Hotel Antica Badia
Pisana N.33, Volterra, 56048, Italy
More about Volterra
My friend with our Welsh dinner guests at Etruria
They actually look like snakes to me...
Shoppers on Market Day
Travel Tips for Volterra
No screens means insects visit
A word to the wise: many Italian windows are unscreened. This can come as a very unpleasant surprise in warm weather if you failed to pack insect repellent. Having done so, I did not investigate whether it was available in Italian pharmacies. Our rooms came equipped with fly strips and citronella candles, and that was insufficient.
This is the reason I went to Volterra, its justly famous Etruscan museum.
I was also intrigued, while there, with its unusual ceiling motifs.
The Guarnacci museum is one of the earliest public museums in Europe. Founded in 1761 when the noble abbot Mario Guarnacci (Volterra 1701-1785) , a collector of antiquities, donated his archeological collection to “the citizens of the city of Volterra”. The donation also included a rich library of more than 50.000 volumes. A far-sighted gesture, for Guarnacci not only prevented the dispersal of the treasured contents of the burial sites but also bequeathed a prestigious cultural heritage to Volterra.
Guarnacci, an erudite historian also published Le Origini Italiche, Lucca 1767 ;a controversial publication that generated vivacious criticism from historical circles.
Located just across the piazza from the cathedral is the cute looking baptistry. The baptistry is an octagonal building, which dates back to the 13th century, though its dome was added in the 16th century.
The façade above the door is decorated in lovely green and white marble. Inside, in the centre of the baptistry, is the baptismal font which dates back to 1760. Of greater historical interest though is the small, octagonal baptismal font in the corner, which depicts the baptising of Christ, and this was sculptured in 1502.
We found the baptistry a peaceful place for reflection and enjoyed checking out the two fonts.
They don't make them like they used to
Oh, yes they do. O.K. so maybe they use a few electrical tools but I can attest that the hand finishing is just that, done by hand.
The wonderful works of art being moulded in this cottage industry were a sight to behold.
As I am an advocate of wandering down alleyways and exploring, especially in historical cities, I feel coming across places like this make it all worthwhile.
If you are facing the museum just go to your left and head down the first alley and keep your eyes peeled on the left hand side.
There, the alabaster casts and statues will delight your eyes and, if you have enough money, you can even buy them. After all, that's what this "factory" is all about.
The name “alabaster” is undoubtedly Egyptian and probably derives from the city of Alabastron which was famous for the manufacture of vases and amphorae made as perfume containers.
There are two varieties of alabaster: the oriental alabaster ( calcium carbonate) and the chalky alabaster ( hydrated calcium sulphate).
This chalky alabaster, carved in Volterra and mostly mined in Castellina Marittima was formed during the Miocene period as the sediments of calcium sulphate contained in the sea water underwent a process of concentration. A soft white stone, alabaster is more easily carved than marble and thus ideal for intricate decoration and classical sculpture work.
In the name of art
The construction of the theatre began at the beginning of the 1st century B.C. when the wealthy Caecina family rendered homage to the reconciliation with Imperialism by dedicating the monument to Augustus.
Just below the medieval wall there is a large terrace with three arched niches and two stairways which served as the entrance to the annular shaped criptoporticus over which the highest part of the cavea spread.
The cavea served as a seating area for the audience. Nineteen rows of the central and lower cavea are still visible, albeit with grass covering some of the stone. The itenera scalaria,the steps leading to the seats, are in Montecatini stone, the same used to sculpture the heads adorning the Etruscan gate.
At the foot of the cavea lies the semicircular orchestra originally veneered in marble.
The two corridors paradoi led onto the stage where the actors performed. The scaenae frons was elaborately adorned with two tiers of Carrara marble columns with Corinthian capitals. A couple of these columns still stand.
Three doors opened onto the stage from the wings which served as a changing area (the one on the left is still visible) . The curtain was rolled up from below in an ingenious telescopic manner and was contained in the narrow canal just in front of the wooden stage.
Behind the theatre are the Roman Baths built in the 4th century A.D.when the theatre had probably been abandoned.
The vestibule, the cold frigidarium and hot baths tepidarium and calidarium are still visible. In the far right hand corner is the laconicum or sudatorium, a circular room which served as a sauna.
Hot air was passed from the furnace ipocaustum into the raised terracotta flooring, remnants of which are still visible in the sauna.
During the Medieval period the area was used as a rubbish tip hence the Roman theatre and baths were completely buried until excavations began in 1951 by the Volterran archeologist Enrico Fiumi .
I must apologize but I have no photos.