During our vacation in Italy, one of our driving goals is to get some time to relax and not hurry from location to location in an effort to get as much viewed as possible. Rather, spending some quality time in a smaller number of locations, which gives us a better feel for what these places are really like (and were like). As we’re focusing on hill towns in Tuscany, that means we have to make some decisions about which ones we want to visit; one of these choices was between San Gimignano and Volterra, both of which are well known towns.
Volterra became our first choice, as it is eminently walkable in relaxed fashion and has a great variety of points of interest. We parked in the free lot (#3), which does require a considerable number of steps to be ascended in order to get into town. In town, there are lots of quaint little streets, each with their own character and occasional vehicular traffic (locals only!).
The Basilica on the main square is beautiful in its construction of alternating rows of black and white marble, and impressive to see form the inside. It’s located next to the town hall, which is a rather lively piazza with lots of places to have an espresso or shop for alabaster ware.
After a delicious meal at Torre del Porcellino (I enjoyed my wild boar!), we sauntered over to visit the Etruscan excavation, which is an active archaeological site. Pay to enter and you also will get access to the Roman amphitheater at the other side of town. The excavation is of a site with several temples and surrounding houses, and also includes a descent (8 m) into a cistern from Roman times.
The Roman amphitheater is also very impressive, as it leans back against the old town walls and well worth the visit.
The atmosphere in Volterra was very relaxed and provided lots of great shopping for leather and alabaster carvings. The gelato at Isola del Gusto was fantastic!