The tournament which was going on while we visited Volterra derives from Medieval customs, and so it is not surprising to find that shops cater to both that segment and the Etruscan-worshippers. If I recall correctly (and I did take a break for about ten months in writing up these tips, while life got in the way), this schizophrenic shop managed to meet both needs in a single space. A large suit of armor greets the customer at the door, and inside there are all sorts of Medieval weapons...but also a lot of facsimile bronzes that are clearly Etruscan-influenced, and for which one would pay a pretty penny.
I ultimately did not purchase anything here, but if you have a small boy at home -- or a big guy who likes weaponry, or anyone who enjoys art -- this might be a good place for you to stop and shop.
The city website has this to say about the place: Montagnani has been creating bronze statuettes (reproductions of Etruscan art, including the famous “Shadow of the Evening”) with meticulous hand-finished details and naturalistic patina since 1978. The principal characteristic of this production lies in the use of this prized metal, which was also used by the Etruscans, while other similar products are usually made out of less expensive alloys (such as brass, zinc and aluminium or antimony) and are mass-produced. In order to distinguish and recognize the quality of these objects the “Guaranteed Bronze” seal has been created, which appears on all of his statuettes and on the lifetime guarantee that accompanies them.
Although there IS jewelry at Vitrium, for the most part it is glass mosaic-based. The shop is full of beautiful glass mosaics used as borders for mirrors, as tops for tables, as lighting fixtures, and so forth. The stylish options are many if you have the space and sufficient funds.
It is a fun shop to browse, and the creator is on-site so you can watch her at work.
What to pay: The mirror in the photograph is 400 euros.
Many of Volterra's alabaster shops contain carved and colored replicas of fruit, and a few even have carved replicas of nuts. Oasi's, though, takes verisimilitude several steps farther, creating completely life-like versions of eggs, lollipops, chocolates, and fancy cookies. They certainly look good enough to eat, but what a shock you'd receive if you bit into one...especially if you thought you were sneaking it!
I really struggled about whether to buy some of these, but I did worry about broken teeth, and then there was the matter of cost. Not surprisingly, these doppelgangers were quite expensive -- say five euros a cookie -- which means I would have to shell out a lot of money just to have a few samples around to tempt people. But it really was fun to see the variety of food items recreated at this shop, so be sure to stop even if, like me, you ultimately reconsider whether to purchase something.
I was so enthralled that I didn't get any photos, but if you check out Sue Stone's page, you can see some of hers. Or just go your local bakery or confectionary, and you'll have a good notion of what they sell here!
Ceramics are generally associated with other small Italian hill towns (Orvieto, for example, is a major ceramic powerhouse), but that isn't to say Volterra has nothing of which to boast. I was especially taken by the use of the indigenous poppies and cornflowers in a set displayed in this shop, though it was far from the only choice.
There are many, many options for a shopper wishing to bring back alabaster souvenirs, but I thought you might like my recommendation for a place with reasonable prices and good selection -- the kinds of things you might want to bring back for the neighbor who watched your cat, or for your secretary or your grandmother. For myself, this was the shop where I decided on the types of alabaster fruit I'd have in a basket. (And this portion of the tip is to be read only by assertive women: I also found beautifully carved walnuts. I bought a pair to put on top of my desk, to remind me that I'm the boss because, well...)
Scali has three locations in Volterra, with slightly different arrays of merchandise, so pick the one closest to your lodgings so you won't be over-burdened carrying everything back. (They do ship, of course.)
I didn't buy anything at this shop -- it was way out of my price range. But there were some samples of Gloria Giannelli's work on display in a window on Via Guarnacci, including an exquisite perforated ivy-leaf platter. I had to see more, and so we ran down to Via Don Minzoni to see the studio. In addition to the plates and bowls using the ivy pattern, there were a number of very modern pieces, some in colored alabaster. Definitely worth a look.
Volterra is chock-full of alabaster shops. After you've gone to two or three of them, you've seen all the various bits of fruit, a variety of boxes, candlesticks, vases, light fixtures...I'll be honest, you get to the point where it takes something really special to make you sit up and take notice. Luckily, there are several alabaster shops that did have a unique product or two, and I've tried to write about each of these as well as giving you a recommendation for a "regular old shop" for the mass-produced souvenirs you may want to get in quantity.
The reason I was particularly taken by Gazzina Valdo is that the color palate was classical, using black, white, and gold, and designs were incised on the pieces which I liked very much. Even the smallest pieces were carefully crafted.
If alabaster doesn't move you, the shop also had some lovely pottery and jewelry, and an interesting collection of mirrors.
What to buy: I loved this little chrysanthemum-motif box, which ran about fifteen euros.
We stumbled onto this intriguing shop while hiking up from the Porta all'Arco. I am a great fancier of paper products -- I always look for unusual cards, and I love to buy local wrapping paper so that my gifts really look like they've come from abroad rather than from 10,000 Villages. This was a GREAT paper shop. The paper is made in the rear of the store -- lovely things -- and then used in creating unique items. Want an album for your photographs of Tuscany? There are three sizes, all in the palette of Tuscan colors and with those Tuscan trees perched on hillsides against the sky. They started at 35 euros, though, too dear for me. There were also smaller versions (note pad covers and the like), quite enchanting.
What to buy: What I liked best were the variety of hand-made cards, fashioned like pop-up books, of architectural sights from Volterra, Siena, Pisa and San Gimingnano. These were expensive (6 euros each) but they make excellent souvenirs.
Volterra is the home of alabaster, a chalky white stone which is mined nearby. The town is famous as having the finest alabaster in the world, and it is still hand carved here, as it has been for many years.
So, how could we leave Volterra without buying some alabaster? We couldn't, so we stopped by a large shop called Oasis to check it out.
Oasis is located on one of the main shopping streets in Volterra. It is filled with amazingly carved objects, all made from alabaster, many of which seemed to be related to food. There were carved biscuits, fried eggs, cakes and some excellent looking ice creams.
What to buy: The thing that really caught Alex's eye though was the raw eggs! They have the top of the shell removed and really look like the real deal. Now I've just got to make sure we don't try to boil it by mistake ; )
What to pay: Not as much as you would expect
The alabaster is the most important rock of the town of Volterra. With this rock was made the Etruscan urn (you can see many of the in Museo Guarnacci).
Rossi's family has got a very old tradiotion in the work of this rock. In them shops you can find very interesting objects!