Castello de Medici had prison already in the medieval times, it is where opponents to the de Medici family and their political power were confined. It was known as a very solid prison and almost impossible to escape from it. Since it served well as a prison in the medieval times it was good reference for being it even in the modern times of Italy. By the way, carcere is Italian expression for the prison.
The whole of Tuscany in one big and beautiful landscape, enchanting territory rich of colours and scences which living in our memory long after we left it. I spend few days in Chianti before getting to Siena, fascinated with the beauty of that hilly and docile area, but I was there before and knew what could expected there. What I saw around Volterra was far above all my expectations. Landscapes around Volterra have those kind of wild beaty which splashing right into the face.
In many places, I noticed that simple shrines had been created, often with a Madonna or some other saint, with a few flowers marking the respect of the creators for the Creator. Stopping at one on the narrow, winding roads close to Volterra was essentially taking our lives into our hands, but I wanted to get a closer look. And I'm sure it was a blessing.
The famous tourist magnet of San Gimignano is located 30 km east of Volterra and is therefore a great destination for a day trip while you are staying in the area.
San Gimignano is a town of towers - though only 14 of 72 remain these days. It is a fabulous sight when you catch a glimpse of it from a distance on your way there - looks like a mini city atop a cliff.
This is a very popular place, so best to arrive early if you want to get a parking spot anywhere near the main gate! We headed there first thing, got a great park, and managed to check out quite a bit of the town before the large tourist groups descended.
Highlights of our visit included climbing to the top of the tallest tower in town, located in the Palazzo Comunale, for amazing views; and sampling what is claimed to be some of the best gelato in Italy, whilst sitting in Piazza della Cisterna by the 13th century cistern in its centre.
For more information, check out my San Gimignano page.
Around the 8th century BC, Volterra became an important city of the new Etruscan civilization. At the time it was known as Velathri, bing one of the twelve major centres of Etruria, which was religious and political confederation of city-states. In fact, the archaeological evidence suggests that Volterra gradually became the dominant city of the confederation. Volterra was ruled by a Lucumo, who was both a military and a religious leader.
In the 4th century, however, Volterra became a confederate city in the expanding territory dominated by the Romans. During the period of Roman-Etruscan coexistence, many important monuments were erected in Volterra, including the buildings of the acropolis and the temple near the Roman amphitheatre.
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. Unlike Volterra which is silent and lonely, San Gimignana is bustling with energy, and captivating with it's many towers. Lovely shops and restaurants as well.
Volterra is what I would term a fringe town. It's not quite on the beaten path but some tourists are aware of the place and make their way to it.
Having missed out on two Etruscan displays, including Cortona's reportedly good museum (because I was lost again and arrived 10 minutes before they closed), I was determined to see at least one. I was not disappointed, Museo Guarnacci has much to recommend it, including multi-lingual audio guides, friendly staff and a display that lived up to its promise. With over 600 cinerary urns to choose from they can afford to show you the best and, even some in odd ways.
It was interesting to note that most were set patterns and so many are just recurring themes along Grecian lines. One of the most notable exceptions is pictured here, this being one of their famed exhibits.
An extraordinary tale surrounds their lift. "But they haven't got one", I hear you cry. That is true, the problem being that when they started excavating so they could put a lift in for the handicapped an ancient road and ruins were unearthed, a relatively common problem in Italy. Now they don't have a lift but an interesting sidelight that is covered in glass along with artifacts from the tomb of Guerriero, a general from the Bronze Age, also unearthed.
Porta Fiorentina is an Etruscan gataway restored in the 11th century and doing part of the medieval wall. You can see it walking toward the Roman Theatre.
Via Porta all'Arco is fantastic scenographic street that connect Piazza dei Priori with Porta all'Arco. In this street you can see many medieval houses.
In the terrace in front of the Porta dell'Arco you can have a wonderful view over the Tuscany countryside. Enjoy it.