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Cerveteri, Necropolis Etruscan Tombs near Rome - a UNESCO Site

If you are looking for attractions near Rome, the Cerveteri Necropolis, burial place for the Etruscans in Italy, is a great for a day trip from Rome. The Necropolis haunts you long after you have gone, and it invokes in you a sense of awe as you realize just how old these Etruscan tombs are that you are about to explore.

It is one of the richest, and best known Etruscan archeological sites in the Province of Rome and is now a UNESCO heritage site.Few attractions near Rome give you a foundation of history to appreciate the sites of Rome, itself.

It is a large area covering 400 hectares, although only 10 hectares is open to the public. The Cerveteri Necropolis is not just known for its Neolithic tombs. It is also a very pretty town in a charming setting. It sits on a Tufa spur, a short distance from Via Aurelia with views towards the sea. A medieval section can be seen preserved with a castle, a turreted fortress and a Romanesque church of Santa Maria with its 13th century bell tower. The 15th century Palazzo Ruspoli is also worth a note.

The day we went to the Cerveteri Necropolis it was virtually empty of tourists and we had the place to ourselves. Take time to wander around the rotund tombs build out of stone with grass roofs, and well-worn steps that go down into the burial chambers that have been decorated for the afterlife.

Look too around the tombs and you will see well-rutted ground that has cart tracks created thousands of years ago as they ploughed through the mud carrying the bodies of the dead.
Etruscan Tombs Cerveteri Italy

The Etruscan Tombs at Cerveteri

Travel Information for Visiting the Etruscan Tombs at the Cerveteri Necropolis, Italy

One word of advice; take a torch with you. Many of the tombs are dark, and if you want to see what is exactly in these tombs, and don't want to step on the odd snake or two taking a torch makes a lot of sense. The major tombs do have lighting whereby you can see around with no trouble, but there are others that are really dark and dangerous if you can't see where you are going.

There are also important ruins here of the ancient city of Caere, where interesting sections of the walled perimeter from the 4th century BC have been preserved, along with the remains of some temples, a theater, acqueducts and baths, and, most importantly of all, the large Necropolis.

Cerveteri - the ancient Ceisra of the Etruscans, Caere for the Romans, or Chaire for the Greeks was a major city in the 7th and 8th centuries, and one of the richest and most populated in the Mediterranean world. It was known for its refined living, it was a center of important commercial traffic, and considerable artistic and cultural activities, open to foreign merchants and artists, mainly Greeks, Phoenecians, and Carthaginians.

3 Types of Etruscan Tombs at Cerveteri, Italy

These Neolithic tombs that once house the remains of the rich and famous of Ceisra (Cerveteri today), we only discovered in the first half of the 19th century by a farmer who was ploughing his fields and stumbled upon them by accident. Steps into the Etruscan Tombs in Cerveteri Italy

There are really 3 kinds of burial places at the CerveteriNecropolis, the most ancient being in the form of pits where the ashes of the dead were housed. Then there are the mounds and the dice.

The mounds are the circular structures carved out of tufa, the soft rock of the area, with a grass roof.

The dice tombs are the square tombs which were built along the roads in a more simple fashion.

Both the mounds and the 'dice' tombs were built to house the remains of the Etruscans.

From 1911 the area has been under excavation and wonderful  objects have been unearthed; gold, silver, laminated and embossed bronzes, painted ceramics and refined cavings in ivory.

There have been a large collection of Greek vases unearthed here, as well as statuettes, urns and sarcophagi.

It is this last section of theCerveteri Necropolis that is of great interest, because it appears, that like the Egyptians, the ancient people of Cerveterialso prepared the dead for a life hereafter, and so buried them with objects that not only represented who they were when living, but to aid them in the next life.

Large collections of funeral architecture can be seen, including roofing, columns and beams that were created in the tombs underground, but also beds, chairs etc. Some of the more complex tombs consisted of several rooms.

There is an entrance passage, flanked by two smaller rooms, through which one passes into a large common rectangular room with sloping beams supported by pillars or columns. This room in turn leads to one, two or three inner chambers.

Both the common and the other chambers have sometimes funerary beds made from the surrounding rock, the sarcophagus type that were used for women, or the low pillow and rounded legs for men and sometimes these also had stalls and benches.

The other facinating aspect of the tombs at the CerveteriNecropolis is the fact that this City of the Dead appears to have been built according to some form of urban planning. The city appreas to be arranged in axis with a large and long main road towards which lead other secondary roads. Many of which run oblique or parallel to it,  with frequent small and large 'squares' and with all the tombs placed along the sides,  in an orderly way.
 

Exploring the Different Tombs at the Cerveteri Necropolis

A soon as you come out of the ticket office you immediately enter the main sepulchral way, flanked by tumuli of medium size.  Have a look at the 3rd tomb on the left. This is the Tomb of the Capitelli dating back to the 7th century BC.
Tomb of the Capitelli Cerveteri, Italy

Inside the Tomb of the Capitelli
Further along, still on the left hand side is the largest of the tombs called Tumulus II, with a tufa shaped base and a large quadrangular alter which is also drawn from the tufa that faces the road. Inside are 4 tombs.

The Tomb of the Funerary Beds, with the beds excavated in rock, in an ark shape, the Tomb of the Greek Vases, with sides cells to the corridor, the Tomb of the Dolii, and the Tomb of the Hut, the most ancient of the 4, imitating a house-hut.

There is another large tomb, slightly smaller than this one, called Tumulus I which also has tombs that have been excavated from the inside with beds in the shape of arks.

However, the best of all the tombs is the Tomb of the Reliefs. Also called Tomba Bella. It is a beautiful tomb belonging to the Matuna family, with niches in the walls and a sloping roof supported by pilasters covered with relief work of painted stucco of furnishings, utensils, and objects of common use.
The Tomb of Reliefs at Cerveteri

The Tomb of the Reliefs, Cerveteri
In the central area is a carving of a bed with pillows, rounded legs and figures in relief of the world hereafter, along with a stool with a pair of sandals. Further along the main sepulchral way which slightly bends to the right, but always flanked by tumuli is another tumulus called the Tumulus of the Frame, so called as  it has a room that is decorated with a large shaped frame which stands out from the tops of the walls.

Going back towards the above mentioned crossing, at the corner, between the main sepulchral way and the third side way you come across the entrance to the Tomb of the Small House. This is formed by 6 small connected rooms, with doors and windows surmounted by small arches and funerary beds.

Going back along the main sepulchral way and going towards the Banditaccia you will find 3 large isolated tombs that are not always open to the public and due to their remoteness are often only visted with a guide. These are the Tumulus of the Ship, the Tumulus of the Painted Animals, and the Tumulus of the Painted Chairs.

There are of course many other tombs within this complex to visit, but these are the major and more interesting ones mentioned.
 
The Cerveteri Necropolis is open daily from 8:30am to 1 hour before sunset. Admission is 6€ for adults and 3€ for children under 18 years of age. (2012 prices)
We know that the Etruscans were highly devout and believed in life after death.  But see how the Etruscans lived in life as well .
 

Cerveteri Italy Museum

Much of what has been excavated to date is now housed in a museum and is worth a visit. The museum is in Cerveteri,  housed in the Ruspoli Castle on the Piazza Santa Maria.

Here, along with many other artefacts, you can find golden and bronze objects, vases and urns, footwear, dice, a wooden stool decorated in bronze, a barrel of wood interlaced with fiber, oil amphorae, and even some coloured glass vases.
 

Cerveteri Museum Opening Hours

The museum is closed on Mondays, but open Tuesdays - Sundays 8:30 - 19:30. Closed New Years Day, Christmas Day and May 1st. Entrance is free, but you may have to ring the bell for someone to assist you.

Weather Cerveteri Italy

Here is a weather forecast for Cerveteri
 

How to Get to the Cerveteri Necropolis from Rome:

By Car: If you're driving, head towards Via Aurelia, northwest of Rome, for 45km (28 miles). Follow the road to Cerveteri for approximately 3.5 km. After that follow the signposts.

If you are traveling on the Auto: Take the Raccordo Anulare road to Fiumicino, then the A12 Roma-Civitavecchia highway to the Cerveteri exit after 26 kms.

By Train: Leave from the termini station Roma-Genova, or Roma-Orbetello lines. Stop at Ladispoli station. From Ladispoli take a CoTral bus to Cerveteri; the trip takes about an hour and costs 3.10€. You can visit their website at www.cotralspa.it. Once you're at Cerveteri, it's a 2km (1 1/4-mile) walk to the necropolis; follow the signs pointing the way.

By Bus: Catch a bus from Viale Giulio Cesare on a CoTral bus, which depart roughly every half hour. They arrive directly at Cerveteri - Piazza Aldo Moro.

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