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Impressions of Lazio, Italy

So close to the city of Rome, and yet, a lot of what we encounter in this part of Italy is not at all about Rome and the Romans, but about another culture that co-existed with the Romans, a thriving force, sophisticated and prosperous : the Etruscans. Yes, they were eventually run over by the Romans, but they developed their own way for a very long time. They were not prolific writers like the Greeks and the Romans, so there is still much that we do not know about them. But the archaeology of Lazio fills in many vacuums, and that helps us a great deal to somehow lift the veil on Etruria. No worry, there is not only that : Lazio also hides some quaint little 'borghi', robust and sturdy, picturesque and attractive with the typical flair of the Italian province : Sutri, Bolsena, Bagnoregio, embedded in a landscape of volcanic lakes or erosion ridden badlands. There are also the larger cities like Viterbo and Gaeta, with identities that spontaneously combine their omnipresent historic background with a contemporary elegance one only meets in Italy. And yes, of course, Rome is near, so there are indeed also the vestiges of ancient Roman civilisation and inevitably the story of Popes will be with us too. There is no way of talking or writing about Lazio without a reference every now and then to Papal business. For, did you realise that until late in the 19th century the entire area we are about to visit, was part of States with no king, no president and no parliament, but just the worldly leadership of a Pope and some minor princes to whom he graciously delegated governance?

Before visiting the place of your choice:

The ancient archaeological site of Vulci extends behind the wide moat of the Castello dell' Abbadia. Traces of the 9th century BC situate Vulci among the earliest Etruscan cities. The city was already in full expansion in the 8th century BC and 200 years later it had become a regional power in Northern Lazio and the South of Tuscany. The Roman-Etruscan Wars of 310 and 283 BC finally brought Vulci under Roman control as a provincial, only modestly important city, even after the Via Aurelia was constructed some 40 years later, passing through Vulci. Roman occupation of the coast had cut off the city of Vulci from its trade routes of yesteryear, a.o. with Sardinia, and had severely weakened the city. The site of Vulci is extensive and holds both Etruscan and Roman structures. The city walls were erected in the 4th century BC and are purely Etruscan, well pre-dating Roman occupation. Many other structures at Vulci, though, belong to the Roman period of approximately 100 BC, such as residential quarters, thermae, temple foundations, city gates, a triumphal arch and a Roman humpback bridge. The proto-Christian basilica is obviously of later date.

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