Volterra is unique among the artistic cities of Tuscany. The combination of its landscapes highlights the change of seasons that contributes to the captivating atmosphere of mystery, melancholy and solitude. The city is built of entirely of stone including the streets, towers, palaces and austere city-walls. The yellow-grey stone is known as “panchino” in which sea shells of rare beauty often appear. The city’s craftsmen worked with a local stone called alabaster. This is a white stone which is particularly soft and easier to carve than marble. Considered to be the stone of the gods, the Etruscans used it to carve sarcophaguses and funerary urns, which were richly decorated. You can admire the main collection of these urns in the Guarnacci Museum.
You will also have the opportunity to visit an alabaster work shop to watch the artisans as they create one of works of art out of this spectacular stone. Other sights of interest are the Roman theatre (a well-preserved complex, complete with a Roman bath house), Le Balze (a deep, eroded limestone ravine) and the 13th century Palazzo dei Priori (the oldest seat of local government in Tuscany which is believed to have been a model for Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio).
The day continues with the visit of San Gimignano. Beautiful medieval towers, high walls and narrow makes for a delightful Tuscan hill town. Learn about the famous Guelph Ghibelline conflict that inspired the local famiglie to build their fortified towers as their form of defense against the enemies. As well as the times of the Black Plague when the population and power of San Gimignano was devastated. The ceramics of Santa Fina, the famous Vernaccia wine, saffron, among other handmade works, have contributed to the “reawakening” of a town that has become a must for tourists over the past couple of decades.