Via delle Cave

July 24, 2014 / Art & Archaeology
Populonia, Tuscany

You should get lost. That’s what happened in this case, and it made all the difference in the end.

The first part of the two hour long Via delle Cave (quarry route) in the Archeological Park of Baratti and Populonia consists of a healthy walk/hike from the visitors center down by the bay up into the hills that surround it. You enter a nice oak forest that thankfully provides much needed shade from the hot sun, and the path takes a stout turn… up.

Not sure if it was due to a bit of huffing and puffing in my case, but this is where you too will want to make my same mistake by going straight, instead of turning right which is where the “loop” tour path actually begins. You want do the loop in the opposite direction, basically starting from the end and working your way around to the loop’s beginning instead.

Doing it this way, the “first” tombs you will come across are the Etruscan tombe a camera (room tombs), which are way below ground. The single room for each of these multi-generation family tombs as well as the narrow steps that lead down to each one were carved out of the soft tufo and closed with a tufo block door. After each burial, the access stairs were filled in, to be dug out again when another member of the family died.

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As you continue on the path, you begin to wonder how the hill is still standing, given the proliferation of the “room tombs”… they’re everywhere. At a certain point you find yourself following the path along more and more scarce bits of hill that still remain in between the multitude of steps dug down in every which way. This is not a necropolis on a hill, rather you realize the Etruscans turned the hill itself into the necropolis… quite eye opening.

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Of course, curiosity gets the better of you and you have to peek into some tombs. In some of them you can still make out decorative frescoed motifs.

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At this point, the tombs begin to thin out and you reach the top of the hill/necropolis, still densely covered in oak. Not yet realizing that you’re doing the loop backwards, and thus wondering why you haven’t yet seen what must obviously be the route’s main attraction (its photo is everywhere… at the visitor’s center, on posters, on the map/info leaflet), you walk a few more steps over to a clearing in the trees. You look down and finally see the main attraction, some very impressive and evocative tombs of a different kind, dug in the same area as the ancient quarry (that gives this route its name).

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You also see the group of people down there with whom you entered the park that unlike you did not miss the “start” of the loop. Ok, so you might not be able to hear the guide from where you stand up in the clearing, but it’s a small price to pay for a view that will be hard to forget.

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GB

by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

11 Responses to “Via delle Cave”

  1. Gian Banchero

    At first I thought the last photo was an 18th century painting, the colors and composition are correct. Thank you GB for the trip back in time.

    Reply
  2. I love all of your articles, GB as they grant me another day in Italy since mobility issues don’t allow me to fly overseas like I did.
    May I point out one thing ? Refer to your name in the right corner of each article ” Chief, Cook and Bottlewasher”. If I remember correctly, it should read
    CHIEF COOK AND BOTTLEWASHER – Chief is an adjective describing rank of cook. No comma between Chief and Cook.
    Thank you and all the contributors who bless my day with Italian sunshine !

    Reply
  3. Love your clever writing, GB. Populonia is imprinted on my heart. That last photo is magnificent! Thank you for all of your loving efforts to bring us Italia nostalgics a near daily connection to La Bella IT. Blessings. mja

    Reply
  4. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    Wonderful photographs GB! You capture the mystery and beauty of the place. Going backwards from the loop is shorter and as you found , yet even a better view. Your photographs have captured the sacredness of the place.

    Reply
  5. Tony Cogan

    Was here in June, when I did an archeaological dig at another nearby necropolis with Earthwatch (which I found thanks to previous Italian Notebook article

    Reply
  6. Tony Cogan

    Was there in June, when I did an archeaological dig at another nearby necropolis with Earthwatch (which I found thanks to previous Italian Notebook article

    Reply
  7. BLUEBERRY

    THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH FOR THIS GREAT STORY I HAD NO IDEA THAT THIS MUCH HAS BEEN LEFT FOR ALL OF US TO LEARN ABOUT. AT FIRST I THOUGT THIS LOOKS LIKE THE WW 1 TRENCHES
    GOD BLES THE HARDWORKING PEOPLE THAT HAD TO DIGG THESE STONES .

    Reply
  8. Fascinating Etruscans! May we get to know more and more about them through archaeologists’ discoveries.

    Reply

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