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Volterra is a town in the Tuscany region of Italy.

The town was a Neolithic settlement and an important Etruscan centre with an original civilization; it became a municipium in the Roman Age. The city was a bishop’s residence in the fifth century and that power was affirmed during the 12th century. With the decline of the episcopate, Volterra was the subject of the interest of Florence, which defeated it many times though rebellions sometimes took place. When the Florentian Republic fell in 1530, Volterra came under the control of the Medici family and later followed the history of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

Some interesting places to visit are:

  • Roman Theatre (1st century BC), excavated in the 1950s.
  • Piazza dei Priori, one of Italy’s most beautiful squares.
  • Palazzo dei Priori
  • Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. It was enlarged in the 13th century after an earthquake. It houses a ciborium and some angels by Mino da Fiesole, a notable wood Deposition (1228), a masterwork of Romanesque sculpture and the Sacrament Chapel, with paintings by Santi di Tito, Giovanni Balducci and Agostino Veracini. In the centre of the vault there are fragments of an Eternal Father by Niccolò Circignani. Also noteworthy is the Addolorata Chapel, with a terracotta group attributed to Andrea della Robbia and a fresco of Riding Magi by Benozzo Gozzoli. In the nearby chapel, dedicate to the Very Holy Name of Jesus, there is a table with Christ’s monogram, allegedly painted by Bernardine of Siena. The rectangular bell tower is from 1493.
  • Medicean Fortress (Maschio), now a penitentiary.
  • Guarnacci Etruscan Museum, with thousands of funeral urns dating back to the Hellenistic and Archaic periods.

VolterraVolterraOutside the city, in direction of Lajatico, there is the Medici Villa of Spedaletto. Also in the neighbourhood, in the Valle Bona area, the excavations of Etruscan tombs.

Volterra had also a core role in literature. It is an important location in Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling novel New Moon. In the story, Volterra is home to the Volturi, a royal family of vampires. They live under the city and use one of the ancient and beautiful buildings to lure tourists to their deaths.

It is also mentioned briefly in Thomas Harris’s Hannibal, by Inspector Pazzi to the kidnapper Carlo.

Volterra is the site of Stendhal’s famously disastrous encounter in 1819 with his beloved Matilde Dembowski: she recognised him there, despite his disguise of new clothes and green glasses, and was furious. This is the central incident in his book On Love.


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