I am a true believer in past lives. Maybe that’s why I was so keenly drawn to the Etruscan civilization and its rich history. So, when my Italian language teacher asked if anyone wanted to go to Tuscany for two weeks, I jumped at the chance because it would allow me to walk like an Etruscan, so to speak.
This day’s adventure led me to an off the beaten path wonder in Chiusi, the National Etruscan Museum, Archeologico Nazionale Museo (Via Porsenna 93). It stores a wealth of Etruscan artifacts and is located in the heart of the small town. And it just might be the best €6.00 you’ll spend in Tuscany (kids under 18 get in free).
The Museum was established in 1871 and is housed in a wonderful neo-classical building. It’s rich in Etruscan treasures because the hills surrounding it are bountiful in Etruscan tombs. Whenever a farmer digs a new well and discovers a new tomb, the artifacts make their way down the hills and into the Museo. The collection also includes contributions from private collections.
The items are organized quite well and begin with elements of the Bronze and Iron Age and proceed forward in time, alcove to alcove. Yet, no matter how you journey through the building there is one thing which will capture the heart of any intelligent woman with wanderlust. In Etruria, women were respected and revered. Here you will see a female sphinx; here you will see noble women reclining with a book in hand; here you will see funerary statues that honor the female who has passed. I was so impressed by this because it was something I had not known until that moment and which was so distinctly different from how ancient Romans and Greeks viewed women.
The other stunningly strange fact is that all of the statuary and vases are missing eyes – not as in missing them like they were knocked out but missing them as the sockets are carved into the statue but without actual irises and pupils. It gives the statues a vapid, soulless quality which is the antithesis of all that I have read on the Etruscans, a highly religious and superstitious civilization. It was so disturbing to me that I commented to my friend that it was as if this deeply philosophical society just disappeared and left no trace of its soul behind. The Etruscan mystery endures in time and in Chiusi.
TOURIST TIP: There is a pizza god across from the museo. I kid you not. The pizza chef in the pizzeria next to the Piazza del Duomo, directly opposite the museo, must be a descendant of an Etruscan god. Magnificent. However, he was not the happiest person when I was there but maybe it had to do with the hot pizza oven and a screaming mamma in the cucina this hot, summer day!
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