Loc. Poggiarello Renzetti e Via Case di Siena - Vetulonia
Vetulonia and its territory Today Vetulonia is a small village overlooking the Grosseto plain, which in Etruscan times was occupied by Lake Prile, a large lagoon communicating with the sea, on the opposite side of which was the Etruscan city of Roselle. The exact site of this ancient Etruscan city is a fairly recent discovery, the result of excavations carried out in the 19th century by Isidoro Falchi, a local doctor and amateur archaeologist, which led to the identification of the ancient city of Vetulonia with the village of Colonna di Buriano. Thus, after almost six centuries, the Royal Decree of 1887 restored to the place its rightful ancient name of Vetulonia. All we know of the earliest Villanovan (9th-8th century BC) phase are the necropolises with well tombs containing cinerary urns; between the end of the 9th and the beginning of the 8th century BC, the well tombs were enclosed within large stone circles, and the first trench or “fossa” tombs appeared, reflecting a gradual change in funereal ideology: the transition from cremation to inhumation In the late Orientalising period, starting from the last decades of the 8th century BC, the dominant form of burial was in trench tombs, set within circles of white stone and covered with mounds of earth. These have yielded very rich grave goods, comprising jewellery and pottery imported from the Eastern Mediterranean and sophisticated products of local metal-working. The affluence of the city in the 7th century BC is illustrated by the tholos Tombs in masonry that can be visited along the Via dei Sepolcri. At the beginning of the 6thcentury BC, in the Archaic period, Vetulonia controlled a large area comprising numerous small settlements located at strategic points: the mining centres of Selvello, San Germano, Santa Teresa and the Accesa Lake, and the coastal towns of Val Berretta and Pian d'Alma. In the 5th-4thcentury BC the tumulus of Poggio Pelliccia (open to the public), and the tombs of San Germano and Val Berretta attest to the presence of small rural potentates who may have replaced the city centre in the control of the territory. In the 3rd century BC, during the Hellenistic period, archaeological sources document the revival of the city, and the construction of new districts. The city must still have been independent at this time, as demonstrated by the minting of coins with the inscription in Etruscan VATL. After the Roman conquest Vetulonia became a municipium. According to Silius Italicus (1st century AD), it was in Vetulonia that the symbols of Roman power had their origin: the fasces, the toga, the curule seat and the military horn known as the buccina.
VETULONIA THE ETRUSCAN WALLS The itinerary begins in the upper part of Vetulonia, where we can still see the remains of the ancient Etruscan city walls protecting the stronghold of the city from attack. The walls, around 30 metres of which are still visible between two tall medieval towers, were built with polygonal shaped blocks, following a construction technique that was widespread between the 6th and the 2nd century BC in Etruria and Latium. According to a recent hypothesis, the wall erected in the early 3rd century BC could instead be a podium designed to support a place of worship. In Piazza Vetluna is the Archeological Museum "Isidoro Falchi". In Piazza Renzetti two epigraphs recall the restoration to Vetulonia of its ancient name. Turning left at the end of the main street (Via Garibaldi) we reach the square of the cemetery, and the entrance to the archaeological area of Costia dei Lippi
COSTIA DEI LIPPI Excavations carried out since 1960 by the Archaeological Superintendency of Tuscany have brought to light at Costa dei Lippi a series of terracing walls made of regularly squared blocks and a road of polygonal slabs running east-west, descending slightly eastwards in the direction of the city. The terracing walls, earlier than the road, are probably related to the construction of a residential district of the Hellenistic period (3rd-1st century BC). Indeed fragments of architectural decorations in terracotta dating to the 3rd-2nd century BC were found in the vicinity of one of these walls. It is also conceivable, however, that the area can be identified with a section of the wall circle, probably at the entrance to the city. From Costia dei Lippi, an uphill lane leads to Via Case di Siena where you will find the entrance to archaeological area of Costa Murata.
COSTA MURATA The area of Costa Murata, already known in the late 19th century, was excavated from the early 20th, and then between the late 1960s and 1979. The excavations have led to the discovery of a paved street and a series of houses decorated with terracotta architectural elements dating to the Hellenistic period (3rd-1st century BC). Today we can clearly see a rectangular building, dating to the 2nd-1st century BC: this can be identified as a domus with a large atrium and central cistern, with the rooms distributed around the atrium and opening southwards. The area was apparently frequented from the end of the 7th century BC up to the late Republican period. It was probably initially used as a sacred area, as suggested by the discovery of a lavish votive deposit containing Greek ceramics (4th-5th century BC), currently on display at the Archaeological Museum of Vetulonia. Leaving Vetulonia we continue along Via Garibaldi; not far from the town we can see along the road the remains of the archaeological area known as Scavi Città (Poggiarello Renzetti) SCAVI CITTÀ The area dates back to the 3rd-1st century BC when Vetulonia was under Roman influence. Today we can still see a curving, paved street (the decumanus) lined with pavements and an efficient sewage network. Shops and atrium-style houses line the road. Small side roads (Via Ripida and Via dei Ciclopi) divide the residential area into blocks, and lead up towards the hilltop of Poggiarello Renzetti. On the other side of the decumanus are structures (tanks, wells, sewers) belonging to the water and sewage distribution system. The 1985 excavations brought to light on Via Ripida a domus with atrium known as the Domus of Medea where decorative terracotta reliefs were found, illustrating the myth of Medea, now displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Vetulonia. At the end of Via Ripida excavations are still underway on another large house called the Domus dei Dolii. Here a large room was used for the storage of foodstuffs, which were kept in large jars (dolia) found still standing, while the paved section may have been used for the production of oil. The adjacent room (C) was the triclinium, where the owners would meet to eat meals, reclining on the convivial couches (klinai), adorned with marble furnishings, painted plaster on the walls and a floor made of cocciopesto (lime mortar with crushed tile and ceramic fragments). Room D could be the atrium of the house, set with the entrance facing towards Via dei Ciclopi. The whole area was abandoned in the 1st century. BC, perhaps as a result of a fire of which traces remain, or perhaps as a result of the retaliation made by Sulla against the Etruscan cities that had sided with Marius, in the wake of his victory in the Civil War Remains of a large wall built with polygonal shaped stones can be found in an enclosed area beyond the present road. Today it is still impossible to know what the wall was used for or when it was built. It could have been a containing wall designed to shore up the residential area above (dating back to the Republican era).
LA VIA DEI SEPOLCRI Continuing along the same road, we turn right at the crossroads with indications for tourists, we then take an unmade path on the left that leads downhill. This is the “Via dei Sepolcri” which takes us to the monumental tombs.
TOMBA DEL BELVEDERE The first tomb we come to on the left is the Tomba del Belvedere, datable between the end of the 7th and the 6th century BC. It is a quadrangular room with a short dromos entrance. The lintel is still intact whereas nothing remains of the large slab of stone that closed off the burial chamber. The burial chamber contains small niches that were designed to house the bodies of the dead. The false dome that once covered the entire construction has long since collapsed.
TOMBA DELLA PIETRERA Cross-section of the two tombs overlaid A few hundred metres away, to the right of the unmade road, is the Tomba della Pietrera. This tomb, named after its use as a stone quarry perpetuated down the centuries, is the largest funereal monument in Vetulonia. It is an unusual case of two tombs placed one on top of other. The initial (lower) construction had a circular burial chamber that probably collapsed from the weight of the roof during construction or immediately after, perhaps because the wrong type of material was used. It was then filled in as it could no longer be used, and another tomb was built on top with a quadrangular chamber and entrance dromos, with two small cells opposite each other opening off the side walls. The structure was completed by a false dome supported on a central pilaster, which is still visible, and covered with a mound of earth.
TOMBA DEL DIAVOLINO 2 Continuing along Via dei Sepolcri we can see other mounds that have not yet been explored, and after about 400 metres we come to the Tomba del Diavolino 2 (the tomb of Diavolino 1 was dismantled and reconstructed in the gardens of the Archaeological Museum of Florence at the end of the 19th century). The burial chamber is quadrangular with spandrels at the corners to support the projecting slabs of the false dome. Only the lower part of the roof is original and preserved; the upper part is restored. The central column has also been reconstructed, since only the base in alberese stone has survived. After crossing a long, partly uncovered dromos one enters the burial chamber by a doorway with lintel.
o visit: free admission
• Area Archeologica di Costa Murata • Tombe Belvedere, Pietrera, Diavolino Opening times: Winter: from 8 to 17 Summer:10-19
Closed on Tuesday and Friday
• Area Costia dei Lippi • Tomba del Belvedere always open for information: Corpo di Guardia Mibact Via Case di Siena, Vetulonia Tel./Fax 0564 949587
• Area Archeologica Scavi Città (Comune di Castiglione della Pescaia)
Opening times: October - February: 10 - 16 March - May: 10 - 18 June - September: 10 - 14 e 16 - 20
Closed on Monday July- Agust open every days For information: Museo Archeologico di Vetulonia Tel./Fax 0564948058
Info and reservations: 0564 948058
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