These days the Medieval city of Volterra in Tuscany , Italy, is famous for two things. Etruscans and vampires. The latter thanks to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.
Perched on the Val di Cecina’s hills, Volterra is one of the most scenic walled Tuscan towns. It was a magical and atmospheric place even before Meyer’s Twilight saga put it on the map. Its impressive position is best appreciated arriving from Pisa, when you’ll see the ‘Balze’ – steep ravines that have been “eating” the town for centuries.
What to see in Volterra Tuscany
This town has a quietly evocative atmosphere. For some this comes from its Etruscan past, visible in the ancient Porta all’Arco and the Etruscan Museum Guarnacci, with its impressive collection of Etruscan funerary urns and the famous statuette “Ombra della Sera“.
For others it’s the Medieval feeling of its stone alleyways and closely-packed buildings, something that makes it the perfect setting for a vampire’s tale. The Piazza dei Priori is a magnificent example of a Medieval public space. And to add to its mysterious atmosphere, there’s the Rocca Nuova, a dominating Renaissance prison that’s still in use still today.
Easy to explore on foot, you’ll need a full day to appreciate all the sights of Volterra. The Cathedral with its rich late Renaissance interior is well worth a visit, and so is the Pinacoteca Art Gallery with a collection of Tuscan art that meanders through the 15th and 16th centuries. The absolute highlight being the surprisingly modern-looking “Deposition from the Cross” by Rosso Fiorentino.
There are green spaces too. The Park near the Fortress and the Roman Theatre, that has some of the best Roman ruins in the whole of Tuscany. Follow our itinerary to organise your perfect day trip.
The town of truffles, alabaster and vampires
Volterra is known for its alabaster workshops and white truffle festivals, one of the most important in Italy. In recent years, busloads of Twilight fans have descended on the town every year. Plot spoiler: The film wasn’t in fact shot here, but in Montepulciano.
Originally, Stephenie Meyer planned to have the Volturi live in Tuscany, in a fictional city called “Volturin”. She found out that a town named Volterra existed, with a clock tower like the one she had invented for her city. And that’s how vampires came to live in Tuscany, Italy.
Where is Volterra in Tuscany, Italy
Volterra is in the Val di Cecina between Florence, Pisa and Siena. (Firenze: 70 km; Siena: 47 km; Pisa: 63 km; S.Gimignano: 29 km). It takes an hour and a half to drive from Pisa or Siena, and a bit longer from Florence. The drive from Montespertoli to Volterra is particularly scenic.
Explore some original driving itineraries that include San Gimignano and the ‘Balze’ cliffs of Volterra.