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 have missed a gem!! Stroll along Via Don Giovanni Minzoni to find this small, unique museum that first opened in 1761!
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 after a farmer had discovered the figure while 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.”)
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, many from 700-100 BC, found in and around the area of Volterra in Tuscany.
The cinerary urns, shaped like small coffins with decorative lids, are well organized and displayed. The lids to the boxes may depict the likeness of the deceased, usually in a reclining position as if on a 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.
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.
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. Without a guide, you will want to do a little research before visiting. Don’t miss this one!!!