Volterra: Historical City and Cultural Landscape is part of the Tentative list of Italy in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
Volterra is a historical city in Tuscany with a long history. After first being settled in the 8th century BC, during the 6th century BC it became the walled city of Velathri, one of the twelve Etruscan city-states. Largely medieval in structure, it contains remains from many periods, including the Porta dell'Arco, from the Etruscan walls, and a beautiful Roman theatre. The surrounding landscape has also retained its features over the centuries, including some large farms with significant architectural highlights.
Map of VolterraLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
It is hard to compete with such illustrious neighbors as Siena or San Gimignano, so Volterra probably deserves its second-tier billing when it comes to Tuscan destinations. The historic town is an impressive enough specimen of medieval architecture without offering a "killer" must-see feature.
What Volterra compensates with is its Etruscan and Roman history. The collection of Etruscan artifacts at the Mario Guarnacci museum is among the best in the world of its kind. You can visit an Etruscan Acropolis at the highest point of the Parco Archeologico, right next to a Roman Cistern. From the northern edge of the old town you can have an excellent view over the remains of the Roman Theater (and for most people that is more than enough of a look).
The medieval town is compact and centered on Piazza dei Priori, dominated by the palazzo of the same name. The palace holds only a minor interest for visiting, but the tower views are worth the effort. The cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta has a number of features common to basilicas in Tuscany, but if you have seen Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence or Santa Maria Assunta in Siena, you will likely rate Duomo di Volterra as "just ok". Beyond those obvious points of interest, there are a couple of lesser museums and palaces that I myself have never been to in half a dozen visits to Volterra over the years.
Its lower profile aside, Volterra can still be pretty busy with tourists in season. People tend to gravitate towards aforementioned Piazza dei Priori or Via Antonio Gramschi, where the biggest concentration of restaurants is. That makes Parco Archeologico all the more delightful. A rare large green space smack in the middle of a medieval city, it feels relatively serene even in high season. For those with kids in tow, the playground in the park, rather average in the absolute sense, will offer an invaluable diversion.
Parking is always at a premium in popular Tuscan hill towns during the high season. In Volterra, it is undoubtedly to your advantage to park your car at the foot of the hill, and ascend to the city on foot. I most frequently use unpaved Parcheggio Docciola and walk up the stairs to Piazza XX Settembre through Porta e Fonti Docciola. This entry point deposits you just a few hundred meters from the central piazza, but you will be surprised by the contrast in the level of crowds or absence thereof.
I've seen towns that are much less worth of the recognition that are already inscribed on the WH list. Volterra would get three and a half stars from me.
Read more from Ilya Burlak here.
I visited Volterra in August 2013. It is quintessial Etruscan Tuscany at its best. The view of the town and the valley from the South side is breathtaking. There are several doorways that lead to the heart of Volterra and one not to be missed is the Porta all'Arco. In the city centre, it is worthwhile visiting Palazzo dei Priori, the Cathedral, minor churches and the Pinacoteca & Museo Civico. Another highlight for me was the Roman Theatre which can be seen from above from a panoramic point and then you can hike all the way around the fence. The entrance fee was around 4 euros but you could might as well not pay the entrance fee because it doesn't add much to what you see from outside. An interesting town which happens to be overshadowed by other WHS and landmarks in the region!
2006 Added to Tentative List
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