If you are on a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the ports where your ship will dock is Civitavecchia, don’t just stop in Rome; consider going on a shore excursion from Civitavecchia and explore one of the beautiful cities surrounding Italy’s capital.
Road to Italy suggests you visit Tuscania, a stunning art city that stands on seven ridges of tufa rock, only 30 miles from the port and easily reachable via a 40 minute drive. You will notice right away that Tuscania is full of churches and fountains. Some of the most striking are the Fountain of Montascide, built in 1624 in honor of the urban aqueduct; the Fountain of Belvedere, built in 1862; the Fountain of the Sette Cannelle, built in 1309; and the Fountain of Poggio, built in the baroque style out of nenfro stone and located in the Piazza del Duomo.
As for churches, there are two that deserve to be visited above all. First is the Basilica of St Peter, built in the Romanesque style on the side of St Peter’s Hill and used as an episcopate in the second half of the Middle Ages. Within it are preserved frescoes from the Roman school of art, the cosmatesque marble floor of the nave and the chancel, and the work of the Cosmati masters of the twelfth century.
On the slopes of St. Peter’s hill is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, its façade decorated with large rose windows, its gates full of sculptures and, on the inside, three richly decorated aisles with frescoes and a glorious Last Judgement.
The countryside of Tuscania is protected as a nature reserve due to the many necropolises that populate it, many dating as far back as the Etruscan age. The best known is that of Our Lady of the Olive, located near the municipal stadium and the church by the same name which houses the tombs of Curunas, dating back from the fourth century BCE (these were discovered between 1967-1970; the terracotta sarcophagi and various funerary objects are now preserved in the Tuscan National Archaeological Museum). There is also the Tomba del sarcofago delle Amazzoni and the Grotta della Regina, a vast underground tomb. Also worthy of note are the cemeteries such as Ara del Tufo and its burial mounds, and the Pian di Mola, with tombs dug into the rock.
Throughout the year there are many events organized in Tuscania, such as the summer harvest of snails after storms, to be eaten in dinners accompanied by homemade white wines; August snacks made with porchetta; mushroom gathering; the grape harvest in October on the slopes and highlands near Lake Bolsena; the olive harvest in November and December, celebrated with bruschetta-based dinners. Most particular of all is the cauliflower croquette festival which is celebrated on the first Sunday after January 17th with a parade on horseback by the cowboys of Maremma and the blessing of animals.
Photo by Patafisik and Sabinosab, from Wikipedia Creative Commons