Volterra is a medieval town in Valdicecina, Tuscany, populated by real people, with real activities (including tourism), compared to San Gimignano (next post), which is a popular destination that lives and earns (profusely) solely upon the tourist industry.
In ancient times, Volterra was one of the twelve most important cities in the Etruscan Confederation. Its walls, as you can partly see them today, were built in the IV century b.C. with a development of 7300 meters in length. In the year 90 b.C. the people of Volterra obtained the Roman citizenship.
After being governed by the Lombards, the Francs and after having served under the religious power of the Bishops, Volterra entered the Communal Age. The Palazzo dei Priori was built starting 1208, about the same age as the Cathedral. The Medicean Fortress started to be built under the rule of Ottaviano Belforti (circa 1350) but was completed under the Medici of Florence dominance.
After two centuries of recession, the city knew a new economic upsurge due to the development, in the XVIII century, of a profitable alabaster artisanship for which the town has been renowned up to the twentieth century. This reputation is still holding today, despite the entry in the market of new industrial operators. The alabaster stores scattered around the town are now confined to a purely commercial role.
The other important development came in the XIX century from the institution of a new Psychiatric Asylum (now in ruins) which housed up to 4800 mental patients in 1939, assisted by about 3000 paramedics.
Despite tourism being the main source of income, the people of Volterra also earn their dough from other enterprises. Among important voices in the town economy are the Hospital and the local Savings & Loan, the penitentiary and a small industrial complex. Wineries, olive oil and cheese producers, together with the stores of alabaster artifacts, complete the picture.