Volterra, one of the best preserved medieval sites in Europe, and was a major Etruscan settlement that was taken over by the Romans after they came to power between the 4th and 3rd Century BC. Located in Tuscany, the ancient town has been constantly inhabited for thousands of years and the famous 6th Century BC tombs remain a popular tourist attraction.
As you look through photographs of the stunning town and are thinking to yourself that it all looks quite familiar then it might be because the Twilight movies were filmed in the region, particularly in the piazzas and cobbled streets of the Volterra. However, don’t worry, as you saunter through the evening streets there is no risk of running into any vampires! Instead, you’re more likely to find a charming local restaurant that serves homemade cuisine and world class Italian wine!
Where is Volterra?
Volterra is located in the southern part of the Tuscany region and is 75 kilometers from Florence and just 35 kilometers from San Gimignano – The Town of Fine Towers. Beyond Siena, just 55 kilometers away, you can continue your travels and reach the Mediterranean coast within the hour! This gives you a fantastic set of options for day trips and if you want to enjoy the glamour of the high street then the city of Florence’s fashion district is within easy reach.
Tucked away in the rolling landscape of Tuscany, Volterra is one of the most picturesque places in Italy. Beyond the softer hills of the town the countryside retains its rugged charm with ancient ruins dotted across the scenery.
The population of the town is fairly small, with around 12,000 permanent residents although that figure does rise during the tourist months. However, if you were looking for somewhere to live and didn’t want to be swamped by tourists, Volterra strikes the perfect balance; because even at the height of the tourist season it never feels overwhelming unlike some of Italy’s larger cities, like Rome.
Like most hill towns in Italy the climate of Volterra is extremely comfortable throughout the year. During the summer the weather is warm and dry with average temperatures reaching up to about 77 Degrees Fahrenheit while in the winter it’s cooler and humid. The winter temperatures reach about 45 Degrees Fahrenheit during the days and fall to 35 Degrees Fahrenheit during the nights but even on a cold winter’s day there’s plenty to do indoors in Volterra as well as in the surrounding towns and cities.
All Amenities Available
Frequently voted as one of the most beautiful towns in Tuscany, or the City of Alabaster, as it’s also known, it’s also the ideal location for Expats. With the warm, comfortable weather, fresh country air and all the modern facilities in nearby Florence; Volterra will give you the slow paced life of old world charm within easy reach of the city.
Surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and traditionally farmed fields, you can walk amongst the cypresses, stopping off for lunch in a tiny restaurant, before enjoying some live music in the evening.
It’s not just the pleasures of times gone by that you can make the most in Volterra because the town has its own hospital, incredible cultural locations and fast, high speed internet available for all your Zoom calls to friends and family back in the States. The nearest airport is just an hour’s drive away in Pisa so if you were planning to travel back and forth quite frequently then Volterra gives you the best of all possible worlds!
Volterra also has plenty of supermarkets where you can buy local and international food to cook at home and a good range of wine bars and cafes, both of which are often open fairly late into the night.
Plenty Of Culture
Surrounded by the sultry hills, the town of Volterra is built around an ancient castle in the medieval style. Not only was the castle the central defensive structure of the town but it was also the hub of trade, culture and society. The castle, with its bell towers and domes stands out against the landscape and is a local icon of the town.
Volterra is in the Chianti Zone and makes some of the finest wine in Italy; a bottle of which you can purchase for as little as $10 in many of the town’s delicatessens and wine shops! You can also enjoy the freshly made local olive oils, salads, vegetable dishes and, of course, pizza and pasta! Seafood dishes are a local specialty of Volterra and due to the close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea it’s as fresh as it gets!
There’s a thriving culinary scene in Volterra and you can get all your favorite Italian dishes as well as Western styled food in case you’re missing American food. Considering the relatively small size of the town you’ll be amazed by the choice of eateries which serve everything from simple homemade classics to upscale fancy meals that would not be out of place in any Michelin starred restaurant!
Volterra, and the surrounding countryside has an incredible wealth of historical landmarks and archeological sites of special interest. There are Roman era amphitheaters and monuments to explore, almost a dozen museums and stunning churches that are packed full of artwork and sculptures that must be seen to be believed.
The Volterra civic art gallery contains the work of Signorelli, Ghirlandaio and much more besides, and displays work from the past to present. The town piazza is surrounded by the frescoed palaces and is a wonderful public square where you can rest your feet and have a small picnic while taking in the view.
Festivals are a regular feature on the calendar of Volterra and some of the most popular include the medieval fair and the food festivals that showcase the wonderful cuisine of Tuscany. People in the town are very friendly and even if you’re new to the area you’ll soon find that you are making new friends and getting tips on the best places to sightsee, drop by for food or enjoy a show at the theatre. There’s a good selection of concerts and art exhibits that you can visit throughout the year and if you’re a real culture vulture there’s a full theatre season in the Teatro Persio Flavio.
One consideration that you’ll need to keep in mind is that Volterra doesn’t have the best transport links, with no local train station, although if you have your own car then you can travel around very easily. You can also use public transport to get to the nearby cities or train stations, or hire a taxi to get about, so there are still plenty of options.
Cheaper Real Estate Prices
Tuscany has a bit of reputation for being quite expensive compared to other parts of Italy. However, Volterra is a real exception to this rule and the prices in the town are hard to beat – both in terms of your day to day cost of living and the property prices. For example, the average price per square foot in nearby Siena is just over $300 per square meter compared with just $200 per square meter in Volterra!
If you wanted to visit Volterra and rent a property while you were looking for a place you could buy for yourself, the rental prices are pretty reasonable too. You can rent a nice place for as little as $500 a month although if you wanted a larger, farm style building with a pool, then you should expect to pay around $700 per month and in the town, for the best rentals you might pay up to $950 a month.
When it comes to purchasing a home in Volterra prices for a flat in the historic part of the town you’re looking at around $50-60,000; although if you’re looking for a large, villa style town house prices can be a lot higher.
A two bedroom centrally based flat with a built in stone cantina for storing wine and other pantry goods, would cost in the region of $100,000. In short, there’s something for all budgets and despite the town’s small size there’s a good number of available properties.
Outside of town, only a few minutes drive from the historical center, you could purchase a recently restored 17th Century farmhouse that has all the mod cons including several bathrooms, a spacious kitchen, a living room with original fireplace and wooden beams as well as an acre of land with olive trees! The farmhouse also has an elevator, great views and a sunroom, and costs just under $400,000!
Utility bills average under $200 per month and you can get a fast internet connection package for around $30 per month.
Low Cost of Living
In terms of your daily life the costs of living in Volterra are incredibly reasonable and significantly lower than surrounding towns and cities. You can buy a ticket for the theater for under $25 and a season pass for less than $150! If you’re eating out you can buy a large plateful of handmade pasta in an eatery for as little as $10 or a grilled steak with salad and chips for under $20, which will often include a glass of locally produced wine.
When you’re getting out and about in the area you can visit the beach and hire an umbrella and lounging chair for $20 and eat a picnic in between swims in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean. The supermarkets in town are extremely competitive and if you’re cooking at home, or making food to take out on a day trip, you can easily live for $10 a day while still enjoying plenty of olives and local food.
Volterra – Ideal Destination For Expats
Volterra is one of the most beautiful ancient medieval towns in Tuscany and with the majority of the population being local it doesn’t get deserted in the evening when the tour buses leave. The stunning scenery and multitude of historical sites to explore make it a pleasure to live in Volterra.
Throughout the day the cobbled streets and plazas, archways and shops, all bustle with life and there’s always a fantastic restaurant or cafe to stop for a break and have a tasty bite to eat. When I want to head out for a day trip there’s many small towns to visit, larger cities like Pisa, Siena and Florence within easy reach, and the Mediterranean for a day at the beach.
Life in the rural hill town is quieter than the big cities but the rural charm and friendly community spirit more than make up for this.