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Report 1997: Farm Stay in Tuscany - Tenuta di Spannocchia

By fivediggs from Italy, Spring 2012

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Page 5 of 7: Volterra

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Alabaster Workshop in Volterra

In all my travels through Tuscany, I had never visited Volterra. I had heard from others that it was a beautiful hilltop town but never managed to make it there. My son (after having missed a week of school) was to work on a report about the Etruscans. One of Tuscany's best Etruscan museums is located in Volterra, giving us the excuse to go. It took about an hour to drive there. The roads are windy and I will admit I felt a little car sick on the way there but the views are breathtaking. This area of Tuscany is full of stunning valleys with bright shades of green and red, purple and yellow flowers. It almost doesn't look real because it is so perfectly landscaped.

Volterra is atop a hill and is more medieval than Renaissance. The city is famous for its alabaster production and you can find many artisan workshops sculpting replicas well known works of art throughout the town. We walked along the city's medieval walls for a view of the Roman Theatre built in the 1st century B.C. Surrounding the theatre are the remains of buildings, roads, and baths. These are some of the best Roman ruins that I have seen in Tuscany.

From there we walked to the Piazza dei Priori or main public square. There was an outdoor market the day we visited with stands featuring all the local goods from different regions of Italy. We each had a piece of black licorice from Calabria that was amazing.

We had lunch at the Osteria dei Poeti on Via Matteoti. It is a cozy informal, family style restaurant that seems to have maintained its authenticity even though it is on a touristy street. I had a slightly different version of Ribollita - the Zuppa di Volterra (soup of Volterra). It is a thick minestrone with beans and potatoes and a piece of bread placed inside the middle with olive oil drizzled on top. My son was more adventuresome and had the mussel soup which he completely devoured.

Our final stop was the Guarnacci Etruscan museum. The museum boasts floors of Etruscan artifacts, most of them urns for the ashes of their dead. The museum is set up in chronological order and it is easy to see the artistic evolution of this empire. I will admit that my knowledge of the Etruscan people is very limited. I did not study them in school and the little I knew before visiting the museum was from a podcast we listened to in the car on the way there. None of the signs on the exhibits are written in English. It was particularly frustrating for my children that needed a little information to make the rooms of urns not feel redundant and stale. The most famous piece, the urn of the married couple, lives up to the hype though. It is unbelievably realistic and hard to believe it dates back to the 1st century B.C.

I would highly recommend a visit to Volterra if you have not already been. We will be going back to visit. It is strikingly beautiful and there are layers of history from the Etruscans, Romans, and Renaissance.

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