Cerveteri is located in the northern part of the Lazio region, close to the city of Rome. This stunning town was once an ancient Etruscan city, occupying 15 times more land than it does today. This quiet town often gets brushed aside by tourists because it is not well known among the tourism community. Traveling to this remote town is a great way to break free from the daily chaos that encompasses Rome.
The city of Cerveteri was not always called by this name. To the Etruscan people, Cerveteri was known as Caere or Cisra and was located less than 10 miles from the coast. The closeness of the sea helped turn this city into a huge seaport district and trade was much easier as the shore was close to the city center. During the 7th century B.C., trading was a common practice among the Etruscan people, and rich and noble families from Greece, Southern Italy, and Sicily all wanted the chance to work out a trade agreement with the city of Cisra. Jewelry and pottery became the top products sold within the city and to outside buyers. The townspeople of Cisra also detested pirates and swore to never to become involved in that kind of activity. The name Caere is first mentioned in the history books in the Battle of Alalia, in 540 B.C. These depictions are not favorable to Caere, however, due to the fact that prisoners were stoned to death within these city walls. Throughout history, Caere always maintained a firm relationship with the city of Rome. Both cities knew that they needed one another to survive in the world. Unfortunately for the Etruscans of Caere, the Romans could not be trusted and the Roman Empire eventually took over the city of Caere and its people. Needless to say, the friendship between the two strong cities ceased to exist, and by the beginning to the 1st century A.D., it became apparent that the wealth and richness of the city had been completely taken over by the Romans. Excavations of the ancient city have been underway for many years and although progress has been slow, it has remained steady. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was the city of Caere. It took hundreds of years to bury this city and it could take hundreds of years to completely rediscover it. UNESCO named Cerveteri a World Heritage Site in 2004, along with the neighboring city of Tarquinia.
During the 700–300 B.C. era, the Etruscans decided they needed to build a place to bury the dead of Caere, and so the necropolis of Banditaccia was built in order to preserve the bodies. The most famous attraction of Cerveteri is called Necropoli della Banditaccia, whereby a necropolis, or city of the dead, is a large, ancient cemetery.
Out of the 1,000 acres of land occupied by the necropolis, only 25 acres can be visited by tourists. The tombs of the wealthy can be easily distinguished among the other burial sites as if a person was poor or from the middle class, they were most likely have little more than a hole or a pit in which their bodies were laid to rest. The Etruscan people believed that they would live another life after death, therefore they were often buried with their personal items. The wealthier families also had sculptures or other designs carved to represent themselves or loved ones.
The most famous tombs that have been uncovered so far are the Tomb of the Painted Lions (620 B.C.), the Tomb of the Reliefs (4th- 2nd century), and the Regolini-Galassi Tomb (7th century). The Tomb of the Reliefs bears inscriptions revealing that the Mantuni family was buried there. The Tomb of Regolkni-Galassi was uncovered in recent years, and gold and jewelry were found within the tomb. The necropolis was built to resemble the streets of the ancient Etruscan city of Caere in order to make the burial process easier for the people.
The palace of the royal family Ruspoli was built in Cerveteri in 1533. Through an enclosed bridge, it connects to the Santa Maria Maggiore Church. Another church, the Sant’Antonio Abate Church, bears a wall fresco painted in 1472 by Lorenzo da Viterbo, an Italian artist and painter who worked on many churches and buildings during the Renaissance.
Local Wines Nearby
Cerveteri is known not only for its ancient Etruscan city and large ancient cemetery. The area surrounding Cerveteri also produces some of the most delicious red and white wines in the region, and while the harvests are limited, the end result is a pure glass of heaven. The wines are often blended with other wines to produce a richer flavor and taste.
Back to: Day Trips from Rome