Fascinating Insight into Ancient Burial Practices
Cerveteri, an ancient city formerly known as Caere, lies between the Lago di Bracciano and the Tyrrhenian Sea near Ladispoli. The city dates back to the middle of the 9th century BC during which the Etruscans were the most prosperous and developed civilization within Italy; indeed, they had profound influence on Roman civilization and were merged in the 1st century BC. Cerveteri is famous for its Etruscan necropoli which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The Necropoli della Banditaccia is an expansive area comprised of Etruscan funeral mounds that house one or more tombs within them. The tombs date from the 8th century BC to the 2nd century BC and are a tangible example of ancient burial practices. There is a small tourist train, the Caere express, which takes visitors on guided tours of the necropoli every Saturday and Sunday starting at 10am. From June to September you can also visit the necropoli during night tours.
To see some of the artifacts that were found in the tombs, you should visit the National Museum of Cerveteri (housed in “La Rocca”, a 13th century fortress donated to the city by the Ruspoli family in 1967). The museum contains many Etruscan relics including funerary objects, decorative vases, and sarcophagi from various eras. The current exhibition “I Capolavori Di Eufronio” displays the great masterpieces by famed Greek vase painter and potter Euphronios which were found in a necropolis in Cerveteri in the 1980s and sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The prized works are on display until October 31, 2015.
Have lunch at La Casetta, a family-run restaurant in the nearby Borgo di Ceri which serves typical dishes in a rural setting. Be sure to have a glass of the local Cerveri DOC white wine.
Address: Via Doganale 131
To get to Cerveteri from Rome by public transport, you can take either the train (to Cerveteri-Ladispoli station, then take a local bus) or a COTRAL bus (journey time approximately one hour). The COTRAL buses are probably handier, as they stop right in the centre of town. Buses leave from Lepanto Metro station (Linea A); the bus stops are just above the underground station, and there is a ticket desk below ground. A tip: on the way into and out of Rome, the bus may be stuck for a long time in traffic. If you can avoid this by using metro stations further along the bus route, do. The bus stop in Cerveteri is handy for the museum and the old part of town. The necropolis is about 25 minutes walk from town along country roads. To get there, follow signs, heading downhill and to the right. It’s easy to find the way, and the walk is undemanding; but the less mobile should be prepared to take a taxi to the archaeological site.