Monday, 16 December 2013

The Etruscan hill town of Volterra

For me, the most exciting part of Volterra was getting there.  From San Gimignano, it was a windy zigzag road that made me wish I was driving a BMW.  But both my passengers were asleep and I was able to enjoy the sporty road without them gasping at every turn.  It was quite fun so that by the time we got to Volterra at the top of the hill, it was almost anti-climactical.  

It was mid-afternoon and threatening rain so there were no huge crowds.  We didn't have time to visit all the places in the guide book and had to make strategic choices, dampened further by a thunderstorm which brought torrential rain.  The cathedral was more appreciated for its shelter than its content.  We definitely would have appreciated this important Etruscan town a lot more had we devoted a day to it instead of tagging it at the tail end of a visit to San Gimignano.

But the Etruscan Museum did stand out for its unusual collection of hundreds of funerary urns, which though not as aesthetically pleasing as its collection of Etruscan gold jewelry and sculptures, was quite unique.

One of several ancient city gates in Volterra

The Palazzo dei Priori, built in the 13th century, is the oldest municipal building in Tuscany

The Duomo that sheltered us during the storm

Inside the cathedral with its green and white marble - built in the 13th century after the original was destroyed by an earthquake in the 12th century

The octagonal 13th century Baptistery of San Giovanni across the courtyard was originally a Roman temple dedicated to Sun worship

I like the relaxed pose of this John the Baptist sculpture on the baptismal font - by Giovanni Antonio Cybei

The streets of Volterra

Alabaster is the local stone - beautiful creations in shops throughout the town, including an alabaster museum which I would have liked to visit 

Inside the Museo Guarnacci - the Etruscan Museum

"Urna degli sposi" This is the most unusual of all the urns in the whole museum - the only one with a couple depicted.  The couple was presented as attending a banquet, apparently a social function that Etruscan women were allowed to participate in., while the Romans and Greeks found this egalitarianism unsavoury.  For more on this museum...
Exquisite gold jewelry from etruscan tombs

"Ombra della sera" (Shadow of the evening) - a key piece in the museum,  reminds one of modern art with the deliberate elongation of the body

I love these elegant figurines

The 13th century etruscan wall

The Roman amphitheatre 

View of the surrounding countryside

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