I spent four days in Volterra, though a bit of that up in my room or an internet cafe doing work. Lets hope that all works out and I can sustain this fabulous life of mine! That timing wasn’t an accident. I knew the work was coming in, and I knew Volterra was a town I wanted to visit that doesn’t take long to see the sights, that has an affordable hostel, but is hard to access.
So I won’t lie, one of the things that brought me here was the part this city plays in the Twilight books. When reading the books I assumed Volterra was a made up town. It sure sounds like a made up town where ancient Italian vampires would live. But when reading my trusty Rick Steves, I saw it listed as his favorite “Tuscan Hill Town”. I had given myself some time to explore the little Tuscan towns, so naturally I was going to stop here.
I was staying just outside the walled center, about a 15 minute walk. The area was once where all of Italy sent their crazy people. Eventually the Mayor said enough is enough and sent them all to their own towns. There were monks and nuns taking care of the crazy people, but they went elsewhere since they were no longer needed. My hostel was the monastery. It is actually very beautiful.
The city of Volterra itself, which means city of wind and rock, was once very important in the Etruscan Era. It was a key city in the Etruscan Dodecapolis (12 city league). The original city wall was much bigger then than it is today. There is still a standing door from that time, Porta all’Arco, dating from the 4th century BC. At some point the Romans came and concord and built some Roman things. There are ruins of a very distinctly Roman theater. After Florence took the city in 1472, they built the Madaci Fortress, which today is used as a maximum security prison.
The town itself is so small that even with it’s winding streets, I learned my way quickly. On my way in from Siena I made friends with an couple from Virginia. They were just staying the night, but we made friends for the long bus ride into town. I ran into them one night when we picked the same restaurant for dinner, they had extended their stay. Then another time at the grocery store, they had extended again. She was a huge Twilight fan, so it was fun to geek out about that.
I ate very well in Volterra. Best was that restaurant I mentioned above, Don Beta. They have course meals. So for 12 euro I had bruschetta, gnocchi, and beans. Those who know my eating habits know I’m not the biggest bean fan, but these were really good. There was a pizzeria I went to twice. Once I had a delicious slice with arugula all over it. The second time the pizza I picked was really different. The guy had no patience to explain how it was made, except that he uses chick pea flour. The pizza is just the dough, no toppings, and it tastes like potato. So delicious! There is also zuppa di volterra, which is a vegetable soup. I could have eaten this every day. It is really thick, there is no broth used, just yummy veggies.
And now I’m on the road again, reversing my way back North. I’m even stopping in Cinque Terra again because I liked it so much and I want more beach time. I was going to stop in Elba, but it is actually pretty big and it seems like you need a car or motorbike to get around there. After that, Zurich, then Octoberfest!
[Edit] Link to Volterra Photos: