Last year I spent a few days traveling around Tuscany but I realize I didn’t share much from the journey. The reason? It wasn’t my favorite place. I didn’t actually spend any time in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, but instead traveled to Pisa and some nearby villas and small hilltop towns. I was stuck with unfortunate weather during the October trip, so rather than experiencing lush, green, rolling hills, there were a lot of grey skies, muddy pathways and cold, wet days.
In the end, Tuscany left me feeling slightly disappointed. I think all the expectations (thank you very much Eat, Pray, Love) were just too high. And while I had a perfectly nice trip, Tuscany as a destination just didn’t “wow” me as I was expecting. I’m not ready to write off the destination, though. I know I’ll have to visit Florence again (that city is just too pretty not to see more than once!). And I’m sure there are more towns and places worth visiting — especially since I’ve become a bit of an Italian food aficionado! But having now visited Tuscany on at least two separate trips, I think I’m ready to explore other parts of Italy.
Regardless, of the small Tuscan towns I visited in October, Volterra was definitely the most scenic and photogenic. The town square with its sandstone-colored walls, the narrow alleyways and red roofs…Volterra is just what I was looking for in a Tuscan town. It’s also located semi-conveniently about an hour’s drive from bigger Tuscan cities such as Pisa or Florence. There are also buses that regularly connect Volterra with both cities. (I visited on a half-day trip from Pisa.)
Like most Tuscan cities, there’s not actually much to do in town unless you’re a fan of Renaissance history and art. While I actually once did study art history, there are only so many churches and museums I can handle on an Italian holiday—especially those of a style I’m just not as interested in. However, Volterra was interesting for me because of its Etruscan history. There’s a small museum, the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum, at the top of the hill with some ancient artifacts and sculptures. The church in the main square of Volterra was also architecturally unique, with some eye-catching patterns and art that I normally wouldn’t look twice at. And the town’s scenic viewpoints overlooking the Tuscan countryside were definitely worth the trip—even if I was up there at night and couldn’t catch the best views. But, oh, that Tuscan sunset!
And fun fact! (in case you don’t already know): This sleepy Tuscan town is featured in the Twilight book series. I actually haven’t read them, but this is just another instance of seemingly random towns and monuments appearing in popular culture.
For more about Volterra, try their official tourism website volterratur.it