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A weekend in Volterra
What to see in the city of alabaster: history, art and nature

Volterra, city of alabaster and the ancient capital of the Etruscans. From The Mall Firenze it can be reached in just over an hour via a breathtaking panoramic road that’s a favourite with cycling enthusiasts.

There are many reminders of the time when Volterra was one of the most important cities in Etruria, including the well-preserved Porta dell’Arco and the 4th-century Porta Diana, the Acropolis, with temples and other buildings used from the 7th century BC to the 3rd century AC, and the city wall, still clearly visible in some places. Outside the city are the necropolises of Portone, Badia, Ulimeto and Ripaie; many artefacts found here are preserved in the Guarnacci Museum, one of the most important museums for the Etruscan civilisation.

The city’s Roman period is evidenced by the impressive Augustan-era Vallebona Theatre and a large water storage tank.

The Middle Ages gave the city marvels such as Palazzo dei Priori, home to the Civic Museum and Art Gallery containing masterpieces like Rosso Fiorentino’s Deposition; Palazzo Pretorio, with its crenellated tower known as ‘the piglet’, the Buomparenti and Bonaguidi towers, the Toscano tower-house, the Cathedral with its Baptistery and several churches, including the convent church of San Francesco and the church of San Alessandro.

The Renaissance can be admired in several buildings such as Palazzo Minucci-Solaini, Palazzo Incontri Viti, whose courtyard contains the elegant 19th-century Persio Flacco theatre, Palazzo Inghirami, the San Girolamo complex with its Robbiano terracottas, and the magnificent Medici Fortress.

There’s no shortage of contemporary art in Volterra either: Luoghi d’esperienza are huge geometric sculptures dotted among the streets of the city, by local artist Mauro Staccioli.

For centuries Volterra has been associated with alabaster, and several workshops in the city continue to work with the material.

(ph. Pasquale Paradiso)

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