Volterra, city of salt, vampires and alabaster

Mara Noveni | Live the World

May 29, 2024

Today I welcome you to the mysterious and fascinating land of Volterra, among vampires, salt, and alabaster mines. Volterra is an ancient city located in Tuscany, Italy, in the province of Pisa. Here, between the hills and the wheat fields, centuries-old secrets are hidden, just waiting to be revealed. But be careful, because every legend has a foundation of truth... 

© iStock / StevanZZ

The Myth of the Vampires

The myth of vampires in Volterra is a legend with its roots in the ancient history of the city. According to legend, Volterra would have been infested by a species of vampire known as "the Etruscans", creatures who fed on the blood of men and who would have lived here for centuries.

Legend has it that these vampires would have hidden in the underground Etruscan tombs and that they would have been awakened by an earthquake that destroyed a large part of the city in 1840. Vampires are said to have unleashed a series of murders and nocturnal attacks, spreading panic among the population.

Although the myth of vampires in Volterra is only a legend, the city has inspired many stories of vampires and creatures of the night. Some of the most famous works inspired by the legend of the vampires of Volterra include Stephenie Meyer's second novel of the Twilight saga, "New Moon", set in the heart of the Pisan hills and famous all over the world.

© Twilight saga / unknown

If you want to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of this mysterious world, you can book a “Piazza dei Priori & Cathedral Private Walking Tour”. The tour lasts three hours and includes a visit to the city and the most beautiful and interesting places with a certified guide.

© Get Your Guide / unknown

Volterra and the salt mines

The salt mines of Volterra have been an important source of wealth for the city for centuries. The extraction of salt in the area has already begun in antiquity when the Etruscans discovered the value of this natural resource. Over the centuries, salt has become one of the main sources of income for Volterra, contributing to its economic growth and prosperity. The salt mines of Volterra are located in an area of hills and mountains, where there are underground layers of salt formed millions of years ago. Salt extraction was traditionally done manually, with the use of picks and chisels to remove the salt from the walls of the mine. Today, salt extraction has become more mechanized, but the artisan tradition is still alive.

Volterra salt is considered the purest in Italy because it is 99.9% pure. Purity is achieved through the recrystallization process, which consists of dissolving salt in water, with subsequent purification to remove all impurities, and then the recrystallization process takes place. The salt mines of Volterra, which also house the Salt Museum, can be visited during the weekend, and inside there is also a shop where you can buy salt, pure or flavoured for cooking use, or special salt-flavoured beers or liqueurs.

© Saline di Volterra / unknown

The precious alabaster

Salt is one of the excellences of Volterra, together with alabaster, a white and translucent stone which is carved by local master craftsmen to create unique and elegant works of art. The Tuscan city of Volterra, the cradle of the Etruscan civilization, has always been considered an illustrious point of reference for the extraction and processing of alabaster: a changeable, delicate, shiny and elegant material for creating high-quality works of art and craftsmanship. Alabaster, sensitive and fragile, above all needs the hand of man to bring it to life. In the workshops forms between craftsmanship and art are created every day, fascinating and irreproducible objects with a magical appearance. The alabaster extracted in Volterra is considered the most valuable in Europe for its purity and its beautiful veins.

The extraction of alabaster takes place in a similar way to the marble. Once extracted, the alabaster is cut into blocks of various sizes and thicknesses, according to the needs of the workers. Alabaster crafting is a highly specialized art and requires a great deal of precision and patience. The stone blocks are cut and shaped by hand or with the aid of machinery, to create sculptures, art objects and decorations.

The master craftsmen of Volterra are famous all over the world for their skill in working alabaster, and many tourists visit the city to purchase works of rare beauty sold in the artisan shops.

© iStock / eZeePics Studio

The historic centre of Volterra

The historic centre of Volterra is an incredible place, with a history dating back more than 3,000 years. The city is situated on a hill and offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding Tuscan countryside. The historic centre is characterized by narrow winding streets, historic buildings and picturesque squares, and is completely surrounded by medieval walls dating back to the 13th century.

The heart of the historic centre is Piazza dei Priori, one of the oldest and most important squares in Volterra, completely surrounded by medieval buildings, including the oldest, the Palazzo dei Priori, built between 1208 and 1257 which, it is said, served as a model for the construction of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The building is full of decorative elements, among which the glazed terracotta plaques stand out, representing the most powerful Florentine families. In the same square, we find Palazzo Pretorio and Torre del Porcellino, so called due to the presence of a stone pig or wild boar on a shelf.

A short distance away is Piazza San Giovanni or Piazza Duomo. The Cathedral, also known as the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, was consecrated in 1120 and has undergone numerous transformations over the years: mainly in the Romanesque style, and a small part in the Pisan style with black and white striped marble coverings, typical of the 12th century. Inside there are real masterpieces. Outside the Baptistery, the arches with the sculpted heads of Christ, the Madonna and the Apostles stand out. Inside, on the other hand, the stoup is worthy of note, built on an ancient funerary monument of Etruscan origin and a baptismal font dating back to 1502, created by Andrea Sansovino.

The most fascinating streets of Volterra branch off from Piazza dei Priori and Piazza Duomo. Moving north you will find the Etruscan Walls and a belvedere to admire the "balze di Volterra", the impressive chasms caused by the erosion of the clayey soils.

© iStock / Mmaxmax

Among the things not to be missed, there is the Roman Theater, built in the era of the emperor Augustus, of which only the ruins remain.

© iStock / zm_photo

Furthermore, for history lovers, the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum represents one of the most important archaeological museums on the Italian scene, with a series of local finds inside, including about 600 funerary urns made of alabaster, tuff and terracotta. The bodies of the deceased are depicted in an incredibly realistic way on the lids of the urns.

To learn more about these wonderful places and surroundings, I can recommend booking a Private Off-Road Tuscany Tour with Brunch, lasting two hours, which includes an off-road tour to admire the wonderful Tuscan landscapes of the hills of Volterra and a brunch with excellent local gastronomic products.

© Get Your Guide / unknown

If you decide to spend more than one day in Volterra, to visit the surroundings, for example San Gimignano or the famous San Galgano Abbey, you can book the Hotel Volterra In, which is located in a splendid position in the city centre and offers comfort and a super breakfast.

© Booking / unknown

In conclusion, Volterra is a unique and fascinating city, which offers visitors a perfect mix of history, art and culture. From salt mines to alabaster quarries, from vampire myths to the architectural beauties of the historic centre, Volterra is a tourist destination that never disappoints. With its rich history and vibrant cultural scene, this medieval city will leave you speechless. So what are you waiting for? Plan your trip to Volterra, city of salt, vampires and alabaster today and discover everything this charming city has to offer!

Book a nearby experience

Let our AI assistant help plan your trip

Create a personalized plan and share it with your friends

Never run out of things to do! Sign up to our newsletter today, what are you waiting for?

live the world logoMaking travel planning easy.
Supported bykbc logo
instagram logotiktok logo facebook logo pintrest logo