Cerveteri, necropolis & museum
Via Della Necropoli, Cerveteri, Italy
06 994 00 01
Cerveteri, necropolis & museum Reviews
Almost worth being dead Mar 13, 2008
This is one of the best known of the Etruuscan Necropolosis. The Etruscan civilisation existed in Italy several hundred years before the Roman republic was flourishing. The were impressive at painting and pottery and it is amost impossible to tell whether some Roman artefacts were influenced by Etruscans or Greeks.
Obviously not a vast amount is known about them, as their civilisation became merged into Rome but there can be no doubt that they believed in an afterlife and in making provision for their dead to enjoy the afterlife. Hence a necroplis was constructed on the same priciples as a city for the living. It is possible to guess at the street layout of their proper cities by looking at their provisions for 'cities of the dead.'
Unlike at the necropolis of Tarquinia, their is minimal painting to be seen on the tombs but Cerveteri makes up for this with its landscape. I did not meet any Etruscans there, living or dead, but it wouldn't have surprised me too much if ancient figures had emerged from some of the tombs.
As well as the street design the tombs themselves have much in common with houses like, sometimes, a number of rooms.
Part of the Seeking Etruscans, 2008 travel blog
Part of the list Italy and Sicily - various visits
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Etruscan ruins/necropolis outside of Rome Mar 15, 2008
I gotta share this story... I’ve been meaning to blog about it for months... but... well, you know how it is... anyway, enjoy the Italian nonsense. More disorganized, unprofessional peasant activity after the jump.
Cerveteri was one of the more interesting experiences I’ve had.
I was going to be in Rome for a week with nothing to do. Since I’ve spent a LOT of time there previously, I decided to try some "excursions", some off-the-beaten-path Roman ventures that tourists with a more limited time window wouldn’t usually take. In my (Italian) Lonely Planet, the ancient Etruscan necropolis of Cerveteri was recommended, boasting a "30-45" minute train ride from the main train station in Rome to see a unique UNESCO site. No further information was provided in the guide.
So, ok, sure, I figure, I’ll just hop on the train and go see the ruins and come back. Simple, right?
Not quite. This trip was one of the wildest goose chases I’ve ever been on, Italian or otherwise. I suppose I should have seen the red flag when I asked not one, but 2 ticket salesmen which train to take to Cerveteri...
After the (as advertised) 45 minute train ride, which was decidedly tourist-free, I get off, like I’m supposed to, at the Cerveteri/Ladispoli station. I look around. I’m in the most residential area you could possibly imagine, practically deserted, and no sign of the necropolis. When I took the train to the Roman beach, the surroundings were similar, but all you had to do was walk a few blocks and you start seeing signs for the ocean. Hoping this is the case here, I cross the street and walk around a few blocks, hoping to see some signs pointing me in the right direction, but there are only apartment buildings. Discouraged, I go back to the train station.
In urban Rome, if you see a taxi stand anywhere, let alone by the train station, if you wait long enough, one will come. There was a taxi stand in front. I waited. And I waited. For about... oh, an hour. Nothing. So I go inside, and ask not 1, not 2, but 3 people how to get to this alleged "Piazza Aldo Moro", the location of the Cerveteri tourist office mentioned in my book. No luck there.
So I go to the payphone. There are 3. Only one works. I dial the operator. I ask for a taxi to pick me up at Ladispoli, but he replies that it will take 30 minutes. I wait. I wait about 55, then go back outside, walk up to the taxi stand, to which is pasted a piece of paper with several cabbies’ names, and numbers next to them. I guess I have to call them personally.
The third cabbie I call picks up. I tell him my location and he arrives within 15 minutes.
And, ok, this is so ridiculous, his girlfriend is in the front seat. So I’m paying to ride with the cabbie and his girlfriend. Needless to say it was awkward. He does, however, eventually get me to "la necropoli", which BY THE WAY is like 15 minutes away, BY CAR, from the train station! How the hell is any tourist supposed to know that! Lonely Planet, or whatever guidebook, you really, really need to inform people that the Ladispoli train station is a no man’s land and is nowhere near the ruins!
When we get there, a long, one-lane driveway leads down to the site. Another car is passing on the other side, and all 3 of us are worried that we’re going to have a collision because the road’s so narrow. When the two drivers come face-to-face, they both roll down their windows. The other guy looked kinda mad, and I guess we were expecting some kind of discussion or altercation or something. But, when no words were spoken after a couple of seconds, my driver just said "salve" to the other guy, and drove on. Now, to non-Italian speakers, that’s basically like saying, "what’s up, dude?". I guess you had to be there, and I can’t really explain it, but both the girlfriend and I completely cracked up laughing, it was hilarious. I think the driver was tickled that he had made us laugh, too. Anyway, we arrive at the ruins, and he tells me that when I need a ride back to the station, to call him 30 minutes beforehand. I say ok and thanks, then proceed to enter the site, walk around, take pictures, etc. It was interesting. It didn’t blow my mind.
Now I’m done. I wanna go home. I ask the woman at the counter if there is a phone so I can call a taxi, but she recommends I take the shuttle bus into town, where, if I show my necropolis ticket stub, I can get into the cerveteri museum for half price... and can then catch a regular bus to the station. Because the taxis are expensive, I do this. In true Italian fashion, even though I have no ticket, the shuttle bus driver lets me on anyway. Oh and incidentally, the ride into town is another 10 minutes.
When I get off the shuttle bus, I find myself in teeny tiny downtown somewhere. I ask someone where the museum is, and (surprisingly) I find it pretty easily. Arright. I see what they have on display; all the descriptions and everything is in Italian only, there are no English descriptions of the artifacts. If you don't speak/read Italian, I recommend you don't waste your time or money on the museum. But the items were pretty, and fascinatingly ancient, anyway.
Now I’m ready to take that bus back to the station, so I can go home.
Oh. Did I forget to mention that in Rome, most businesses are closed between the hours of 12-4, including tobacconists, which are the ONLY PLACES THAT SELL BUS TICKETS?? Yeah, didn’t really occur to me either. So now it’s 3pm, I’m standing at a bus station with no ticket and no way of getting one, and walking back to the station is out of the question. I’m utterly screwed.
And lo and behold, serendipity intervenes.
Some creepy, kind of gross, middle aged Italian begins hitting on me, and we strike up a conversation. He tries and tries to convince me to let him give me a ride back to my hotel, but I refuse. After about 15 minutes of schmoozing, however, I think to myself... well... if worst comes to worst I could always open the passenger door and duck and roll. He’s kind of fat. I could outrun him. So I tell him sure, he can drive me back to the train station.
Now, before you judge me, you gotta understand that I had no other options. I was an American girl, alone, stranded in the middle of nowhere. And I had no ticket. You know what happens to people with no ticket? They get thrown out of windows.
I couldn’t have that. So I let him drive me to the station, and you know what? There were no problems. I guess I’m good at pacifying crazies. We had a quick coffee, I gave him some false information, I got on the train back to Rome and I was happy to leave Cerveteri behind forever.
My ultimate opinion for visiting Cerveteri is as follows:
Although the site itself is historical, there is virtually no in-depth information provided, and the experience is largely just walking around by yourself amongst some stones, with no context in which to place what you’re seeing.
I would say, only go here if you have a car. There is a bus that goes all the way from downtown Rome to Ladispoli and back, which, if I had known about it, I probably would have taken. Just buy your bus passes in advance! Otherwise, even if you’re in a group, the place is extremely difficult to get to even if you speak the language, and (as we’ve seen) taxis are practically impossible to find!
All I have to say is thank goodness I speak Italian and I have some element of stick-to-it-ive-ness... otherwise the whole thing would truly have been a hopeless bust, and I would have had no other option but to turn right around and take the train back home.
PS, I never saw hide nor hair of Piazza Aldo Moro.