We have so many of these beautiful little towns and villages in Italy, our history is so rich and long, that you can close your eyes, put a finger on a map and you can be sure you will find yourself in a nice place! We are fortunate enough to have lots of these places near home. Last weekend with a collegue and her partner we choose Volterra.
The town was a Neolithic settlement and an important Etruscan center (Velathri or Felathri in Etruscan, Velàthre, in Greek) with an original civilization; it became a municipium in the Roman Age. The city was a bishop’s residence in the 5th century, and its episcopal power was affirmed during the 12th century. With the decline of the episcopate, Volterra became a place of interest of the Florentines, whose forces conquered Volterra. Florentine rule was not always popular, and opposition occasionally broke into rebellion. These rebellions were put down by Florence. When the Florentine Republic fell in 1530, Volterra came under the control of the Medici family and later followed the history of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
The town has so many interesting places, let’s start with the most famous one, Palazzo dei Priori and its square.
The palace was designed by Maestro Riccardo in 1239 as the inscription near the main entrance attests.The three-storey façade adorned with trilobed ,double arched windows and the Della Robbia glazed terracotta coats of arms of the Florentine magistrates (15th-16th centuries) also bears the canna volterrana, the medieval standard measurement of the commune, engraved between the banner and torch holders. The two Marzocco lions ,a symbol of Florence were added in 1472 when the palazzo became the seat of the Captain of Justice.The pentagonal shaped tower is not completely original for the top half was rebuilt after the last earthquake in 1846 by the architect Mazzei who also embellished other buildings in the main square.
The entrance decorated with coats of arms leads to the stairway and a fresco of the Crucifixiion with saints by Pier Francesco Fiorentino.The magnificent Council Hall with a cross vaulted ceiling exhibits the fresco of The Annunciation and four saints, Cosmas ,Damian, Giusto and Ottaviano, painted by Jacopo di Cione and Nicolò di Pietro Gerini.While the fresco was being transferred onto canvas , the sinopia now displayed in the antechamber , were discovered.
And here they are, hubby and friends, in the Priori Square…
Palazzo Pretorio, at the opposite side of the square….
This palace made up of several buidings and modified in the 19th century was origianally the seat of the podestà and the captain of the people. The tower considered to be one of the first towers built in Volterra is traditionally known as the Tower of the Little Pig for at the top of the tower there is a stone animal poised on a shelf.
More about this ancient world later….