Located in the heart of Italy’s Golden Triangle, Volterra provides visitors with opportunities to explore Italy’s rich Bronze Age history amid sunflower drenched fields. And with reasonable rents available, this little known part of Italy’s Tuscany region is a bargain find for visitors to Italy. See the following article from International Living for more on this.
Tuscany’s heartland in Italy has rolling hills, sunflower fields and medieval hill towns. It’s often called the “Golden Triangle” and it’s easy to see why.
One seller seeks 160,000 euro ($200,000) for a 430-square-foot studio in a farmhouse complex near Volterra. Big difference to the Lunigiana, a relatively unknown corner of northern Tuscany. Up in its hills and chestnut forests, two-story restored village houses are often a third of that price.
Developers now often divide central Tuscany’s large farmhouses and estates into smaller homes. Sadly, I haven’t spotted any bargains. A 1,075-square-foot apartment for 532,000 euro ($660,000)? In today’s cash-strapped climate, I’d guess it’s destined to stay unsold for quite a while longer. This was in Sant Anastasio, a hamlet on the road to San Gimignano of the towers, Italy’s “medieval Manhattan”.
For me, touristy haunts are places for weekends and day-trips. Not desirable places to live. An espresso coffee costs a dollar in the Lunigiana, but more like $3 here. Architecturally dreamy though they are, coach-tour towns like San Gimignano are the Tuscany of mediocre menu turisticos, not the good-value pranzo di lavoro (working lunch).
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Of course, the Golden Triangle represents an “Under the Tuscan Sun” dream for some. On via Gramsci in Volterra’s town center, Gabetti agency has a few long-term furnished rentals. Considering the area, prices are reasonable: $445 monthly for a one-bedroom unit; $533 for a two-bedroom apartment.
But it wasn’t real estate that drew me to Volterra.
Rather it was the Etruscans, a Bronze Age people who inhabited this part of Italy before Roman times. A walled medieval town atop a ridge, Volterra was once an Etruscan stamping ground. Go for a visit, even if you’re not intrigued by the antique past. Studded with palazzos, its winding streets contain many artisan workshops: glass, ceramic and mosaic artists, bronze-casters, wrought-iron smiths, bookbinders, etc.
Alabaster carvers, too—Volterra is renowned for this soft white stone, mined from the hills since Etruscan times. An alabaster-topped bottle stopper proved irresistible. As I rarely leave wine in a bottle, it will get little use, but no matter. At $1.90, definitely a bargain. There are tourist alabaster shops aplenty, but Giorgio and Roberto’s Alab’Arte workshop is the real deal. (Via Orti di Sant’Agostino, 28.)
Now, I know that drooling over Etruscan funerary artifacts isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun time. But, oh! Well over 2,000 years ago, these talented people produced life-like alabaster carvings of the dead to recline atop small sarcophagi. Containing the ashes of cremation, the stone boxes are also adorned with incredibly detailed panels. They often depict battles with demons or journeys to the Etruscan otherworld. Volterra’s Etruscan museum, Museo Guarnacci, has one of the world’s best collections.
Not all sarcophagi are behind glass. Some weather away in the museum’s small inner garden. Along with votive offerings and jewelry, you can also see the most famous of all Etruscan sculptures—an elongated figure of a young man called the Ombra della Sera, or “Shadow of the Evening”.
Above a grassy park where students loll in the sun, Volterra’s prison looks magical too. Yes, that “must-see” Medici fortified castle dominating the town is used to jail miscreants. Near the castle/prison gate are warnings about no photography and promises of vigilanzia armata.
I wasn’t about to tangle with armed prison guards to get illicit photos. That said, pitching up on the wrong side of Volterra’s prison walls would be a really inexpensive way to experience the Tuscan lifestyle…
This article has been republished from International Living.