Necropoli dei Monterozzi, living and dead

Fuori confineNecropoli dei Monterozzi, living and dead


The Etruscan Necropolis dei Monterozzi, whose name refers to the tumuli of the princely burials of the VII-VI century BC. unfortunately almost completely cleared by agricultural work in later times, it was discovered starting from 1400 and systematically explored in the following centuries. The vast area east of the town is one of the major attractions of Tarquinia and with its 130 hectares the largest complex known.

In the city of the dead of Tarquinia

In the area around 6,000 tombs dating from the sixth century BC and the Hellenistic age have been unearthed and about 200 of these retain tomb paintings of exceptional value on the tuff walls.

What most fascinates about Etruscan people is their relationship with the afterlife because their “cities of the dead” are the mirror of the cities of the living. The strong and lively colors of the paintings in these tombs, for the most part rooms carved into the rock and surmounted by mounds, bring to life the splendor of this ancient people and of daily life made up of banquets, dancers, musicians, ancient board games, but also of monsters, demons and infernal gods, exotic animals and erotic scenes.

Necropoli dei Monterozzi

The frescoes in the Necropoli dei Monterozzi represent the largest existing pictorial nucleus of Etruscan art and at the same time the most important document of all ancient painting before the Roman imperial age, constituting in fact “the first page of great Italian painting” as Massimo Pallottino, father of Etruscology, defined them.

Necropoli dei Monterozzi

The use of decorating the tombs of aristocratic families with paintings is also documented in other centers of Etruria, but only in Tarquinia the phenomenon has taken on such large and remarkable dimensions. The burial chambers, modeled on the interiors of the houses, feature frescoed walls on a light layer of plaster, with magical-religious scenes.

Currently, around twenty tombs can be visited by descending into what can be defined as a real underground art gallery. And even if it is a bit tiring to go down and up the high steps made slippery by the humidity of the short corridor with stairs (dromos) that leads to the morgues, it is a surprise every time when you turn on the light and after the dark path you get there found in the presence of the brightly colored frescoes. Although at first we were disappointed by the fact that you cannot enter the tombs but you can only peek from behind the shatterproof glass door that protects them from humidity and vandalism.

Despite this screen, the glass of which is often misted up by condensation, it seems to witness in the front row magical dances between panthers painted in blue and fiery red lions, protagonists of funeral games in honor of the deceased who silently watches the scene to which they are often added young acrobats, double flute players and dancers.

Necropoli dei Monterozzi

Among the most famous is the Tomb of the Bulls, with Achilles’ ambush at Troilus, the Tomb of Auguri which presents on the back wall the fresco with the door of the underworld on the sides of which there are two characters in the act of paying homage, the Tomb of the Baron with ritual scenes and the depiction of a flutist and some knights, the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing which is divided into two rooms and stands out for the refined realism of the scene in which the protagonists are birds and fish in a rich landscape of colors. On the left wall, the depiction of the young man jumping into the water, a metaphor for the passage from life to death, anticipates the motif of the more recent tomb of the diver in Paestum.

Necropoli dei Monterozzi

Other very interesting paintings are those of the Tombs of the Hunter, the Lionesses or the Panthers, the Lotus Flower, the Little Flowers and the Leopards. The latter is the one we liked the most: it is one of the best preserved, in which a banquet scene unfolds under the tympanum with the two fairs that give it its name.

Necropoli dei Monterozzi

This enormous heritage, not only artistic but also historical, represents an insight into the daily life of the Etruscans and has been included in the World Heritage of Humanity by Unesco since 2004, together with the Necropolis of Cerveteri.

To get a complete idea of ​​what this rich and lively civilization has left us as a legacy, we suggest you deepen with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia set up in the rooms of Palazzo Vitelleschi where the materials from the excavations of the necropolis are kept.

Necropoli dei Monterozzi
Monterozzi Marina provincial road
Tarquinia (VT)
Telephone: +39 0766 856308 –

National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia
Piazza Cavour 1
Tarquinia (VT)
Telephone +39 0766 856036 –

Monterozzi Necropolis ticket
full: 6.00 Euros

Cumulative ticket for the Tarquinia Museum and Necropolis valid for two days
full: 10,00 Euros

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