Sovana is one of the most beautiful burghs in Italy: it is out of time, preserving its mediaeval appearance, perched on tufaceous rocks in the Tuff area, in a unique scenario with characteristic vegetation, cliffs and mysterious paths excavated in the rocks. Here you can go back also to the glorious moments in Etruscan age, thanks to the splendid and fine tombs.
The history of Sovana
The first signs of human settlement in this area are datable to upper Paleolithic around 20000 years ago, and from these moments a very long tradition of tradition of living has been set in this place, and it involved a sequence of civilizations. At first in the Copper Age there was the culture of Rinaldone and we can found evidence datable to XIX century B.C., then in the Bronze Age the inhabited area reached the extension detectable in the archaeological site, after that there was the Villanovan Culture in X century, and later the Etruscans, that are the main presence according to the evidences in the site.
The last civilization was particularly relevant from VIII century B.C. in the process that leads Sovana to a significant status, even though it was not a political center, the city had a military and economic development, and took part to an expedition against Vulci, fact that is confirmed by the frescos found in the famous tomb Francois. After a short period of crisis that involved many Etruscan cities during V century, Sovana returned to grow and it continued to be a florid center even after the conquest of Rome, that took over the area after the defeat of Vulci in 280 B.C. Sovana became a roman municipium, but it stated independent from many point of view: it maintained the Etruscan language, culture and art, until I century B.C. We have many relevant archaeological evidences that belong to the roman-Etruscan age.
After this phase, the center of Sovana survived during the empire, even though it was less relevant than it used to be, and experienced the spread of Christianism and became an episcopal center. The city survived also the invasion of the Goths and Lombards, and maintained its municipal organization, until a mediaeval restoration that is important because Sovana still today has the appearance of a mediaeval burgh.
The Arcaeological areas of Sovana
Archaeological park città del Tufo Sorano
The Etruscan necropolis of Sovana is part of the archaeological park città del Tufo Sorano, that includes the centers of Sovana, Sorano and San Quirico (and some others smallest villages) that have a common history and geographical and environmental peculiarity.
They are unique places, out of time, that preserve the appearance of mediaeval burghs perched on the tufaceous rocks, in an almost uncontaminated environment that is affected by the long isolation that historically has occurred to this area.
The archaeological park città del Tufo is named after the geological peculiarity of the Tuff Area that extends from mount Amiata and the border with region Lazio and it is characterized by huge tufaceous rocks, thermal springs, hills and a particular vegetation, and this is an unique natural environment.
On the rocks the human settlement have been organized in a splendid way, so that the urban planning of the burghs is affected from the natural characteristic of the soil, but the construction were built in an harmonic way that is interesting to see in this peculiar scenario. The rocks permitted to build fortifications, that were naturally protected, the cliffs were used to collocate columbarium tombs in the Etruscan age, the same time in which were excavated also the “vie cave” paths excavated in the rocks, typical in this area.
Etruscan necropolis of Sovana
The Etruscan necropolis of Sovana is divided in two areas, collocated 200 meters away from each other.
The first is crossed by the main and largest via cava, called il Covone (only a part of this path is accessible for safety reasons), and it hosts some monumental and famous tombs in the archaeological area: Ildebranda tomb, winged demons tomb, and Typhon tomb.
Ildebranda Tomb (III century B.C.) is the main and most famous, and has a structure completely excavated in tuff, without external additions. The structures remind to a temple, and it is composed by a high podium excavated in the tufaceous rock, a monumental façade and it is accessible thanks to two lateral staircases. Originally it was decorated with polychrome stucco, a technique used in Etruscan art, but they mostly have been ruined by time, and the same destiny took to some elements of the structure because of the fragility of tuff. However we can see some part of the decoration that also preserve the original colors, and also the remains of the columns that delimitated a pronaos and supported a frieze with a naturalistic and mythological decoration that we can detect from a small preserved part. Only one of the columns it is still visible, and the capital is decorated with anthropomorphic images. Under the podium it is notable the entrance corridor to the sepulchral chamber that was subterranean with a coffered ceiling.
The winged demons tomb (III century B.C.) is named after one of its fine sculptures decorations. It is an aedicule tomb, excavated in tuff, with an internal niche where it is visible a statue of the death extraordinarily well preserved, with the original colors, and on the sides of the niche there are two almost full relief portraying two female winged demons, one of them brings a torch that lighted the way of the death in the otherworld. The façade was decorated with a high relief of a marine demon and in front of it there were two statues, but only one is preserved and it portrays a lion.
Typhon tombs is named after a decoration too and it is another aedicule tomb, that is relevant in particular because of the lower part of the tomb with coffered ceiling with a lozenge pattern and a polychrome stucco decoration that is preserved in part. The upper part of the tomb had an altar for offerings.
The second area of the necropolis, has an access to the evocative and available via cava of San Sebastiano, and it is characterized by the presence of cube tombs and fake cube tombs, and in particular by the Mermaid tomb. It is another aedicule tomb with lateral decoration of two demons, and in the fronton a relief with Scylla that holds in its coils two cupids.
Imagine copytight: By Sidvics - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
You may also be interested in the other archaeological sites of Tuscany, rewieved into platform.
The site is closed in January and February;
March: the site is open only in the weekends from 10 am to 6 pm
April- September: every day from 10 am to 7 pm
October: every day from 10 am to 6 pm
November- December: every day from 10 am to 5 pm
Full ticket: 5,00 €
Reduced ticket: 3,00 €
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE CARD:
FOUNDATION: VIII century B.C.
DECLINE: I century B.C.
ADMINISTRATION: Soprintendenza ai Beni Archeologici della Toscana
DISCOVERY: XIX century
How to get to Sovana
By car: from northern and southern cities it is possible to get to Sovana by car through motorway A1 until exit Chiusi- Canciano terme. Then proceed on SP478 until the crossroad with SP321, then go on until the crossroad with SP20, then SP20 to Sovana, where you can find the archaeological site.