After the hassle and bustle of Rome, a small town of Tarquinia, some 55 miles northwest of the capital, is an oasis of peace and tranquility. This small gem, one of lesser-known Italy sights, is a great destination for a day tour or a relaxing short break.
Tarquinia was founded at the end of the Bronze Age and was a big thriving Etruscan city in the 4th century BC. Today it has some of Italy’s most important Etruscan sites, necropolises, with some 6,000 tombs, 200 of which have beautiful wall paintings. At the moment about 20 tombs are open to the public. The Tomba della Caccia e della Pesca boasts colorful frescoes depicting hunting and fishing scenes. Check out the Tomb of the Bulls and Tomb of the Whipping, which have very rare erotic murals dating back to 490-520 BC. In the Tomba dei Leopardi you can admire one of the best preserved frescoes picturing a lively banquet with dancers, musicians and wine.
History buffs will be delighted to explore the Tarquinia Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale Tarquiniense) with its rich collection of Etruscan artefacts, which includes a stunning terracotta frieze of winged horses (Cavalli Alati), amphorae, frescoes, jewellery.
However, there is more to Tarquinia than its stunning Etruscan treasures. The atmospheric old center is an assembly of elegant Baroque and Gothic palaces, churches and medieval towers. The main Cathedral has beautiful 16th century frescoes. The Church of Church of San Giacomo and Santissima Annunziata is a spectacular mix of Arab and Byzantine influences. When you overdose on Tarqiunia’s history and architecture head to the lovely beach to chill out and gorge on excellent seafood.
Tarquinia is a paradise for food lovers. Its cuisine is quite similar to that of Rome but without the high prices aimed at tourists. Don’t miss traditional pasta dishes with wild mushrooms, artichokes, fish in broth (pesce all’acqua pazza), excellent local red wines and sparkling white wines.
Photos by: Craig Stanfill, The Yorck Project, Verity Cridland.