The Etruscan necropolis of Tarquinia is short drive from the Cerveteri necropolis and is another Unesco World Heritage Site. The UNESCO justification for inscribing the Cerveteri and Tarquinia sites is given here.
Though the Cerveteri site is remarkable for its complete absence of paintings (except those brought miraculously into being by multimedia aids). The Tarquinia necropolis has an exceptional number of painted tombs, described by UNESCO as “the first chapter in the history of great Italian painting”. See the official necropolis website for more information and practical details such as admission times and prices.
The Tarquinia site is much lower-tech than its nearby counterpart and the tombs are visible from the outside as raised mounds. Visitors have to troop up and down stairs, entered through a modern structure in each case. The tombs are visible through a glass viewing panel at the bottom of the stairs.
As the site consists of more than twenty such structures, each with a longish, somewhat daunting staircase, it’s not for the faint-hearted, though children would love it. The following sign says it all.
Like Cerverteri, the Tarquinia necropolis is also beautifully located, though in this case high up on a vantage point on the Monterozzi hill, dominating the valley and looking out over the town of Tarquinia.
The tomb paintings allow us a glimpse of the way the Etruscans lived: each one depicts a different aspect of their lives that they wished to take with them into the afterlife.
My personal favourite was a lively and colourful hunting, shooting and fishing scene.
The sheer number of paintings and tombs makes it impossible to show them all here, so I urge you to go and see for yourself: you won’t be disappointed. Some of the most famous ones are are depicted here.
On another note, the richly depicted scenes of everyday life are occasionally interspersed with darker and scarier depictions of the winged, hammer-wielding Charun , a fearsome and demonic deity whose role in the tombs is unclear.
If you have any energy left after all the stairs, the national archaeological museum of Tarquinia is housed in Palazzo Vitelleschi in Piazza Cavour, Tarquinia.