20 March 2012 Caterina Pomini 6043

Volterra, Etruscan Town Perched High on Top of A Hill

Velathri was one of the 12 city-states that formed in Etruria a powerful economic, religious and military alliance; perched high on top of a hardly accessible hill and defended by magnificent walls, it reached its highest splendour when the southern city-states began to decay, because of their closeness to the Eternal City.

When also Velathri was forced to join the Italic Confederation (around the half of the 3rd century BC) it continued to maintain a certain degree of independence, until the outbreak of the war between Mario and Sulla, that ended up bringing Volterra to its knees. In the 5th century AD, the city became the seat of a diocese but the bishops rose to power only around the 9th - 10th century. The episcopal power reached its climax under Galgano Pannocchieschi but the despotism of the latter laid also the foundation for the anti-episcopal riot, that was soon leaded by the local lords and the emerging middle classes. In 1208, the bishops started to lose their power and the beautiful Palazzo dei Priori became the emblem and the seat of the free commune. Surrounded by Florence, Siena and Pisa in the midst of their territorial expansion, Volterra clearly found itself struggling to maintain its independence from its fierce neighbours, until it finally fell prey to the Florentine rule (1472)... Although independence was formally conceded, the city was finally subdued to Florence.

Volterra is the perfect Tuscany tour destination for families and couples, the city has preserved its medieval charm thanks to its relative geographical isolation; high upon its hill, almost entirely surrounded by its beautiful 13th century walls, Volterra can be easily reached from Florence in approximately 1 hour... all you need to do is to choose your favourite Florence car rent and leave!

Once there, you can visit the Cathedral of course, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, Piazza and Palazzo dei Priori and the wonderful Porta all’Arco; other attractions are surely the Medici Fortress, the Roman Theatre (1st century BC) and the font named Fonte di Docciola which in the past centuries was used as public washtub. The Guarnacci Museum preserves one of the most beautiful collections of Etruscan art, but also lots of Villanovan and Roman relics; besides that, you can look for the Pinacoteca and the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, Palazzo Viti, the Torture Museum and the Ecomuseum of Alabaster. The surroundings offer a lot of attractions too: the impressive cliffs of Volterra for example are located on the southwestern side of the hill, between the Cecina Valley and the Valdera; if you have more time you can also visit the Natural Park of Sasso Pisano with its thermal springs and fumaroles.

P.S. Volterra has become recently famous also for being the home of the Volturi in the New Moon book, the second chapter of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer.

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