National Archaeological Areas of Vetulonia

National Archaeological Areas of Vetulonia

Urban excavations and the Via dei Sepolcri

You don’t get to Vetulonia by chance, you specifically arrive from the only road that goes up
the hill. The village is today a “widespread archaeological area” that hides among its alleys
and gardens the traces of one of the most powerful realities of Etruscan culture. To discover the ancient Vatluna you have to close your eyes and clear the image of the small perched village. In Etruscan times we would have entered a real city, with thousands and thousands of inhabitants. A city that didn’t really feel like a hill town, but that had a maritime and coastal identity. The ancient Vatluna overlooked the vast Lake Prile, which occupied, as far as the eye could see, the entire Grosseto plain. The city had its wealth roots in the Metalliferous Hills inland, from which it extracted metals. But through its lakeside harbor it looked out to the open sea, where the gold bars and bronze objects created in the city shops and other precious items, took the way of the most important Mediterranean shipping routes.
In order to imagine all this better you can get to the beautiful panoramic views of the old
town and imagine the sparkling waters of the coastal lagoon. In the narrow streets, in the

highest part of the town, you can admire the so-called Mura dell’Arce, about 30 metres of a
large wall made of imposing stone blocks, which can be seen according to the most recent
theory, like the ruins of the base of a large temple, in the most important sacred area of the
town, the Acropolis.
Leaving the centre of the town behind us, in a few minutes walk, we can reach the National
Archaeological Areas, which recount the history of Vatluna between the 3rd and 1st century
BC. In those days, after the Roman conquest, Etruscan and Roman cities coexisted in
peace, giving rise to new residential areas such as the Archaeological Areas of Poggiarello
Renzetti-Scavi Città and Costa Murata. In Poggiarello Renzetti we can stand on the stones
(basoli) of the so called Via Decumana, on which, then as now in our cities, stood the main
shops of the district.
From the cobbled streets that climb up the Poggio, we enter the most beautiful aristocratic
residences of the time, such as the House of Medea, whose central courtyard was decorated with terracotta slabs (preserved, among other precious findings, at the Civic Archaeological Museum “Isidoro Falchi”, in Piazza Vatluna), which recount the love revenge of this powerful Greek mythological sorceress. Further on, the great Domus dei Dolia tells us about a wealthy life, consisting of rooms with luxurious floors (now covered for conservation reasons), frescoed walls in the most beautiful and bright colors of the Roman tradition, marble furniture and precious bronze objects, which were a real family “treasure” for the inhabitants of the house, warehouses well stocked with jars (dolia) for the storage of food, oil, wine. The ruins of other domus, in a wonderful panoramic position, are visible in the Archaeological Area of Costa Murata.

Moving away from the town, away from what was supposed to be the perimeter of the outer
walls (several wall circuits were supposed to protect the town, one of which was probably
located at the Archaeological Area of Costia dei Lippi), we travel back in time, to the 7th
century B.C., the golden age of Etruscan and Vetulonia culture. Following the road signs,
along the so-called “Via dei Sepolcri”, we can admire the monumental tombs of the greatest
Etruscan families of Vatluna, princely lineages that have left a memory of their power in
these majestic family burials. Worth visiting in particular are the most imposing, the Tombs of Pietrera and Diavolino, with their long access corridor (dromos) and the masonry chambers that welcomed the dead and their very rich furnishings, composed of splendid gold jewels and exceptional Greek vases. A pillar stood in the middle of the chamber as to preserve the bodies and at the same time to support the roof, consisting of a surprising and innovative false stone vault (tholos) in both tombs.

a cura di Maria Francesca Paris