Volterra | Don’t Miss These Etruscan Treasures!!

Etruscan museum treasures in Volterra

This museum may not make your TOP PLACES TO VISIT IN VOLTERRA list, but if you skip out on the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum you will miss a gem!!

I was on a Rick Steves tour, exploring this ancient Tuscan town (read about my discoveries).   We strolled along Via Don Giovanni Minzoni (I love the pedestrian streets!) to this small, unique museum that first opened in 1761!  

Volterra museum with Etrucan treasures

The most famous piece in the museum is the Ombra della Sera (Shadow of the Evening), a thin, elongated boy bronze statuette.  It’s not understood what the functional use was for the almost 2-foot tall thin boy, but it was being used as a fireplace poker by a farmer who had discovered the figure Walled Tuscan Townwhile working on his land near Volterra in 1870. The museum gift shop had plenty of these thin boy replicas for sale.  (I tried not to call him “thin man.”)

Etruscan museum treasures in Volterra
Ombra della Sera on display at Volterra museum (gift shop replicas shown)

The Guarnacci Etruscan Museum is one of the oldest museums in Europe and shows a large collection of over 600 cinerary urns, pottery, coins, tools, jewelry, bronze statues, and alabaster items of the pre-Roman Etruscan civilization.  The museum displays artifacts including a large collection of pottery, many from 700-100 BC,  that were found in and around the area of Volterra in Tuscany.

Volterra Etruscan treasures
Pottery on display at the Etruscan Museum in Volterra
Etruscan treasures in Volterra
Four-horse metal chariot on display at Etruscan museum

The cinerary urns, shaped like small coffins with decorative lids, are well organized and displayed.  The lids on the boxes may depict the likeness of

the deceased, usually in a reclining position as if on a couch or banquet table.  Many of the urns are made of alabaster, a local stone that’s easy to mold and can be painted.

Etruscan urns are just so interesting!

Here are some great examples of cinerary urns on display at the Etruscan Museum.

Etruscan Museum treasures in Volterra

Etruscan treasures in Volterra museum

Another famous piece is the Urna degli spos (Urn of the Spouses), a terracotta funeral urn lid of an elderly couple reclining at a banquet table.  This piece shows intricate details of the clothing and expressions of the couple and is very well preserved.

Etruscan treasures in Volteera
Urna degli spos — famous Etruscan treasure in Volterra Museum

The museum gives us some clues to the culture of the mysterious Etruscan society and definitely worth a 1-2 hour visit.  The museum is small and inviting, and admission is just a few euros.  Note that the items are labeled mostly in Italian, and the information provided is limited.  You may want to do a little research before visiting, but don’t miss these Etruscan treasures!

I hope you enjoyed the post.  For more information about Volterra, here’s my post on my discoveries in this ancient, stone-walled town.  Geaux travel!!

6 thoughts on “Volterra | Don’t Miss These Etruscan Treasures!!”

  1. Skinny man statues look like they could easily fit in a suitcase to bring home part of Volterra. Did you get one?

    1. Yes the gift shop had small sizes of the skinny guy statue. No room in my suitcase, but it would be awesome to have one!

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