Tales from the Western Med Day 5

May 13, 2017
We docked in Civitavecchia, which is the largest port in Italy. Civitavecchia literally means "ancient town" and was built on the ruins of an Etruscan settlement more than 3 millennia old! Most passengers are off to excursions in Rome which is 50 miles south and a 2 hr bus ride away. We didn't feel like doing that as we've seen the standard sites of Rome. There isn't much to see in Civitavecchia, but we had heard that Tarquinia would be a good day trip. We walked to the train/bus station with a Russian couple we met at dinner. Round trip tickets by bus or train to Tarquinia cost only 3€ (25 min bus ride or 15 min by train) plus another Euro for a local bus to the old city center which was 3-4 km from the Tarquinia station. Tarquinia is a beautiful, old, rural Italian city but was of great importance when the Etruscans ruled the land. There is an UNESCO World Heritage site called The Monterozzi Necropolis with some 6,000 ancient tombs. Many are tumulus tombs with chambers carved in the rock below, and several of these have beautiful fresco wall paintings over 2500 years old. Outside of Egypt, these are likely the oldest viewable paintings. The necropolis was known to exist in the 19th century, but not its extent. In the 1960s, a systematic archeological search was done with geological equipment to determine the locations of the underground chambers. Small structures have been built over chambers and you can descend by stairs into the tombs where you switch on a timed light to view the paintings. I found an entertaining travel guide written by D H Lawrence in 1937 (public domain, so downloadable, "Etruscan Places") about his visit to the tombs known at the time. We also visited some local churches of Tarquinia and had gelato before making the return trip to Civitavecchia. We had a wonderful time, but were quite tired; so, we skipped the evening entertainment since we have an early star for an all-day excursion tomorrow.