Tarquinia is located in the middle of two worlds: the Etruscan one of Tuscia and that of the Butteri (cowboys) of Maremma Laziale, who on horseback with dexterity lead the herds of Maremma cows that graze in the wild in the uncultivated territories of the large land reclamation areas, cultivated to create them and dotted with farmhouses.
Tarquinia between Butteri and Etruscans
In a small village, once inhabited by settlers and now used as a charming farmhouse with the name of Piani della Marina, we were hosted between Tarquinia and Montalto di Castro, a stone’s throw from the sea in an environment characterized up to the middle of the last century from vast coastal marshes.
The current Tarquinia was born in the seventh century with the name of Corneto not far from modern Pian di Civita, where the great settlement of “Tarxuna” had risen. The ancient Etruscan city, whose splendor can be sensed through the scenes depicted in the tombs of the necropolis, was soon abandoned in favor of the new town and fell completely into oblivion. Only later, with the first excavation campaigns, Corneto began to rediscover its origins, to the point of wanting to replace its name with that of the Etruscan Tarquinia.
A visit to the city, therefore, cannot be separated from a visit to the very rich National Archaeological Museum.
Starting from the Barrier of San Giusto, the ancient access to the city, you leads to Piazza Cavour in front of the fifteenth-century Palazzo Vitelleschi, home to the National Archaeological Museum, one of the most important in the world entirely dedicated to the Etruscan world.
Vases, coins, gold and precious stone jewels, mirrors, balsam bottles, household tools, furnishings, ex voto and sarcophagi. Notable among the latter, that of the Magnate dating back to the 4th century BC. and that of the Obese of the third century BC, while the symbol of the museum, as well as the most precious piece, is certainly represented by the Winged Horses, a splendid pair of horses at the helm of a chariot coming from the pediment of the Ara della Regina, the temple of the acropolis of Tarquinia, built in the first half of the 4th century BC.
Our walk continued towards Piazza Matteotti in the center of which the monumental eighteenth-century fountain emerges and overlooked by the Suffragio church with its curvilinear Baroque façade, the church of San Leonardo and the imposing Palazzo Comunale, of Romanesque style but with extensive Baroque renovations.
From here we immersed ourselves in medieval Tarquinia among the high towers, the ancient churches, the narrow alleys with the imposing bulk of the noble palaces and the views of the sea and the surrounding countryside, for a pleasant walk that took us back in time in a magical atmosphere.
We continued on Via delle Torri along which, as the name implies, the main towers that rise above the city follow one another, drawing its skyline, alternating with beautiful historic buildings such as Palazzo dei Priori and Torre Barucci where the ancient wash house is located.
This leads to one of the most panoramic roads in Tarquinia, Via della Ripa, which descends towards Via di Porta Castello. Before crossing the ancient gate and approaching the splendid Romanesque church of Santa Maria in Castello, we climbed the ramparts that lead to the top of the Matilde di Canossa Tower.
The panorama that opens up to the view is wonderful and ranges from the countryside to the area where the church stands located in the oldest area of Tarquinia, in the place where the Castrum Cargnetum, the original nucleus of the ancient Corneto, was located.
On the way back we passed by Piazza del Duomo where we admired the large church dedicated to Saints Margherita and Martino with its majestic bell tower.
Built around 1260, it was enlarged in the 15th century at the behest of Bishop Bartolomeo Vitelleschi but was then unfortunately destroyed in 1643 by a terrible fire.
Rebuilt in a short time, the Cathedral was again restored in the 19th century in a neoclassical style according to the project of Francesco Dasti. Externally, the facade is preceded by a staircase and flanked on the left by the bell tower. In the lower part there are three portals, while in the upper one, ending with a triangular-shaped tympanum, there is a mullioned window flanked by the statues of the two saints.
If walking has made you hungry, we suggest you reach the coast between Tarquinia and Montalto di Castro to dine at Le Murelle almost pieds dans l’eau and with the pleasant sound of the waves in the background. We did it at sunset to enjoy the last rays of the sun on the beach in front of the ancient port of Regisvilla before enjoying seafood specialties along with an excellent pizza cooked in a wood oven.