North of the edge of Orvieto‘s historic center, an Etruscan Necropolis known as the “Etruscan Tombs of the Crucifix of the Tuff Stone” (Tombe Etrusche del Crocifisso del Tufo) has been found. Most of the tombs in this necropolis date from the 5th and 6th centuries BC. The name is due to a cross incised in the tuff stone rock.
Crocifisso del Tufo Necropolis Orvieto
Address, opening hours and tickets
Address: The Necropolis is located along the SS17 street road (km 1.6). Telephone: +39 0763 343611. Opening hours: From 08:30 to 19:00; in winter until 17:00. Entrance fee: 3 Euro (18-25 years: 1.50 Euro; under 18: Free). The Carta Orvieto Unica is valid. (Note: Guided tours can also be arranged upon request. These cost between 5 and 10 Euro per person, depending on the size of the group. For information call +39 0763 343611.)
History and description
The Crocifisso del Tufo Necropolis is located at the foot of the rock on which Orvieto was built. The name given to the cemetery derives from a cross carved into the rock in the 16th century in a chapel.
After the first excavations in the early 19th century, the objects found there became scattered throughout Europe.
However, it was not until 1961 that the oldest and most important remains were found. Results of these excavations can be seen in the Claudio Faina Museum in Orvieto itself.
Viewing the necropolis from above, one can clearly see that its construction was organized almost like that of a city. The tombs are placed along paths that are laid out in grid-like fashion. They were usually meant for entire families.
There are about seventy tombs that can be visited. The surface area is generally around 2 by 3 meters. They are made of huge blocks of tuff stone. The coffin was placed on an elevation.
A short staircase leads to a small entrance that gives access to the tombs. An inscription above the entrance usually indicates the name of the deceased or his family.
The tombs are covered with a layer of earth. Memorial stones indicate exactly where they are located. These so-called cippi are different for men and women. Since the Etruscans believed in an afterlife, personal belongings and vases of various sizes and types were placed in the tombs.