Sutri is a little gem of art and history, perched on big tuffaceous cliff along the Via Cassia, a historic Roman road.

view of Sutri - 700

Legend has it that the town was founded by the Roman god Saturn, now depicted on the city crest riding a horse. Slightly more reliable sources claim Sutri was established by the maritime population of the Pelasgians.

Sutri was inhabited by the Etruscans, who developed it into an important commercial centre, and it was later conquered by the Romans during the expansion of their empire.

Probably thank to its strategic position midway between Viterbo and Rome it has historically been an important location. It was involved in the wars between Langobards and Byzantines; Pope Gregory VI abdicated here in 1046; it was conquered by the French at the end of the 18th century and then given back to the papal state.

Most of the archaeological sites are inside a park. One of the most interesting is the Roman amphitheatre, carved into the hill. It was rediscovered by the local population only in 17th century. Shown in the photo below, the amphitheatre could once have seated 5000 people. It has an elliptical shape, with three flights of steps and various decorative structure, such as statues and columns.

2015-11-13 11.57.26

Among the other magnificent architecture this town has to offer is also the Etruscan necropolis. Sixty-four tombs are still visible although some of them have in the past been looted and even used as stables. The preserved tombs are of various styles: rectangular, single or double chambers and arched ones. Some of them are also characterized by the presence of niches that used to contain the urns.

2015-11-13 12.19.06

Its location on the Via Cassia made it easy to find, and the unspoilt nature around it lends a peaceful atmosphere. No wonder the Etruscan chose this site for their beloved to rest in peace.

Another place not to be missed is the Mithraeum, the ancient temple dedicated to Mithras. It dates back to the first century AD and was used for Christian ceremonies when pagan rituals were abandoned. The frescoes are still beautifully preserved and they date from the 16th century.

Sutri cathedral interior - 700

In addition to these fascinating examples of ancient art, part of the medieval wall has survived and the elegant Romanesque cathedral (shown in the photo above) is worth a visit in the charming historic centre, where you will also find plenty of places to stop for lunch.

Article text contributed by Alessandra Andreani. The pictures are by Juliet Haydock and adapted from images at Wikimedia Commons. The view of Sutri and the photograph of the interior of the Concattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta are both by Livioandronico2013 and made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence. Any subsequent reuse of these images is freely permitted under the terms of those licences.