We saw it in the distant horizon – it looked like an ancient castle surrounded by houses.

My wife Linda and I were tooling around in the Tuscan countryside – in our rented mini Volkswagen.

We had decided that after a few days of relaxing in our holiday retreat on an olive grove in Tuscany it was time to explore the surrounding countryside.

And boy did we ever.

It was fun, so much to see, taking in the lush countryside.

Once, in the distant horizon we saw what looked like an ancient castle surrounded by houses.

As we drove closer we found out that’s exactly what it was.

There was a wooden small sign saying ‘Volterra’. We followed a winding and eventually ended up close to a parking lot, parked, and started walking.

What an experience. Small narrow, cobbled streets, filled with ancient grey coloured buildings.

At street level, an endless array of stores, selling everything from groceries to fruit and vegetables, to fine artisan goods. As well restaurants, many with outdoor seating, were part of this wonderful tableau of life on the street.

The top stories were regular apartments, often with people taking in the hustle and bustle below. Some even waved.

It was memorable – walking along streets, many, thousands of years old, a great juxtaposition of the old and the new, people strolling, window shopping, looking at all the shops.

One small shop caught our attention right away.

When we looked in, we saw, what we thought was a lot of pottery.

It wasn’t.

At the back, a gentleman was working on a bowl with a shiny finish.
Discovered it wasn’t pottery but beautiful hand-carved and polished alabaster.

We chatted with him and he told us it was alabaster.

Volterra is world-renowned for its artisan alabaster handicrafts.

By now it was lunch time.

We lucked out, finding a beautiful restaurant, after getting directions from a local, who spoke reasonable English.

It was called Villa Pignano with a spectacular location and terrific food.

Villa Pignano

Perusing the extensive menu took a bit of time and eventually we ordered our dishes, savoury, simple and super delicious.

After lunch it was time for more sightseeing – taking in Volterra’s beautiful ancient churches.

Then it was time to head back to our place, ready to relax, savour what a great visit and experience we had in Volterra.