It has a distinctly medieval look, but its Etruscan stamp is still very much in evidence in a city whose name derives from the Etruscan Velathri, later adapted to the Latin Volaterrae.
Traces from that period are found not only in the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum, but also in the Acropolis and Necropolis of the archaeological areas of Vallebuona and Parco Enrico Fiumi.
The Acropolis features structures that overlap the Etruscan, Roman and medieval ages. The Necropolis is chiefly interesting from a structural point of view: instead of developing upwards, graves are dug into the sandy soil, which explains why they are commonly known as Buche Etrusche (Etruscan Holes).
The urban zone still holds traces of the Etruscan period in the form of the Porta all’Arco, set in the 5th-century B.C. wall and in the Porta Diana, outside of the medieval belt.
Roman archaeology can be seen in the remains of the 1st-century B.C. theatre, where a Festival of theatre, music and poetry is held every summer.
The medieval hamlet developed around the nucleus of the Piazza dei Priori, where the unmistakable Palazzo dei Priori rises, with its facade featuring three rows of mullioned windows and crests of the Florentine magistrates.
Some of the most outstanding features in the magnificent setting of the square are the Palazzo Pretorio with the Torre del Porcellino, former office of the Mayor, the Palazzo Vescovile, the Palazzo Incontri, seat of the local Cassa di Risparmio and the Palazzo del Monte Pio, the result of a grouping of 13th-century towers and structures.
Other examples of medieval civil architecture are the tower-houses Buonparenti, Baldinotti and the group called Toscano.
The religious buildings are concentrated in the Piazza San Giovanni: the Baptistry, the Ospedale di Santa Maria hospital and the Romanesque Cathedral with its elegant 15th-century bell tower.
On the second and third Sundays of August the medieval atmosphere is revived in full with the Medieval Week - A.D. 1398.
As with all small towns in Tuscany they were not designed with the modern car in mind. There is a small underground car park near the centre (Piazza Martiri della Libertà) and various smaller outdoor car parks scattered around the walls (all are metered) failing this go to the hospital car park and walk back up the hill (10 minutes).