Tuscany: Places to Explore



Unlike other Tuscan hill towns rising above sprawling vineyards and rolling fields of green, Volterra is surrounded by desolate terrain marred with industry and mining equipment. D.H. Lawrence described it as "somber and chilly alone on her rock" in his Etruscan Places. Its fortress (now a maximum-security prison), walls, and gates still stand mightily over Le Balze, a distinctive series of gullied hills and valleys to the west that were formed by irregular erosion. But don't be put off by this gloomy introduction. Volterra is a lively and fascinating town that grows on you with each visit. There are spectacular views from the outer walls, winding narrow streets bustling with activity, and some amazing museums and archaeological sites. (Even the inmates of the prison have become internationally famous for their theatrical performances!) The town has also long been known for its alabaster, which has been mined since Etruscan times; today the Volterrans use it to make ornaments and souvenirs. You'll find it sold all over town, and you may have the chance to peek into an artisan's studio to see the work in progress.

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