Ecomuseum of Alabaster – Volterra

Ecomuseum of Alabaster – Volterra

The municipality of Volterra is located in Tuscany, in the province of Pisa. The center is renowned for the extraction and processing of alabaster and has a history that can be compared to the most important centers in the area. It was one of the twelve most important centers of the Etruscan city-states and played an important role throughout the historical period of the Middle Ages, as it was a bishopric and its lordship dominated a large territory of the Tuscan hills.
And it is precisely in the hills that the project of the widespread museum of the province of Pisa was born, trying to emphasize as much as possible a great fortune in the Cecina valley area. The project brings together the municipalities of Volterra, Castellina Marittima and Santa Luce, or the towns that are most closely linked to the artisanal production and artistic tradition of a very precious stone: alabaster.

Our Hotel in Volterra is full of sculptures made in this very precious material.

The Alabaster Ecomuseum unfolds in two distinct itineraries, which embrace two different territorial areas. These itineraries are connected by as many thematic museums, which are located in the towns of Volterra and Castellina Marittima. The itineraries embrace the themes of alabaster excavation, developed in the museum of Castellina Marittima, and the theme of the processing and marketing of alabaster, with reference to the museum center of Volterra, to which the Area Archive is connected inside of the tunnel of the Massetto quarry, in the Marmolaio Valley. The museum of Santa Luce, the third museum district of the project, has a very important role, given by the Santa Luce Area Archive, which enriches the path on the excavation.

The location of the Alabaster Ecomuseum of Volterra offers a unique and inimitable visiting experience. The route winds through the internal rooms of the Medieval Minucci Tower, adjacent to the Municipal Art Gallery. In this museum, the visitor does not limit himself to observing the finds in the display cases, but makes a real journey, through real testimonies, in the artisanal and artistic production of alabaster, a stone so dear to the citizens of Volterra, with a particular look to the technical aspect, passing through the care in the choice of materials, to the processing techniques, with an eye also to the stylistic characteristics of the processing and to the economic and social impact that alabaster has had for the whole area. The history of alabaster processing has very deep historical roots, in fact, as can be seen from the works in the Ecomuseum, the first processing dates back to the Etruscan era.

And it is precisely the Etruscan era that the two most significant objects of the entire collection placed in the rooms of the Tower of Palazzo Minucci refer to. We are talking about two cinerary urns, obviously in alabaster, which represent human figures in a convivial position, that is lying on a triclinium bed, that is where the meal was consumed in antiquity, and below, carved in low relief and almost with figures in the round , moments in the life of the subject to whom the urn was dedicated. Definitely valuable pieces, which have comparisons only with cinerary urns, also in alabaster, present in Vatican museums. Since the production and processing of alabaster occupies the entire period of life of the city of Volterra, there are also works produced during the medieval era, with two capitals that represent a unicum of alabaster production throughout the Middle Ages. Continuing the visit in the remaining rooms of the Minucci Tower, the historical-productive-cultural path on the alabaster reaches the sculptures of undoubted beauty of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with a careful look at the collection of medallions by Albino Funaioli, a well-known sculptor of the 1800s, from Volterra who created, among other things, also some valuable bas-reliefs in alabaster. The visit continues with the opportunity to appreciate the works of the contemporary artist Raffaello Consortini, modern vate of alabaster sculpture, who died in 2000. In the last room of the museum there is a representation of a workshop of an expert craftsman in alabaster processing ; in this way, the visitor is offered the opportunity to see all the tools used from the extraction to the processing of this fantastic and precious stone which is alabaster up close.

The Alabaster Ecomuseum is the perfect starting point for appreciating the entire urban itinerary of Volterra, without limiting oneself to the find alone, but looking for evidence, even present, of a timeless tradition, on which the city of Volterra has founded their economic and social roots.