Lazio is the epicenter of ancient history. The ancient Romans influenced the whole then known world. But before them there were the Etruscans, an advanced civilization that left indelible marks throughout the upper Lazio region. Today we will go to discover Tuscania, where there is a fascinating Etruscan necropolis to be discovered. Ideal place for a “day trip near Rome“.
Many identify the ancient history of Italy with the Roman Empire: yet another people left indelible marks as fascinating as their culture and traditions. They are the Etruscans and it is precisely for this reason that we went to Tuscania, rightly called “the city of Etruscan sarcophagi”.
The legends tell that it was founded by the son of Aeneas, Ascanio, or Tusco, born from the union of Queen Araxe with Ercole. But the story tells of Tuscania as one of the most important Etruscan cities, built on a tufa cliff overlooking the valley crossed by the river Marta.
The thing that struck us most in this medieval village, just 23 km from Viterbo, was the tuff that, depending on the sun, a moment appeared of a dark brown, but then shone with spectacular reddish hues. The atmosphere that is breathed in Tuscania is of total peace and tranquility: and to think that in its narrow streets the Guelphs and the Ghibellines were strenuously fighting.
The Necropolis of Tuscania
The first thing we visited was the Necropolis of Madonna dell’Olivo: the verdant nature of the “Tuscania Nature Reserve” that surrounds the town, hides in fact numerous Etruscan tombs. In many cases the monumental portals have collapsed, but admiring the skeleton of these ancient mounds has nevertheless given me a sense of awe and respect.
The necropolis is located only 2 km from the center of Tuscania, moreover visible with its towers and the Colle di S.Pietro, from the belvedere on the site.
Our visit took place on a beautiful sunny day, but the darkness of the humid tombs was in many cases shivering: the only source of light was the torch of the guide, not to mention the insects and the cobwebs that often touched the skin . But it was certainly worth it.
The site is on three levels and the first is the Grotta della Regina, according to many, the real jewel of the necropolis: it will be for its extension or for the legends that the guide has nicely brought to the attention. It is said that archaeologist Secondiano Campanari sighted on a wall the image of a woman with a crown. In reality the name derives from a fresco depicting a queen, then lost.
After passing the dromos, that is a rather long and dark corridor, we have reached the burial chamber: in addition to the two stone columns that support the vault, the thing that has amazed us is the quantity of tunnels present. Apparently they are spread over three levels and many have had subsidence: however, nothing prevents you from thinking that beyond those mysterious passages there are still rooms to be discovered. It must also be said that the archaeologists have not found sarcophagi: this suggests that the cave was a place of worship dedicated to a deity linked to the Earth.
We came out of the cave, blessing the light after the gloomy darkness of the cave, to follow the guide to the Tombe Curunas. These burial chambers received the remains of the important Etruscan family of the Curunas and their descendants: the guide informed us that in the past the hypogea were grandiose, such as to symbolize the power of the same family and were visible from all the valley
In reality there would also be the Tomb of the Sarcophagus of the Amazons, partly collapsed due to the extreme friability of the tuff: but to understand the origin of the name I had to go to the “Museo Archeologico Etrusco“, in Tuscania.
The museum is located in the former Franciscan convent of the Church of Santa Maria del Riposo and houses the Sarcophagus of the Amazons, dating back to the 4th century BC. It is perhaps the most beautiful sepulcher of the necropolis as it is finely sculpted: for the most part acts of amazzonomachia are represented , with ferocious Greek warriors who are slaughtering Amazons. Only on one side the scene changes and there is a struggle between fairs.
Visiting the museum, whose rooms overlook a pretty cloister, I had a clearer idea of the Etruscan life between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC: I was able to admire the funeral objects of the Vipiniana and Curunas families. In particular, the mirrors, the tools used by Etruscan women to treat their appearance, an archaic “service of dishes” in bronze and ceramics decorated with figures of a Pompeian red, struck me.
At the end of the visit could not miss a relaxing walk downtown. An urban environment that has retained all its medieval prerogatives, full of churches that bear witness to the influence of the papal state during the centuries of domination.
Eat in Tuscania
Even the food is excellent. There is no shortage of restaurants and trattorias where you can taste traditional dishes and elegant revisited culinary compositions. All tastes that made us conclude worthily this beautiful day spent in Tuscania.
We have so greeted Tuscania and that fascinating Etruscan world that has helped to give her a place in history and us a magnificent day to remember.
Italy Where Else organizes guided tours in Tuscania and throughout the Etruscan area of Lazio.