Dominating Volterra is the Fortezza Medicea (Medici Fortress). It is now a top security prison housing about 200 lifers and long term prisoners, almost all southern Italians.
Apart from academics from The University of Pisa who are studying the architecture of this impressive building, it has been difficult to get in and almost impossible to get out.
But Zadok the Roman reports that it is now partly a very exclusive restaurant.
"Diners are flocking to what could perhaps be termed the most exclusive restaurant in Italy - one located inside a top security prison, where the chefs and waiters are Mafiosi, robbers and murderers.
Serenaded by Bruno, a pianist doing life for murder, the clientele eat inside a deconsecrated chapel set behind the 60 ft-high walls, watch towers, searchlights and security cameras of the daunting 500-year-old Fortezza Medicea, at Volterra near Pisa.
Under the watchful eye of armed prison warders, a 20-strong team of chefs, kitchen hands and waiters prepares 120 covers for diners who have all undergone strict security checks. Tables are booked up weeks in advance."
The prison is also well known for its “Compagnia della Fortezza”, one of Italy’s most well known and loved theatre groups. Many theatres would like to book them. The problem is that its members are inmates and cannot leave. Of its 200 inmates about 50 belong to the Compagnia della Fortezza. Their performances are in the square of the Fortezza di Volterra.
The fortress is really two forts. The Old Fortress, "Rocca Vecchia," was built on the rocky outcropping in the 1342 by Gualtieri di Brenne. After Lorenzo di Medici conquered Volterra in the 15th century, the Rocca Nuova was constructed between 1472 and 1475 to improve city defence, with a sturdy stone buildings and walls connecting the new and old fortress.