Walking around ancient Etruscan sites

Now a small, picturesque village overlooking the Grosseto plain from the top of a hill, Vetulonia was one of the richest and most flourishing Etruscan cities and it is mentioned by the most important literary sources of antiquity, such as the works of Dionysus of Alicarnassus, who remembers it as an ally to the Latins against Tarquinius Priscus. Silius Italicus reminds us in his work how Vetulonia “taught” Rome the symbols of power: the fasces, the toga with purple stripe and the curule seat.

Vetulonia was an economic, political and artistic power for centuries. An active trading centre with numerous workshops of goldsmiths that made jewellery of inestimable beauty.

After the conquest by the Romans, the city progressively lost importance, falling, during the barbarian invasions, into total oblivion, and was generically indicated with the name of Colonna di Buriano.

The greatness of Vetulonia was only restored to light in 1887, thanks to the determination of Isidoro Falchi, a doctor with a passion for archaeology, who unearthed the precious and important records and gave it back its original and legitimate name: Vetulonia,

The city’s glorious past can be seen from the sumptuous grave goods and the famous circular, well, ditch and tumulus tombs of the Etruscan necropolis. Monumental tombs worthy of note include the Tomb of the Belvedere with a quadrangular chamber, the Tomb of Pietrera consisting of two superimposed chambers, the tombs of the Diavolino and the Golden Fibula with granulated jewels, and finally, the Poggio Pelliccia tombs, with an abundance of fine imported Greek ceramics, including the famous decorated ostrich egg fragments.

The discovery of Vetulonia has continued in recent years, focusing on the ancient city, the Hellenistic district of Poggiarello Renzetti. The excavation works have brought to light the Medea Domus, with friezes depicting the myth of Jason and Medea, and then the rooms of the Domus of the Dolia, so named for the large jars (dolia) found together with wine and oil amphorae.

The Archaeological Museum located at the entrance of the town is worth a special visit. It is named after Isidoro Falchi and is one of the first in Italy with accessibility for persons with motor or visual impairments.

Palio dei Ciuchi

In the first weekend of September, for over 70 years, Vetulonia has celebrated the Festival of the Palio dei Ciuchi, a folkloristic-religious festival dedicated to Our Lady of Good Counsel. Three days of music, parades in traditional costumes, games and banquets until the highly anticipated Palio on the Sunday, in which the four districts of the village Borgo, Colonna, San Guglielmo and Torre arrive in the square to compete for the banner. A weekend of festivities centred on the medieval tradition of the village.

The "Isidoro Falchi" Civic Archaeological Museum and the National Archaeological Areas

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.

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. 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. Here, in Piazza Vetluna, is the “Museo Civico Archeologico Isidoro Falchi“, inaugurated in 2000 and dedicated to the doctor and archaeologist who in the nineteenth century led the first excavation campaign for the discovery of ancient Vetulonia, which houses splendid Etruscan finds from the territory in seven rooms arranged on two floors.

Of great interest are the finds from the Poggio alla Guardia and Poggio Belvedere necropolises from the Villanovan era, while the grave goods of the Silver Lions and Golden Fibula grave circles, with an abundance of precious silver and gold objects, dates back to the Orientalising period (late 8th to 7th century BC), the phase of maximum splendour in the site’s history. The famous stone stele of the warrior Auvile Feluske is from the same era. Also worth seeing is the Hellenistic alphabet engraved on stone slab from the Necropolis of the Dupiane, as well as the grave goods from the Val Berretta necropolis and the remains of the Poggio Pelliccia mound, with precious imported Greek ceramics. In addition to the valuable collections, the museum is special because it is accessible to everyone, including visitors with motor, visual and hearing impairments, thanks to the full range of facilities, from ramps to podotactile routes, from spatial orientation platforms to tactile maps, and from recorded information tapes to audio guides. The museum organises numerous interesting activities and educational workshops, by reservation, for schools and families, with the aim of educating children about art and culture through the experience of play.

Moving away from the centre of the town, in a few minutes on foot you can reach the Poggiarello Renzetti-Excavi Città National Archaeological Areas, with the Via Decumana, the House of Medea and the Domus of the Dolia, Costa Murata, Costia Lippi and finally, the ‘Via dei Sepolcri’ (road of the tombs) and the monumental tombs of the largest families of Etruscan Vatluna, including the Pietrera and Diavolino tombs.