From Volterra to discover Tuscany on a Vespa
The Vespa has been a typically Italian status symbol since 1946, always used to roam the busy city streets or to take pleasant trips out of town. The Tuscan countryside, on the other hand, is one of the most enchanting landscapes of the Belpaese, with rows of cypresses and rolling hills dotted here and there with vineyards and ancient farmhouses. The combination of Vespa and Tuscany offers a fantastic opportunity to travel at a slow pace, with the possibility of enjoying the views with the wind in your face.
From the beautiful Volterra you can reach some of the most beautiful villages in Tuscany, where characters such as Dante and Lorenzo the Magnificent have left an indelible mark.
It starts from Volterra
The starting point of this Vespa tour to discover Tuscany is our Hotel in Volterra, with a golden past that was seen by one of the Etruscan lacumonies. The medieval aspect of the town is almost intact, surrounded by ancient walls on which six doors open, the oldest of which is the Porta all’Arco: dating back to the 5th century, it is made of tuff blocks and you can still see the three heads presumably of Pollux, Castor and Jupiter.
By parking your Vespa you can discover the historic center of Volterra on foot and admire the beauty of Piazza dei Priori, with the homonymous building from 1239 which, complete with battlements and slits, inspired the Florentine Palazzo della Signoria.
Not far away is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta whose simple Romanesque facade contrasts with the richness of the interior where the works of Della Robbia and Benozzo Gozzoli stand out. In front of the church stands the Baptistery, with its characteristic marble facade with green and white bands: inside there is a sixteenth-century baptismal font by Sansovino.
A visit to the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum allows you to observe treasures such as the sinuous Shadow of the Night statuette and the Urn of the Spouses, or the lid of a sarcophagus decorated with the sculptures of a reclining couple. The Pinacoteca, on the other hand, located inside the Minucci-Solaini Palace, houses works by Antonio San Gallo, Ghirlandaio and a collection of Medici coins.
A visit to the Camaldolese Abbey
Getting back on the Vespa, it is advisable to take the SP15, a fairly fast and very green road, towards the Badia Camaldolese: before reaching it, on the road you will at a certain point notice a large stone with a slightly left shape. This is the Masso di Mandringa, a place that legend indicates as a haunt of witches. In fact, the place is mentioned by D’Annunzio himself as the source that feeds the Docciola sources: parking the Vespa and approaching the boulder, in fact, you will notice a small staircase and a thirteenth-century arch that lead straight to this medieval source.
Continuing along the SP15 you will therefore reach the Camaldolese Abbey dating back to 1034, one of the few monasteries left standing by the erosion of the surrounding friable clay soils that gave rise to gullies called Balze. Well, the Abbey appears almost like a solitary hermitage of which the refectory can be visited in particular, with valuable frescoes and the cloister still visible: the latter still bears old engravings and symbols on capitals and architraves, as well as grates on the floor that reveal in the basement Etruscan and Roman remains.
From Volterra to Colle Val d’Elsa
Returning to Volterra, you can enter the famous Volterrana, the oldest road that crosses Tuscany together with the Via Francigena. Otherwise known as SR68, this route offers a pleasant experience, between bends and hairpin bends that cut through the hills of the Valdelsa, in a pleasant and panoramic ups and downs.
Therefore, traveling eastwards along the Volterrana on a Vespa, you first cross the Etruscan Acropolis and then the Medici Fortress of 1475: this citadel consists of an old fortress of 1342 commissioned by Gualtieri VI of Brienne and the Keep built instead on the order of Lorenzo de ‘ Medici, now home to a prison.
Continuing along the Volterrana you reach Colle Val d’Elsa, a village that has gone down in history due to the struggles of 1269 between the Guelphs and Ghibellines. The village, which was the birthplace of the great architect Arnolfo di Cambio, has a long tradition in glass processing, so much so that it is nicknamed “The Bohemia of Italy”: a visit to the Crystal Museum allows you to admire both elegant artifacts and works glass masters, but also old and new working techniques.
A panoramic lift takes you to Colle Alta, the historic center of Colle Val d’Elsa which has kept its medieval imprint intact: from the belvedere you can enjoy the most beautiful view of the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
From Monteriggioni to San Gimignano
From Colle Val d’Elsa you can reach Monteriggioni by Vespa, a very small village of a few houses surrounded by thirteenth-century walls dotted with 14 turrets. It is an excellent example of medieval architecture practically never conquered and defined by Dante in the Divine Comedy “Monteriggioni di Torri si Corona“. In addition to a visit to the central Piazza Roma and the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta overlooking it, a walk on the walkways is recommended, where everything has remained as it was more than 8 centuries ago, so much so that it seems that at any moment a armiger in defense of the city.
Getting back on your Vespa and returning to the SR68 towards Volterra, you can detour along the SP36 which, between vineyards and soft hills, leads directly to San Gimignano. Approaching the final destination of the tour in Tuscany, the profile of the beautiful town is revealed, with its towers symbolizing the power of the families of the time.
Piazza Duomo is a feast for the eyes with the same towers framing the Duomo, inside which is the Chapel of Santa Fina frescoed by Ghirlandaio, and the Palazzo del Podestà, also home to the Civic Museum. Piazza della Cisterna is also very scenic, located with its octagonal well and its medieval buildings such as Palazzo Tortoli, in the shadow of the legendary Torre del Diavolo. After so much wandering, there is nothing better than choosing an inn in San Gimignano and enjoying its cuisine, washed down with a glass of excellent Vernaccia, also so loved by Lorenzo the Magnificent, Boccaccio and Dante.