All fans of the Twilight saga, the famous tale of vampires from Stephenie Meyer’s novel, are eagerly and impatiently awaiting for the release of Breaking Dawn, at cinemas this upcoming November 16.
That’s why I’ve decided to start my list of Tuscany’s most beautiful hill top towns, telling you about the splendid Etruscan city of Volterra, in the province of Pisa.
Volterra was one of those beautiful yet lesser known hill top towns of Tuscany, that has recently received much more attention, being the suggestive location where a part of the popular Twilight story is set, the one corresponding to the film New Moon.
Actually, the movie New Moon was shot in Montepulciano, another extraordinary Tuscan village, but Volterra remains the true setting of the novel, with a consequent increase in the number of tourists.
Volterra, magically surrounded by imposing medieval rampart walls, stands in perfect isolation atop a hill, right between two valleys of rare beauty. The town boasts a dominant position, made incredibly suggestive also thanks to the wonderful eroded cliffs or balze upon which the village rises.
Located within easy reach of major Tuscan towns, like Florence, Siena, and Pisa, its fantastic isolation really contributes to the timeless feel of its charming historical center.
Visiting Volterra is indeed rather like undertaking a journey through centuries, from Etruscan to Roman times, up to Medieval and Renaissance periods.
The two wonderful gates of the city, Porta del’Arco and Porta Diana, are Etruscan and date back to the 3rd century BC. Coming on to Roman times, you will have the unique pleasure to admire the ruins of the wonderful Roman Anphitheatre, really an unforgettable sight, especially if you admire the view over the theater up from the city’s walls!
This medieval village is extremely intriguing; strolling through its narrow alleys, its steep staircases, while being surrounded by ancient stone walls, towers, and palaces, is a real delight! The panorama one enjoys from Volterra is incredibly vast and extraordinary, with splendid views over wonderful open countryside, rolling hills, and woodlands.
You should absolutely visit the Guarnacci Museum, one of the most important museums dedicated to rare Etruscan finds. Amongst the many interesting pieces, the beautiful and absolutely unique Ombra della Sera (Shadow of the Night), a little statue in bronze, reproducing the tall and slender shadow of a man; I love it! I’ve got a reproduction of it at home 🙂
The main square of the town, Piazza dei Priori, is considered amongst the most beautiful squares of all Italy. Splendid medieval buildings surround the piazza together with the Palazzo dei Priori, the city’s town hall, that immediately capture all attentions.
From the square a short walk will take you to the Museo Civico and Pinacoteca, the city’s art gallery, displaying prestigious paintings, such as the Christ in Glory of Ghirlandaio, the Annunciation by Luca Signorelli, and the Descent from the Cross by Rosso Fiorentino.
South of Piazza dei Priori, you’ll find yourself immersed in a real paradise, the Parco Archeologico, a vast green park overlooked by the magnificent Rocca or Mastio (today a prison), with thick bastions and walls built by the Medici family. The park is all green; it’s perfect to relax lying on the grass under a secular tree.
While walking through the charming streets of the city center, you’ll notice many lovely alabaster workshops; Volterra is renowned for its great alabaster production; you can hence indulge in some good and original shopping.
Finally a note on the exquisite local cuisine of Volterra, where you can taste a lot of delicious local dishes and savory recipes: wild boar and all types of wild game, zuppa volterrana (a soup), pappardelle alle lepre (pasta with hare sauce), pappardelle al cinghiale (pasta with wild boar sauce) and many other specialties.