OverviewIt is located on the brow of a rugged hill of 483 meters, belonging to a group of hills northeast of the island. The environment underlines perfectly why it had been built up here: on three sides the castle overlooking precipitous cliffs of red jasper, covered with vegetation, mostly thorny gorse aspalatoide cushions and a low scrubland in rockrose. Extraordinary are the views enjoyed from here, especially on the northern coast of Elba with Portoferraio in the foreground. Absolutely do not miss the sunsets.
Not only the historical origins of the castle is nebulous, even that of the name. Led to several analyzes in this respect. Some, like Joseph Ninci, trace it back to "Volterra" or "Volterra", thereby bringing the foundation to the Etruscans. Others start from the same root, but tying it to what they consider the true founder of the fort, Vanni di Gherardo Rau, who was indeed born in Volterra. Finally there is the hypothesis favored by Remigio Sabbadini that traces the Latin etymology "Vultures", scavengers, which would once have nested up here.
It is a small steep and winding road, after 3 km, you have to leave your car in a small parking (there are some bunker of the ww2).
From there start the steep path direction Volterraio. You have as target the small curch out of the walls. It is a marvelous observation point on the Gulf of Portoferraio.
From there, in limpid days, you can have a full vision of the Elba Island and, in lucky days see also the Corsica Island.
The TrailClimb to Volterraio pedaling is virtually impossible, you can push your mountain bike.
The effort will be rewarded by the descent which is a true cross-downhill.
It can be reached via a marked trail, which branches off from the main road between Rio nell'Elba and warehouses, on the side that looks latter place. The route starts from about halfway up, near the bunker of World War II. The ascent is very steep, difficult and, in summer, under a scorching sun.
The trail goes on climbing the nude rocks that form the rampart of the mountain, only the lichens could grow in this dry ambient.
After one hour and a half, under a shining sun, you reach the summit and the Ancient Fortress.
You can enter in, using a hole in the walls. The visit is very suggestive, is as if you enter in a past world. The structure is free, although not easy to access, but must do so with some respect for the walls, unfortunately in poor condition and awaiting restoration.
Continuing the trail you can reach the summit of the second peak; it is the best point to take a complete view of the Volterraio and his Fortress.
When to BikeSpring-Summer-Autumn-Winter.
Red Tape: NONE
The Fortress.The Ancient Fortress has a shape of an irregular oval, also because of the non-accentuated but this difference in ground level. Please note, there have been improvements and additions in progress for centuries.
Access to the castle was by a drawbridge, which was accessed by an
exterior stone staircase. Upon entering on the right is the pit of the cistern, which is essential for the water supply of the garrison.
Near it you can get on the walkway, which surrounded the whole perimeter, now reduced in poor condition. In the corner watching the side of the access walkway widens into a small square, interrupted only by a sentry box. This is indeed the most assailable point, and then where you had to concentrate artillery. Today is an incomparable panoramic terrace.
In the top stands the square tower, crumbling and painfully dissected. It is believed to be the original center of the fortress. Built on three floors, the upper was garnished with battlements, and on it were lit signal fires to communicate with other strong hazard. Was also equipped with a drawbridge in order to make the extreme point of defense in case of need.
In the south side is a pentagon-shaped ravelin, from very high railings where there are numerous loopholes. Achieved much later than most other works, served as a further defense of the entrance. Inside the warehouse was the dust.
The areas covered were different, but today only two remain standing. They are both located on the western side of the fort. What was left of the warehouse and storage of artillery. From it a steep avalanche leads to an opening that communicates with the outside, and is usually from here that is accessed with some difficulty to the castle. The right one, surmounted by a frieze of sinuous, was the chapel, which still are the remains of the altar.
More or less at the center of the fort was covered with the district, of which today only the foundations remain buried by vegetation and debris. It was divided into a barracks for the soldiers and the environment attributable to the castle. There was also a bakery, too basic for a landmark structure so isolated.
The ruins that we see a few dozen meters from the castle, as it seems, was a church dedicated to St. Leonard. Its origin is uncertain, probably medieval. Today is also waiting for a restoration, often used as a barn and the back wall has completely collapsed. A little further down there is a short and low curtain, in further defense in the outer side exposed to attack.
HistoryThe castle's origins are shrouded in darkness. Many say it was a oppida (fortress offshore) Etruscan, then maybe passed to the Romans. In fact, ancient discoveries have been made in the area.
Certainly we know that in its current form more or less born in the Middle Ages, but here it's hard to put a precise period. The first certain that is what comes in 1281, a measure of the government of Pisa, which fell under the Elbe, to send two naval captains, and the engineer Vanni di Gherardo Rau to take care of the castle. What jobs were to play here is rather vague: it was founded, enlargement or simple restructuring? Here too, has gone beyond conjecture. Vanni is believed to have built the castle, surrounding the square tower in a wider circle of walls. According to this version, the tower of Pisa would always work, but it dates back to X-XI century, and then the front of more than two centuries to the rest of the fort itself.
The first siege was documented in 1402, when the Genoese occupied the island, now ruled by the Appiani of Piombino. The Elba took refuge in the forts around the island: the Volterraio received the Riesi. The Ligurian you gave to assault all the fortified places, "but those attempts did in that time," wrote historian Joseph Ninci Elba, "to drop the Volterraio, could not succeed in any way." He began the reputation of impregnability of our strength.
Forty years later slammed his face against the Tunisian pirates castle. Even in this case the resistance of the garrison and civilians barricaded Elba was tough, managing not to lose heart until reinforcements Piombino and the bloody defeat of the enemy.
In the years immediately following the Volterraio was further strengthened.
In 1544 the castle will live perhaps his finest hour maximum. The Elbe was invested by the terrifying attack of the notorious pirate Barbarossa. While the island was paying a heavy price to looting and violence and the islanders swarmed with their meager assets within any place that could protect them, the Volterraio resisted fiercely. Also in this case held so long as it was enough to see the enemies re-embark and remove the anchors. Never before had proved impregnable, even when faced with a commander who was shaking more than a rock.
In 1548 the island was temporarily Cosimo de 'Medici, who gave start to the foundation of the fortress of Portoferraio. The Volterraio was effectively used as a lookout on protective works to the city. So when he returned to the island princes of Piombino and Portoferraio was referring physicians, they included in their boundaries our castle.
During the Grand Duke was strongly affected by many jobs. Most of them were under the governorship Tornaquinci, describing them in detail: the bastion was built to flank the entrance, other curtains, the access stairs stone that replaced the previous wooden (1688) and chapel (1694 ).
In the eighteenth century it began its decline, although the report of the Director General of the Tuscan fortresses, Edward Warren, designating, in 1749, the fortress Volterraio first class (throughout the Grand Duchy of this title is fregiarono 15 squares of 52). As evidence of this decay is the finding of the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, who, during a visit to the island, wrote that the fort was garrisoned by "a castle and a small garrison, but no use." Moreover in 1777 the grand duke disbanded the military genius, giving the final blow to the defense system of Tuscany.
The complete demilitarization of our structure occurred after the restoration of 1815.
Since then the fort was abandoned, always going to deteriorate to this day, waiting for a decent restoration.