Old customs?

October 14, 2013 / Art & Archaeology
Sodo, Tuscany

Having heard about some Etruscan tombs, and with an hour to spare before lunch, it was time to do some “exploring”. And sure enough, every half a mile or so a sign to an Etruscan tomb pointed up through the dry-wall terraced olive groves and woods that grow along the slopes of the hills below Cortona.

The first tomb was the most structurally complete of the three. A lovely cypress tree alley lead to it and surrounded it, and it still had its cinerary urn niches. The second one (ringed by olive trees instead), was also round, and also had a south-facing entrance. However, only its pediment was still intact, but it was quite a bit larger than the first. A many-generation family tomb for sure!


The third one (in an oak groove) was much smaller and rectangular shaped. Perhaps the less interesting of the three, it however had an inscription on its back wall, tusti-Qui. (Anyone been practicing their Etruscan recently?). Also, a larger slab, now in a museum close by, was found among the fill material which had an inscription mentioning a gens-petkes (an Etruscan family/clan name). Neat to imagine that the name of the localita’ where the tomb is, Pecciano, might be derived from that Etruscan family that lived here millenia ago.


All in all a nice way to spend an hour, driving around, in and out of the car, up and down the olive groves learning something new. What truly strikes you however, is the choice of all three tombs’ locations, characterized by absolutely stunning views of the entire length of the Val di Chiana with Montepulciano and the Amiata in the distance. And when you think about the local cemeteries used nowadays, you realize that the exact same criteria used by those Etruscans for their final resting place three thousand years ago is still in being applied nowadays. Certainly so much has changed since then.. but it’s always interesting to come across the occasional custom that hasn’t.




by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

7 Responses to “Old customs?”

  1. I always say ” You can’t turn around any corner in Italy with out coming face to face with history!!”. In Rome it is literally 30 feet deep in other locations there
    are things millennia old.

  2. Gale in CT

    Amazing. I can’t imagine how they positioned those enormous stones into place in such an ancient time. The design of the one in the first photo is awesome and beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Nina Sgriccia

    Very interesting and well timed. My husband and I are here in Italy and today we drove to Camerino in Le Marche to research his father’s family. We saw a countless number of old gravesites both there and in Preci, Umbria, but none quite as old as the ones you saw! How fantastic to see how far our traditions go back.

    • debbie polito maddox

      if you find any ippolitos grave sites please take pics and send to me thanks..

  4. Wondrous, Giancarlo.
    We visited these same sites decades ago with our 3 little children in our VW camping bus, camping right outside. Thanks for the memories. Suzanne and Ron

  5. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    Sitting at table in Santa Fe reading your wonderful Etruscan post and made happy seeing the photographs. Thank you GB. for all the connections.


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