Mourning for “le mura” in Volterra: a tract of 13th c. walls collapsed last night

Last night, following days of intense rain, a 20 to 30 yard stretch of Volterra’s Medieval walls collapsed. When I woke up this morning and turned on RaiNews 24 one of the headlines was “Bad Weather in Tuscany: the Arno River is threatening to flood, schools closed in Pisa and 30-meters of Medieval wall have fallen down in Volterra”.

After dropping the kids off at school (safely located far from the walls…) we walked up to Piazzetta dei Fornelli to discover that together with the walls went part of the road “Via Lungo le Mura” that lay just inside the walls. The void that once gave people vertigo as they looked over the walls towards the Cecina Valley now reaches the foundations of the homes. There is no road, no sidewalk, no way to get into your home or store, all the way to the panoramic terrace that is just beneath the covered staircase called “Vicolo degli Abbandonati”. The terrace is still there… but just barely.


About 100 yards downhill from this road and stretch of walls “that-were” you reach Volterra’s great Etruscan monument – the 4th c. B.C. Porta all’Arco. I feel ill thinking, wondering, fearing that this landslide could in any way compromise its structural integrity. If you have been to Volterra and seen this stone gate, if you know its history, you will understand the emotional involvement that Volterrans have with it. The Porta all’Arco is a part of them.

The loss of these 13th-century walls is enough, and I pray that the damage stops there (the forecasts say we should expect another 6 days of non-stop rain). How could they have stood so mightily for 800 years, enduring endless sieges under the Florentines, a mistaken attack by the Allied troops in WWII, and then give up now? I perhaps shouldn’t give fault to the walls, be angry with them… but if not them, who? Surely there is something we have done wrong to let this happen…

As I walked away from the scene this morning, I realized the void was more than physical as a tear slid down my cheek.



  1. Annie, we just heard about this (slow news to reach us in the Pacific Northwest). We are equally saddened. I hope something can be done to build up the hillside and restore the wall. David and Marianne Jones (Roseburg, Oregon)


    the repairs are underway – they are currently injecting reinforced concrete vertically and horizontally under the buildings on the precipice of the landslide, and when that is completed they will rebuild the walls using the original medieval stones as the facade. so when all is said and done – which will probably be sometime in late 2014 or early 2015 – all will look as it did before… or perhaps even better!?
    we tragically suffered another landslide on March 3rd that had a strong impact on the viability of Volterra – a corner of the walls that enclose the archeological park (the highest plateau in town) collapsed on top of our underground parking lot n. 1 and Piazza Martiri della Libertà. so both areas are now closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic, but work is underway at full-speed to try to open up this key parking and arrival point for the town by the end of April / early May 2014.


  3. Sorry to hear about your tragedy. I spent he last few winters in Sanremo, so I know what steady rain feels like. I visited Volterra a couple years ago and it felt like time-travelling into the past. I can see why are so in love with the place. Considering how soon (or not) everything gets done in Italy, I’m pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of your City Hall in getting on with repairs. I suspect your presence keeps them on their toes!


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