Vetulonia National Archaeological Areas

Urban excavations and the "Via dei Sepolcri"

You can’t pass by Vetulonia; you have to take the only road that goes up the hill. The town is now “an extensive archaeological area” that conceals within its alleyways and gardens the traces of one of the most powerful centres of Etruscan culture.

To discover ancient Vatluna, you have to close your eyes and erase the image of the small perched village. In the Etruscan era, we would have arrived in a true metropolis, with several thousand inhabitants; a city that did not have a hillside feel to it at all, but a completely maritime and coastal identity.

Ancient Vatluna overlooked the huge Lake Prile, which occupied the entire Grosseto plain as far as the eye could see. The roots of the city’s wealth lay in the hinterland of the Metalliferous Hills, from where it extracted metals, but its port on the lake looked out to the open sea, where the ingots and bronze objects created in the city’s workshops and other precious goods made of amber and gold, set off along the most important Mediterranean routes.

For a better idea of all this, you can look out over the beautiful panoramic views from the historic centre and think that, where the plain now lies, there were once the sparkling waters of the coastal lagoon. In the alleyways in the highest part of the town, you can see the so-called “Mura dell’Arce“, about 30 metres of a large wall built from huge stone blocks, which is understood, according to the most recent hypothesis, as the remains of the base of a large temple that stood in the most important sacred area of the city, the Acropolis.

Moving away from the centre of the town, in a few minutes on foot you can reach the National Archaeological Areas, which tell the story of Vatluna between the third and first centuries BC, in the period following the Roman conquest, when Etruscan and Roman cities coexisted in peace, giving rise to new residential areas, such as that of the Poggiarello Renzetti-Excavi Città Archaeological Areas and of Costa Murata. In Poggiarello Renzetti, we can stand on the paving stones (basoli) of the so-called Via Decumana, along which stood the main shops of the district, as in our cities today. From the paved streets that lead up to the Poggio, we enter the most beautiful aristocratic houses of the time, such as the Casa di Medea, whose central courtyard was decorated with terracotta slabs (preserved, with other precious finds, in the “Isidoro Falchi” Civic Archaeological Museum, in Piazza Vatluna), which depict the romantic vendetta of this powerful sorceress from the Greek myth Further along, the large Domus dei Dolia gives us the idea of a comfortable life, composed of rooms with luxurious floors (now covered over for preservation reasons), of walls once frescoed in the most beautiful and brightest colours of Roman tradition, of marble furnishings and precious bronze objects, which represented for the inhabitants of the house a real family “treasure”, and of well-stocked warehouses with jars (‘dolia’) for the storage of food, oil and wine. The remains of other domus can be seen in the Costa Murata Archeological Area, in a location with an enchanting view.

Moving away from the village, beyond what would have been the perimeter of the outermost walls (the city must have been protected by various circuits of walls, one of which has probably been identified in the Costia dei Lippi Archaeological Area), we once more go back in time, to the 7th century BC, the golden age of Etruscan culture and Vetulonia. Following the road signs, along the so-called “Via dei Sepolcri”, we discover the monumental tombs of the largest families of the Etruscan Vatluna, princely lineages that have left a memorial of their power in these majestic family tombs. Don’t miss out on a visit to the most important of these: the Pietrera and Diavolino Tombs, with their long access corridor (dromos) and masonry chambers that received the deceased and their abundant grave goods, composed of beautiful gold jewellery and exceptional vessels of Greek manufacture. A pillar stood in the centre of the room, as if to guard the bodies and at the same time to support the roof, consisting, in both tombs, of a surprising and innovative false stone vault (tholos).

Vetulonia National Archaeological Area

  • Loc. Vetulonia,
    58043 Castiglione della Pescaia (GR)
  • Tel. +39 331 6216340

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