Volterra: history and Alabaster

Volterra: history and Alabaster


Volterra is a Tuscan Village in the county of Pisa. The history of this beautiful hilltop borough is very unique, and its main characteristic is that its history line can be traced with clarity thanks to the buildings and the ancient remains within the Village. Volterra is in fact an example of a place which was deeply influenced by the different populations that were present in the territory in different times. In Volterra you can see Etruscan walls, Medieval fortifications and Roman Buildings. As a matter of fact, the first inhabitants of Volterra were the Etruscans, which built the Arc Door (Porta Arco), the Acropoli and the majority of the walls, which are still surrounding the most ancient part of the borough.

The Etruscan era was indeed the most florescent time for Volterra. Thanks to its position, the hilltop Village was difficult to reach by the enemies, and, with the protection of those solid walls, Volterra managed to maintain its independence and to guarantee the wellness and richness of its population, with the government of the Cecina family.

The economy of Volterra bloomed thanks to copper and silver, as there were many caves and mines in the surrounding areas. After a long period of independence Volterra recognized in 90 A.C. the supremacy of Rome, therefore becoming a Roman village.

Visual proof of the roman civilization are the Saint John Baptistery (Battistero San Giovanni), situated in the main square, and the most important site of all: the Roman Theater (Teatro Romano), naturally realized in a green slope with a gentle elevation.
In the Medieval times, the borough of Volterra was the perfect defense village, again thanks to the fact that it is situated on a isolated hill, surrounded by walls, which were reinforced even more up until 1254, when Volterra passed under the new government of the city of Florence. Nowadays, Volterra is best known for its mysterious and ‘rocky’ atmosphere, as the element most present in the Village (the walls, the streets, the towers, the buildings…) is the rock.

Another important element in Volterra is the Alabaster. The quality in the areas surrounding Volterra is the gypsum alabaster (Alabastro gessoso) and there are references of the use of this material since the Etruscan times. The Alabaster is a white rock, which is cheap and easy to model, more than the white marble. The economy of the borough, in the Etruscan times but especially in XVII century, is deeply connected to the craft of modeling the alabaster as in 1830 there were more than 60 artisan shops in Volterra. Currently, there are only a few Alabaster studios within Volterra, but they still use the same ancient techniques of this old craft, passing it to the next generation to keep the tradition alive.

Volterra is a wonderful mysterious borough which requires to be visited, especially if you love the idea of traveling back in time!

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