Hopping hilltop towns in Tuscany

View of rooftops as we approach Volterra on foot.
View of rooftops as we approach Volterra on foot. The antennas were a surprise.

The second day of our trip we visited two small hill towns, Volterra and Monteriggioni, in the morning and Siena in the afternoon. Many of the Tuscan hill towns can be traced to Etruscan times. Others originated with the fall of Rome when lowland people fled to the hills and built walled communities, fortified against barbarian invasions.

Roman theatre ruins in Volterra, Italy
Roman theatre ruins in Volterra, Italy

Volterra was one of the most important Etruscan cities. It was eventually absorbed by Rome and then fell to the Florentines. We were excited to see our first Roman ruins here. The ruins of the Roman Theatre in Volterra are among the best preserved Roman ruins in Italy.

A close-up view from a walled walkway of the Volterra Roman theatre ruins.
A close-up view from a walled walkway of the Volterra Roman theatre ruins.

The stage wall of the theatre was standard Roman design with three levels from which the actors appeared—the bottom for the human characters, the middle for heroes, and the top for the gods. Only parts from two levels remain.

Palazzo dei Priori, Volterra's City Hall.
Palazzo dei Priori, Volterra's City Hall.

Volterra’s City Hall, the Palazzo dei Priori, claims to be the oldest of any Tuscan city-state. Towns like Volterra were truly city-states, independent of the pope and emperor and relatively democratic. (Steves)

A partial view of the ornate columns and coffered ceiling inside Volterra's cathedral.
A partial view of the ornate columns and coffered ceiling inside Volterra's cathedral.

It took over two centuries to build Volterra’s cathedral begun in 1200. As you might expect, Catholic churches were prominent, elaborate, and in abundance throughout the region.


Candles for Dad Grote and Annie.
Candles for Dad Grote and Annie.

I lit two candles in every church we visited that allowed it—one for my father-in-law who died the previous year, and one for my disabled sister Annie, a year younger than me, who died the month before we left for Italy.

I couldn’t leave Volterra without purchasing a small decorative lidded box made from the alabaster for which they are famous.  We made a quick stop for pizza Margherita, and then on to Monteriggioni.

Part of the fortifications in the wall surrounding Monteriggioni.
Part of the fortifications in the wall surrounding Monteriggioni.

Monteriggioni was built in 1203 and soon became a garrison town guarding the northern borders of Siena’s territory from the Florentine armies.

Monteriggioni's piazza.
Monteriggioni's piazza.

It is a very small town consisting of a large piazza where we stopped for refreshments, a Romanesque church, a few houses, restaurants and shops. A small street there is named for Dante who referred to Monteriggioni in his Inferno.

The church in Monteriggioni.
The church in Monteriggioni.
Candles in Monteriggioni for Dad Grote and Annie.
Candles in Monteriggioni for Dad Grote and Annie.

On to Siena. . .

Photos by Christine M. Grote and Mark Joseph Grote
Copyright © 2011 by Christine M. Grote

See more links to posts about Italy on my “Places I’ve Been” page.

DK Eyewitness travel — Florence & Tuscany, DK Publishing, NY, 2007
DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guides, Top 10 Tuscany, DK Publishing, NY, 2005
Frommer’s Florence, Tuscany & Umbria, 6th ed., by John Moretti, Wiley Publishing,NJ, 2008
Rick Steves’ Florence & Tuscany 2009

58 thoughts on “Hopping hilltop towns in Tuscany”

      1. Thousands of tourists visit Israel yearly.

        I believe there is danger even staying in my home.

        Rome is one of 269 cities I’ve travelled to and lived in in N. America, Europe and Asia.

        As a very serious amateur classical photographer since 13 in 1957, I’d love to travel and photograph the Middle East with all its cultures and history. In fact the world!

        As a Canadian, I’d book my travels with a major N. American travel agency. I’m always cautious, and check with Canadian Foreign Ministry as part of my trip research research.

        There is no guarentee in life. Live extremely sheltered or live life to the fullest. It’s a choice for everyone.

        I choose somewhere in between. That’s just me!

        There is an OLD saying that goes like this: “Travelling 1,000 miles beats reading 10,000 books!” Oh, yes! I love to “Smell the roses”!

        St. Joseph (Name of my Sr. High)

      2. Don’t ever be afraid to go the Israel, for Israel is God’s chosen city. He will protect you while your are in His favorite territory. Jesus loves you. You are awsome.

    1. Hello Patricia,

      Do go!

      I’d recommend visiting a few cities in one trip. Arrange with a trusted travel agency.

      I enjoy my early 90’s trip to France and Italy, I visited Cann and Paris in France; Capri, Florence, Napole, Pizza, Pompeii, Rome, and Venice.

      With my 3 professional grade Nikon cameras and 4 lenses + accesaries weighing over 33 pounds (15 kg).

      I came home with a few very good photographs. Bringing photo equipment on any travel is a must. Do breath the air, smell the roses, and spend a few minutes to capture the essence of the place in your photograph.

      I’d go again before a wink of my eye!

  1. I always enjoy visiting Volterra and especially at this time of the year when there are few tourists around. Between Volterra and Monteriggioni there is a lovely town known as Casole d’Elsa that many tourists often overlook.




  2. Lovely post. We’ve been to Tuscany several times and it never fails to charm. Monteriggioni was a favourite. Re: your Sienna blog – did you see the sculpture half way up a wall of a topless lady peeking through the curtains ? One of my fave bits of art 🙂

  3. Several years ago my wife’s family rented a villa in Volterra for two weeks – we had a wonderful time there exploring the region. We love Tuscany, well I guess we love all of Italy! Beautiful photos!

  4. The pictures posted are beautiful, Toscana is one of my favorite places in the world! I enjoyed this post with some history attached and will keep an eye out for more of your writing. Please take a look at my site (chezcestchic.wordpress.com) as I share some views of places I have been or would like to see as well. ~Ciao

  5. this is an awesome post! i cant wait to visit italy and all of europe. It’s been a goal of mine for sometime now. I want to see everything!

  6. hey mom! i took that first one! i dont really mind i just really like that photo hahah, beautiful blog glad to see your keeping up nicely, way better than myself

  7. Great photos! Italia is beautiful. I’ve always wanted to visit Tuscany but have not been able to yet. Rome is quite amazing though!



  8. What you see in pictures is nothing compared to what you see when visiting Tuscany and seeing all the breath taking beauty. I loved every minute I spent in Italy, and if you have the opportunity to visit do so. I also loved watching the artists do their drawings right out on the streets. There’s a lot of talented artists in Italy, and probably more then people realize.

  9. Well written Write-up. Glad i am able yo locate a site with some knowledge plus a great writing style.
    You keep publishing and i will continue to Keep browsing

    Thanks Again

  10. Hello, i’m part Italian and live in the UK, bu thave visited Itally a lot. Tuscany is by far my favourie region of Italy, even though i’m from further South. It has beautiful architecture, food and people, and there is always a real sense of history in Tuscany. However, everyone should visit Venice at one point in there life, it really is a magical place in Italy!

  11. Wonderful photos – Tuscany has to be one of my favourite places which I have not been able to visit from South Africa for ages – so thank you for my vicaruious visit.
    Regards Keith Grenville

  12. I love this region of Italy! And I think these little hill-top towns are the gems of the area! I’ve only just discovered your blog through FP (congrats!) but will definitely read more!

  13. We loved Volterra as well. It is not as popular, or busy, as Siena and San Gimignano, but it should be. Thanks for the reminder, we are in Bagni di Lucca, close enough for a visit.

  14. Beautiful pictures of beautiful places. Thank you for leading me to this post, Christine. I have e-mailed the link to my partner, so perhaps we can add these to our motorbike route this summer.

    1. This post was freshly pressed. It happened shortly after I started blogging. I was used to checking my stats to see if one more person had read the post. I got to my parents’ house about a half hour away and logged on to see if anyone had noticed my post. There were hundreds of visitors. I was stunned.

      I’m fine without that level of success, to be Frank, if I may.

      I think the editors just liked the title.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: