Walk like an Etruscan

As promised in my previous post I am posting about our new tours! I had the pleasure of testing one them recently called— Walk Like An Etruscan.  As you probably guessed it has something to do with the Etruscans.  So back in the day…but I really mean back in the day…like 3000 years ago, the Etruscans built these cool streets into the soft tufa block that surrounded their villages.  The Etruscans had two cities, the acropolis-the city of the living, and the necropolis-the city of the dead.  The city of the dead was designed to resemble the the city of the living complete with homes equipped with every necessity, and even roads.  The use of these streets is thought to have been a passage way for the dead and a safe way to connect three little Tuscan jewels,  Sorano, Sovana, and Pitigliano.  The tombs were pillaged through the years and used as garages, or storage areas. In fact, I even saw a tractor parked in one them!  The original remains of the tomb we destroyed or sold, leaving them pretty

much bare inside.I am not a big hiker, but I have to say it was fairly easy for me.  We had a middle aged woman, a senior citizen, and a dad with a baby on his back on the tour , and we all managed!  The roads themselves can be from 2-30 feet tall depending on where youstart out. Along the way there are beautiful landscapes, archaeological parks, and medieval architecture!   A couple of times I was a little creeped out by some of the empty tombs. Being an Anthropology major, and having excavated in Italy, I want to share with you a few things I know about Etruscans.   The Etruscans had 3 main periods of burial.  The first was a small urn, much like an
Egyptian canopic jar.  This jar was placed in the ground with the burnt remains.  Upon placing the ashes in the ground they would put helmets or figures on top on the urn.  In the second phase they started to build tombs and then place the urns inside the tombs.  During third phase, they started to get more elaborate as they had more influence from other cultures, i.e. the Romans and Greeks.  The tombs and the urns became larger and larger until they became a thing of the past.  They started with smaller bone boxes, and then larger bone boxes with effigies on top, and then they just went for full out coffins.  The tombs normally held entire families over many generations and were reopened for burials.  They would sometimes have festivities in the larger tombs to include the relative that had past on to the other world.  The tombs have ledges where the the coffins could be placed.  It was hard for me to accept that someone’s final resting place was used for barn storage! It gives a whole new meaning to remain’s reclamation, seeing as most of the people in the area are of Etruscan origin.   The tombs were eventually abandoned as the culture slowly died out.  They were a mystery to their medieval posterity who went around desecrating and marking them to scare off the devil…as things non-Christian were seen as evil.  The roads were still used for trade, and safe travel for pilgrims.

The more I walked the less I felt creeped out and the more I thought  ‘am I in Heaven?   The rocks seemed surreal, covered in green moss.  There was a beautiful sound of silence.  The only noises I heard were the pitter patter of our own feet, moving streams, and the sweet music of the birds…I could of made one of those ambient CD’s for insomniacs!!!  Then there were the cities in the background.  They were built into and on the top of plateaus. In the morning they seemed to be floating in the clouds.   Pitigliano, where we stayed the first night, is also hailed to be ‘Little Jerusaleum’! The Medici sent the Jewish population to live in this city where they lived freely for a time.  They eventually were forced to move back into the ghetto, which they mark with their typical sweet called  Sfratti. These sweets are in the form of clubs.  As you might have guessed clubs were used to force the population back into the ghetto.  When I say ghetto, I don’t mean a bad part of town or even the ghetto’s used during the Nazi period.  They were more of closed living areas that the Jewish population had to stay in at night and could only go out of at certain times of the day.  There was normally only one exit that was closed by a gate.  They had their own butcher, baker, and candlestick maker!  As far as I understand the population was treated fairly well, except for the whole beating with clubs part! YIKES!!!  Anyway,   Sorano has a wonderful medievel church with the original road still leading to it! It also has a necropolis outside of the city with the Hildebrand tomb–if you ever studied Etruscan history you know what I’m talking about!!!!  When we got to Sovana we stayed in a castle…yes that’s right a 1000 year old castle.  When I asked the receptionist if they had wifi, he responded that the walls were to thick! 😀 O well… They did have to prevent people from getting into the city, I guess my wifi was a worthy victim to the cause.  The view from our room was fantastic.  They

have many of the areas lit up at night, so even though it was dark I was able to see most of the areas…but then in the morning when I opened the shutters…it was just fantastic! The landscape was speckled withabandoned tombs as far as the eye could see.   That night we ate at one of the only ‘agriristoro’ Restaurants in Italy.  That means, from field to table…everything was made and grown there on the farm and it was delicious!!!  The next day would be spent at the nearby Saturnia thermal baths!!! I can’t think of a better ending than that, can you?   Even though I was exhausted I have to say it was well worth it! If you think this is something you might want to do check out our site and BOOK IT!!!!


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