The Grand Tour of the Towers and Badia Camaldolese.
Can you remember when in Europe the Grand Tour was popular? Of course it was 1660…maybe you weren’t there yet. Well, tourism has its roots in this Tour which families belonging to the European aristocracy took part in for some days or even months. As destination it had Italy and it included in-depth analysis of politics, culture and history, making time to study, to read and to do shopping.
Today in honour of the Grand Tour of yore we offer you a Tour in Tuscany, open to everyone, not just for foreigners, but also for the Italians who sometimes don’t know well their beautiful home country.
The Tour of the Towers then proceeds passing through Volterra. Wonderful land of Alabaster and flounces and Etruscan walls.
As second stage and first climb, in order to exercise, the Casa Torre Toscano. It is the most ancient Tower, called Torre S. Agnolo, built in 1250 by Giovanni Toscano. From the inside it shows its own development and transformation from a defensive tower into a residential one. With a reasonable entry fee the volunteers of the sport club, assigned to be tourist guides and to guard, explain with unusual kindness and thorough particulars the history of the Tower and the surroundings.
In Volterra you will really find an elevated number of local volunteers who, in the name of their beloved city, will be willing to help the tourists in finding places, information, clubs and anything needed. A characteristic we find really lovable in this locality.
Third stage is the Torre Campanaria del Palazzo dei Priori. Then above and even above to admire a wonderful view lashed by the restoring breeze. Watch out for the time or the bell will shake your hearing!
Third but not last stage is the climb to Maschio della Fortezza di Volterra.
For only two years it has been possible to enter the Fortress and climb the inside of the Tower up to the windows the view of which amazes the traveller. In the limpid days you can even see the sea.
Built in 1428-1495, it had been wanted by Lorenzo il Magnifico, it rises upon a hill which dominates over the city and it is used as a prison.
As the last stage, in order not to tire the traveller, who will have done rises and descents over thousands of steps, it is worth to climb the tower of Boccaccio’s house in Certaldo Alto. And contemplating the red medieval walls of the smiling town to widen the sight also to the vast Tuscan view. It is possible to arrive in Certaldo Alto by funicular railway or by foot through a pedestrian crossing slightly uphill, but very pleasant.
In leaving this wonderful small Tour I would like to spend some other words on Volterra.
I advise a stop at the Albergo Nazionale where Gabriele D’Anunzio took a break and where along with courtesy and hospitality you can taste Tuscan cuisine dishes skilfully cooked.
Dropping by the Pinacoteca will allow you to admire among the other magnificent work the panting which was the beginning, according to many art scholars, of the modern painting: the Deposizione della Croce del Rosso Fiorentino.
At the Etruscan Museum you will find, apart from jewels, mosaics, funerary urns and every kind of find, the Urna degli sposi and the famous statue Ombra della sera.
Finally, thanks to the passionate indications of Mario and Davide, precious collaborators of the Albergo Nazionale, I would conclude with a brief thought for Badia Camaldolese.
From the Etruscan walls which run along the Balze, immediately after leaving the big church of San Giusto, through a little path in the wood you would have arrived, in the past, in Badia Camaldolese. Unfortunately today it can be reached only through the state highway which we suggest you to do by car because it lacks a pavement and it is very busy.
After about ten minutes by foot, five by car, amid olive trees, fruit trees, flower bushes and vines you reach a dirt road which leads to the summit of a hill from which to admire all the movement of the Balze. In the view stand out the rock spike and the chasm which has swallowed up the old church of San Giusto, successively rebuilt in a higher position by the devoted Volterrani.
On the hill a vast building composed by parts in ruin and restored ones: Badia Camaldolese. The building is a monastery which was founded in 1030 by the Volterra bishop Gunfredo’s will. The establishment was successively entrusted along with the lands to the Benedictine monks who during the 13th century were substituted by the Camaldolesi monks.
In the early years of the 17th century the landslides of the Balze began, and in the following centuries arrived to seriously threaten even the Badia. In 1861 the monks abandoned the place after the umpteenth earthquake which made the adjacent church crumble down.
Today remain the ruins of the Romanic church, the bell tower, which is the most ancient part, the cloister, the refectory and the monks’ quarters.
Thanks to the restoration made with the funds of the Cassa di Risparmio di Volterra and to the dedication of their trusted man, who deals with the clubs’ opening and of the maintenance of the patrimony outside and inside the Badia, you can visit the Cloister and the Refectory and thus admire the frescos painted by Donato Mascagni, with the stories of San Giusto and Clemente, patrons of Volterra, and at the centre of the refectory’s ceiling the Madonna con il bambino by Baldassarre Franceschini.
A place rich in history and peace. With finds yet to be given value and of a great potentiality for a museum route outside the urban schemes.
Traduzione letterale Giulia Amorotti-studentessa Liceo Scientifico Amedeo di Savoia Pistoia
Badia Camaldolese – Volterra