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The Palazzo dei Priori (1208-57) is the oldest building of its kind in Tuscany, the Gothic town hall on which Florence's Palazzo Vecchio and most other civic buildings in the region were modeled. Walk up to the first floor to see the town council chamber, which aside from getting a new vaulted ceiling in 1516 has pretty much looked the same over its 740 years of continuous use. The end wall was frescoed with an Annunciation by Jacopo di Cione or his brother Orcagna in 1383.

Volterra's civic palace sits on a medieval rectangle of a piazza. The Piazza dei Priori is laid with mason-cut stone and surrounded on all sides with 13th- and 14th-century buildings, some crenellated, some with Gothic two-light windows, and some just implacably old and stony. It's particularly evocative under the moonlight. Across from the Palazzo dei Priori is the Palazzo Pretorio, sprouting the rough old Torre del Porcellino -- a tower named after the weather-beaten little sculpted boar jutting out near the top window. The only impostor on this perfectly medieval piazza was built to blend in very well -- the modern Palazzo Demaniale on the southeast end.