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Volterra, Tuscany, Italy

Volterra is an ancient town, founded by the Etruscans. It is located about 30 km west of San Gimignano and about 60 km north of Massa Marittima. Here we can discover places full of archeology, history, architecture, as well as all kinds of shops and restaurants. The amazing structure of the town, with many streets leading up and down, reflects the unique atmosphere of Tuscany. The town is also mentioned in the second part of the saga "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer ("New Moon").

Parking in Volterra

We have a choice of several, unfortunately usually not very large parking lots. We parked in the "Gioconovo" parking lot (P1; GPS: 43.404818, 10.856308), but you can still look for free spaces in the "Macelli" (P2; GPS: 43.404381, 10.861361) or "Porta Fiorentina" parking lot (P3; GPS: 43.403735, 10.860952). Unfortunately, the large parking lot "Vallebona" is available only to residents, so we do not even give its location. However, there is a fairly spacious parking lot, which will probably have free places. It's the "Docciola" parking lot (P4; GPS: 43.403384, 10.863572). All these parking lots are located on the north side of the town.

Entrance to the old town

We walk the Viale Franco Porretti street towards the beautiful Porta Florentina gate, where we'll enter the old town. On the right we pass the remains of Etruscan and Roman buildings (including the Roman theater) (A; GPS: 43.403703, 10.859868). You can visit this place, but because we have focused on the monuments of the old town, so it was enough for us to see it a distance. We reach the entrance gate (B; GPS: 43.403717, 10.861320) and enter the town historic center. The Porta Florentina was built at the beginning of the 13th century. Above the entrance you can see the Medici coat of arms.

Towards the town center

We go straight south the Via Guarnacci street, towards the main square Piazza dei Priori. On the way, we pass interesting buildings, for example the Casa-torre Toscano (C; GPS: 43.402401, 10.861368), which contains the best kept tower in the entire town of Volterra (built in the 13th century). Such towers, as in the case of San Gimingnano, were built primarily for defensive purposes, what can be seen in the narrow windows that were to protect against accidental bullets. The tower is also a scenic viewpoint, so you can climb it and admire the panorama of the town. Via Guarnacci turns slightly right, then changes into Via Giacomo Matteotti and we soon reach the intersection with Via dei Marchesi, which will lead us to the main square of the town.

Piazza dei Priori

The impressive Piazza dei Priori (D; GPS: 43.402132, 10.859424) is the beating heart of the town, which is really beautiful. You can find here the oldest Tuscan town hall (E; GPS: 43.401806, 10.859455) called Palazzo dei Priori (built in the first half of the 13th century) with a beautifully decorated facade. The town hall has a tower that can be accessed (for a fee). In the square, we also see other historic buildings, such as Palazzo Pretorio (F; GPS: 43.402144, 10.859845) with an interesting stone tower, where, near the roof there is a shelf supporting a statue depicting a pig or a wild boar. For this reason, the tower is called La Torre del Porcellino, which means the Tower of the Piggy.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta and the baptistery

The most important church in the town, located next to Piazza dei Priori, is the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta from the 12th century (G; GPS: 43.401778, 10.858834). Nearby was erected a very nice 13th-century baptistery. Earlier there was a church in this place, but it was destroyed by an earthquake. We visited the baptistery because the cathedral was unfortunately undergoing renovation. The baptistery (H; GPS: 43.401618, 10.858268), built on an octagonal plan, looks from the outside like many Tuscan religious buildings: it is built of alternating light and dark stones. Interior is in beige with a centrally located baptismal font.

Towards Porta San Francesco. Return to the center

Then we follow the streets Via Franceschini and Via S. Lino to another gate called Porta San Francesco, passing the San Lino church from the 15th century (I; GPS: 43.403774, 10.856655). After reaching the gate, we walk back the Via S. Lino, but at the intersection we turn left onto Via Ricciarelli and bypassing Piazza dei Priori we go the Via dei Sarti street. On the Via dei Sarti street, there is a magnificent Palazzo Incontri Viti residence (J; GPS: 43.402606, 10.860779) which now houses an art museum. It was the seat of the wealthy merchant Giuseppe Viti, trading in alabaster.

Piazza XX Septembre

We cross the already known intersection of Via Guarnacci with Via Giacomo Matteotti and walk the nice Via di Sotto street to Piazza XX Septembre square (K; GPS: 43.401446, 10.862904), where we can find a monument to those killed in the war ("Monumento ai Caduti"), the church of Chiesa di Sant'Agostino from the 13th century, and the interesting Museum of Torture. The square offers a nice views of the town and the surrounding area. Going further east the Via Don Giovanni Minzoni street we will reach the Medici fortress ("Fortezza Medicea") from the 14th and 15th centuries (L; GPS: 43.400161, 10.866128). Unfortunately, it cannot be visited.

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