Alabaster, the white treasure of Volterra
Shiny like sun rays, resilient like tradition that hands things down: the alabaster of Volterra is a natural wealth to be discovered on tip toes.
CRAFT / STORY / CULTURE
White and elegant, alabaster has always been one of the great resources of Volterra [Link OK], and since the Etruscan times its craftsmen have learnt how to exploit this mineral in works of great beauty. To discover its charm, you just have to walk around the picturesque streets of the town!
“A mineral that captures the sun’s rays,
pure and elegant”
The processing of alabaster dates back many centuries before Year Zero: the Etruscan people, skilful and outstandingly creative, used it to decorate objects and chisel luxurious urns; it is a far more workable stone than marble, ideal to offer the same effect of amazement but with less hard work.
With the onset of the dark centuries of the Middle Ages, as happened with many art forms, the crafting of the alabaster almost disappeared to later revive with the flourishing of the Renaissance.
If you want to discover everything, literally everything, about alabaster you need to head for the historic centre of Volterra and visit the Ecomuseo dell’Alabastro, located within the Torri Minucci, a stunning 13th century location: the carving of the white stone, its history and the trade resulting from it are the main points to be explored, together with the wonderful objects you can admire.
What causes more amazement are the sculptures and objects that are created by the skilful craftsmanship jealously guarded in the workshops. The alabastrai – as the alabaster artists are named - hand down their ancient know-how, unchanged over time, century after century. The few workshops remaining tell of a tradition: the working bench, for instance is always placed under a window, to capture as much light as possible. Alabaster is a stone that can filter sunlight, enclosing it in a white and smooth shell; it is a stone that needs the light to live and shine.
The art of alabaster is one of the ancient cultures that survive in Valdelsa and Valdicecina, just like the manufacturing of crystal in Colle Val d’Elsa [link OK] or the use of spices and the precious saffron at San Gimignano [link OK].
These centuries-old skills co-exist in this part of Tuscany, together with the new styles and modern languages of contemporary and environmental art [link OK], of which you can find examples in the countryside around Volterra: a heritage of ancient and modern beauty that awaits you. Discover it on foot, by bike or on horseback, letting you be carried only by the rhythm of your curiosity!
Be inspired by the legends, stories, and a thousand wonders of this land in the green heart of Tuscany.
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