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