Volterra is perched high on a sheer, rocky plateau, proudly overlooking the lovely Tuscan landscape below. It is an ancient centre, famous for its Etruscan and Roman past, and filled with museums offering a glimpse of days gone by. The town is also famous for its alabaster, which is mined nearby.
It is located 30km west of San Gimignano and makes an easy day trip. We really enjoyed our visit to Volterra. It was less 'touristy' than San Gimignano, and just had a peaceful feel about it. A great place to relax and watch that beautiful Tuscan sunset.
For more information, check out my Volterra page.
The pitoresque Colle Val d'Elsa is situated just a few kilometres before San Gimignano. The fortifications of the town are considered a mille-stone in the development of the Medicean fortified architecture.
The Volterra Gate, called also Porta Nuova, is a small fortress itself. The gate was erected in 1479 by the greatest military architect of the time, Francione and his student Guliano da Sangallo, who later became the favourite arghitect of the Medici.
Well the place was awesomely beautiful after driving 2 hours to find it. There is a commercial hot springs spa but next to it in the woods are the natural hot springs. OK, the previous week there had been a pretty big earthquake in southern Italy and we think maybe the water was diverted because you could see where it had been and where it was. Anyhow, the day was cold and windy and the hot springs looked awesome. lol, the water was lukewarm at best, we stayed in not for more then a few. But it was an adventure anyway.
The countryside surrounding San Gimignano is very beautiful. At the turn of each curve on the road you might be surprised at the breathtaking landscape that meets you.
The landscape varies between plains and slight hills, abandoned houses or active farms, isolated trees or groups of trees on the slopes, and you will surely come across vineyards and the wine routes.
If visiting San Gimignano by car, reserve some time to drive around and enjoy the landscape.
Siena is situated about 40km from San Gimignano. It is a very nice city with an outstanding Cathedral. One of the main attractions – the Campo Grande – is a huge round square where lots of people gather around. The architecture of the city is quite interesting and also its “typical” brownish colour. We spent a wonderful time in Siena and I’d recommend everyone to visit this laid back city.
Santa Lucia is beautiful medieval monastery complex situated in the close vicinity of San Grimignano. It is one of the best position for taking a panoramic picture of entire village with all its towers. There is a local road to Santa Lucia immediate from the main parking place outside the village.
Volterra is not very far from San Gimignana and it is easy to see both in one day. About 45 minutes by car on lovely winding country roads. These two cities are very different in character, so the contrast is interesting. Volterra is a mountain fortress town that has a stern dominating beauty. There is a somber feeling to this town, but not unhappy or negative, just serious. Unlike San Gimignana which is bustling with energy, Volterra is silent and lonely, but beautiful just the same. The architecture is imposing the way it was intended to be.
There is no really of the beaten path here. The town is so little. PLease take your time to walk around. A few hundreds of secret corners are waiting for you. Little dark arches , tiny streets and alleys. Don't stay in the tourist street. You can also take the walk round the city walls...almost 7 kilometers.
Don't go with one of those busses that put you of for an houre...
San Gimignano is located in the beautiful region of Tuscany. This part of Italy combines wonderful hilly landscapes with picturesque historic villages, often located on some idyllic hilltop.Of course some Tuscany also has some delicious food and wine to offer. No wonder that this region is so popular. And that is actually its main disadvantages. The region is not 'unspoiled' anymore and during high season it can be very busy. But having said that, it is and will be a lovely spot to visit.
Here are some places I've visited over the years in Tuscany and might give you some suggestions for yourself when visiting this part of Italy:
Borgo a Mozzano
You can read more about all these places on my Tuscany page
Late fall afternoon in Tuscany near the town of San Gimignano. We were five in our party, in that little Fiat. The sun had set as we rounded and rounded upwardly winding - when flames shot out into the new gray starless sky transformed into red black gold flame and smoke as white as an old mans beard. The farmers were burning a field … preparing it for the coming season. We wandered out of the car and among the fire. The farmers paid little mind as one of us began taking pictures of the fire and the shadows of workers in the smoke. That night we drank the local wine fresh from the fiasco. Each time I taste this wine I smell the smoke on the hillside and see my friends dancing in the firelight.
a shot taken from the top over the hill.
Roofs in S. Gimignano.
A clear proof of what I was saying when I was writing about the unique sceneries you may find in Tuscany. This is not the best place in Tuscany, all this country is beautiful like here, believe me!
Not for the faint of heart, the museo della Tortura, or torture museum (located just over the top of the hill centre) was quite an eye-opener.
Filled with bona-fide implements of torture applied through history, the Inquisition has contributed a lot to this place!
Things like the 5-pronged skull-popper really stick out in my memory.
Admission 8€ adults, 5.50€ students
There are many places outside of the city walls that rent bicycles. It is possible to ride around the wall of the city and, of course, the countryside.
One word of warning: it can be pretty strenuous going up the Tuscan hills!!
Time to relax...
Playing piano above the town with nice view to the bustling streets must be nice.
If there's anyone interested in this man's music - I've got a short video of him on my PC.
Photo taken by our guide.
I got bit tired when other people went to Florence with one car and thought to made something special. Therefore, I rented a scooter. It is a great fun and gives you a great possibility to see the places in close vicinity. For renting a scooter, check out the Bruno Benutti agency, in Via Roma, close to the traffic circle at the southside of the city. The price for 50 ccm scooter was 31 ?/day. For 100 ccm scooter, 51 ?/day with which you can drive two people.