Going to Jail in Italy for the Food: Volterra’s Prison Restaurant


Foodies looking for a seriously different experience to brag about will want to book a table at the Fortezza Medicea restaurants in Volterra, near Pisa. It’s a restaurant in a prison – and not a historical prison, either. This is a present-day working prison in which the convicts learn valuable skills by running the restaurant.

Apparently it’s no easy task to get a reservation – and not for the typical reason of a months-long waiting list at the hippest new eateries in town. No, in this case, would-be diners have to submit to a two-month background check before the reservation is even considered.

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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.

The prisoners handle all stations of the restaurant – from wait staff to chefs – although the armed guards who keep an eye on everyone kind of give the whole thing a different ambiance than the usual Italian dining experience. The meals are reasonably priced at €25, and that includes a glass of wine with each course. And if you’re worried that your doing-time-for-murder Sommelier might swipe your knife and you’d be an accomplice in his escape, don’t worry – diners use plastic cutlery and plates.

You can read more about the prison restaurant here (includes a link to a photo slideshow of the restaurant) and see the Fortezza Medicea from the outside here.

Photo by: Boris Borsella