Rome before the Romans, discovering Etruscan Cerveteri

The countryside near Cerveteri as seen from Borgo di Ceri

The countryside near Cerveteri as seen from Borgo di Ceri

For as famous, powerful, organized and resourceful as they were, life and splendor in Italy didn’t start with the Romans.

Last week I was invited by cultural association CoopCulture and tour company Walks of Italy to explore the beautiful town of Cerveteri, the surrounding hamlets and their typical products.

Cerveteri is a very important Etruscan city, founded well before Rome, but the creation of the latter, with empire annexed, obviously shadowed this previous and fantastic civilization, which I had actually started exploring when I went to Veio, the last Etruscan city to resist Romans’ conquering spree.

Painting in the ceiling of Palazzo Torlonia in Borgo di Ceri

Painting in the ceiling of Palazzo Torlonia in Borgo di Ceri

With a program aptly named Etrus-key, running until July the 20th, CoopCulture is aiming to give visitors the key to understand and dig deep into this great civilization that much influenced their more famous successors.

Our tour kicked off in medieval Borgo di Ceri, just before Cerveteri and part of its council, where we were to visit its castle, known as Castello di Ceri or Palazzo Torlonia (Torlonia Palace), from the name of its owner. Noble palace built by the wealthy Odescalchi family, owners also of the famous Odescalchi castle in Bracciano where actors and VIPs like to get married, Palazzo Torlonia, later bought by the Torlonia family, boasts beautiful paintings on the walls and the ceiling, and a fairytale-like garden embellished with sculptures and cedar trees.

Next stop was Cerveteri, where we tasted local products, delicious bread baked in a wood-fired oven, white and red wine-based cookies, cakes, and pastes to spread on toasted bread or to use as seasoning for pasta, with all types of flavors, from artichokes to olives to delicious truffle mushrooms, native from this area of Italy.

Cerveteri city center is perfect to walk around, a maze of medieval narrow alleys where inhabitants still organize big gatherings where everybody is invited and chips in with some homemade delicacy. When we were there, they are just preparing for dinner. “We used to do it right in the streets, but now along with modernity has come beaurocracy, meaning that we have to ask for so many permits that we just do it in private gardens like this one”, said one of the organizers of the neighborhood get-togethers.

Needless to say, I got back home after a very gratifying shopping spree involving freshly baked pizza and cakes, and artichoke-truffle cream, just to have something to remember Cerveteri by before my next visit.

Below are some more pictures I took during the trip, I hope you enjoy and get inspired for next time you travel to Rome.

Fruits from the cedar tree

Fruits from the cedar tree

Fairy-tale bed and breakfast "Borgo di Ceri", the only B&B in Borgo di Ceri

Fairy-tale Bed & Breakfast “Borgo di Ceri”, the only B&B in Borgo di Ceri

A view of Cerveteri ruins, some of the biggest from Etruscan times

A view of Cerveteri ruins, some of the biggest burial grounds from Etruscan times

A view of medieval Borgo di Ceri

A view of medieval Borgo di Ceri

The gate to medieval Borgo di Ceri

The gate to medieval Borgo di Ceri

Vineyard of Onorati wine cellar and signor Onorati explaining the production process to us

Vineyard of Onorati wine cellar with signor Onorati explaining to us the production process

Tower in Cerveteri city center

Tower in Cerveteri city center

Delicious wood-fired oven bakery in Cerveteri city center, "Antico Forno"

Delicious wood-fired oven bakery in Cerveteri city center, “Antico Forno”

Bruschette were being made in Cerveteri for the neighborhood gathering

Bruschette were being made in Cerveteri for the neighborhood gathering

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