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Tarquinia Travel Essentials - Etruscan Tombs and Museum

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Funerary urn with tomb coverings and olive tree in background at Tarquinia's Etruscan Necropolis

Etruscan funerary urn and tomb coverings at Tarquinia's Etruscan Necropolis

Martha Bakerjian

Tarquinia Overview:

Ancient Tarquinia was one of Eturuia's most important cities. Tarquinia is one of the best places to see Etruscan tombs and it is one of central Italy's UNESCO World Heritage sites. There is an excellent archaeological museum with Etruscan finds. Tarquinia's medieval center and main piazza, Piazza Cavour, are interesting. The cathedral has good frescoes dating from 1508 and there are several other churches you can visit. Tourist Information can be found in Piazza Cavour.

Tarquinia Location:

Tarquinia is 92 km north of Rome and 5 km from the sea in the area known as Northern Lazio. (Northern Lazio Map) Tarquinia can be reached by train on the Roma-Ventimiglia line departing from Roma Ostiense station.

If arriving by car, take the road to Vetralla from the coast and turn left at the sign for the Necropolis rather than driving into town. You can park free on the road near the entrance. From there you can also walk to the museum.

Tarquinia History:

The Etruscans were Italy's first real civilization, settling in what is now northern Lazio, Tuscany, and Umbria. Tarxuna, now Tarquinia, was one of the 12 Etruscan cities. Tarquinii later became a Roman colony. In the eighth or ninth century, the town was completely abandoned and the town of Corneto was founded on the opposite hill. In 1489 the first recorded archaeological dig in modern times took place in Tarquinia.

Tarquinia's Etruscan Necropolis:

The Etruscan tombs are on a hilltop just outside the main town. About 6000 tombs were dug into the soft volcanic tufa and some were painted inside with colorful frescoes. Paintings date from the 6th to 2nd centuries BC. 15 tombs are usually open each day for visitors including some from each of the various periods showing the different tomb styles. This is probably the best collection of painted Etruscan tombs.

Visiting Tarquinia's Tombs:

Each tomb has a sign at the entrance with a description and picture. Although walking amongst the tombs is easy, the tombs have fairly steep stairways leading down to the paintings. You'll see the tomb painting through a window by pressing a button to turn on the light. (you may have to squat or bend down to see it well)

There is also a snackbar with drinks and a small bookstore. When we were there in July, 2006, admission was 4.50 euros or 6.50 for the tombs and museum.

Tarquinia's Archeological Museum:

The Museo Archeologico is in the Palazzo Vitelleschi in Piazza Cavour, Tarquinia's main square and the entrance to the town. You can buy a ticket that includes both the Necropolis and the museum if you're going to visit both. The museum has one of Italy's best collections of Etruscan finds, including a fabulous group of terra-cotta winged horses from the 4th century BC. You'll also see Etruscan sarcophagi and statues.

More Etruscan Places near Tarquinia:

Norchia, inland from Tarquinia, has tombs carved out of rocks on the large cliffs. You can visit the tombs for free but they are difficult to access. Cerveteri, south of Tarquinia along the coast, has a different style of Etruscan tomb. The necropolis is a network of streets lined with tombs from the 7th to 1st century BC. Some of the larger tombs are arranged like houses. Sutri, also inland, has an Etruscan ampitheater. A little farther away, Orvieto has Etruscan sites and an archeological museum with Etruscan finds.
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