Monday, 30 April 2007


So this weekend we decided we would rent a car and head out of Florence. We managed to hunt down a plucky little diesel Fiat Punto and accommodation in Volterra so off we went!

I drove on the wrong side of the road once. Once was enough.

We decided to bypass the Autostrada in order to make our drive a little more scenic. This was a wise decision, as the countryside was spectacular, however the Autostrada did manage to lure us onto its wide roads a few times thanks to the Italian road signs which vary from merely vague to outright deceptive.

Along the way we passed through several nice little towns and fields of green and yellow. At last we're in Tuscany!

We may have posed for a few photos...

We stopped by San Gimignano on the way, which we initially thought would be our main destination, but the place was completely packed with tourists and we decided we would come back early the following day and beat the crowds (hah!).


When we arrived in Volterra we found our hotel in the historic centre near to one of the Etruscan gates to the city, the Porta all'Arco, which dates back to the 4th century BC and had been modified many times over thousands of years.

After dropping off our bags, our first stop was the Parco Archeologico which doesn't really have much in the way of ruins but is definitely a nice spot to relax and plan your day in Volterra. From the park you overlook the Fortezza Medicea, built in the 14th century but used as a prison for the last 150 years.

Here we have the 13th century Babtistry font and the ruins of a Roman Amphitheatre.
(Linda was very happy to read the ruins were excavated and restored by members of the local psychiatric hospital, whereas I was annoyed that it cost us 3 Euros each yet were only allowed to walk around the top of the amphitheatre.)

We also wandered out of town a little to the Balze where the limestone hillside had been eroding, naturally and through alabaster mining, for many hundreds of years leading to the loss of many houses, churches and, shortly, this 14th century monastery.
It is a spectacular site but you are prevented from getting too close to the edge (or taking decent photos) by an 8 foot fence. It was probably for the best as it did look quite unstable.
For the brave there is a camping site nearby.

The spot also offered a great view back at the town.

We also stopped by the Museo Guarnacci which contains a vast array of Etruscan burial urns carved out of the local alabaster. It is a little overwhelming to see so many urns, even if many were interesting (including the Sposa), but there was also some pre-historic relics that added a bit of variety. Navigating the audio guide provided some entertainment.
The big attraction of the Museo Guarnacci is the Ombra della Sera which, the guide assured us, was deliberately manufactured with a bit of a sway to its pose.

We then found a spot on the ancient walls of Volterra to watch the sun set. It was a great place to sit, watching the birds flying around the historic buildings under the red glow.

We may have taken some more photos.

After sunset we headed back into town for dinner at a Trattoria. The local specialty is game meats so I had pasta with a sauce containing wild boar, washed down with Acqua Minerale (Naturale) and Vino Rosso, before stumbling home.

In the morning we got up early to go to San Gimignano (stay tuned for this in my next post) and I had time to wander out and take some photos in the early morning sun.

1 comment:

seagro said...

Hi Mark and Linda, Love the Blog! Looks like its warm over there now too! You have some great pix - reminds me of when I was in Italy in December although was much colder then! :-)

Have fun!