Volterra, Italy: Best Things to Do, Map & HELPFUL Tips
Volterra is a hilltop town that is located in Tuscany, Italy. It’s one of the larger hill towns to visit in Tuscany and can keep you busy all day, with its list of museums, archeological sites, restaurants, shops, and stunning views over Tuscany. In this guide, we cover the best things to do in Volterra with tips to help you plan your visit.
Volterra is similar to other Tuscan hill towns, with its medieval streets, boutique shops, palazzos, and piazzas, but it contains a longer list of museums and archaeological sites than you will find in places like Montepulciano and Pienza. For those with an interest in history, Volterra is one of the top Tuscan hill towns to visit.
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Interesting Facts about Volterra
The town of Volterra has been inhabited since the 8th century BC, first by the Etruscans and later by the Romans. One of the best things to do in Volterra is to visit the ancient Roman ruins and the museums that contain Etruscan artifacts.
The Etruscans mined alabaster from the nearby hills. Artisans crafted the alabaster into vases, urns, sculptures, and other decorative objects. While in Volterra, touring an alabaster museum or shopping for alabaster is one of the best things to do.
With its narrow, medieval streets, ancient walls, and fortress, Volterra makes an appearance in quite a few movies, books, and video games. If you have watched the Twilight series, you’ve no doubt seen Volterra. In this series, Volterra is home to the Volturi, a clan of vampires who rule the world’s vampires. However, many of the “Volterra scenes” of New Moon were filmed in Montepulciano.
Best Things to Do in Volterra
Below is a list of 15 things to do in Volterra. At the end of this list, you can see all of them on a map.
1. Stroll the Medieval Streets
One of the best things to do in Volterra is wander the scenic streets. Many of the top places to visit in Volterra are clustered around Piazza dei Priori, but it is worth your time to explore the side streets that branch out from this area.
With fewer people, small shops and restaurants, and views over Tuscany as you approach the edge of town, it’s well worth it to spend a little bit of your time exploring the side streets of Volterra.
Via dei Sarti
Hilly street in Volterra
2. Piazza dei Priori
Piazza dei Priori is the main square of Volterra. This large, open square is lined with several of the most important buildings in Volterra, including Palazza dei Priori (the town hall) and Palazzo Pretorio (a 13th century palace that was the seat of the Capitano del Pópolo).
Small restaurants line a portion of the square, you can go shopping in an alabaster shop, and climb the tower of the Palazza dei Priori for a bird’s eye view of Volterra.
On your visit to Volterra, you will most likely walk through here several times, as many streets branch off from this square, leading to other notable sights in town.
Piazza dei Priori | Best Things to Do in Volterra
Palazzo dei Priori on Piazza dei Priori
3. Climb the Tower of Palazzo dei Priori
Palazzo dei Priori is the town hall of Volterra. Construction began around 1208 and was completed by the middle of the 13th century AD. This town hall is the oldest in Tuscany.
Inside of town hall | Best Things to Do in Volterra
For one of the best views of Volterra, climb the tower of Palazzo dei Priori.
When you enter, purchase a ticket, or the Volterra Card, or show your Volterra Card if you already have one. On the first few levels of Palazza dei Priori, you can tour some of the rooms to learn more about the history of this building.
From the top floor of the palazzo, you will then climb 52 steps to the top of the tower. From here, you have 360° views of Volterra and Tuscany. When we were here, there was a mesh netting but there were a few strategic openings where I could take a photo without getting a black crosshatch in our photos.
Before you go, get updated hours and pricing here.
The view from the tower | Best Things to Do in Volterra
Looking east towards the Medici Fortress
One more view from the town hall tower
PRO TRAVEL TIP: This is a bell tower and if you happen to be here when the bell rings, it’s deafening! We were here on the hour and I can attest that it is quite loud to stand next to the bell once it starts ringing.
4. The Roman Theater
In Volterra, you can see one of the best preserved Roman theaters in Italy. Sitting on the north end of town, this Roman theater dates back to the 1st century AD. It could hold roughly 3500 guests. By the 3rd century BC it was abandoned. The theater was excavated in the mid 20th century.
To get here, you will exit Volterra on the north end of town by walking Via Guarnacci to Porta Fiorentina. Once outside of the Volterra walls, the entrance to the Roman Theater will be on your left.
A visit here is quick. It took us 10 to 15 minutes to walk through the theater and take a few photos. If you don’t want to walk outside of the city and invest this much time into visiting the Roman Theater, you can see it from a viewpoint in the town (mentioned next).
The Roman Theater | Best Things to Do in Volterra
Walkway along the Roman Theater
Opening times change based on the time of year. For updated hours and pricing, click here. The Roman Theater is included on the Volterra Card.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: To save money in Volterra, purchase the Volterra Card. Costing €15, this card includes your entrance fee into most sites in Volterra.
5. Panoramic Viewpoints from Volterra
There are three great spots to take photos of Volterra and the Tuscan countryside. These can easily be added onto your walking route through town.
All of these locations are marked on our Volterra map later in this guide.
Panoramic View of the Roman Theater
From Via Lungo le Mura del Mandorlo, you can get a very nice view of the Roman Theater. This is a great option for those who have no desire to visit the theater but still want to see it. It is located a short walk from Porta Fiorentina.
Here is the view.
Panoramic view of the Roman Theater | Best Things to Do in Volterra
Piazzetta dei Fornelli
This viewpoint, which is a terrace next to Piazzetta dei Fornelli, is located on the southwest side of Volterra. From here, you look out across the rolling hills of Tuscany.
To get here, walk down Via Orto Tondo. Once at the terrace, enjoy the view.
The view from Piazzetta dei Fornelli
This viewpoint is a short walk from Piazzetta dei Fornelli, and is more scenic, in our opinion. From here, you not only get those wonderful views of Tuscany, but you can also look across the rooftops of Volterra.
The view of Volterra from Punto Panoramico
6. See the Ancient Etruscan Walls & Gates
The walls that surround Volterra date back to Roman times but there are still some remnants of walls and gates from the time of the Etruscans.
Porto all’Arco dates back to the 5th century. It is located just a short walk from Piazzetta dei Fornelli, mentioned above. From this gate, it is a short, steep walk up to Piazza dei Priori.
Porto all’Arco | Best Things to Do in Volterra
Porta Fiorentina, mentioned earlier, is on the north side of Volterra. You will exit this gate to visit the Roman Theater.
Porta Fiorentina | Best Things to Do in Volterra
Porta a Selci is located on the east end of town, near Fortezza Medicea. From here, you can see a round watchtower and the fortress walls.
Porta a Selci | Best Things to Do in Volterra
7. Visit the Ecomuseo dell’Alabastro
Since ancient times, the Etruscans and Romans have been mining alabaster from the hills near Volterra and carving it into decorative pieces, urns, and vases.
This museum illustrates how the raw materials are crafted into these artifacts. It’s one of the best museums to visit in Volterra.
Ecomuseo dell’Alabastro | Best Things to Do in Volterra
A visit here takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how much interest you have on the subject. It is located on Piazza dei Priori.
Before you go, get updated hours and pricing here. It is included on the Volterra Card.
8. Pinacoteca and Civic Museum
Located in Palazzo Minucci – Solaini are the Pinacoteca (an art gallery) and the Civic Museum (which displays artifacts about the history of Volterra). In the art gallery, you will see the “Annunciation” by Luca Signorelli, the “Deposition” by Rosso Fiorentino, wooden sculptures by Francesco di Valdambrino, among many other significant works of art.
This museum is located next to the Ecomuseo dell’Alabastro. It is included on the Volterra Card. Click here for updated hours and pricing.
Palazzo Minucci – Solaini
9. The Guarnacci Etruscan Museum
To learn about the Etruscans, who founded Volterra, this museum is well worth the visit. This museum is one of the oldest museums in Europe (it opened in 1761) and contains archaeological artifacts from the Etruscan period.
This museum is located on Via Don Giovanni Minzoni, near Piazza XX Settembre. Get updated hours and pricing here. It is included on the Volterra Card.
10. Visit the Etruscan Acropolis
Sitting on a hilltop just outside of the center of Volterra is the Etruscan acropolis. This area was used between the 7th and 3rd centuries BC as a grouping of Etruscan temples and buildings. What remains today are the remains are two temples from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC as well as a Roman cistern from the 1st century BC.
Etruscan Acropolis | Best Things to Do in Volterra
We could only see the Acropolis from the outside of the fencing that surrounds it since it was closed during our visit. The hours listed on the website are different from what was posted at the entrance. According to the sign at the entrance gate, the acropolis closes midday for several hours (noon to 4 pm), at least during our visit in September 2022.
However, you can stroll through the small park here. And from this area, it is a short walk to the Medici Fortress, mentioned next.
Get updated hours and pricing here. Keep in mind it may be closed midday. It is included on the Volterra Card.
11. Fortezza Medicea & Torre del Maschio
Visiting Fortezza Medicea is one of the best things to do in Volterra. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but the views are stunning and you get to see an interesting side of this town.
Fortezza Medicea (the Medici Fortress) is located on the hilltop on the east end of Volterra. It was built in 1474 after Florence conquered Volterra. The Medici Fortress is now a prison, although there is a small part you can visit.
Torre del Maschio is the round, prominent tower of Fortezza Medicea. With a guide, you can climb the tower and learn more about the history of the fortress. As you climb the staircases, you stop in each room for a history lesson. There is also art on display from the prisoners and some of it is quite good.
Torre del Maschio | Best Things to Do in Volterra
Artwork inside of Torre del Maschio
The view from Torre del Maschio
The highlight is the view from the top of the tower. Unfortunately, there is a mesh covering, so that will show up in your photos (even a cell phone camera is larger than the holes through the mesh). However, the view across Volterra is amazing. You also get a view over the prison, but photos are not permitted of this part of the fortress.
Getting to Torre del Maschio: Getting here can be tricky so follow these directions. From Porta a Selci, walk into town, pass Osteria La Pace, and then turn left onto Via di Castello. Walk along Via di Castello (the walls of the fortress will be on your left) until you reach Torre del Maschio, which is on the far western end of the fortress. There is a guide here that will take your entrance fee (€5) and you will wait for the next tour, which runs approximately every 30 minutes. When we did this, there were only two other people on our tour.
12. The Cathedrals & Churches of Volterra
In Volterra, there are several notable churches worth visiting.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is the Volterra’s duomo. It was consecrated in the 12th century and renovated in the 16th century. Inside, you can see scenes from the Old and New Testaments, many small chapels, and a pulpit from the 17th century. Photography inside of the cathedral is not permitted.
Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta | Best Things to Do in Volterra
Sitting across from the duomo is the Baptistery of San Giovanni Battista, an octagonal building with green and white marble stripes that vaguely resembles the Siena duomo.
Chapel of the Holy Cross (Cappella della Croce di Giorno) is located on the far western end of Volterra, so it will be a bit of a walk to get here. It was built in 1315 and contains frescoes that illustrate the life of Christ, the life of Madonna, and stories of the cross.
13. Palazzo Viti
Palazzo Viti (Viti Palace) is one of the most beautiful private residences in Italy that can be visited by tourists. Attilio Incontri was nobleman who lived in Volterra. At the end of 1500, he began construction of this palace and then over the centuries it was filled with European and Eastern art from 1400 to 1900.
This palace has been visited by royalty and was used as a filming location for Luchino Visconti’s film Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa.
Palazzo Viti | Best Things to Do in Volterra
The interior of the palace is gorgeous, with its Renaissance and Baroque style. On a visit here, you will be given a paper guide to the artworks in the palace, and you will stroll through the 12 rooms that are open to the public.
For hours and pricing, visit the official website.
14. Visit an Alabaster Shop
Since Volterra is famous for its alabaster, one of the best things to do in Volterra is go shopping for alabaster. As you stroll through town, you will see numerous shops. One of the most convenient shops to visit is the alabaster shop on Piazza dei Priori next to Bar Priori.
15. Go Shopping
In Volterra, small boutique shops line the streets. Alabaster is one of the top things to buy while in Volterra, but you will also see artwork, cutting boards and home goods carved from olive wood, shops selling truffles and olive oil, and other souvenirs.
One of our favorite art galleries in Volterra is Kalpa Art Living. And to take home a cutting board carved from olive wood, we recommend Bottega Toscana.
Best Things to Do in Volterra: On a Map
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the walking route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
How Much Time Do You Need in Volterra?
With its long list of museums, art galleries, archaeological sites, and picturesque streets to explore, you could easily spend one full day in Volterra.
With half of a day, you can stroll the streets, climb to the top of the town hall tower for a bird’s eye view of Volterra, visit a museum that is of interest to you, have lunch, and do a little shopping. It’s also worth it to see the Roman theater, one of the best-preserved Roman theaters in Italy.
One Day Volterra Itinerary
Here is one day Volterra itinerary that includes the top sights mentioned above.
10 am: Arrive in Volterra
10:15 am: Piazza dei Priori; climb the tower of Palazzo dei Priori
10:45 am: Pinacoteca and Civic Museum OR the Alabaster Ecomuseum
12:00 pm: Roman Theater
12:45 pm: Lunch
1:45 pm: Visit the fortress and climb Torre Maschio for another view of Volterra
3:00 pm: Spend the remainder of the day exploring the side streets and shopping
Vicolo delle Prigioni
Helpful Tips for Visiting Volterra
To check the weather forecast, we used Meteo Italy and the forecast was relatively accurate. There is also an app that you can download onto your phone.
If you plan to have dinner in Volterra, make your reservation in advance. In our experience in Italy, you will need to have a reservation for dinner at the highly rated restaurants.
The Volterra Card is a money-saving card that includes entrance into most of Volterra’s top sites. It costs €15 and is valid for 72 hours. If you plan to visit 3 or more sites included on the card, you will save money. Plus, you don’t have to take the time to purchase a ticket at each site; simply show the card.
It includes access to Palazzo dei Priori, the Roman Theater, the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum, the Pinacoteca and Civic Museum, the Alabaster Ecomuseum, and the Acropolis.
The Volterra Card can be purchased at any site that accepts the card. We purchased ours at the first place we visited, Palazzo dei Priori.
Where to Eat in Volterra
Panineria Al Vicolino is the best place to grab a quick, tasty, cheap lunch in Volterra. On the menu are some of the best paninis you will have while in Italy. This restaurant doesn’t have seating. Once you get your sandwiches, find a spot on Piazza dei Priori and have lunch in this very scenic setting.
Panineria Al Vicolino
Osteria La Pace is a highly rated restaurant that is located near Porta a Selci and the Medici Fortress, on the east side of town. This small restaurant has outdoor seating and is less touristy than restaurants you will find in the town center.
Osteria La Pace
More restaurants that are highly reviewed include La Vecchia Lira, Ristorante Enoteca Del Duca (a Michelin-starred restaurant), and Porgi L’altra Pancia.
How to Get to Volterra
The easiest way to get to Volterra is by car.
Here are the driving distances and times from nearby destinations:
- Florence: 80 km, 1.5 hours
- Siena: 55 km, 1 hour
- Pisa: 66 km, 1 hour
- San Gimignano: 31 km, 40 minutes
Parking in Volterra
The best place to park is Parcheggio La Dogana Srl, which is an underground parking garage located next to Piazza Martiri della Liberta. Once you exit the parking garage, you are immediately treated to beautiful views of Volterra and it is a 5-minute walk to get to the main square, Piazza dei Priori.
The closest train station is Volterra Saline – Pomarance, which is 10 km from Volterra. To get from the train station, you will then have to take a bus (a 21-minute journey) or taxi, which is very inconvenient and will add a lot of travel time onto your visit.
From Florence, take line 131 to Colle di Val d’Elsa and transfer to take the bus to Volterra.
Tours of Volterra
If you don’t plan on renting a car while in Tuscany, you can visit Volterra on a tour. This takes care of your transportation to and from Volterra, which can save you a lot of time, since Volterra is not easily reachable by public transportation. Here are several tours of Volterra.
Things to Do near Volterra
There’s enough to do in Volterra that it can take a full day of your time, but if you don’t mind a quick visit and want to see more of Tuscany, you can add on another town. Plan on spending a half day in Volterra and a half day in one of these towns.
San Gimignano is located just a short drive from Volterra. Famous for its numerous towers and very scenic streets, this is one of the most popular towns to visit in Tuscany.
Siena is a must-visit while in Tuscany. There is a lot to do here, so ideally, you need a full day to see the highlights, but if you are short on time, you can visit Piazza del Campo, climb Torre del Mangia for one of the best views of Tuscany, and visit the Siena Cathedral and associated sites.
Monteriggioni is a small, walled town that sits between Volterra and Siena. You only need one to two hours to visit this town, so it’s the perfect add-on after a longer day in Volterra.
Where to Stay
If you want to visit Volterra, but also have plans to visit more Tuscan hill towns, we recommend staying in a town that is more centrally located within Tuscany. Siena is a great option and from here it is very easy to visit not only Volterra but also Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza, Arrezzo, and San Gimignano.
However, staying in Volterra has its advantages. This is a popular day trip town, so in the morning and evening, once the day trippers leave, you can walk the quieter streets.
Highly rated properties in Volterra include Palazzo De Luigi and Il Sogno di Annalisa Suite. Just outside of Volterra, Agriturismo Poggio Rifulfo is a small property that gets exceptional reviews. Since it is located outside of town, parking is a breeze and it is easy to get around Tuscany, since you don’t have the hassle of parking in a small town like Volterra.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Volterra known for?
Since ancient times, people have been mining the hills around Volterra for alabaster, and crafting it into sculptures, vases, and urns. Volterra is also famous for appearing in the Twilight movie series.
Is Volterra, Italy worth visiting?
With its archaeological sites, from Etruscan and Roman times, this is one of the best Tuscan hill towns to visit for those with an interest in history. It’s also one of the most interesting Tuscan hill towns to explore, with its medieval streets, Medici fortress, alabaster shops, and views of the Tuscan countryside.
How much time to do need in Volterra?
At a bare minimum, plan on spending a half day in Volterra. This gives you just enough time to visit a few highlights. However, you could easily spend a full day in Volterra, which gives you enough time to visit the museums and historical sites, have lunch and dinner, see the Roman theater, and go shopping.
If you have any questions about the best things to do in Volterra or how to plan your visit, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Italy
TUSCAN HILL TOWNS: Check out our detailed guides to Siena, Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, San Quirico d’Orcia, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Lucca, Arezzo, and Cortona.
TUSCANY: Get started with our guide to the Best Things to Do in Tuscany. Learn how to plan your visit with our Tuscany Itinerary, which has sample itineraries, whether you have 3 days, 5 days, or an entire week in Tuscany.
FLORENCE: For a list of things to do, take a look at our Florence Bucket List and learn how to plan your time with our 2 Day Florence Itinerary. We also have information about how to visit the Florence Cathedral, about the best rooftop bars in Florence, and the best viewpoints in Florence.
ITALY ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Italy itinerary, take a look at our 10 Days in Italy Itinerary for five different ways to spend 10 days in Italy. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Rome, Florence, the Cinque Terre, and Venice. For those with more time, check out our 14 day Italy itinerary, which covers the highlights of Italy.
ROME: For a list of the top experiences in Rome, read our article Best Things to Do in Rome. Learn how to put these together in our 2 Day Rome Itinerary, where to eat in our Rome Restaurant Guide, how to visit the Colosseum, and where to stay in our Rome Hotel Guide.
DOLOMITES: For a list of where to go and what to do, read our article Best Things to Do in the Dolomites and Best Hikes in the Dolomites. Learn how to plan your trip with our Dolomites Itinerary Travel Planner.
We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, and Puglia.
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