To the Etruscans, wine in all its varieties of taste, colour, and aroma, was a sacred nectar, dear to the god Flufluns – the Greek Dionysus – and his retinue of Satyrs and Maenads, who, greedy for the delicious juice, received its gifts of ecstasy and the freeing of the senses. Flowing freely at the sumptuous aristocratic symposia (banquets), wine was the drink of princes, associated with charisma and prestige, at the banquets of the living as in the solemn meals celebrated in honour of the high-ranking deceased. Wine was also poured in copious amounts as sacred libations, offered on occasion of sacrifices to the deities.
Produced in Etruria, or acquired in the East, especially in Greece, wine travelled by sea or inland waterways, carefully conserved in large amphorae, and its trade across the entire Mediterranean was one of the most important and productive activities of the ancient economy.
Salt was an even more precious commodity, in fact it allowed the conservation and storage of perishable foods, in particular meat and fish. It was used in cheese making, in cooking, as seasoning, in animal raising, particularly sheep, in medicine as a disinfectant and, lastly, in religious sacrifices where it was used to symbolically purify the victim.
The great variety of uses and the close link with fundamental activities for human sustenance, made salt an extremely precious commodity, a white gold that from the coastal production sites travelled inland along commercial routes of vital importance.
Cerveteri and the magnificent Etruscan necropolis of the Banditaccia, UNESCO site, with its striking expanse of funerary tumuli, where rich assemblages of grave goods were discovered, that include the banqueting artefacts now on display in the Cerite National Museum. The Tomb of the Reliefs with the surprising Etruscan implements of daily use, including a ladle to be used for the pouring and drinking of wine, a jug, a cup, all skilfully modelled in the stucco decorating the walls and pillars of the tomb.
Santa Severa and the evocative remains of Pyrgi, the ancient port of Caere (Cerveteri) and site of the famous sanctuary, because trade, including that in wine, was placed under the protection of the deity. The Museum of the Sea and Ancient Navigation, with its display of numerous wine amphorae, in which the precious liquid travelled the Mediterranean.
Tarquinia, the National Archaeological Museum and the unmissable necropolis of Monterozzi, UNESCO site, with its extraordinary painted tombs: the Tomb of the Leopards, for example, with the banqueters intent on sipping wine from their cups and being entertained by musicians and dancers, surrounded by a landscape of olive trees. On the coast, at Tarquinia Lido, at the mouth of the river Marta, the remains of Gravisca, the ancient Etruscan sanctuary and port of the wealthy Tarquinia, hub for the most important Mediterranean trading routes. A little further south is the Saline nature reserve, the saltpans were probably already being exploited at the dawn of Etruscan civilisation, and are now characterised by the great ponds of the papal installation, by the eclectic 19th century workers village and the distinctive wet saline ecosystem.
Grosseto is the starting point of a route through the wine growing area of the Maremma, where vines were already intensely cultivated in the Etruscan period. The ancient cities of Vetulonia and Roselle, whose necropolis have produced grave goods that include refined artefacts made specifically for use at banquets and for the ritual drinking of wine; cups, jugs, goblets, and ladles, all on display in the Maremma Museum of Archaeology and Art in Grosseto and the “Isidoro Falchi” Civic Archaeology Museum of Vetulonia in Castiglione della Pescaia.
Scansano and the Archaeological Park of Ghiaccio Forte, a fortified Etruscan settlement, where a kitchen and a larder are still preserved in one of its ancient houses. The Museum of the Vine and of Wine, with its fascinating narration of the territory, from wine ancient production to the present day famous Morellino di Scansano DOC.
Pitigliano and Sorano with the“Città del Tufo” Archaeological Park and its spectacular rocky landscapes, modelled by nature and Man, the Etruscan necropolis cut into the soft rock, merging with the surrounding scrub and set, like jewels, between vine-covered hills that produced high quality wines such as Sovana DOC and Bianco di Pitigliano DOC.
Orvieto, known to the Greeks as Oinarea, “where the wine flows”. The Anello della Rupe (Lamb of the Rock) and the trailing vines still embracing the trees, in a “matrimony” that dates back to the Etruscan period. The Etruscan tombs Golini and Hescans at Porano and their spectacular painted walls, partially visible in situ and in part in the Orvieto National Archaeological Museum, with surprising scenes of an Etruscan kitchen. The sanctuary of Campo della Fiera and the cult of Dionysus, god of wine. The “Wine Road”, crossing the picturesque winemaking areas that produce Orvieto DOC and Rosso Orvietano DOC.
Possible detour to Castiglione in Teverina, site of MUVIS, the Museum of Wine and Agriculture and Food Sciences, housing a fascinating multisensory discovery of wine as part of Man’s cultural heritage.
The hills between San Casciano dei Bagni, Chiusi and Montepulciano, already rich in vines in antiquity and modelled by Man through the centuries, today an area producing high quality wines: the DOCG Chianti, Chianti Colli Senesi, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the DOC Rosso di Montepulciano and Orcia. The marks left by Man in populating and modelling this territory are housed in Montepulciano Civic Museum and the in the Stanze Cassiansensi at San Casciano dei Bagni. The Civic Archaeological Museum at Sarteano and the striking scenes from the Tomb of the Infernal Chariot with the deceased reclining at a banquet in a dark underworld dominated by the frightful demonic chariot and its black cloud. Chiusi and its National Archaeological Museum housing the famous cinerary urns with lids in the shape of the deceased reclining at a banquet.