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Tuscania: In The middle of The Etruscan Land

Updated: Mar 13

The latial coast and its hinterland offer enchanting places, halfway between the sea and the hill, there is the village of Tuscania, in the middle of the Etruscan land.

The vestige of this ancient civilization blends wonderfully with the medieval ones in this village perched on a spur of tufaceous rock and surrounded by lush countryside.

About the name of the city, there are many hypotheses: someone says it’s from Tuscum with the meaning of city of the Tusci, a name used by the Romans to call the Etruscans, or from Ascanio, son of Aeneas, considered the founder of the city.

Surrounded by fields of lavender Tuscania is considered a little corner of Provence near Rome, and if you decide to visit it on the first Sunday of July you could be greeted by lilac drapes everywhere and by an enchanting perfume, on the feast dedicated to this small, fragrant flower.

From the nearby area of Torre di Lavello, you can enjoy an incredible view of the countryside surrounding the village and of the splendid church of St. Peter's just outside the city walls.

St. Peter's Basilica is a jewel of Romanesque art and it is located on a hill that probably housed the Etruscan-Roman acropolis, in fact, the basilica was founded in the 8th century on the remains of a pagan temple. It has undergone numerous renovations over the centuries, in 1495 following the French invasion of the troops of Charles VIII, the area was then abandoned, and the church was left in splendid isolation that today increases its interesting charm. The interiors with two 11th and 13th-century ciboriums have been often used as a film set (the most famous films include Otello by Orson Wells Romeo and Juliet by Zeffirelli and the Gospel of Matthew by Pasolini.

altar inside a church with frescoes on the wall

When visiting Tuscania do not forget to stop in a typical trattoria to taste their specialities like the classic lombrichelli, fresh homemade pasta seasoned in various ways, the acqua cotta, and tasty legume soups, and then the specialised meats of wild boar and lamb. To perfectly close your traditional meal, ask for a diomenguardi, a special sweet pizza cooked in a pan made with corn flour, sugar, cinnamon and sultana raisins.

A stone's throw from Tuscania in the necropolis of Madonna dell'Olivo is the famous queen's tomb, a large circular room resting on columns dug into the rock. According to scholars, the queen's tomb was unlikely to be a tomb but probably a sacred temple of a deity of the earth or the underworld, since there are no sarcophagi or classic beds of deposition instead there are about thirty tunnels that wind underground for no apparent reason: one of the many Etruscan mysteries.

Going on with the Etruscans, let's move to nearby Vulci, an ancient Etruscan city in the territory of Canino and Montalto di Castro, in Etruscan Velch or Velx. Lapped by the Fiora river and just over 10 km from the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea it was one of the largest cities-state of Etruria, among the most ancient finds are the well and pit tombs ascribable to the early Iron Age.

The richness of the metal resources of the metalliferous hills and the Fiora valley favoured the development of local crafts and trade from the ninth century BC.

In 128 BC. the city and its ally Volsini were defeated by the Roman army led by the consul Tiberio Coruncario, the first plebeian to be elected pontiff maximum in Rome, who obtained the triumph for this victory. From this moment began the decline of the Etruscan city in the first century BC. obtained the status of Roman municipality and in the fourth was mentioned as a bishopric and then abandoned in the eighth century in favour of Montalto di Castro.

Among the most iconic places of Vulci, there is the spectacular Devil's bridge built by the Romans on a similar structure dating back to the Etruscan era. This bridge was used until the 1960s allowed to cross the Fiora river and supported an aqueduct that carried water to Vulci. Its older part of the Etruscan age rests directly on the riverbed and it is surmounted by a three-arched Roman structure of the first century BC. The bridge was modified with defensive buildings connected to the new construction of the castle of Badia placed right to guard it. Wanted in the twelfth century by the Cistercian monks to defend the bridge and raised it on the remains of an ancient ninth-century abbey dedicated to San Mamiliano, it was heavily damaged by Saracen raids from the thirteenth century. The castle became an important centre of assistance and hospitality for pilgrims and hosted even the Templars, then in the sixteenth century entered the possessions of Alessandro Farnese, future Pope Paul the third, and was transformed into a customs house of the Papal State thanks to its location on the border with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, a place between Lazio and Tuscany that creates a unique connection.

The devil's bridge gained its peculiar nickname in the Middle Ages because it was not considered possible to build a bridge with such a wide arch, and therefore it was believed a creation of the devil.

Rely on Roma Experience to explore these corners of the Latial coast, our knowledgable guides will enchant you with stories, legends and traditions of these incredible places. We will take you off the beaten path, to places that you would never discover alone.


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