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Arcaeology - Archaeological areas   


San Giovenale

The remains of Etruscan houses in San Giovenale, together with those of Acquarossa near Viterbo, are among the oldest examples of the Etruscan and Italic architecture

Blera, San Giovenale, part. (Foto Comune di Blera)

Blera, San Giovenale, part.
(Foto Comune di Blera)

The excavation area is about 7 Km from Blera, a suggestive small village,in the area of Viterbo.

San Giovenale (whose ancient name we ignore) is a very important site for excavation and research, owned by the Swedish Institute, and including the passionate work of King Gustavo VI Adolfo from Sweden. It was one of the villages of the Etruria inland which were under the influence of Tarquinia.

The site, dating back to VII century BC, spread out along a tufaceous plateau, at the confluence of the Fosso del Pitale in the torrent Vesca and was naturally fortified by high walls overhanging on these two rivers.
With the finding of some ancient huts belonging to the Bronze and the Iron Age, it is adamant that human life on the plateau already existed during prehistoric and proto- prehistoric times.
Various attempts of excavation have been conducted over the area and many graves were dug in the vast Necropolis in the nearness; only the east and the west areas of the castle have been left open and protected by the sheds, due to their importance for the study of the Etruscan architecture in the Archaic Age

The visit to the archaeological area begins by following the road, which, moving towards the medieval castle, reaches the Acropolis.
Arriving under the manor’s wall, visitors easily access the large shed that protects the well-preserved Etruscan town.
From the top of a footbridge they may also have a complete vision of the houses plants as well as of the fireplaces and the perimeter walls of dwellings, which includes a few rows of large tufa blocks with a particularly well made workmanship.
In the surrounding area, some remains of houses are visible, together with wells, and some winepresses; an ancient road path with old ruts of wagon wheels, witnessing the vastness of the ancient built-up area of San Giovenale is also visible.

The access to the western part of Acropolis is barred by the Vico Castle (XIII century),with its walls standing out from the pre-existing Etruscan fortification, while in the nearness the ancient ruins of the small Church of St. Giovenale (XIII - XIV century) emerge from the surrounding country.

A four metres large-moat, probably dug to defend the area , cut the Acropolis transversally. Going west you reach the Acropolis where some ruins of ancient fortifications with large blocks of tufa are still visible. From this point, the valley of Vesca offers a stunning unforgettable natural view.

Equally fascinating is a visit to the vast Necropolis surrounding San Giovenale: Grotte Tufarina, Porzarago, Le Grotticelle, Le Poggette, Cammerata, Montevangone and Il Terzolo. Going north visitors may find the Necropolis of Porzarago where, among the mounds some well preserved proto-Villanovan tombs have been found. Also remarkable is the tomb known as "della Regina", consisting of a narrow dromos and two rooms, communicating through a door and two windows. In the first room you can see a male burial place and a female bed decorated with the ends of two tympanums excavated in tufa to help recreating the shape of the house; in the second room are three beds one of which is a femal burial place.
The eastern Necropolis is accessible by passing through a small square in which six tombs open and show the visitors their suggestive beauty. They really worth the visit especially for their internal architecture. Besides this square you may also find numerous tombs with ogival pointed arches open on top and covered by big marble blocks. Unfortunately the whole floor named Le Grotticelle has been excavated and wrought for years by many illegal diggers.
The southern Necropolis, situated beyond the Vesca are accessible by descending the road passing under the Acropolis. A visit to the Necropolis of Castellina in Cammerata is very interesting, even if a bit un-easy. It is reachable by going up along the torrent course until the hollow of Cammerata, easily surmountable. Reaching the cliff, where some rocky tombs are scattered, a big squared one with interior decoration and various mounds as wella s other ancient tombs are visible and easy to access.
Following the road leading up to Cammerata, visitors may also see the Necropolis of Montevangone, extending, with all kind of graves scattered along the area, from Terzolo and the stream of Vesca. It is not possible to follow an exactly itinerary due to the bad ground’s condition . That is why they may be surprised by the ruins they can suddendly see along the path

For a visit
San Giovenale is on the road of Civitella Cesi and it is reachable from Blera along the SP Monteromanese going beyond the “Valle del Biedano” on modern reinforced concrete viaduct.
At the junction of Fontanile Trocchia, turn to Civitella Cesi, and when in Formello, on the right side of the road, the remains of a mausoleum and a Roman villa are visible.
After the descent, the road passes the woods of Macchia Nuova and close to the crossroads for San Giovenale, turn right to reach the archaeological area.

This excursion needs a whole day, so organize the picnic lunch and prepare the proper equipment for a walking tour , considering that you will afford small rivers, as well as some other little difficulties you may meet.

The Swedish Institute's activity began in 1956 with the excavations of San Giovenale (Blera, VT), followed by those in neighbouring Luni on the river Mignone and Acquarossa (Ferento, VT).
The purpose of these investigations was the archaeological study of prehistoric settlements dating back to Etruscan and with an innovative approach to the Etruscan culture.
The results went far beyond the expectations; entire neighbourhoods with housing materials were brought to light, providing absolutely new information.

Comune di Blera
Via Roma, 8 - 01010 Blera VT
Telefono: +39 0761 470093 - Fax: +39 0761 470566


Testi: C. Chiovelli - Traduzione: L. Adami


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