Located a few kilometers (about 6) from the Tyrrhenian coast and about 40 kilometers from Rome, Cerveteri is a very interesting town for its art and its archeology. Cerveteri is very famous for its “Banditaccia” necropolis, a precious testimony of the Etruscan passage over this territory.

Its necropolis, together with that of nearby Tarquinia, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

What to see in Cerveteri

The city of Cerveteri hosts a rich historical and artistic heritage made up of ancient buildings and wonderful churches.

  • Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. It is the most important church in the town of Cerveteri, seat of the archpresbytery. The construction of the church dates back to the ninth century according to what is reported by the Liber Censum of the Roman Church, although we do not have certain news of that period.
    The church was restored in 1492. The church was probably built starting from an ancient pagan place of worship already frequented by the first Christians in Cerveteri since the third century.
    The church includes two buildings, connected to each other: the Ancient Church and the New Church.
    The Ancient Church is characterized inside by a prevalent Romanesque style while the facade has been remodeled several times over the centuries. With the succession to the power of the various families, the church was enriched with precious works of art, the main one was the panel depicting the Madonna Enthroned with the Child between San Michele and San Pietro, made in 1472 and signed by the painter Lorenzo da Viterbo, this panel is now in the National Gallery of Ancient Art of the Bernini Palace in Rome. When the control of Cerveteri passed to the Orsini family, the church was completely restored, the columns were covered in stone, the walls painted and four other chapels were created, two for each nave, bringing the total number inside the church to 5. in 1760 Cardinal Acciupidi ordered the construction of an arch that connected the church to Palazzo Ruspoli, transforming it, in fact, into a palatine chapel. During the nineteenth century the church was restored again but it was only in 1950 that the most important interventions took place, based on a project by the architect Giorgio Romanini: the two minor chapels were eliminated, the walls were restored to their original appearance and the columns stripped of the coating. During these works, tuff bases were also found, an element that testified to the existence of a sacred place already in the Etruscan era.
    Inside the church you can admire some interesting works of art: a painting depicting the Savior, a canvas by San Carlo Borromeo, a fresco on canvas with Santa Maria del Rosario, from the school of Antoniazzo Romano. Due to its small size, the Ancient Church of Santa Maria Maggiore did not host the most important religious functions, preferring the larger Church of San Martino. It was only after the demolition of the latter, which took place in 1881, that the New Church of Santa Maria Maggiore was built, which was consecrated on 12 October 1959. The new church has a neo-Romanesque façade, the interior is divided into three naves.
  • Church of Sant’Antonio Abate. Built near the city walls, the Church of Sant’Antonio dates back to the 9th century and is one of the minor churches in the city of Cerveteri. Originally the church was dedicated to the Holy Savior and dedicated to Sant’Antonio Abate only between 1740 and 1750.
    To enter the church it is necessary to go up a small staircase that leads to a terrace where the entrance door opens.
    The interior of the church is divided into three naves, the two aisles are covered with barrel vaults while the central nave is covered by a trussed roof. On the left wall you can see some frescoes, depicting some saints and the Madonna and Child, made by Lorenzo da Viterbo. Note a statue of Sant’Antonio. made of wood, dating back to the 18th century.
  • Church of San Michele Arcangelo. The church and its monastery were built at the end of the 15th century by the Augustinian monks starting from the pre-existing church dedicated to San Pietro, now in a state of total abandonment. The current appearance of the church is the result of the restoration works carried out in the 17th century and between 1933 and 1941. Initially the church was dedicated to Santa Maria de Arudinientis and only later to San Michele Arcangelo. Today the church and the adjoining convent are managed by the Carmelite missionary nuns.
    The interior of the church has a single nave and three altars, the central one dedicated to San Michele, the two lateral ones to Sant’Agostino. Above the main altar you can admire a beautiful painting of San Michele killing the devil, between Santa Monica and Sant’Agostino. Above the altar on the right there is instead a painting of the Immaculate Conception with the Saints Giovanni da San Facondo, Nicola da Tolentino and Chiara da Montefalco, dating back to 1400, above the left altar instead, a scene depicting the Mass of St. Nicola da Tolentino for the Souls of Purgatory, dating back to 1700.
  • Palazzo Ruspoli. It is one of the most beautiful and important historic houses in Italy, overlooking Piazza Santa Maria, right in front of the Etruscan Museum. Its construction dates back to 1500, between 1517 and 1533 it underwent a major restoration commissioned by Gentile Virginio Orsini. The walls of the building are frescoed with works made by artists of the Benvenuto Cellini school, as well as the ceilings, decorated with bas-reliefs. The palace was frequented by important personalities: Pope Innocent VIII, the English writer David Herbert Lawerence, the musician Georg Friedrich Händel as well as numerous internationally renowned archeologists, among which the name of King Gustav of Sweden stands out – a great lover of archeology – who undertook important excavation campaigns in the nearby Etruscan necropolis.
    Today the Palazzo Ruspoli is owned by the Princesses Maria Pia and Giacinta Ruspoli, who transformed it into a hotel residence.
  • Cerite National Museum. The Museum is housed in the 16th century fortress donated by the Ruspoli family to the municipality of Cerveteri. It is spread over two levels and houses interesting collections of finds and funeral objects from the nearby Etruscan necropolis: funerary furnishings, vases, containers, buccheri, decorated jugs and artifacts.


Cerveteri was the famous Etruscan Kysry, in Roman Caere, the ancient city that stood at the foot of the Sabatino volcano, between the coast and the Tolfa Mountains. Caere, between VII-VI BC it was one of the most important cities on the coast, it had three ports: Alisium (Palo), Punicum (Santa Marinella) and Pyrgi (Santa Severa), which guaranteed trade with the entire Mediterranean area. The history of Cerveteri is deeply linked to that of Tarquinia, both in fact had political and commercial dominance over the coastal areas and inland areas during the period of Etruscan domination.

The ancient city of Caere occupied the same place as today’s city of Cerveteri, it was a large city as evidenced by the archaeological findings of walls, roads carved into the rock and large gates. In some writings Pliny speaks of the paintings inside the Etruscan Temples describing them as the oldest in Italy. The remains of at least eight Etruscan temples have been found in the city. Cerveteri was considered an important center for art and culture, Cicero and Livio testify that young Romans of noble families were sent here to receive the best possible education.

In its period of greatest development, Caere controlled a large territory that reached as far as Lake Bracciano, including the coast and the Tolfa Mountains. Under the Roman Empire the city soon fell into ruin, also due to the continuous raids and invasions that came from the sea.

The problems caused by malaria and the raids of pirates and Saracens began in the thirteenth century, the population was therefore forced to leave the city to move further inland, to what is now the town of Ceri. After a few decades some brave inhabitants decided to return to Cerveteri.

In the Renaissance period the city was one of the Orsini possessions who held power until 1674, when they sold Cerveteri to the Ruspoli family, whose exponents still live in the city.

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