The Etruscans existed and flourished in Italy long before the Romans. Unfortunately the towns they lived in were subsumed by the Romans and all those who came after with very, very, little, existing to this day. Their cities for the dead, however, have survived. The Necropolis of Banditaccia in Cerveteri is one of the best. While it’s hard for me to say definitively, with so many wondrous sights to behold, I think it just might have been my favorite place in Italy.
If You’d like to learn about Etruscan history, I highly recommend the Great Courses lecture series, The Mysterious Etruscans with Professor Steven L. Tuck.
While the Banditaccia necropolis may not have the tomb paintings one finds at the necropolis in Tarquinia, located less than an hour north of Cerveteri, it more than makes up for it with its deep immersive ambience.
Birds chirped and lizards rustled, as I explored an intricate and vast maze of trails.
As I descended down steep steps, into mysterious and quiet tombs, I could almost hear secrets being whispered to me in the still tranquility.
Cerveteri’s Etruscan Museum:
The Museum is very tiny, yet it is well curated. Located in the center of Cerveteri’s old town it is, unfortunately, difficult to visit without your own transportation. There are buses but these are few and far between with schedules that are inconvenient and potentially unreliable. And as much as I love museums I have to say the town and museum were not all in all worth the extra hassle.
Where to Go for More Information:
*You may need to use Google Translate to translate these websites into English * Just go to: translate.google.com – there are three options: text, documents, and websites. Click the website option, then just paste in the address of whatever website you want translated.
To check for the most current hours use the site: www.polomusealelazio.beniculturali.it
What to Know:
There are many other really cool trails and tombs outside the “official site” which you might want to factor in time to explore. Some of these can be seen or easily found from the tree lined avenue leading up to the site. You can also find more information about these trails on the website mentioned above: www.comune.cerveteri.rm.it
What to Bring:
Bring Small Bills:
The ticket office will most likely accept cash only, no cards. This is often the case at smaller or less visited sites; especially those outside of the larger cities. Sometimes they will tell you their card machine is down and other times they skip the pretense and admit they only ever take cash. The cash should be as close to exact as possible as they undoubtedly will have very little change on hand.
The entrance ticket to the necropolis is currently: € 6.
Bring a Flashlight:
While almost all of the larger tombs inside the official site are lit, usually with motion activated lighting, if you really want to have fun checking out any of the smaller tombs, they are not lit. Also one really cool big tomb had all but one light burnt out or malfunctioning… either way there’s no telling how often such things are maintanenced. You certainly don’t have to have a flashlight to see or to enjoy the necropolis but I think it would definitely add to the experience.
Bring Snacks, or even better, a Picnic Lunch:
Unless you have your own transportation you should, at the very least, bring some snacks with you. There is a very lovely area with picnic tables situated beneath shade trees, located at one end of the site.
Getting to Cerveteri and the Necropolis:
If you don’t have a car you can easily take a train from Rome (or even from the cruise ship, port town of Civitavecchia). From Roma Termini station the train takes a little less than an hour. It is then a short bus ride from the station to the necropolis… unfortunately… this could be tricky and therefore I highly recommend booking a combo ticket with Trenitalia. For some special sites (and the necropolis at Cerveteri is one of them) Trenitalia combines the train ticket with a reliable connecting bus ticket. It should be noted there are fewer scheduled options this way, currently it only offers this on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with only three or four time options. Also this option does not include a ticket to the old town of Cerveteri, which is where the museum is located, if that is important to you.
Be aware if not booking the tickets together there are two stations “in Cerveteri ” one called Cerveteri station which is technically in Ladispoli and the other station is Marina Di Cerveteri (this is the station you’ll arrive at if buying Trenitalia’s combo ticket) – both are about the same distance from the necropolis. But if you have to be stuck at one, waiting for a train, Cerveteri station in Ladispoli has several fantastic little cafes across the street from the station. By contrast there is very little at Marina Di Cerveteri station. Just remember if you’re asking the bus driver, if the bus goes to Cerveteri Stazione, that you clarify which station, or he might just say si, si, and you could arrive at the wrong station and miss your train. That’s what happened to me, lol. Luckily it was the station with all the lovely cafes and I was perfectly content waiting for the next train.
Also Be Aware they don’t sell the tickets on the bus, I repeat, you can’t buy a bus ticket from the bus driver, and they don’t sell tickets at most of the stops either, this includes the necropolis. Let me just repeat that one more time, you can not buy bus tickets at the Necropolis, so if you are not buying the combo ticket from Trenitalia, or if you want to go to the “old town” to see the museum, make sure you’ve already purchased the bus tickets.
See My Post on Other Etruscan Sites – Viewing Etruscan History in Italy