Nothing gives you an appetite like climbing up and down the steep hills which comprise Volterra's central core. (Once you're up, it is possible to stay on relatively level ground, but you miss a lot of interesting shops.) When we were ready for lunch on a sweltering June afternoon, we decided to go no further than Bar Priori, which had a lovely area under canvas in the Piazza dei Priori, from which it was possible to obtain refreshment while enjoying the passing spectacle of Volterran street life. The menu wasn't vast, and it took a bit for a waitress (they seem to be attached to the hole-in-the-wall which contains a soda fountain, bakery counter, and kitchen) to notice that we'd seated ourselves.
But in due course, we received a massive salad with wonderfully fresh ingredients, and a couple of panini. The former was cold and crisp, the latter both piping hot, and the carafe of wine and bottles of water were just what we needed to recharge our batteries so that we could buy and cart back to the villa all the alabaster our little hearts desired.
It's true that it took awhile for us to get a bill, and eventually I had to pay it inside. I've read some other reviews that had difficulties at this place, and speculated that it was because they were tourists. Perhaps, but it simply looked to me like the set-up wasn't an easy one for the waitstaff, who were obviously trying to handle clientele in two environments.
For the money, and given our appetite by the time we got to Bar Priori, it was acceptable -- and even, for me, a nice introduction to Italian panini.
Apologies for the photo -- it's what you see when you're lunching outside, but I can't figure out how to rotate it so that you can view it properly. Just turn your head ninety degrees to the left (okay, I'm kidding).
Although it's lovely to be atop the hill looking down on the rolling hills and valleys of Tuscany, a good case can be made for finding a restaurant amidst those hills and valleys from which one can look backward to see the glories of Volterra against a setting sun or rising moon. We hadn't gone with that particular purpose in mind, but since it presented itself...why not count it a blessing of this somewhat humble but definitely well-equipped spot just a few miles outside the walls?
Our guidebooks had suggested the Osteria, and Luciana, our landlady, had enthusiastically endorsed it. It was formerly called the "San Lorenzo" but has been operated by the Franchi family since 2003, with a new name. They have attempted to make it a typical Tuscan restaurant. As the evening was a pleasant one, we chose to sit outside on the large patio. (The interior is much more intimate, with a large fireplace -- unlit at this time of the year -- and a pleasant bar.)
Service was prompt and courteous. There were a number of specials, many featuring truffles -- if you can imagine it, even our DESSERT contained truffles!
The Osteria is also a B&B, so if your meal happens to involve too heavy a dependence upon the fruit of the vine, you can ask about overnight accommodation.
Favorite Dish: I had a delicious risotto with many different sorts of local mushrooms, and my colleague had a superb filet with truffles. Both of those were on the more upscale side; people at adjacent tables seemed to enjoy the wood-fired pizzas, which certainly looked and smelled wonderful.
My first meal in Italy was served some six hours after the plane touched down at Firenze's miniature airport after my overnight flight from Boston via Frankfurt. So I was very tired, even more so after a brief shopping expedition around Santa Croce and the meandering drive to Volterra. I would have been perfectly happy to shower and crawl into bed, but my hostess insisted that the jet lag would yield quickly if I got myself onto local time by enjoying a typical Italian dinner. So, shortly after nine o'clock, I found myself sitting (listlessly, I'll admit) in what reminded me vaguely of a wine cellar, studying a menu that was all but incomprehensible despite my experience on Providence's Italian Federal Hill. I knew "lasagna" and "ravioli" though, and so I ordered those and dutifully drank up several glasses of well-watered local wine while waiting for them to be prepared. I really didn't think I was hungry, but when the lasagna was set before me, covered in bubbling cheese and rich Bechamel, I tasted divinity and was nearly churlish about sharing any of it with my dining companion! But she shared her truffle ravioli, which was equally delicious.
Favorite Dish: We had other things that night, too. A salad, I think, and probably some kind of spinach or other greens, but that exquisite lasagna sticks in my memory just as it stuck to my ribs. And my friend was right...after ten hours' sleep, I was feeling myself again and extremely glad I'd arrived in Tuscany!
On our first evening in Volterra we found ourselves in the region of Piazza dei Priori around dinner time and decided to stop at Ristorante Etruria for a meal. One of the main reasons we chose it was that it had tables on the square, and as it was such a mild autumn evening it seemed a shame to dine inside. Also, one of the girls at our hotel had recommended it.
It didn't turn out to be the greatest experience unfortunately. Service was a bit rude and unhelpful, and the atmosphere wasn't as relaxed as we had hoped. It was also a bit smoky at times. The food was quite good though
Favorite Dish: To eat, Alex started with some Black Pasta with Truffle - it looked and tasted good. For some reason they bought out my main course at the same time as Alex's starter....when I explained the mistake they wouldn't try to understand, so I gave up and ate slowly - luckily my Beef with Rosemary was tasty and a big serve, so I was still eating it when Alex's main course of Wild Boar with Olives arrived.
Our first wine choice wasn't available, but the Chianti Classico we ended up with was ok, and went well with our meals.
The bill came to 61 euro, including service.
L'Incontro is a restaurant/bar/gelateria located on one of the main pedestrian streets in Volterra. It is particularly popular on Friday & Saturday nights with locals enjoying a meal or drink. In fact, the whole street was filled with promenading locals when we were there on a Friday night.
Favorite Dish: We were tempted into L'Incontro by its mouth-watering display of gelato in the front counter. Seeing as we had just eaten dinner elsewhere, we were in the market for a sweet treat to round off the day and this looked like just the place to buy it.
There was a decent selection of the usual flavours. I had Hazelnut and Pistachio, while Alex had Chocolate and Coffee flavours. It was good - nice and creamy and flavoursome. The perfect end to an another amazing day in Italy.
It is not always easy to find somewhere to have a late lunch when you are in Italy, so we were a little concerned about what we would find in Volterra, as we felt like having a decent meal, not just a panini. Well, we were in luck - La Mangiatoia was open all afternoon, and better still, there was a vacant table on the terrace with our name on it.
La Mangiatoia is a Pizza & kebab restaurant and takeaway located on one of Volterra's pedestrian/shopping streets. It has some outside dining in the middle of the street, and some cosier tables inside. It has a relaxed atmosphere and the food is cheap and honest.
Favorite Dish: Alex and I both had a pizza. I had pizza with Parma Ham & Rocket, whilst Alex had Parma Ham & Mushroom. It was the only pizza we ate during our 9 day trip and I was a little disappointed by it. Oh well, perhaps I just ordered the wrong thing. At least the house red wine we had was good (and very cheap!) and the atmosphere was nice and relaxing.
The bill came to 19.55 euro - bargain!
Located in a prime position on Volterra's main square, Piazza dei Priori, is Bar Priori. This busy bar/café is the perfect place to stop off for a coffee or aperitif during a visit to Volterra.
If the weather is favourable, Bar Priori is a great place for people watching. Grab a table on the square and relax. They will come and take your order, though it may take a while. Alternatively, you can knock back a quick espresso inside at the counter if you prefer.
Favorite Dish: We stopped off one afternoon and sat at one of the table in the square. I ordered an espresso and Alex had a milkshake, the latter they seemed to specialise in as there was a separate milkshake menu! Both were pretty good.
While we sat, we enjoyed music played by a nearby busker, and also got to watch a passing parade without leaving out seats.
It is not strictly true to claim Il Giardinetto makes the best pizza in town (I didn't try it elsewhere); indeed, it is probably inaccurate to select "pizza" as its theme (there was a lot of other stuff on the menu). But our pizza there was absolutely splendid, a vast improvement over virtually all of the contenders from elite United States pizza emporia, so I'm going to toot their horn a little.
We tried three different pies. One had a selection of local mushrooms and probably a dusting of truffles. One had various meats, including cinghale (wild boar). The third was a pretty pastiche of vegetables of different colors and textures, each residing on a quadrant of the tie. All washed down with lashings of crisp, cool white wine, a mercy on a very hot day.
There is an indoor dining area, but we sat outside in the piazza under tents on a wooden-floored structure, which was very pleasant indeed.
Favorite Dish: My friend was most fond of the truffled pizza. I liked bits of both meat and veg (especially the eggplant), but would have been very hard pressed to select just ONE favorite.
Frommer's gave Etruria three stars; some of the other guides claimed there was nothing worth eating within the walls. We'd met a charming Welsh couple at the villa, and thought it would be fun to go out for a festive meal. It turned out we'd chosen very well, as the Piazza dei Priori was jammed with representatives of all the local hill towns, there to compete in the Astiludi, an annual competition for sbandieratori (flag-throwers) -- although some of the older contingents also included various musicians. So as we drank our Prosecco and meandered our way through Etruria's extensive menu, we were royally entertained.
The main dining areas are inside, and apparently are quite ancient. Given the balmy evening and the riveting scene in the piazza, we opted to dine outside under the "tent", which had a lot of potted hedges and other greenery to demarcate the transition from public to private space.
Favorite Dish: Candidly, the only disappointment was the baby artichokes. Everything else was terrific, and the service was prompt and courteous. One of us had a seafood ravioli which she pronounced celestial. My pal the truffle-lover was thrilled to get a double- or treble-helping with her main course. All of us ordered desserts -- a decadent chocolate souffle for me.
And the nicest thing as we were preparing to leave: our server presented us with a bottle of wine and asked us to enjoy it together. We promptly suited action to words. Such a relatively inexpensive way to build a loyal clientele!
We hadn't planned to dine at this particular restaurant -- there was one a little further down the street with a jaunty boar's head (wearing sunglasses) which practically invited us in, but as it was closed, we took a look at the menu offerings and decided it was time to try some rabbit, wild boar (cinghale) sausage, and lardon, which is almost exclusively fat but so delicious on the salt-free Tuscan bread! It was pleasant to dine al fresco, the service was adequate, the wine flowed freely, and all was right with the world.
Open Tuesday-Sunday from noon to 3:00 PM and 7:00 - 10:00 PM.
I neglected to photograph the restaurant, so I'll have to show you a picture of that boar's head!
Favorite Dish: I have to admit that I was hooked after one taste of lardon. Thank goodness it isn't readily available where I live...
I have lived in Italy for almost 4 years, and I can honestly tell you that this is one of my top 5 restaurants in all Italy. Known for slow food, a Tuscan menu, that is moderately priced, and popular enough with the locals that I suggest reservations. If you are in Volterra, this is NOT TO BE MISSED.
The appetizer plates, feature all types of wild game, and cheeses. They feature good, robust, wines that are affordable. If you find one you like, you can buy an extra bottle to take out with you.
Favorite Dish: I had a wild boar ragu with mushrooms that was to die for. There is another specialty they make, a chicken with saffron sauce. They are very inventive with their dishes, but remain in a Tuscan cuisine.
This is definitely where you don't want to be in a hurry. This is a place to slow down and savor every bite. I dream of going back, but I live on the other side of Italy.
I have read many reviews of this restaurant, and the biggest negative statements come from people who are in a hurry. This is not a time to be eating within 30 minutes.
I love osterias, much more then classical restaurants. In the whole area of Mediterranean osteria is another word for for the fresh and good food. Besides, it is usually cheaper then restaurant food but not always. Certain osterias are widely known for excellent food and it usually cost.
This one is simple osteria at the edge of the old city core of Volterra but has exceptional terrace.
Favorite Dish: The daily meny at the tablet was offering beans and sausages, which in my country is an traditional winter seasonal dish but still I couldn't resist not to taste it, even it was summer. I can oly recommend it to all those who will pass by, it was delicious and cost cheap. I took quarter of local wine for drink and plus espresso at the end all cost me less then 15 euros.
I don't remember the name of the place I eat the Fiorentina, but it's not hard to find it in the restaurant....Be carefull cause the local people are used to eat a kilo steak alone alway in a rare/rare cooking way...somone puts onlu lemon on for half a day to cook the meat only with the citric acid.
It's better for me on the barbeque, midium rare and not more than a kilo for two person.
Our host recommended this restaurant so we gave it a try. We only had one night in Volterra so I can't compare to other restaurants. And to be honest, it has been a few years since this trip (it was 2004!) so I don't even remember exactly what we had! But I do remember that I enjoyed it very much. I recenty ran across the receipt for our dinner in a box full of travel maps & mementos. I had meant to write the review much sooner! Anyway, I'm sure I had either a chicken or veal dish. We had antipasti, primi piatti and the meat dish with a bottle of house wine which was very good. All for 50 Euro. Not bad. What I remember most about the place was the atmosphere, which was lovely. Lots of stone and ceramic tile; Vaulted ceilings, columns.... Lovely! And I do recall that the service was spot on. Leisurely & unhurried, but we didn't have too long pauses between service. If the place is still there, don't hesitate to give it a try!
After reading a possitive review tried this restaurant. After over 15 minutes of waving to get attention of 1 of the 3 waiters and hardly any tables occupied, we left for the neighbours. So try this place only if you have a lot of spare time!
Favorite Dish: None to be had