Tarquinia is a wonderful city in southern Tuscia, in the province of Viterbo, from which it is about 40 kilometers away.

Located on a hill 133 meters above sea level, it boasts a breathtaking view over the valley of the Marta river and the sea of the Tyrrhenian coast.

The city is famous for its very precious historical heritage, a priceless necropolis recognized, since 2004, as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

However, Tarquinia is also a precious resource from the naturalistic point of view, the territory hosts the Saline di Tarquinia Nature Reserve, a protected area intended for animal repopulation and managed by the State Forestry Corps.

What to see in Tarquinia

Tarquinia is a beautiful medieval-Renaissance village, behind it stands the ancient Etruscan-Roman center, located on the hill nicknamed “La Civita”.

  • Necropolis of Tarquinia. Recognized as a UNESCo World Heritage Site since 2004, the Necropolis of Tarquinia di Monterozzi is one of the most important in Etruria, famous for its marvelous painted tombs, a very precious testimony of Etruscan art and ancient painting prior to the Roman Imperial Age. The tombs are of the tumulus type, with chambers carved directly into the rock. Among the most important tombs are those of the Warrior, the Lionesses, the Greetings, the Fishing and Hunting, the Festoons of the Shields, the Ogre, the Leopards and the Jugglers.
  • Vitelleschi Palace. Seat of the Tarquinian National Museum, the works for the construction of this palace began in 1436 and ended in 1490. The palace was commissioned by the Cardinal-Condottiero Vitelleschi. In all likelihood, Michelozzo Michelozzi, a famous Florentine architect, participated in the original project. The building is now incorporated into the old city walls and shows signs of the transition from Gothic to Renaissance architecture. The building is remarkable, with its staircase, loggia and large windows, but its most interesting aspect is certainly represented by the collection of Etruscan works, the second most important after Rome and Florence.
  • Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia. Housed inside the ancient Vitelleschi Palace of Tarquinia, the National Archaeological Museum is dedicated to the exhibition of finds from the Etruscan and Roman periods. It was inaugurated in 1924 thanks to the merger of two very important 19th-century collections, the municipal collection and the private collection of the Bruschi-Falgari counts. You can visit the original frescoes transferred directly from the tombs of the Monterossi Necropolis, reconstructions of tombs and sculptures.
  • Church of Santa Maria di Castello. A splendid example of Italian Romanesque art, this church was built starting from 1121 and finished only in the early 1200s, in fact it was consecrated in 1208.
  • Church of San Francesco. This church was built starting from 1230, the year in which the Franciscan friars settled in the city of Tarquinia. The church is very large and has a simple and austere facade.
  • Church of San Martino. It rises in the northern part of the city and its construction dates back to the 12th century. Inside there are six imposing columns in peperino, on the capitals animal figures are clearly visible, such as the Horse of San Martino that moves away from a pelican while a bear that is about to attack it is surprised by a ferocious dragon.
  • Church of the Santissima Annunziata. The church is connected to its own convent by means of a bridge. It was built between the 12th and 13th centuries. The facade shows interesting stylistic elements, a rose and a black and white zigzag probably in the Sicilian-Norman style. The interior has an Egyptian plan. The great altar rests on a Corinthian capital dating back to the 2nd century BC.
  • Church of San Giacomo Apostolo. This ancient building was built in the 13th century. It is characterized by its low and hemispherical dome, which refers to the Byzantine and Arab style and refers to the churches of southern Italy. The facade was restored in the 17th century.
  • Church of San Giovanni Battista (or San Giovanni Gerosolimitano). It shows a facade with a rose and de fronts of sarcophagi. The interior is in Gothic style and rich in frescoes.
  • Suffrage Church. Originally it showed a wonderful Baroque facade but the numerous restorations have profoundly changed its appearance. Note the Ionic-style capitals inside.
  • Church of San Leonardo. The facade of the church is very simple, while the interior is a magnificent example of Roman Baroque, with an imposing Empire-style sarcophagus in black and gold.
  • Palazzo Comunale. It stands in Piazza Matteotti, next to the Suffragio Church and in front of the Church of San Leonardo, in front of the Baroque-style fountain built in 1724. The building was built in the 11th century and modified several times over the years. The interiors are decorated with frescoes depicting Legends and Stories of the city of tarquinia, made between 16289 and 1631 by Camillo Donati, these frescoes portray Etruscan kings of Rome, the massacre of Frederick II, Gregory V, Cardinal Vitelleschi, celebrated as the “Third Founder of Rome”.
  • Church of San Pancrazio. Church now deconsecrated and used as a concert and exhibition hall.
  • Church of Santa Maria di Valverde. Built in the 13th century, this church stands under the city walls. Of particular interest is an altarpiece from 1450 depicting the four holy martyrs protectors of Tarquinia (San Secondiano, San Teofanio, San Lituardo and San Pantaleone).
  • Cathedral of Santa Margherita. Of ancient origin, this building was partially destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1656. Of the original structure, only the presbytery remains. Inside there is one of the most beautiful fresco cycles in all of Upper Lazio, made by Antonio Massari, called “il Pastura”, and depicting some scenes from the life of the Virgin (1508-1509), three frescoes depicting Prophets and Sibyls (David, Joshua and Isaiah) and a fourth fresco the Coronation of the Virgin. Other beautiful frescoes depict the Birth of Mary (on the left) and the Marriage of the Virgin (on the right).
  • City walls and defensive system.
    The city walls are divided into two phases. The first is characterized by regular rectangular macco ashlars, which is set on the exposed rocky bank, and develops around areas of easy access; it corresponds to the expansion of the city, in addition to the castle, in the Poggio and Valle district (9th-12th centuries); the second phase corresponds to castro novo. The ashlars are smaller than those of the previous period and the defensive structure is characterized as a military system with a moat.
    Birthplace of V. Cardarelli

    Building overlooking a small courtyard. Next to the entrance, a marble plaque reminds us that V. Cardarelli (Corneto-Tarquinia 1887- Rome 1959) was born in this house on May 1, 1887. Poet, essayist and prose writer, founder, together with R. Bacchelli, E. Cecchi and other intellectuals active in Rome in the 1920s, of the magazine La Ronda (1919-23), known above all for poems and autobiographical notes, especially on numerous trips.
    Palazzo Vipereschi
    This building was built partially using the structure of the Renaissance palace of the Vipereschi (15th century) and dates back to the years of the pontificate of Pius V (1775-99). The execution was entrusted to P. G. Massei, dean of the Conservatories of the city of Rome in 1782. On the side of the building overlooking Via della Salute, a large window with the family sign is still visible. From 1627, during the pontificate of Urban VIII, the palace, transformed into a prison, began to house the ecclesiastics who had been guilty of guilt. Today it is the seat of the Agricultural University of Tarquinia.


Although we have little information from ancient sources (the writings of Cicero, Livio, Strabone and Dionigi di Alicarnasso), we know for sure that Tarquinia was one of the most important cities of Ancient Etruria.

According to legend, the city was founded by Tarconte, son of Tirreno – King of Lydia who brought the Etruscans to Italy -, giving him his own name. Later, according to the myth, Tarquinia would have welcomed the presence of the divine child Tagete, whose merit was that of having taught the people of Etruria the art of haruspicina, the divination practice that was implemented through the observation of the entrails of animals. sacrificed, an art that made the Etruscan people famous for many centuries.

The origins of the ancient city of Tarquinia – “Turchuna” in Etruscan and Tarquinii in Latin – date back to the 10th century BC, at the end of the Bronze Age. The city, like all the other main towns of the Etrurian territory, was founded on a hill near the sea. Urban development also continued during the Villanovan Age, between the 9th and 8th centuries BC, in this period there was a large village of huts and many small satellite villages and necropolis.

In the Villanovan era Tarquinia was a rich and prosperous city, the most important in the area, thanks also to the control exercised over the Tolfa Mountains for the extraction of minerals. Between the eighth and sixth centuries BC the village of huts gradually became a city of brick houses – as it is easy to guess initially reserved for the new aristocratic class -, and the monumentalization of the necropolis dates back to this period, with the birth of the most important, that of Monterozzi, where they were built the first chamber tombs. These tombs, however, were reserved for priests and princes, as can be seen from the very precious grave goods, thanks to which it was also possible to establish the existence of contacts and commercial exchanges even with the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Between the sixth and fifth centuries BC Tarquinia experienced its period of maximum economic and political splendor, it is to this period that the majestic painted tombs of the Monterozzi Necropolis, the construction of the Port of Gravisca and the Emporico Sanctuary date back. The port, built in the early 6th century BC. it was frequented by merchants from the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, but also by artisans and artists who worked in the employ of the rich Tarquinian aristocratic class. Even the city, on the Civita hill, was subjected to important restoration works which mainly concerned the temples and public and private buildings.

Towards the end of the 5th century BC all of Etruria experienced a period of economic recession and Tarquinia was also affected by undergoing an important political-social crisis. This crisis, however, lasted only a few decades and already at the beginning of the fourth century BC. he resumed his dominant role over Etruria, also assuming command of the Confederation of Etruscan Cities, born to defend against the attacks of Rome from the south and the Celts from the north. Precisely at this moment the walls were built – 8 km long – and the Temple of the Ara of the Queen was renovated. The first clashes between the Roman power and Tarquinia took place between 358 and 351 BC, simultaneously with the fall of the city of Veio. The Romans managed to conquer, towards the first half of the third century BC, the coastal strip and, in 90 BC. Tarquinia became a Roman municipality, governed by four magistrates.

In the fourth century Tarquinia was raised to the rank of bishopric and it is to this period that the move of the city from the ancient location chosen by the Etruscans in favor of a nearby hill, the one where it currently stands, dates back. In the following centuries Tarquinia became a very powerful city and between the 9th and 13th centuries the imposing walls, some rural castles and majestic churches were built. During the Middle Ages the city was the scene of sanquinosi events, overcame some important sieges and the terrible massacre ordered by Emperor Frederick II in 1245. Tarquinia is the city that gave birth to Giovanni Vitelleschi, who was ordained Cardinal in 1437. Giovanni was a Cardinal-Condottiero who imposed the will of the then Pontiff Gregory IV with the sword. On the death of the Cardinal in 1440, the city of Tarquinia passed under the control of the church. In 1798 Tarquinia was occupied by the French and in 1809, albeit for a very short period, by the English.

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