Volterra claims the spot for the final Tuscan town we’d visit on this road trip. Located in the west of Tuscany, Volterra – like its eastern counterpart of Cortona – did not make it to our Tuscan biking itinerary back in 2004, which focused primarily on central Tuscany. We’d remedy that oversight on this trip.
Volterra definitely qualifies as yet another hill town – long climb to get from parking outside the walls to the center of town.
Entering the walled town through Porta a Selci. Originally an Etruscan gate into a walled settlement, the current portal dates from the 16th century.
To the right of the gate is a plaque depicts soldiers entering Volterra with text in Italian reading: “This brings the soldiers allies Entered Volterra 40th anniversary of Liberation 9 July 1944 – 9 July 1984.” The US 88th Infantry Division’s drive north up the Italian peninsula in WW II took it first to Rome, then on to Umbria and Tuscany. On May 8, 1944, the 88th “launched an attack toward Volterra on the 8th, taking the town the next day. (From here.) To our knowledge, this is the first Tuscan (or even Italian) town we’ve visited that was the site of a WW II battle.
Heading into the historic center by way of a fairly picturesque – albeit less-than-charming – main thoroughfare.
Crowded evidence that we’re getting closer to the center of Volterra:
Finally reaching Palazzo dei Priori, in the actual center of town:
Volterra’s impressive 13th-century town hall, the Palazzo dei Priori:
With its complement of governing family coats of arms, as we’ve seen in every town on this trip:
Nice little market buzzing in the piazza the morning we arrived:
Across the piazza from the town hall lies the Palazzo Pretorio, which once served as the office of the mayor and as apartments for the Captain of the people’s guard, the Pretorio. The palazzo’s tower dates from the 13th century and is called the Torre del Porcellino – Tower of the Little Pig – because of (or resulting in? sources are unclear) a statue of a pig on a little ledge to the right of the uppermost window.
Volterra’s other tower around the corner, the cathedral’s 15th century companile, which appears way more Lombard than Tuscan to us.
And the super-Romanesque and very modest cathedral itself, dating from the 12th century (which actually replaced a 9th-century structure that was destroyed in an earthquake in the mid-1100s):
The mildly bizarre Chiesa Della Misericordia (Church of Mercy):
The church has been converted to a museum of vintage ambulances:
A word that we’ll take the opportunity to highlight as absolutely hilarious in German, as helpfully demonstrated in this brief video, which several Werners already have been subjected to:
Heading down one of the hilly town’s picturesque streets:
And ending up at another gate in the town’s walls – this one much older than our entrance gate:
Volterra’s Etruscan Porta all’Arco (Arched Gate) was one of the passageways through an extensive 7-km-long defensive wall built between the 4th century and 3rd century BC.
Heading to our final destination of the road trip a few miles outside of Volterra. . .
The destination itself: Borgo Pignano. After staying in towns our entire road trip, we opted for borgo in the country for our final night. An Italian borgo is a small hamlet or settlement, and many have been transformed wholesale into hotel complexes that incorporate the old village’s structures. In our case, the manor house served as the main hotel, while tradesmen’s shops and houses have been converted into villas, the spa, a restaurant, etc.
The little borgo’s old town church opposite reception:
The best repurposed structure in the borgo? A town warehouse converted into a museum of vintage Italian bikes, motorcycles, and cars from Italy’s golden age of style from the 1940s to the 1970s.
1964 Fiat 600 Seicento Multipla, nicknamed “the Sisters’ car” since it was a common conveyance for nuns; occupancy six.
1973 Legnano Roma Specialissima. Legnano was a major player in competitive cycling from the 1920s through the 1940s, and their bikes won 15 Giri d’Italias and two Tour de Frances. Bianchi rose to power from the 1950s on, and eventually bought Legnano in 1987. Suite Campy groupo.
1973 Poghliaghi Record. Poghliaghi exemplified Italian artisan frame making, and he only made between 100 and 1000 bikes, butEddy Merckx rode one to victory (we assume in the Giro? it wasn’t the Tour, according to this site cataloguing the bikes that won each year). Another suite Campy Record groupo.
1958 Piaggo / ACMA Vespa 400 microcar. “The 394cc two-cylinder two-stroke motor. . . could propel the car and 4 occupants to a top speed of 51 miles per hour, eventually.”
1947 Bianchi Aquilotta da Corsa, used in the years following WW II when Italians began competing again with motorcycles and mopeds.
1947 Alpino 63 Bicarbuatore, also built for racing in the post-war years.
1948 Fiat 500C “Little Mouse:”
1930s Gloria Garibaldina:
Sporting innovations such as wooden wheels and one of Campagnolo’s first derailleurs, which you needed to manually engage by reaching behind you. One lever loosened the axel and the other moved the chain to change gears. Freaking wild.
1954 175cc MV Augusta:
1954 Iso Rivolta Isetta 250, a three-wheeled Italian microcar or “auto-scooter.” Iso’s prior experience was manufacturing refrgerators. . .
Another 175cc ride – a 1956 Moto Morini:
Final evening in Tuscany!
Thus endeth the trip: