This picturesque town mingles elements of many periods and cultures. Legend held that it was founded in the by Tarchum, brother of Tyrrhenus and son of Atys, who landed here from the eastern Mediterranean. The warlike past of the medieval town (which was called Corneto) greets the visitor in the form of many towers: the landscape is rocky, with scattered olive groves, cypresses and the sea in the background. There are still 25 medieval towers standing, and some magnificent churches the Romanesque Santa Maria di Castello, and the Gothic-Romanesque San Pancrazio and San Francisco.
In the severe Palazzo Vitelleschi, built by Giovanni Vitelleschi, a fighting cardinal, in 1439, is one of the most important Etruscan Museums in Italy, with a fantastic collection of exhibits, Etruscan and Greek vases, sarcophagi, plaques of tuff-like stone with carved sphinxes, lions, centaurs - all the rich and magic bestiary of the Etruscan.There is also a fine Madonna by Lippo Lippi (1437).
But the main interest at Tarquinia is in the Etruscan tombs- the most impressive of all for the wealth and strength of their paintings- Some of the paintings, which were in danger of deterioration, have been detached and remounted in the Museum. For the others, we must go to the Necropolis (ask for guide at the Museum). Space will not allow us to describe the thirty most famous tombs at Tarquinia, with their fanciful names that indicate some detail of the paintings- The Necropolis extends for 4 km. (2 1/2 mi.) on a desolate plateau in the Monterozzi district (so-called from the shape of the tombs).
It was violated and looted many times in its history, first by the Romans and then by the barbarians- The Englishman Byres made the first discoveries in the 18th century at a time when the passion for archeology consumed the. whole of Italy- Excavations were continued throughout the 19th century- One needs no particular archaeological training to be fascinated by these visits to the Etruscan world beyond the tomb, populated by musicians and dancers, erotic and orgiastic scenes of the utmost frankness, images which, whether rough or refined, have an abounding vitality- The colours are vivid, reds and blues, greens on a yellow ground; they represent life as it appeared to the lively eye of the sea-going Etruscans; a dance of humans, fishes, imaginary and real animals, Bacchantes and horses; the great recurrent themes are the Banquet, dancing and wrestling and speak clearly to us of the tastes and lives of these oriental people, who mingled in one breath hunting and seafaring, fishing and agriculture, magic and nature, life and the hereafter. We shall need to spend a long time on the Necropolis before taking to the road again (Via Aurelia), which runs parallel to the sea through Montalto di Castro (18 km- - 11 mi.) with a fine small Romanesque church and Castello, near the rums of Vulci (the Etruscan Velcha) to reach ANSEDONIA, which is medieval, and COSA, which is Roman, rising on a knoll, still girt by its ancient walls. There are other Etruscan walls at Orbetello, in a curios positon on a spit of land between two lakes, which in their turn , lie on a promontory into the sea- At Orbetello there is a fine Gothic Cathedral.From here to GROSSETO, over a plain reclaimed in the present century, is a matter of 50 km. (33 3/4 mi.).