Tuscania and surrounding areas
Information about the city:
On the promontories that dominate the valleys inhabited by the Etruscans, the Romans and during the Middle Ages the inhabitants of castles and abbeys, it is here that Tuscania was born and developed.
The environment that surrounds the town is sculpted from volcanic and sedimentary rocks which have generated precious thermal springs in the nearby areas. The horizon is hilly, interspersed with plains, and in some points, furrowed by incisions rich with vegetation and where ancient torrents flow. Everywhere there are signs of the past which create the typical landscapes of this part of Italy, which in turn accommodate the luxuriant ruggedness of the Maremma.
The name of Tuscania reveals it ancient Etruscan origins, from a root ‘turs’ of obscure meaning. The Etruscans were, in fact, called, by the Greeks and the Romans, Tusci, Etrusci, Tyrreni etc. In 1300 Pope Bonifacio VIII inflicted the diminutive Toscanello on the city as one of several punishments for an attempt at revolt against Rome. This nickname remained for more than six centuries, until 1911.
On 6th February 1971, a violent earthquake destroyed the town: it seemed as though its great inheritance had been cancelled but an accurate restoration has fully restored the historical centre of the town to its original splendour.
The city today is still circled by antique crenellated walls reinforced by medieval keeps. Inside the walls you can see portals, loggias, mullioned windows, rose windows, fountains that proudly bear the names of famous architects like Vignola and Bramante, illustrious family crests, churches telling their own antique history, like Santa Maria delle Rose which is one of the most beautiful. And outside the walls, there is the wondrous sight of San Pietro and Santa Maria Maggiore, two ancient basilicas placed on solitary hills, just a few metres one from the other. San Pietro was founded at the beginning of the VIII century, it is the most important church in Tuscania and one of the first, great architectural accomplishments for Christianity in the Lombard-Romanesque style, one of the very first truly Italian churches. The church is facing east, on the hillside which was an acropolis for ancient Tuscania. It is not the result of a single project and a single phase of construction, rather it is the product of more than one intervention, expansion and decorative contribution. It is an architectonic work of sacred and social art, carried out by the architect, by the craftsmen and by the city itself. In the nearby basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the oldest in the town, we find the same Romanesque style with gothic elements evident in the picturesque portal. The interior hosts an exquisite ambo, a baptismal font and numerous pictorial decorations, including the Final Judgement.
The important Abbazia di San Giusto, in the countryside near the town, is of the same style and from the same period. This abbey is completely restored and open to visitors.
The rest of the local territory recalls even more remote times with the Etruscan tombs, among which you can visit the most famous, the Grotta della Regina. In these tombs, carved from the tufa rock, many archaeological finds have been made: sarcophagi, attic pieces, buccheri, bronzes and glassware. These exhibits can be admired at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale which is within the beautiful Franciscan cloisters adjoining the church of Santa Maria del Riposo. Many other important findings have been made in the area, now conserved in museums and collections all over the world, among which are the sarcophagi in terracotta in the museum of Villa Giulia in Rome, the ivory dice in Paris, the bronze mirror in the museum of Florence, the clay urn in the Vatican Museums.