Volterra – Historic Tuscan Hilltown

Volterra is somewhat like a womb of history. It has nurtured the original Etruscan settlement as far back as the 8th century BC and later it was occupied by the Florentines, the Medici family and then ruled by the Duchy of Tuscany. Evidence of all is to be found within the walls of Volterra. There are numerous museums, galleries and ancient ruins. At the Teatro Romano, there are ancient Roman baths on a deep slope with an arena and columns. It is an incredible excavation in its dimensions, leaving one with a sense of awe at the view of life in Roman times. The Archaeological Park E. Fiumi, an Etruscan site, is still being explored and the Etruscan urns, pots and interesting artifacts line the walls of the museum.
Volterra has beenvolterra_lead mining alabaster since at least the 7th century BC. Its hardness is rated at 2 and 3 on the Mohs scale, alabaster being hydrated calcium sulphate. Alabaster has been used both practically by the Etruscans for their cinerary urns and artistically for alabaster ornaments, lamps, vases, bowls and podiums which are still being made.
Right at the top of the city looms a massive fort, Fortezza Medicea, making this ‘flying city’ seem even higher than it is. Winding roads and a new landscape at every turn, a sense of wonder and anticipation heightens the senses as one approaches Volterra. At night the city lights, seen from the air, make it look like a massive ship sailing on a sea, a dark sea of hills below. There is only one way in and one way out for a vehicle entering the city. It is enclosed within a wall with stone arches as gates, the roads are narrow and the history glows in this timeless place.
Today’s Volterra has wonderful shopping: alabaster, olive wood, paintings and leather spill out from shop entrances into the ancient streets which are lined with fascinating doorways and shuttered windows, and an aroma that can only be found in Italy. Restaurants both formal and informal call from the main streets, but they can also be found tucked away in extraordinary places, by following the delicious waft of herbs and spices. The menus are diverse, but in all you will be offered Tuscan cuisine; a must-try is wild boar cooked with olives and served with black fava beans. Because of its relative closeness to Pisa, fresh fish is also part of the local cuisine.
The city can captivate the tourist for days and if, at any time, one feels the need to escape the walls, then a few miles drive to San Gimignano, Siena or Cecina on the coast provides more historical delight, more beautiful views, vineyards and horizons with silhouetted cypress trees, so typical of Tuscan landscapes.

See more at: http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/discovering-volterra#sthash.BEpCSoPE.dpuf

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