About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Volterra and Pisa

This morning we packed up and made our way back down to the car, picking up some pastries to eat along the way.

Our hotel in Siena - a very old building.

We were headed for Pisa for two nights. Along the way we planned to stop in Volterra, another Tuscan hill town.

More Tuscan scenery to enjoy as we drive to Volterra

Volterra sits on a high hill, surrounded by large walls and protected by a grand fortress. Volterra was once one of the most important Etruscan (pre Roman) cities. The city eventually became a part of the Roman Empire and was an enemy of the Florentines in the Middle Ages. In the end it lost and was given a fortress atop the city to 'protect' its citizens.

We found parking near one of the lower gates to the city, then had to climb up many steps to the city.

Many steps to climb to reach the city.

Our first stop in the city was the Etruscan Museum - Museo Etrusco Guarnacci. This museum is filled with Etruscan artifacts. This museum is considered the third best Etruscan museum in the world.

The Etruscans were a pretty advanced pre-Roman civilization. Many of the artifacts are funerary urns. Most show that the Etruscans believed in a happy after-life. The museum also displays an extensive array of Etruscan coins, mirrors and jewelry.

Etruscan urn.

Etruscan burial


After the museum, we made our way down to Porta all'Arco, Voterra's famous Etruscan Gate. It was built of volcanic rock in the 4th century.

Porta all'Arco

Working our way back up hill, we passed the Medici Fortress. In the old days the fortress protected the city and kept enemies out. Today it is a maximum security prison with about 60 inmates.

Next to the fortress is Archaeological Park. This area was once the acropolis of Volterra from 1500BC to AD1472 when Florence conquered the city and burned down its historical center. Today it is a beautiful park.

Archaeological Park

Enjoying some swing time.

Archaelogical Park with Medici Fortress in background

We made out way out of the park and into the heart of town. We were hungry and found a cafe that served a fantastic lunch.

After lunch we found an overlook with great views.

View from the city.

Katrina wanted to visit the Pinoteca, a museum filled with 14th century art. Brandon and I were not interested, so we chose to hang out in the nearby piazza. After exploring the piazza a bit we found that the New Moon book has a chapter titled "Volterra". The chapter actually takes place here, but the movie scenes were actually filmed in Montepulciano.

City Hall

When Katrina rejoined us, we wandered down the main street to the Roman theater. This theater was built around 10 BC and is considered to have some of the best acoustics of its kind. The back of the theater consists of the high town wall, where you can peer down from above. The theater was abandoned in the 4th century AD. Some of its stones were used to build elaborate baths behind the theater. The theater eventually became the town dump. Trash was thrown over the town wall, covering the remains of the theater. The original stage wall was three levels tall. Today, only a small two story portion remains. The theater was rediscovered in the 1950's.

Roman theater

Roman jacuzzi

It was time to head to Pisa. We had about an hour drive and arrived in late afternoon. We found parking outside the city walls and made our way to the hotel. We stayed at the B&B Borghi Due in the heart of the old city. It was a bit of a walk, made up for by the fact we had to pass the leaning tower on the way. We stopped to buy tickets for the leaning tower for tomorrow morning.

Interesting architecture in Pisa

Brandon became pretty good at spotting the Medici Coat of Arms.

Daaaad! How long do I have to hold this up?

Duomo with leaning tower behind

The Baptistry.

After getting settled in our room, we headed out to look around and find a place for dinner. We had dinner at a pizzaria downstairs from our room. Once again, very tasty.

Unfortunately, I had to walk back to our car. I left my wallet in the door panel and didn't feel safe leaving it there overnight. Katrina and Brandon paid for dinner and I took off towards the car.

I followed what I thought was the correct route to the car and eventually became really lost. Long story short, I overshot the parking lot by about 6 blocks. It was dark and I had no idea where I was. I even called Katrina to help me by looking up my location on the GPS. We gave up on that and I wandered until I found a gas station to ask for directions. Funny thing is, the gas station ended up being the one at the entrance of the parking lot I had been searching for.

After a long walk back to the hotel, we crashed early again. Tomorrow we check out Pisa and the leaning tower.

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