Perched atop a promontory of tuff rock, Tuscania resounds with the echoes of Etruscan and medieval history.
Formally known as Toscanella, this sleepy town set amongst the rolling hills of central Italy is well and truly off-the-beaten-track. And it is all the better for this.
Discover why you should add this Etruscan jewel to your travel bucket list, and all that you need to know about visiting Tuscania.
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Where is Tuscania in Italy?
Tuscania is in the Province of Viterbo in Lazio in central Italy, about 60 miles north of Rome.
Are Tuscania and Tuscany the same?
Tuscania and Tuscany are not the same. Tuscania is a town in the Lazio region; Tuscany is a region in central Italy.
A Short History of Tuscania, Italy
One of the things that Italy is best known for is its history and the Etruscan civilisation is a key part of this legacy.
Tuscania was founded by the Etruscans in the 7th Century BC and reached its peak of wealth and culture in the 4th Century BC. Following its conquest by the Romans, it became a major stop on the Via Clodia, a trade route linking the imperial capital with the agricultural hubs of northern Lazio and southern Tuscany.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Tuscania changed hands a number of times.
Medieval times were not kind to the town. Earthquakes and plague, notably the Black Death of 1349, killed around two-thirds of its population.
Tuscania was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, and in 1971 an earthquake destroyed many of its historic buildings. Most of these buildings have been either restored or replaced.
What is Tuscania Known for?
Tuscania is known for its long history dating from Etruscan times, its medieval walls and towers and two outstanding Romanesque churches.
Visiting Tuscania, Italy: What to See
Much of the pleasure of visiting Tuscania comes from strolling around its 16th Century town centre. But you won’t feel short-changed when it comes to sights as such.
There’s a fountain that has been flowing since Etruscan times, two show-stopping churches, lookouts over the Marta River valley and Etruscan tombs-a-plenty.
The lovely Seven Spouts (Sette Cannelle) fountain dates from 1309. However, it was built using many of the original stones from an earlier Etruscan fountain.
Close to the Sette Cannelle fountain is Parco Torre di Lavello. From this grassy promenade at the foot of Torre Lavello, there are magnificent views of the ancient basilicas of San Pietro and Santa Maria Maggiore, perched on solitary hills.
Crowning Colle di San Pietro (St Peter’s Hill) to the southeast of the town is the majestic Basilica di San Pietro. Standing on the site of the Etruscan acropolis, the church was founded at the beginning of the 8th Century.
Echoes of Etruscan civilisation can be found outside the church and scattered across the hillside.
The Etruscans buried their dead in tombs carved into the rock, which contained elaborately carved sarcophagi. These cave-like tombs and sarcophagi litter the landscape around St. Peter’s Hill.
Tuscania’s second great church, Santa Maria Maggiore, is a short walk downhill and was consecrated in 1206.
How Long Do You Need to Visit Tuscania?
Allow at least two hours to visit Tuscania. If you want to spend time visiting the Etruscan tombs and sarcophagi, spend at least half a day there.
How to Get to Tuscania
Many people visit Tuscania on a day trip from Civitavecchia or Rome.
By far the easiest way to get there is by car. Whilst it is possible to reach Tuscania on public transport this will take a considerable length of time.
I visited Tuscania and Civita di Bagnoregio on a shore excursion from Civitavecchia, a port of call on most Western Mediterranean cruises.
Getting to Tuscania by car
The quickest routes to Tuscania are via the E80 (tolls apply) or the SR2. From Rome, the journey time is from 1 hour 45 minutes.
Visiting Tuscania without car
To visit Tuscania on public transport, take a train to Civitavecchia, Tarquinia or Viterbo and then catch a bus to complete your journey. You are looking at a one-way journey time of at least 3 ½ hours.
Where to Stay in Tuscania
If you want to explore Tuscania at a more relaxed pace and enjoy the evening atmosphere in the town, book a room for the night.
Here are a few places that I have found that are worth considering.
For a true taste of Tuscania, stay at this agriturismo, located a short distance from the town centre.
This renovated farmhouse close to Parco Torre di Lavello offers large rooms and an outdoor swimming pool
A centrally-located holiday rental that has garnered near-perfect guest reviews