It is not difficult to understand why the City of Volterra has been an important settlement for almost 3,000 years. It occupies a strategic position on Italy’s central spine in Tuscany, at a latitude similar to the Isle of Elba. It also guards the mountain passes that connects Siena with roads leading to Livorno and Montevarchi, where backpackers tread the same path today.
Visiting Citta di Volterra Italy Historic City
Volterra Commands Attention, Always
When Neolithic hunter-gatherers settled in Volterra towards the end of the 8th Century BC, it provided a defensible position with fresh mountain water and abundant food. It was a major town in ancient Roman times and the seat of a Bishop from the 5th Century AD onwards. It fell to the Florentine Republic in the 12th Century. Only after that collapsed in 1530 did the exceptionally wealthy Medici family invest in it.
History is Everywhere
The ancient Tuscan city has more than its fair share of theatres, piazzas, museums, art galleries, cathedrals, castle ramparts, etruscan walls, medici villas and ancient tombs to allow you to spend a week in Tuscany. When I was there last summer a bunch of drama students from the local college were acting out Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in a 1st Century BC Roman auditorium. This brought the place to life a hundred times better than any tour guide ever did, for me at least.
But the Present Belongs to Me
But you know what: I am still a rebel at heart and I go where I wish to. You can keep your ancient history. I still remember that student actor’s voice ringing out, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.”
The charm in Volterra and all of Tuscany for me, is not in ancient relics. It is found in delightful boutique shops – and ristorantes down side streets where I discover lamb shanks simmered in last year’s country wine, and served with sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and a flourish the way that only Tuscans do.