Volterraio Castle formerly Monte Veltraio
The Volterraio Castle, formerly called Monte Veltraio, has a hexagonal plan, it was built around the year 1000, on the spot where a pre-existing structure of the Etruscan era probably stood. The fortress was renovated in the thirteenth century, on a probable project by Vanni di Gerardo Rau, to adapt it to the defensive needs of the time. Castello del Volterraio
In 1544 the fortress suffered the siege of Khayr al-Dīn and later, in 1553, by Dragut. The military architectural complex performed wide-range sighting functions along the northern coast of the Elba island and towards the sea facing it; when the area became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the fortress was integrated, albeit located in an isolated position, to the defensive system that was set up by the Medici in the heart of the town of Portoferraio .
Abandoned castle in 1798
The complex continued to carry out its functions Il Volterraio even in the eighteenth century under the Lorraine, and then became a garrison of the Napoleonic troops at the end of the century. The Castle was abandoned in 1798 after the insurrection against the French military which led to the semi-destruction of the complex.
The Volterraio Castle has been recently renovated and it is possible to visit it
by booking at Info Park Tel. 0565 908231
The history of Volterraio and the Park
The Volterraio Fortress, located 394 meters above sea level on the mountain of the same name on the municipal border between Portoferraio and Rio Elba , dates back to the 11th century. The origin of the name, perhaps derived from the Latin Vultur (vulture), can also be traced back to the provenance of the Volterra architect Vanni Gherardo Rau commissioned by the Pisans, who in 1231 (birth of the Volterraio Castle) began to fortify the fortress built around two hundred years ago.
Starting from the end of the 4th century BC, the peculiar morphology of the relief was exploited for the installation of a “ high sea fortress ” necessary for its strategic importance acquired by the island of Elba in the Tyrrhenian Sea and for the presence of precious mineral resources. As evidence of the frequentation of the site since ancient times, many materials have been collected over time, referable to a chronological period that goes from protohistory, to the Etruscan and Roman age. The Volterraio site is part of the island’s defensive system conceived by the Pisan Republic, well aware of the local vulnerability to pirate raids.
The Volterraio Fortress resists the assault of 1544
Thanks to massive reinforcement and expansion works carried out around 1440 by Jacopo III Appiani, the fortress was able to withstand the assault of the Turks in 1544. In 1688, with the governor Tornaquinci, important renovations were carried out. With the suppression in 1777 of the military genius by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo, it was decided to dismantle most of the fortresses of Elba , including the Castello del Volterraio. In 1798 the French troops settled in Portoferraio and strengthened the garrison of the stronghold, in this period a popular uprising led to the semi-destruction of the complex, which has since been definitively abandoned.
The Volterraio Castle inside the Park Authority
The fortress and the surrounding land, set in a naturalistic and landscape context of rare beauty, were purchased by the Park Authority in 1999 for an amount of € 500,000. It is a restricted property pursuant to Legislative Decree 42/04. In 1999 the Park Authority had a project drawn up, prepared by the University of Pisa, which analyzed the state of deterioration of the monument and provided for a series of conservation interventions necessary in order to stop the deterioration in which it poured. For lack of resources, it will be necessary to wait until 2013 to start the definitive restoration of the Volterraio Castle.
In the first lot of intervention, works aimed at the functional restoration of some architectural elements were planned, including the original entrance, the perimeter patrol path and the restoration of the tower with entrance walkway together with that of the Chapel. A reclamation from ruderal weeds was carried out, including higher plants with a high index of danger such as holm oak and fig for the protection of the walls.
The second phase in 2016 will lead to the completion of some works in the castle including the archaeological excavation. The current access path will be improved and the ancient connecting paths will be recovered with the town of Bagnaia and with the Cammino della Rada, a path that connects the Torre della Linguella of Portoferraio al Volterraio.
The structure of the Volterraio Fortress
The Volterraio Castle has a hexagonal plan, the quadrangular tower rises in the most suitable point for sighting and together with the walls it is the oldest part of the fortress, constitutes a precious historical testimony of Elba’s defenses. The entrance to the tower is connected to the walkway by a wooden drawbridge. A signaling system that covered the entire territory and partly also the Tuscan coast made it possible to communicate with other towers of the territory. The walls follow the course of the land and have an irregular shape, it was born as a fortified enclosure around the tower.
Volterraio Castle drawing
1) Square tower
4) Access stairs to the patrol
5) Gunpowder warehouse
6) Walkway patrol initially in wood then in masonry
7) esplanade for the artillery
8) machicolation in defense of the gate
9) chapel built in the seventeenth century.
10) soldiers’ lodgings
11) Rivellino (south-west bastion)
12) Drawbridge and masonry staircase of the seventeenth century.
Design: by Cinzia Battaglia – Info Park