Volterra – the City of Alabaster

Volterra - the City of AlabasterVolterra is found on the upper course of the River Era, on the corner of the regions of Florence, Siena and Pisa. It is an ancient village which has always been synonymous with albaster.

Volterra is a colourful town, which has maintained most of its medieval heritage. The Palazzo comunale is the oldest Town Hall in Tuscany, in continuous use since the 13th century! The square where the Town Hall is edged with buildings from the same period, though some buildings bear the marks of alternations done during the intervening centuries. The Cathedral, a gem of Romanesque architecture, is even older dating back to the 10th century.

It only takes a short stroll to see all the wonders of Volterra, from the quaint local streets (cars are banned from most of these) to the huge palaces. The walls, 13th Century towers and roads are made of a soft ochre-coloured local stone that gives a uniformity to this charming town.

From the streets you can see the small workshops of the alabaster craftsmen, who display their handicrafts outside their shops.

The milky white alabaster* of this region comes from the nearby caves at Castellina Marittima and is quite unique for its purity and its workability.

The ways of using and working with alabaster in the Volterra area has ancient roots, developed with refined artistic techniques dating back to the Etruscans**. The methods of the Romans and the Etruscans have yet to be equalled. During the Middle Ages the caves were abandoned and it was only in the 18th Century that alabaster was rediscovered. Today the artisans of Volterra give life tot the white slabs of alabaster, creating beautiful and delicate work in traditional and modern designs.

The Etruscans

The remains of the Etruscan colonisation of the area surround Volterra. Many of the works have been excavated, and are now on display in the Guarnacci Museum. The museum is dedicated to the Etruscan remains and also houses Roman mosaics, which chart the urbanisation of the area throughout the ages. But the most interesting area of the region is the Vallebuona area.

The archeological area of Vallebuona is quite close to the city, and is made up of two important places, one is the theatre and the other is the hot springs, from the 3rd Century. The two buildings, though built in different times are both well preserved. The steps of the theatre which are set into the natural dip in the hill have an ancient Greek feel to it. The orchestra pit, or the porticum post scenam is the ancestor of the modern foyer. The hot springs have been designed well too and you can still see the hot pools, the frigidarium plunge pool, and the various rooms of the complex.

The way it was discovered is also quite an entertaining tale, during the 1950s an archaeologist called Enrico Fiumi lead a dig in the area, and worked with patients from the local psychiatric hospital, and it’s with thanks to this team that we have discovered an amazing Roman archaeological area in Tuscany.

Some Definitions

*Alabaster, finely granular variety of gypsum (which is used to make plaster of paris), often white and translucent, used for ornamental objects or work, such as lamp bases, figurines, etc. **Etruscans, were a settlement of people found in Northern Italy between the 9th, and 1st centuries, B.C. Their roots ar widely debated, some argue they trace back to Asia, and were very different from other ancient latin cultures.

Link Utili

Romano Bianchi – Alabaster from Volterra

Commenti (1) | March 16, 2010

One Response to “Volterra – the City of Alabaster”

  1. Volterra alabaster | Jaxhomeadvanta Says:
    May 8th, 2012 at 01:34

    [...] Volterra – the City of AlabasterVolterra is found on the upper course of the River Era, on the corner of the regions of Florence, Siena and Pisa. It is an ancient village which has always been. [...]


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