Etruscan Period in Pitigliano

The origins of Pitigliano are very ancient, as evidenced by the archaeological findings in the oldest part of the Tuscan village. Pitigliano, like most of the territory of the Fiora River valley, had prehistoric and protohistoric settlements mainly linked to the extraction and processing of metals and to the defensive security guaranteed by the tufa cliffs.

Particularly interesting is the discovery, in the 1980s, of a necropolis dating back to the Cività di Rinaldone – a funerary cultural phenomenon widespread in Tuscany, in central-northern Lazio and in the Marche region. Dating back to the Eneolithic period, between the middle of the fourth millennium and the first part of the third millennium BC, it is identified by its oven or cave tombs found in the archaeological site of Poggialti-Vallelunga.

Another archaeological area, north of Pitigliano, houses the remains of an ancient village that embraces a temporal arch that goes from the Middle Bronze Age – 17th century BC – to the Final Bronze – 10th century BC.

The wealth of ancient settlements and necropolis indicate Pitigliano was, in effect, one of the main centres during the Villanovan period in the Valle del Fiora, between the 12th and 10th centuries BC. The area of ​​Pitigliano was slowly abandoned in favour of the coastal town of Vulci in later centuries.

From the 8th century BC however, the Valle del Fiora had a strong rebirth, it is in this period in fact that some of the most important Etruscan centres were born, in particular those of Pitigliano, Sovana, Poggio Buco and Castro, thanks in particular to populations coming from the same Vulci and nearby Tiberina area.

After Poggio Buco was abandoned, Pitigliano became the main Etruscan city of the Valle del Fiora, thanks in particular to its strategic position – it was born on an impressive tufaceous rock – and to the construction, in the 6th century BC of its walls, which surrounded the built-up area between the Porta di Sovana – also known as Porta di Sotto – and one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Pitigliano, that of Fratta.

Necropolises and Vie Cave

The Necropolis and the Vie Cave that surround the town of Pitigliano are today the most precious testimony of the Etruscan past of this territory.

The Vie Cave are unique to the Etruscan culture. There are many hypotheses about their use, but most believe they were used as a way of communication and commerce, but also of refuge in the event of an enemy attack.

The peculiarity of the Vie Cave lies in their construction. They are in fact completely excavated in the tufa rock, deep canyons with rocky walls that reach up to 20 meters high, completely immersed in dense vegetation. Pitigliano has an array of Vie Cave, symbolizing the great economic and social development of the Etruscan civilization in the area. The main Vie Cave of Pitigliano are those of the Fratenuti, San Giuseppe, dell’Annunziata, Gradone and Madonna delle Grazie.

Necropolises are the ancient cities of the Etruscan dead. The main necropolis is that of Poggio Buco with various types of tombs. You can see examples of them at the Museo all’Aperto A.Manzi.

The Etruscans

Ancient Italic people, the Etruscans lived in Tuscany, in Umbria and in the northern part of Lazio, in the territory that took their name, Etruria.

The Etruscan civilization’s golden age was between the 8th century BC and 396 BC – the year of the conquest of Veio by the Romans.

The Etruscans – also called Tusci – were the most important civilizations in Italy before the birth of the Roman Empire, reaching as far as present-day Veneto to the north and Campania to the south.

The origins of the Etruscans are still discussed today, but the main theories are:

  1. According Herodotus, the Etruscans had oriental origins
  2. Dionigi di Alicarnasso maintained instead that the Etruscans were an indigenous Italic people
  3. one last theory, the most widely shared, suggests they derived from a Villanovan civilization

This last theory is particularly popular as the Villanovan civilization spread between the 9th and 8th centuries BC and shares many characteristics with the Etruscans including the same territory of development, the same manner of burial and the same types of necropolis and tombs, strongly influenced by Celtic culture.

Between the 7th and 6th centuries BC, the Etruscans imposed their hegemony on the Tyrrhenian Sea and expanded on the Italian territory to settle in Campania and southern Veneto, founding some important city states.

The main city states were Caere, Tarquinia, Vulci, Roselle, Vetulonia, Veio, Volsinii, Chiusi, Perugia, Cortona, Arezzo and Volterra, which formed the Etruscan Dodecapoli.

From 510 BC, the Etruscan civilization began to decline. The city of Rome, until then led by Etruscan kings – the Tarquini – began a strong policy of expansion into Etruria. In 505 BC, the Etruscans lost the cities of Capua and Pompeii, while in 474 BC, the Greeks defeated the Etruscan fleet, irreparably weakening their economy. In 396 BC, Rome conquered the city of Veio, between 356 and 311, the cities of Tarquinia and Cerveteri and in the 3rd century, the cities of Arezzo and Perugia.

Deprived of its political and economic hegemony, the Etruscan civilization was slowly assimilated into the Roman one, until it disappeared.


The Etruscans founded their empire on the growth of their city-states. Each city had its own Etruscan king, who was supported by the aristocracy and landowners.

Wealthy families loved to show off their riches, with dresses and hairstyles adorned with precious stones and jewels. Women in Etruscan society took an active part in political life, were educated, kept their surname even after marriage and could own businesses, characteristics that, for the time, denoted a great modernity when compared to the example of Greek culture.

The Etruscans were polytheists and thought they could foresee the future through the interpretation of signs, only some could interpret the destiny, the priests interpreted the flight of birds, the auruspices had the task of evincing the will of the Gods from the bowels of animals and fulguratores interrogated lightning to understand the will of the Gods.

In their polytheism, the Etruscans were strongly influenced by the Greek culture, some of the Greeks are also found in Etruscan mythology, Menerva was the Greek goddess Athena and Tinia was Zeus.