One of the most fascinating villages in Italy is certainly Volterra, an ancient city in the province of Pisa. The hill on which it stands was already populated in the Iron Age, as evidenced by the Villanovan necropolis. Between the fifth and fourth centuries, the Etruscans placed it at the head of one of the twelve lucumonies of Etruria. At the time it had a 7-kilometer-long city wall, demonstrating its importance which in those years grew to the point of being able to mint its own currency. Precisely in these years, important craft activities flourished related to the production of cinerary urns and ceramics, even if the workmanship par excellence of the city of Volterra was and remains alabaster. Present in open-air galleries or quarries, the Volterra alabaster dates back to millions of years ago and is considered the most valuable in Europe. Its processing requires a lot of experience that in Volterra has been handed down for generations through the creation of various objects. From its heyday, Volterra today preserves Porta Diana, the city walls, the Acropolis, several hypogea and the Porta all’Arco, but no less curious and interesting are the medieval buildings, such as the Palazzo dei Priori, the Medici Fortress and the Cathedral.
If you want to reconstruct the history of this important city, before visiting it, it is necessary to start from the “Il Guarnacci” Museum. Precious Etruscan and Roman remains are kept here, among which an ancient archaeological find considered among the most important in the world is highlighted. It is a bronze statuette that Gabriele D’Annunzio baptized with the name of “Shadow of the evening” and became an undisputed contemporary icon of the Etruscan world, an enigmatic figure of a young man, elongated and with his arms attached to his body (II-I century BC) . Once you know the history of the city better, it is right to go to its pulsating heart, Piazza dei Priori. Flanked by buildings made with the characteristic gray stone called “bench”, the square is home to the oldest municipal building in Tuscany, the Palazzo dei Priori. Half a century was used to build it by master Riccardo at the dawn of 1200 and it has a façade open with mullioned windows and adorned with the coats of arms of the Florentine commissioners. A pentagonal tower rises on the building, while inside the palace there are numerous frescoes by Tuscan artists of the fourteenth century. The thirteenth-century Praetorian Palace also overlooks this square with the Podestà tower on the right side, where on a shelf there is a curious animal figure called “the pig”. Just behind the Palazzo dei Priori is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, consecrated in 1120. Made in Pisan Romanesque style, it has a facade divided horizontally by a braid and flower motif, while vertically it is composed of three compartments with quadrangular pilasters. The characteristic Romanesque internal Latin cross structure has remained unchanged, while the renovations over time are clearly visible on the aisles. Inside there are precious works of art such as the polychrome group of the Deposition, a masterpiece of Romanesque wooden sculpture. In the beautiful center of the square is the Baptistery, with an octagonal plan with the dome at the end. It has a facade covered with white and green marble, while the interior is entirely made up of rows of Volterra stone. Finally, from Piazza Duomo you can easily reach the upper part of the city, where the fortress is a typical example of Renaissance military architecture and the large archaeological park.