Tuscany promotes events designed to show and protect the archaeological heritage of our region. During the year, specialists, archaeology enthusiasts and tourists interested in the nuances of the ancient world will enjoy special openings, showcases and a number of initiatives and major events of great interest. We decided to write a list of places in Tuscany where you can breathe archaeology all over the region. For this post we chose 8 places, but the list is endless! Let's dive into archaeology!
1. Roselle (Grosseto)
In ancient times, Tuscany was known as Etruria and Roselle (Rusellae) was the most important town of all. Located 8km north of Grosseto, it became a Roman colony at the end of the third century BC and was abandoned in the Middle Ages when its population moved to Grosseto. What can we see today? A city wall built by the Etruscans between the seventh and sixth centuries BCE with a perimeter of over 3 km and with average height of about 7 m. You can also see the remains of the Roman city, including the forum, the cardus maximus, the imperial basilica and several aristocratic villas. On one of the hills, you can spot a small amphitheatre and thermal baths. More info, openings and ticket here (in Italian): Roselle
2. Volterra (Pisa)
Volterra is one of the oldest towns in Tuscany since it was an Etruscan settlement with finds that date to the ninth century BCE. The ancient Etruscans used to call the city Velathri or Felathri, and then the Romans used the name Volaterrae. The Etruscan walls are still visible, well preserved and surround the city centre. In Volterra, archaeology lovers can also find some of the greatest Roman finds in Tuscany, such as the majestic amphitheatre just below the city. Don’t miss the Guarnacci museum, which originated as a private collection in 1761 and features a large number of funerary urns in the shape of a sarcophagus frequently presenting bas-reliefs and images of the person who passed away. Noteworthy finds include the tomb of a the warrior prince from Poggio alle Croci; an Etruscan bronze bust, called the Testa Lorenzini; the Ombra della Sera marble statue; and over 700 urns, including those of brides and grooms. For more info about the museum check this website. Read also “Things you can’t miss in Volterra” and “Volterra in 5 tips and photos”.
3. Vetulonia (Grosseto)
Vetulonia is one of the most important Etruscan cities in Italy and was discovered in the 1800s during archaeological researches conducted by Isidoro Falchi. This Etruscan centre arose in that area thanks to mining natural resources and became very powerful in the seventh century BCE. In the following century, it built a fortified wall around it to protect the town from foreign and external attack. The decline of the city began in second half of the first century AD. Today, during the visit you can spot the Tomb of Belvedere, a crypt located at a panoramic point that dates to the seventh century BCE, the tomb of the Little Devil, which measures 80 meters in size, and the tomb of the golden Fubula (in Italian: Fubula d’oro). You can also view the remains of several Etruscan-Roman homes and the fortified wall of the ancient town mentioned above. Official website (in Italian).
4. Fiesole (Florence)
Fiesole is located just few kilometres from Florence, and the views alone over the city warrant a visit! But if you want more, Fiesole has many treasures for you. The Etruscans probably founded Fiesole in the 9th-8th century BCE and many Etruscan archaeological finds have been excavated here. It subsequently became a typical Roman town and slowly lost its prestige, obscured by dominating Florence. A number of important historical and archaeological sites can be found in the historical centre, such as the central Piazza Mino da Fiesole, built on a pre-existing Roman forum, the cathedral, S. Maria Primerana church, Seminary, Bishop’s See and the Town Hall. A short walk from the square you can find a vast archaeological site with the remains of a Roman theatre, an Etruscan-Roman temple, Roman baths and the Archaeological Museum, as well as the walls. You can read more here: “Things to do and see in Fiesole”
5. Cortona (Arezzo)
Cortona is one of the oldest hill towns in the Valdichiana, in southern Tuscany. It was originally an Umbrian city, conquered and enlarged by the Etruscans and later became a Roman colony. The city is enclosed by stone walls dating to Etruscan and Roman times. Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza Signorelli were one space until the thirteenth century as well as the site of an ancient Etruscan-Roman forum. Public and private medieval buildings, such as the beautiful town hall, frame both squares. There are many noteworthy things to see in Cortona, but we recommend MAEC, the Museum of the Etruscan Academy and the City of Cortona. This exhibition space, covering over 6500 square feet, is home to some extraordinary masterpieces produced by the Etruscan civilization (like the Tabula Cortonensis, one of the longest Etruscan texts in the world), and finds from the archaeological area surrounding the town. This year we also celebrate the tenth birthday of the MAEC!
6. Chiusi (Siena)
Chiusi is situated on a hill in the southern area of the Valdichiana. It was founded by the Etruscans and, between the 7th and 5th centuries BCE, Chiusi reached its maximum splendour under the domination of King Porsenna. In 351 BCE it was occupied by the Romans, becoming an important Roman military station. Archaeology lovers shouldn’t miss the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale with many samples of a particular kind of pottery called bucchero and the Tomba della Scimmia (tomb of the monkey), a tomb with wall paintings, which you can visit upon appointment. For more info, prices and timetable. Read also “Chiusi, the Etruscan village in southern Tuscany”
7. Massaciuccoli (Massarosa, Lucca)
Massaciuccoli is located in the municipality of Massarosa, in the area of Tuscany known as Versilia. The Etruscans inhabited this place, but in Roman times Massaciuccoli was chosen for the construction of prestigious buildings in this beautiful, natural landscape. Today we can see the remains of two leading complexes from the Imperial Roman era – a luxurious villa and a station – and a series of findings that suggest the presence of a small settlement and its burial area. Among the noteworthy items displayed is the mosaic pavement dating to the Roman era. The ticket for the museum includes visits to the ancient Roman ruins and thermal springs, located on the hillside and the artefacts on display. Read also “The archaeological area of Roman Massaciuccoli in Versilia”
8. Cosa (Orbetello, Grosseto)
In Ansedonia, near Orbetello, on a rocky promontory 114 meters above sea level, in a strategic position between Tuscany and Lazio, in 273 BC the Roman colony of Cosa was created. The city was structured as a fortress surrounded by a mighty wall (1500 meters long). Along the perimeter of the wall there are eighteen square towers and a round tower to further reinforce the fortification along the sections of greatest vulnerability. There are also three doors along the walls. The city was built between two hills, between which was placed by the Roman forum for political activity. The highest promontory was the Acropolis, dedicated to the worship of the gods. The temple of Jupiter, built at the time of the founding of the city and destroyed about a century later, has a considerable number of ornaments in terracotta.