Published on: 2 February 2014 | Last updated: 9 February 2018
After San Gimignano the landscape changes as we move from the wine country to the Crete Senese around Volterra where wheat is the main crop. The route takes you through part of the Crete Senese and the final stretch into Volterra rewards you with great views of the Balze the landscape caused by the erosion of the soil. This section is pretty short (although there's a fair of climbing involved): so you can spend the afternoon in Volterra, although you could continue on to Siena.
Volterra high on a hill (532m) is surrounded by dramatic landscapes and it's worth a visit just for the views from the walls. It hasn't yet been included on the UNESCO list but it's a contender. It was one of the great Etruscan cities and you can still see the remains of the ancient city walls - the modern city is only a fraction of the size of the ancient city. Over the centuries the ground has literally crumbled away underneath it.
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My recommendation would be to go to the tourist information office (opening times) on the Piazza dei Priori and hire one of the excellent audio guides and let it take you round.
Highlights are possibly the view over the Teatro Romano and surrounding countryside and the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum (Museo Etrusco Guarnacci). There are also the ancient city walls right next door to the Le Balze campsite.
There is another route between San Gimignano which goes via Castel San Gimignano. It's a very attractive and scenic road, but the route I've suggested is quieter. San Gimignano to Volterra and back would make a nice day ride.
There's a wild, scenic road from Volterra, via Pomarance, to Massa Marittima where you can connect with the Gran Tour della Maremma. There's also an attractive scenic road back to Firenze via Castelfiorentino.
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
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If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
There's also a hostel the Ostello Le Monache. I've always stayed at the campsite but the hostel, housed in an ex-Francescan monastery looks great. It also offers single/double (etc) rooms.
There's a very good campsite (Le Balze) a short walk, or bike/bus ride, from town.
Transport and services
The nearest train station to Volterra is at the Saline di Volterra —at the bottom of the hill. The line connects to the coast at Cecina.
For general tourist information there's volterratur.it (en/it). They have a section with mountain-bike-routes in the area. There's a download area with brochures for Volterra and the area around (the Val Cecina). You could download a map of the city's centro storico although it's probably just as easy to get a paper one from the tourist office.
Articles in this series
- Tour: The Heart of Toscana: overviews
- Heart of Toscana 1: Firenze to San Gimignano
- Heart of Toscana: variant Firenze-Siena direct
- The Heart of Toscana: 2 – San Gimignano – Volterra
- Heart of Toscana 3: Volterra-Siena
- Heart of Toscana 4: Siena-Pienza
- Heart of Toscana: 5 – The Val d’Orcia
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