Adventura con Handy- a tomb filled long weekend

So last weekend was 3 day weekend and I joined a group of people (Bonnie, Karen, and Ann) who rented a car to travel to some of the harder to get to Etruscan sites. On Friday we got into Siena to pick up Loretta, the Lancia Delta from Hertz, Loretta was a manual and while we as a group knew how to drive a manual and have done it in the past, there were a few hic-ups starting (like stalling in a traffic circle, although we figured out that was caused by the cruise control being on). Soon we were on our way south to Tarquinia where we were spending the night. Ann had been working on Cosa for the month of June so she knew of a place to get dinner on the way there (in Capalbio, an awesome medieval town). And once we got up the hill in the parking garage we were on our way to the Hotel All’Olivo which someone we found even though the directions said take a left, take a right, take another right, that is correct no street names whatsoever.

After a bottle of mediocre wine, we went to bed since we had a lot planned for the next day. On Saturday we drove to the site of Caere in the town of Cerveteri to see the Necropolis and the museum. The necropolis is awesome, this is the site of the giant tumuli and we went running over and into as many as we could. We then went to the main piazza of Cerveteri to get lunch. Most of the places were shut down, however there was a meat truck run by twin body builders that sold porchetta sandwiches. They asked us if any of us were from New York, we said no and ran through the states we were from and when they found out that Bonnie was from Alaska they became super excited and gave us samples of their salami and the liver in the porchetta. It was delicious. After lunch we walked through the Cerveteri museum which was small but they had recently installed touch screen displays that provided a narrative about the objects in the case which was cool.

After that we were on our way back to Tarquinia to see the museum there (where we tried to take as many secret photos as possible since they do not allow them in the museum for some reason). After that we drove to the necropolis, or at least tried to. We missed the signs and got lost in the town which has roads almost too small for Loretta and then stalled in the traffic circle again (although this was the last time we did that). Finally we made it to the necropolis and ran around more tombs. These are the painted tombs and so there is a glass door that keeps you from going into the tombs and helps preserve the paintings. Nevertheless they are still awesome tombs to check out. We were still up for one more adventure and so drove out to the ruins of the ancient city of Tarquinia. It is mostly sheep pastures now, but the Ara della Regina is there and we were able to climb all over it and see some amazing views.

Dinner that night was less than pleasurable. There were 2 waiters working on a Saturday night in a packed hotel restaurant, it took nearly 2 hours to get out pizzas (it should have been tops ½ hour). We did learn to play Scopa an Italian card game while we were waiting.

The next day we checked out and drove up the coast to Cosa, where Ann was able to get us in for free and gave us a tour of her excavations there. It is a cool sight tucked away in a resort town for the rich of Rome. We say the really small museum (that looked like it was last updated in the 1970’s) and crawled all over the ruins and saw the forum and Capitolium (the two places it is famous for). After that we were on our way to meet another group of Scavi folks in Vulci for an appointment to see the Francois tomb and the tomb of the inscription. We were early so we checked out the museum in a medieval abbey (it was 2 euros and the only 2 euros we spent on archaeology sites on Sunday). I miss understood where the meeting point was, I thought it was the museum but it was in fact the archaeology park. So we got a call from Kate and since I knew where the tombs were I told them I would drive there to meet them. We made it and saw the tombs which were so awesome. Afterwards we checked out the Roman ruins in Vulci and then drove back to Tarquinia for lunch on the beach (lido). It was a seafood place and we consumed many different sea creatures that day ranging from shrimp and squid to mussels and anchovies (we think the number was around 300). Since we spent so much the restaurant let us use their beach chairs for free. That is one think very different about Italian beaches, you usually need to rent a chair to be able to use them so it was nice that we got them free (I mean the total lunch bill was around 340 euros so we did pay for them in a way).

After the beach we were on the road again to Piombino to Hotel Est which we found another despite our directions. Since we ate so much at lunch we bought some snacks and wine (and a few beers) and just stayed in the hotel room playing scopa and downloading our pictures. On Monday we double checked to make sure the museum was really closed (most are on Monday) and it was so we headed on our way to Populonia. After finding the entrance to the parking lot (which was blocked by tourists at first) we checked out the medieval town (which basically houses the staff of the site) and then walked all over the acropolis. This one is most fenced off than the other sites so there was less crawling over everything. We then drove back down the hill to the necropoles. We entered and I started to crawl all over the tombs but I was then yelled at by a guard. We did make it in time to go into one of the intact tombs, which was cool since we had to crawl into the tomb which is how the Etruscans would have had to do it (most of the tombs at all the sites have modern reinforced entrances which are tall enough to walk into). We then walked down to other parts of the necropolis where we ran into an excavation run by Archaeodig in conjunction with University of Arizona and here we ran into a former Scavi person, Chantel who is a UofA for graduate work. She explained they were trying to understand the relationship of the iron smelting and the tombs in the area. We then started to walk into the woods to see some of the other tombs, but the girls were getting tired so they went back to the snack shack and I took a trail run through the bosco (woods) to see the rest of the tombs. It was really hot that day and may not have been the best idea (it looked like I went swimming afterwards) but I got to see the tombs and not delay our return to Siena to drop off the car. We made it back in time to return the car and get some groceries and play a few rounds of scopa in the train station.

All in all it was a great weekend full of tombs, good friends and beautiful landscapes. I am glad I went because although I had seen Tarquinia, Vulci, and Caere before it was before my masters degree and I didn’t full know about the places and I also got to see some new tombs and new sites too (one day I’ll mack it back to Piombino to see the museum there). Maybe if I am up to it I will post about the week of digging later although it is Meat Fest today so I may be occupied grilling some bistecca Fiorentina later tonight, so no promises.

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About handyatmurlo

I am a Latin teacher at Regis Jesuit High School. I earned my MA at CU Boulder and my BA at UMass Amherst. I have spent my summers working in Italy as an archaeologist at three different sites. One I have worked at for 10 years at Poggio Civitate at Vescovado di Murlo. I have worked at the Villa of Maxentius in Rome for 2 years, before the project ended. I also spent 2 summers at the FSU excavations in Cosa.
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