Tarquinia and Tuscania are situated quite close to each other in the province of Viterbo in the Lazio region of Italy. They almost sound like twin towns. It wasn’t always so as in the Middle Ages Tarquinia was called Corneto. It was later renamed to reflect its ancient origins. The two towns are, however, quite different in almost every other way.
Tuscania by Alesso Rossini
Tuscania’s great attraction is a pair of Romanesque churches set in attractive countryside; visiting them both is an enjoyable stroll into the past, through hills and pleasant woods and fields. A fine rose window, remarkable carvings, huge open arcades, ancient stone pavements; these churches are full of atmosphere. I have no idea why such a small town needed two such massive churches; nor why they’re now so far out of the town centre.
San Pietro Toscania by mararie
Tarquinia n the other hand was the Etruscans’ city of Tarchna – Tarquinius, king of Rome, took his name from here. The museum, in an attractive old palace, contains Etruscan artefacts, from tomb paintings to sarcophagi to the great terracotta horses that are perhaps the town’s most famous inhabitants.
Museum of Tarquinia by Verity Cridland
Several of the tombs have been excavated and are now open to visitors, with fine tomb paintings showing scenes of Etruscan life – hunting, fishing, wrestling, and banqueting.
Etruscan tomb in Tarquinia by Jon Connell
A good hike from the centre of town takes you up to the ridge of a hill overlooking the modern settlement, where the Ara della Regina, the base of an Etruscan shrine, looms huge and stark. A stormy day makes you remember the tales of human sacrifice; archaeologists have found bodies buried under the structure.
Tarquinia by Luca Conti
Tarquinia seems the busier of the two towns; the pace of life in Tuscania seems slower, almost as if the town is fading back into the countryside. Tarquinia is more on the tourist route and offers tacky Etruscan-themed souvenirs; Tuscania runs more to old-world grocers’ shops.
Put the two together and you have a nicely contrasted pair of towns for a weekend or day trip from Rome – a step away from the modern world for true lovers of Italy.