Friday, March 2, 2012

Mysterious Etruscan Itinerary with artist Monica Ferrando

painting by Monica Ferrando 

Among those who rediscovered the Etruscan sites in central Italy and publicized them with their books were  Scots  and  English including Lady Elizabeth Hamilton Gray  and George Dennis, accompanied by  artist S.J. Ainsley  whose drawings  show the tombs as they once were.
  Jules Martha’s  L’Arte Etrusque  published in Paris in 1889  has color plates depicting  the magnificent art, coins, jewellery, mirrors and bronzes of the Etruscan civilization that were coming to light.

 D.H. Lawrence lived for some time in Tarquinia and  his  Etruscan Places   published in 1929,  captures  some of the mystery of this  little  known civilization.

Norchia rock hewn tombs - photo by John Ferro Sims 
In order to recapture the emotions of those pioneer days, I suggest a visit to  Norchia or  Grotta Porcina near Vetralla or Castel d’Asso outside Viterbo.

 Early spring is the best time for  these Indiana Jones type of explorations, for the grass will not be high  and snakes will still be hibernating.

Vetralla panorma from the south
Take a walk in the countryside to visit  the  newly discovered site of Demetra’s  sanctuary known as  Bagno Sacro, sacred bath.

design of Demetra sanctuary 
the entrance to Demetra's sanctuary near Vetralla

riding along an Etruscan via cava 
Here a metre high terracotta statue of the goddess was recently found at the end of a track similar to other vie cave paths carved in the tufa stone  throughout the area.

statue of Demetra, now in storage at Museo Etrusco, Viterbo

In her delicate, dreamy pastels, local artist Monica Ferrando  perfectly interprets the Etruscan  love for nature and the story of Demetra.   More of Monica's work can be seen here and on her new website.
Monica Ferrando, photo by Corinna Cuniberto

 When not traveling between Venice and Rome or sketching at the Louvre, she pours out her love for the area  working in  her south-facing Vetralla studio set in a luxuriant garden. 

On March  8th   there is free entrance to the Necropolis and Museo Etrusco  in Tarquinia for  women, just another reminder that theirs was a matriarchial society and Etruscan women were more liberated than their Roman neighbors.  



  1. As you know already MJ, David and I are both fascinated by the local Etruscan sites and back your recommendations to explore these places if you visit the area. Well worth doing so.

    1. Thanks Linda for your support, why not share with your huge UK following..we might be able to entice some other Brits to come visit our wonderful area. Hope to see you and David on the 9th.

    2. Have to say I have seen most of the region a number of tims...and i will never get tired of the tombs-sutri, cerveteri, tarquinia, vulci, all of these places...sorano, soriano etc. Wonderful. You need a week at least to really walk through them-I have taken so many photos there, but I still find them so intruiging i will certainly return. Kind of tired of the cities now.
      I would also recommend 'Etruscan Places'...which has a spot in my library (in italy).

  2. "I suggest a visit to Norchia or Grotta Porcina..."

    What about a visit to Norchia and Grotta Porcina? Ah, the perils of reading your book. There's too much I want to see.

    1. Both places merit a visit. Thanks for boosting my book..copies can be ordered directly from this page by clicking on the book cover. We mail out twice a week. Its a must for visitors, cruisers stopping in Civitavecchia.

  3. Great article! (Pat Smith)

  4. What riches! Takes me back forty+ years to weekends when we took small children to Norchia, Vetralla, et al. and they all wanted to become archaeologists.

    1. Dear Peter, things havnt changed that much in the area, still wild and rustic. Unfortunately near Lake Bolsena dozens of wind towers have been installed.

  5. I just finished reading your book Etruria for the third time, and anticipating my visit at the end of April. I'm trying to figure out what I can squeeze into a mere 5 days. It gets more difficult with each reading -ML

  6. Thank you all for the comments. The copy of "Song of the Flutist" has been awarded to Linda McFall of Marta, Italy.

    Motivation: with her large following and background as librarian and book reviewer, Linda will be able to give more exposure to people interested in literature about the Etruscans and our area.
    The book is being mailed out to Linda this morning.
    M.J. Cryan
    April 2, 2012.

    1. It has taken a long time for this title to reach the top of my Mt TBR pile, but at last it has been read, and the review will be published before the end of the year. Sorry it has taken so long, but the win was appreciated. I will be linking back to this post when it is published.

  7. My husband and I spent so many wonderful days and weekends exploring Etruscan country. It truly is mysterious. Every time we rounded a corner on a narrow country road we expected to see an ancient Etruscan standing by the roadside with that enimatic smile. I have written about these pleasures inmy memoir,Coins in theFountain.
    Thanks for such a lovely post.

  8. Etruscan seems to be a very interesting place to me now that I have read your blog. I wan to see and know more about the place. Looking forward to reading your next posts.