Etruscan Tombs in Tarquinia Italy - A Day Trip from Rome | Stories by Soumya

Mysterious Etruscan Tombs of Tarquinia – A Day Trip From Rome

Last Updated on April 30, 2022 by Soumya

Tarquinia was never on our initial itinerary for Italy. It was only when we lost our passports in Venice and came back to Rome to get our work visas done that we did some really unexpected day trips from Rome. One of them was to the mysterious Etruscan tombs of Tarquinia.

I had not heard of the Etruscans before my visit to the Louvre in Paris (on the same trip). That is where I had been smitten by those reclining Etruscan sarcophagi. Even then, I had no clear idea where the Etruscans belonged. Italy had always been about Romans until then. Who, then, were the Etruscans? I was eager to find out.

Have you seen the #Etruscan tombs in #Tarquinia #Italy? A easy #daytrip from #Rome, Tarquinia presents an opportunity to learn about a lost civilization that predates the Romans. Get all practical information and learn about #etruscanart and culture. #etruscanarchitecture #etruscanjewellery #etruscanartifacts

So, we took a day trip to the mysterious Etruscan tombs of Tarquinia.

Equipped with my comfortable walking shoes and a bottle of water, must-haves on your Italy packing list, I set out to explore Tarquinia a small town in Lazio, Italy with medieval towers and a charming town center. Tarquinia’s claim to fame is its Etruscan Necropolis (cemetery), a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Frescoes in an Etruscan tomb | Stories by Soumya

Let’s begin with a small introduction on the Etruscans.

The Etruscans were a civilization that flourished in central-western Italy, between Tuscany and Lazio, from the 8th to the 3rd century BC. They predate the Romans and were an advanced civilization especially in the context of art and literature. However, we know very little of them. The Etruscan empire was finally assimilated into the Roman empire after the Roman-Etruscan wars.

Romans adopted and adapted a lot of things from the Etruscans including the Tuscan column, the victory parade which later became the Roman Triumph, and the Etruscan robe which finally became the Roman Toga. Interesting, isn’t it?

Etruscans developed their own script that remains partially understood to date. However, the greatest contribution by Etruscans to the world of architecture and art is their burial tomb with a vibrant depiction of Etruscan art on the walls. The necropolises, a collection of these tombs, have drawn history and art lovers from far and near.

Etruscan Frescoes | Stories by Soumya
Remember the Roman Toga? Well this was before that!

The Etruscan Tombs in Tarquinia

The necropolis of Tarquinia, also known as Monterozzi, is a collection of ancient Etruscan tombs. At first sight, you may not realize what lies here. Monterozzi looks like a barren land with low mounds scattered all over it. It is only after you start visiting the tombs underneath that you realize the importance of these tombs in a bygone era.

The tombs are intriguing because they lie deep under the earth and you need to climb down to visit the burial chambers. I wonder how they carried dead bodies down those claustrophobic passages. Only the mound is visible on top. It is almost like burying your ancestors in secret.

The frescoes

Monterozzi has about 6000 Etruscan tombs, 200 of which are adorned with beautiful frescoes. These frescoes depict daily life in those times including those of dancers, athletes, jugglers, fishermen, and hunters. Mythological scenes have also been painted. Like many other civilizations, the Etruscans also wanted their dead to have normal lives after death, surrounded by the most common daily scenes.

Interested in frescoes? Learn more about the frescoes of Tipu Sultan’s summer palace in Mysore India.

Beautiful frescoes Tarquinia | Stories by Soumya
Inside a burial chamber
The low mounds at the Necropolis of Tarquinia | Stories by Soumya
The low mounds at the Necropolis of Tarquinia

The sarcophagi

The sarcophagi were always carved with an image of the deceased person. The earliest ones did not have a reclining image, however. It was only in the later stages that the deceased was shown to be reclining and, sometimes, holding a scroll with his/her ancestry listed in it. You will not find the sarcophagi in the tombs anymore. You can see them at the museum at Tarquinia or at various other museums spread over the globe.

Sarcophagi at the Tarquinia National Museum | Stories by Soumya
A sarcophagus at the Tarquinia National Museum

Some of the notable tombs

Very few of these 6000 tombs are actually open to the public. And the frescoes in a lot of them have peeled off. A few notable ones are listed below.

Tomb of Leopards/Lionesses: This is one of the most popular ones because it has some of the best-preserved frescoes. It is called so because of two leopards that were painted over a banquet scene.

Tomb of Hunting and Fishing: This tomb has an antechamber which opens up to the main chamber. On the walls are frescoes depicting hunting scenes, banquets, seascapes, and fishermen.

Tomb of the Triclinium: The tomb is so named because of the triclinium or the dining room that appears in the chamber’s frescoes.

You can read about a few other tombs on the Wikipedia page here. The tombs bear unique testimony of life and art in the pre-Roman era. You can access them through inclined corridors or stairways.

Visitors are not allowed inside the burial chambers. You can only watch from behind a glass door. This is to address humidity issues that were causing deterioration of the paintings.

Tomb of the Leopards | Stories by Soumya
At the Tomb of Leopards – notice the two leopards on the top
Inside an Etruscan Tomb | Stories by  Soumya
Tombs of the rich often housed an antechamber and a main chamber both of which were adorned with paintings

Tarquinia National Museum

After finishing your trip of the necropolis, you can spend a few hours at the Tarquinia National Museum which houses mainly Etruscan artifacts. The museum is located within the charming Palace of Vitelleschi which has had many owners since the 15th century.

The palace has three floors. You will find many of the original sarcophagi, restored frescoes from the tombs, and other Etruscan reliefs. The museum also provides much-needed relief from the heat outside, especially in summer.

Tarquinia National Museum | Stories by Soumya
At the Tarquinia National Museum
Artifacts at the Tarquinia National Museum | Stories by Soumya
Some of the artifacts at the Tarquinia National Museum

Opening hours

  • The Necropolis of Monterozzi is open from Tuesday to Sunday 8:30 am – 7:30 pm (summer) and 8:30 am – one hour before sunset (winter).
  • The museum is open from Tuesday – Sunday 8:30 am – 7:30 pm throughout the year.
  • Ticket offices always close one hour before the closing time.
  • Both are closed on Mondays, 1st January, and 25th December.

Please check for latest updates at the official site,Necropolis of Tarquinia before making plans.

Entering a tomb | Stories by Soumya
The long stairway that leads to the door with the glass window through which you can look at the burial chamber


  • Full price ticket for either the Museum or the Necropolis – Euro 6; Reduced price – Euro 3 (See here for reduced price eligibility)
  • Combined ticket for both sites – Euro 8, Reduced price – Euro 4

Free admission is reserved

  • On the 1st Sunday of every month.
  • For kids under the age of 18.
  • For EU citizens with disabilities and their helpers.

Find more details on tickets and their variations here.

At the entrance of an Etruscan tomb in Tarquinia | Stories by Soumya
The tomb entrance

How to get to Tarquinia?

You can either drive to Tarquinia or do a combination of train and bus. A car drive should take you around 1.5 hours. We took public transport and it seemed pretty convenient. At Roma Termini, get into a train bound for Pisa Centrale and get off at Tarquinia after a 1-hour ride. From here you can take a free shuttle bus to the Necropolis and back. These buses leave every 20-30 minutes.

After enjoying our tour of the Etruscan tombs, we walked through the cobbled lanes of Tarquinia, had lunch at a rustic Italian kitchen, and went into the Tarquinia National Museum to experience some more of Etruscan history. It was terribly hot at the beginning of June. Always advisable to carry water and a hat.

The colorful lanes of Tarquinia | Stories by Soumya
Colorful lanes of Tarquinia
Tarquinia City Center | Stories by Soumya
The city center

It is interesting to imagine what would have happened if the Romans had not won that war. How would have the ancient Etruscan empire panned out? Would it have had such a profound effect on the history of the world? I will leave you to ponder on those questions and encourage you to let your imaginations run wild. Let’s breathe some life into this long-lost, underappreciated civilization.

Read more of our travels in Italy:
Must-do things in Rome
A complete travel guide to visiting the Colosseum in Rome
Spending a day in Ragusa, Sicily

And while you are doing that, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get regular updates on intriguing travel destinations from across the world. Any shares, likes, comments will be appreciated.

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Have you seen the #Etruscan tombs in #Tarquinia #Italy? A easy #daytrip from #Rome, Tarquinia presents an opportunity to learn about a lost civilization that predates the Romans. Get all practical information and learn about #etruscanart and culture. #etruscanarchitecture #etruscanjewellery #etruscanartifacts
Have you seen the #Etruscan tombs in #Tarquinia #Italy? A easy #daytrip from #Rome, Tarquinia presents an opportunity to learn about a lost civilization that predates the Romans. Get all practical information and learn about #etruscanart and culture. #etruscanarchitecture #etruscanjewellery #etruscanartifacts

Soumya is an acclaimed travel writer who has traveled to 30+ countries and lived in 8 while pursuing her passion for history and culture. Her writings have been published in BBC Travel, Architectural Digest, National Herald, and many more. She loves exploring world heritage sites and has a deep affinity for everything ancient, especially the lost civilizations of Mesoamerica!

49 thoughts on “Mysterious Etruscan Tombs of Tarquinia – A Day Trip From Rome

  1. Im not a big fan of history, I guess it was too much history in high school, so usually I dont go after historical places. But the little town og Tarquinia looks charming. Actually it reminds me little bit of my city of Ljubljana. We have similar fountain in the old town, and colorful houses are very (Eastern) European – feels almost like home!

    1. That’s quite an interesting point of view. What better place than home and something that feels like it!

  2. First time I heard about the Etruscan and apparently the Rome adopted and adapted the Roman Toga from them. And I think it’s more than the Tuscan column and the Roman Triumph also. The paintings on the Tomb of Leopards are impressive! I wonder if they survived the deterioration effect or they’ve been restored. From your article, I guess the Etruscan made the outside of the tomb look just like a mound so the outsiders wouldn’t mess with the tomb underneath.

    1. That sounds quite plausible Umiko. To keep the remains of their ancestors safe from invaders. A good bit of the paintings is original but a lot has been restored as well. Some of the panels are found at the museum too.

  3. OMG! You too lost your passports!!! Oh no!!!
    I like this silver lining where you managed to go on daytrips around Rome, because of this bad situation…
    I’m super happy to read about the Etruscans. Their frescoes look similar to Egyptian art!
    I’m planning to go on a trip to Southern Italy, looks like I need some re-planning to do.

    1. Did you lose your passport too? Yeah, we had an extended trip because of losing our passports. And I am so glad I was able to learn about the Etruscan Tombs of Tarquinia. I am sure you, with your passion for history, will love these tombs. And now that you have mentioned, I can see some similarities with Egyptian art too. Another interesting avenue for research.

  4. I must admit quite fascination and even though I have travelled Italy quite extensively never thought or heard of this place. Its post like these which help us find new places to visit and less promoted places that we all hear and know about. The mysterious Etruscan tombs of Tarquinia really are mysterious but they look absolutely stunning with the those colours in the tombs lasting for hundreds of years. Being a stones throw away from Rome it should be visited and I will make sure to do so on my next trip to the Capitally. Great to know easily accessible by train as well. Thanks for showing me something new.

    1. You are welcome, Amar. I am glad I introduced you to the lesser known Etruscan tombs of Tarquinia. I absolutely agree that travel blogs are a great way of finding the best in any location.

  5. I was at Rome, Italy last 2017. If I have known that I can go for the Mysterious Etruscan Tombs of Tarquinia from Rome, I could have done the visit. It seems like a very interesting side trip. I love going to historic places so I think I’ll be able to enjoy it.

  6. I have not heard of the Etruscan tombs or Tarquinia before. Next time I visit Rome I am definitely going to pay a visit. I am impressed with the frescoes – they seem to have weathered well after all these years. Thanks for the tips on getting there, makes my planning a lot easier.

    1. The frescoes of the Etruscan tombs are definitely very well-preserved given the fact that they date back centuries. Could be because they were buried underground and that created the perfect temperatures for the frescoes to survive. Wish you happy travels for your trip there.

  7. I hadn’t heard of Tarquinia or the Etruscans until reading your post, so thanks so much for sharing that with us. I would love to learn more about the history of the Etruscans and will have to add Tarquinia to my itinerary next time I’m in Rome! It’s so convenient that it’s only a 1 hr train ride outside the city.

    1. Tarquinia is one of the most easily-done day trips from Rome. Yet, it is quite offbeat. You won’t find too many tourists here. So, that adds to the experience.

  8. Losing my passport is one of my biggest fears! But how awesome that you go this unexpected side trip as a result. This looks like a really fun and fascinating place to explore. Italy is full of so many hidden gems, it would take years to see them all!

    1. That is so true, Maggie. Italy is full of undiscovered gems despite being so touristy. And the Etruscan tombs of Tarquinia are definitely one of them.

  9. Such a neat off the beaten path experience! I did only the touristy things in Italy and would love to go back to experience this!

  10. Soumya,

    First of all, sorry to hear about you losing your passport in Venice, but what an awesome day trip that came out of the loss!

    I had never heard of the tombs of Tarquinia prior to your post. Now, after reading I can’t wait to visit the town of Tarquina! What rich history it has, predating the Romans!

    I think my favorite part would be the art. How incredible that we can still see just a fraction of what life was like back then! For instance, those wall paintings and the burrying chambers. The time and effort is something you definitely don’t see these days. I admire these Taraquina folk so much.

    This was a great read and next time I am near Rome, visiting Tarquina will be an absolute must!

    1. That’s very true Emily. The art was my favourite too. It’s so interesting to see a bit of life from back then.

  11. I luv the wall paintings of old 🙂 so simplistic and pretty. It seem, there is an endless amount of things to do in and around Rome. I kinda wanna stay there for long.

  12. Thank you for sharing your travel and visiting this ancient place. I never knew this exist until I’ve read your story. The civilization in those early days are rich.

  13. I love ancient history and this looks like the perfect day trip to me. I love seeing into the lives of our ancestors and trying to relate to their daily struggles. This looks fascinating and like a gorgeous area as well!

    1. Exactly my feelings. It is intriguing to see and feel how their daily lives could have been. And places like these show us such a lot.

  14. This is my favorite day trip to take from Rome. I’m glad you went for it and even more glad you wrote about it. I really enjoyed your article. Thank you for sharing

  15. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this when I was in Rome. I love day trips and I love history, but I don’t think I ever heard about Tarquinia until now. Next time I’m around Rome, this will be a MUST!

  16. I didn’t know about Etrucan civilization before reading your post. It looks like a very interesting, enriching and fulfilling day trip. Thanks for sharing this with us!

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