinacoteca

The star attraction in Volterra, in the Pinacoteca, is Rosso Fiorentino’s fabulous, seminal altarpiece Deposition, which demonstrates the artists’ astounding use of colour.

Adult price: £5

Best for ages 18+

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Volterra Cathedral

Volterra, Tuscany, Italy

Volterra Cathedral

Volterra’s Duomo may be rather dull-looking on the outside, but bypass it and you’ll miss Mina da Fiesole’s intricate Renaissance tabernacle over the high altar and some beautiful woodcarving. There’s also a marble pulpit by the Pisano family.

Best for ages 18+

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Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Volterra lies 80km southwest of Florence, 50km southeast of Pisa and 50km west of Siena. There’s no train service right into the town, but there are buses from Florence, Pisa and Siena. It’s an easy town to visit independently, if you have a hire car. The best way to explore is on foot, and half a day is usually enough.

When to do it

As always, to avoid the crowds and heat, try and avoid mid-July to mid-August. In spring and autumn there are few visitors, and winter is empty.

Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Volterra and San Gimignano: a taste of medieval Tuscany!

Florence

Volterra and San Gimignano: a taste of medieval Tuscany!
Hi everybody, the 90% of the tourists wants to see Pisa and Florence that are amazing but this tour is something different, a bit more off the beaten track (especially Volterra) and it's a delight to discover the hearth of Tuscany with these two villages. Try this experience and you won't regret it. We move with a Mercedes Van and I will be your driver/guide and I will explain during the day what we see together.

Price: €800

Min age: 0

Rating 5 / 5 [18 ratings]

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