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The Volterra Alabaster

Volterra, historical and art city only a few minutes from Hotel Certaldo, is also renowned for the manufacture of alabaster. Volterra’s alabaster is a chalky kind (calcium sulfate hydrate), dug underground in Castellina Marittima, not far from Volterra. Another kind of alabaster exists, the oriental alabaster (calcium carbonate), a light-coloured stone which, thanks to its pliability, is easier to work than marble.

Alabaster is present in Tuscany and in the Volterra area since the Etruscan times. The ancient population used this material to build decorated sarcophaguses and cinerary urns which are today kept in the Guarnacci Museum of Volterra as a testimony of archeological findings in Tuscany, as well as in the Archeological Museum of Florence, the Vatican Museums, the Louvre Museum and the British Museum in London.
It is only in the 17th century that Volterra’s alabaster manufacture begins to flourish, when the material is used also for everyday tools and furniture instead that for artworks only. But it is the 18th century that Volterra’s alabaster becomes famous and coveted in all of Tuscany, Italy and also Europe. Still today, after two thousand years since the Etruscan began using it, alabaster is still crafted in Volterra, and despite being no longer the main activity of this beautiful Tuscan city, it is still undoubtedly a fundamental characteristic of the culture and history of Volterra.

Strolling along the beautiful alleys of Volterra you will spot many workshops where the thousand-year-old tradition of alabaster manufacturing of Volterra is passed on through generations. Another great idea for a souvenir from Tuscany: the beautiful alabaster sculptures, in all shapes and sizes, pottery, statues and the precious – and unique in the world – alabaster chessboards from Volterra! 

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