Leaving the low, often-marshy coast, and passing the low olive-covered hills, inland Etruria, yesterday like today, was covered in untamed forest and scrub.
Unspoilt expanses of dense woodland, of the same tones as the dull tufa, were however occupied by a system of fortified centres surrounded by striking rock-cut architecture. A network of routes that spread throughout the region, in many cases in the form of spectacular cuts, opened in the tufa, to dominate the forests that were wild but also generous with special fruits such as hazelnuts, acorns and chestnuts, and also provided high quality timber.
Dried fruit such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and figs were always present on the Etruscan table, often eaten with honey.
The historian Livy tells us that the wealthy Arruntius of Chiusi convinced the Gauls to conquer Etruria by showing them the delicacies it produced: oil, wine, and nuts.
The Rocca Albornoz National Etruscan Museum and the “Rossi Danielli” Civic Museum at Viterbo and their narration of the evocative rock-cut necropolis still preserved in the wild surrounding territory. The archaeological site of Acquarossa, immersed in dense scrub, one of the most exceptional cases of the preservation of an Etruscan settlement.
The scenographical rock-cut tombs at Castel d’Asso and Norchia, sculpted in steep walls of tufa and immerged in a wild unspoilt landscape, the perfect example of popular imagination in which archaeology is seen through spectacular landscapes, breathtaking views of romantic ruins against a background of great natural beauty.
All around, the shadowy hazelnut woods still providing an important fruit, as in Etruscan times.
Vetralla and the sanctuary of Demeter at Macchia delle Valli, immersed in a magical wood of Turkey oak and oak, situated by a spring and created within the natural narrow crevices of the rock wall. There is a fascinating reconstruction of the sanctuary in the Rocca Albornoz National Etruscan Museum at Viterbo, which provides an all round experience of the sacrality of this place.
Blera with its forests, rock-cut necropoli, including the famous San Giovenale, the cuts in the tufa and monumental remains of the Devil’s Bridge, whose three arches still span the Biedano torrent.
The Regional Nature Park of Marturanum at Barbarano Romano, its luxuriant vegetation and spectacular rock-cut Etruscan remains, such as the necropolis of San Giuliano, with the monumental Tomb of the Queen and just as evocative Tomb of the Deer, named after the exceptional scene carved in low-relief above the side steps showing the struggle between a deer and a wolf.
Soriano nel Cimino and Monte Cimino, already a sacred mountain in the prehistoric period, with its centuries old chestnut woods, the beech wood and remains of the ancient wall. The Etruscan and Roman rock-cut monuments in the impenetrable scrub, which the Roman legions struggled to cut through during their war against the Etruscans. The hazelnuts from Cimino and the DOP chestnuts of Vallerano, products of the forests that were present on the ancients’ tables.
Orvieto with the woods of Castel Viscardo and the necropolis delle Caldane. The Faggeta, an ancient beech wood, unchanged through the centuries. The timeless pathways of the Monte Peglia and Selva di Meana Park. The Vallone di San Lorenzo necropolis, belonging to one of the fortified settlements, outposts of the Etruscan Orvieto. The Sasso Tagliato, a great tufa mass that is said to have miraculously split open to allow a procession from Bolsena that was carrying the corporal (cloth on which the bread and wine are placed during Eucharist) to pass through it. In actual fact, it is an Etruscan cut made in the rock that from Orvieto penetrated into the Alfina plateau.