Tarquinia is an old city in the province of Viterbo, Lazio, Italy known chiefly for its ancient Etruscan tombs in the widespread necropoleis or cemeteries which it overlies, for which it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Tarquinia was one of the most ancient and important Etruscan cities.
A stroll through the town centre to admire the medieval and Renaissance monuments. Entering into 3000 years of history, we can discover the life of the Etruscan seafarers, or just relax in the sunshine on one of the beaches of the Riviera degli Etruschi.
Tarquinia is a perfect combination of history, art and nature that will satisfy even the most demanding travellers.
The history of the city of Tarquinia is closely linked with that of the Etruscans, since this is one of the most ancient cities of the Etruscan Confederation.
The town centre of Tarquinia preserves important remains from the Roman, medieval and Renaissance periods. These include Santa Maria in Castello, the largest Romanesque church in the city, with the apse facing towards the sea, and religious buildings with quite audacious architecture like San Martino, San Salvatore, San Giacomo and Annunziata, on the edge of stone cliffs overlooking the valley of the Marta River and the inland hills.
The Palazzo Civico (City Hall) dating from the Communal period is in Romanesque style with elements foreshadowing Gothic. Other churches built in the heart of the city have this mixture of elements, such as San Pancrazio, San Giovanni Gerosolimitano and San Francesco, the town’s largest church in which the pointed arches of the transept rise to almost dizzying heights.
Small lanes weave around these churches, their medieval layout intact, and provide a genuine and suggestive journey into the past with their little arches, houses, outdoor stairways with landings, small buildings, monasteries and towers. The numerous towers represent the most spectacular feature of the Tarquinia skyline. Some have been lowered while others are intact. Some rise up in isolation in squares or fields, while others are incorporated in the dwellings of ancient, powerful families. The Palazzo dei Priori alone, a massive urban fortification, boasts at least six.
Around the first half of the 15th century, Giovanni Vitelleschi, cardinal and warrior, highly powerful plenipotentiary and top strategist of the Roman Curia, built two structures that significantly characterise the urban layout: a sophisticated fortification in the city walls, and above all his Gothic-Renaissance palace, the Palazzo Vitelleschi. It reflected the opulent atmosphere of the Roman court, and often hosted popes, who filled the city with their numerous trains of high prelates, ladies, princes, pages and falconers to engage in hunting and in long gallops down to the sea.
Etruscan necropolis of Monterozzi
The main necropolis of Tarchuna, part of which can be visited today, is the Monterozzi necropolis with some 6,000 tombs, at least 200 of which include beautiful wall paintings, and many of which were tumulus tombs with chambers carved in the rock below.
The painted scenes are of a quality virtually unrivalled elsewhere in the Etruscan world and give a valuable insight into the secretive world of the Etruscans which is rarely documented. They show banquets with dances and music, sporting events, occasional erotic and mythical scenes. In the late period underworld demons escorting the dead on their journey to the beyond including scenes in the nether world were depicted, and also processions of magistrates and other symbols of the rank of the eminent members of the families buried there.
Famous tombs include the Tomb of the Bulls, Tomb of the Augurs and the Tomb of the Leopards.