Solo travelers in search of a true Tuscan archaeology adventure should head to Chiusi, off the beaten path. It’s a mere dot on the map of Tuscany but rich in experiences. It’s only 150 square miles but its role in Italy’s history, more specifically Etruscan history, cannot be denied. The Etruscans thrived from about 1200 to 550 B.C. and left behind a rich legacy of art and culture with an enduring mystery to this day – a language that archaeologists have never been able to fully understand.
Upon arriving at the National Etruscan Museum (Via Porsenna 93, Chiusi), you can book a tour to the Etruscan tombs hidden in the hills. Be forewarned, the curator will wait until there’s enough people to make the journey worthwhile. Then the adventure begins as a cavalcade of wayward tourists follows with me and the curator in the lead car.
This truly was a scene out of “Around the World in 80 Days.” The maestro is in the front seat of my rented Mercedes SUV (hey, that’s the only automatic they had!). He’s shouting out directions of “a sinistra, a destra, dritto, no no no, signorina, a sinistra.” Hey, I love this guy for calling me “signorina!”
Three other cars follow so closely, fearful of losing me and forever being trapped in gli Tombe Etruschi. We climb higher and higher until we reach our first stop. We manage to leave our cars here, there and everywhere, with hopes of not being cursed for killing off Pasquale’s basil plants.
The maestro has a giant skeleton key and I’m certain the ancient relic opens something really interesting. It did not disappoint. It opens a door buried in a hill of dirt. Hmm? He opens it and we follow underground like lost sheep and I feel like Lord Carnarvon on his quest for King Tut’s tomb.
It’s cold and dank but once we hunch over like Quasimodo for about 20′, we enter…an empty space. The Etruscans left behind a sarcophagus but the maestro tells us that most everything else from here has been relocated to the museum.
For the next stop, there’s an even bigger key and we climb across another tiny farm to enter another buried tomb. Yet, this one holds the treasure trove. OK, not really but it’s still so exciting. It’s the tomb of the Pellegrina Family. At least it looks like that in the Etruscan alphabet.
The sarcophagus of “Alma Pellegrina” has been left behind, along with some amazing frescoes, buried under farmland for nearly 3,000 years. The ceilings are also loaded with live mosquitoes and I’m thinking they have a virus from 3,000 years ago.
As the maestro kindly explains the history of The Pellegrinas, I feel a tap on my shoulder. It’s Annabelle from Alabama. “‘Scuse me, you know what he’s saying? You speak Eye-talian?” And so I begin weaving the amazing legend of the Pellegrina Family. I later confess that I don’t know if the translation was too accurate but Annabelle and hubby are more than happy, as are a Japanese family and a German couple who understood my English but not one word of Eye-talian.
All in all, exploring the Etruscan archaeology of Tuscany is an adventure worth experiencing and is the best €6 you may spend in Tuscany. I only wish that I was the one with the skeleton key to those tombs. I would love to go back when no one is around! Want to come?