If you’re interested in a history tour of Italy, you must begin with the Etruscans. Discover the depths of Italy’s fascinating past through our immersive archaeology tour of Italy: In the Path of the Etruscans. This journey provides an intriguing glimpse into the ancient civilization of Etruria, founded in the 7th century BC and predominantly spread across what we now know as Tuscany and Umbria.
These early architects of history significantly shaped Rome’s architectural and ritual practices, even ruling Rome under Etruscan kings for a time. Engage in an enlightening historical trip to Italy, where we explore the vibrant culture of the Etruscans, a culture heavily intertwined with the Greeks and Romans yet distinct in its striking contrasts. Their expansive trade networks, impressive fortified cities, and exquisite artistry are a testament to a civilization that peaked during the 6th century BC, before their eventual conquest by the Romans in 264 BC. And you’ll get to explore this fascinating world in the company of a leading scholar of Etruscan history.
Our tour commences in Rome, where we’ll explore the National Etruscan Museum and the Gregorian Etruscan Museum nestled within the treasure trove that is the Vatican City Museums. From there, we journey north to two rarely-visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Cerveteri, the largest necropolis in the ancient Mediterranean, and Tarquinia, which boasts beautifully decorated and painted tombs.
On this Etruscan tour of Italy, you’ll meander through the captivating town of Orvieto, perched dramatically atop an Italian hill. Descend into the historical Volumnus Hypogeum in Perugia, the tomb of a wealthy Etruscan noble family. Wander the medieval streets of Cortona and step into the Roman Amphitheater in Arezzo. Gaze at the fascinating displays in Volterra’s Museo Etrusco Guarnacci and get lost in the bustling shops lining Florence’s Ponte Vecchio.
Every aspect of this history tour in Italy is guided by the wisdom of Professor Steven Tuck, renowned for his work with The Great Courses. Immerse yourself in a world that was as you uncover the fascinating Etruscan history beneath Italy as we know it today. Experience a journey back in time with our archaeology and history tours in Italy.
Depart on flight bound for Rome, Italy.
Arrive into Rome by mid-morning. After lunch on our own and some time to rest, visit the National Etruscan Museum. Housed in the Renaissance-era Villa Giulia, this museum contains the greatest Etruscan collection in all of Italy including the famous Sarcophagus of the Spouses, an almost life-sized terracotta funerary coffer from the late 6th century BC. Conclude the day with a stop by the Mausoleum of Augustus, built in 28BC. Inspired by Etruscan tomb design, it shows the influence of the Etruscans over time. Our welcome dinner will be at an elegant local restaurant. Overnight in the Doubletree by Hilton Rome Monti for two nights. (D)
The Gregorian Etruscan Museum is located within the Vatican City Museums. Numerous ceramics, bronzes, gold and silver artifacts dating from the 9th century BC to the 1st century BC can be seen within the collection, This is the time when the Etruscan cities converged into the larger structure of the Roman state. Many of the items displayed here were found at necropoli that we will visit during the trip, including Cerveteri and Chiusi. After lunch on our own at the Vatican Museum café, we will have free time to visit the other museum collections before returning to the hotel. (B/D)
Depart Rome and travel northwest to Cerveteri and the Necropoli della Banditaccia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating back to the 9th century BC, this is the largest necropolis from the ancient Mediterranean world. Commonly referred to as the ‘city of the dead’, it is organized in a city-like plan. Here, streets, small squares and neighborhoods provide archaeologists with the only surviving evidence as to how the Etruscans approached urban planning and residential architecture.
Move on to Tarquinia to enter Necropoli Monterozzi, also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Over 6,000 tombs have been dug into the rock. Some date back as the 7th century BC. As we wander among the tombs, we will note that many are adorned with stunning frescos depicting Etruscan daily life, demonstrating the wealth and power of this all-but-vanished culture. After visiting the site and its museum we transfer to Viterbo and overnight for one night at Hotel Termi dei Papi, a small boutique hotel and spa. (B/L/D)
Our destination today is the delightful mountain town of Orvieto in Umbria, known as Velzna in Etruscan. It was one of the most important towns of the Etruria territory from the 9th to 3rd century BC. In the area below Orvieto’s cliff face, archaeologists and historians have discovered what they believe to be Fanum Voltumnae, the ancient sanctuary thought to be the center of the Etruscan religion and worship.
If available, we will meet privately with an archaeologist working at the Campo della Fiera excavations. Continue on to the Crocifisso del Tufo necropolis where another collection of chamber-tombs are laid out in a street grid pattern. Back in the town of Orvieto we visit both the Claudio Faina Museum and National Archaeological Museum to view the collections of grave goods and pottery found during the excavations of the surrounding area.
We conclude the day with a stop at Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta whose façade is done in the Tuscan Gothic style and presents an imposing rose window, glittering mosaics and elephantine bronze doors. Overnight for one night at the Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini, an elegant boutique hotel set in the historic district of Orvieto that was once a luxurious palazzo. (B/L/D)
A one hour drive takes us to Chiusi in Tuscany. Between the 7th and 5th centuries BC, this was one of the most important towns in the Etruscan Dodecapolis, a confederation of twelve cities. Today will be spent exploring the town’s ancient remains. Our first stop will be the Poggio Renzo Necropolis where its most famous tombs are named for the depictions on their wall paintings. Chiusi’s National Etruscan Museum is one of the most important repositories of artifacts in Italy and we will visit this before our lunch in town. This afternoon, enjoy a guided tour of La Città Sotterranea, an epigraphic museum with a collection of almost 300 urns and 200 grave tiles with inscriptions.
Time permitting we will stop at tomb of Las Porsenna, the Etruscan king known for his war against Rome. Here we can also witness the vast labyrinth of tunnels that winds beneath the town and was once an Etruscan aqueduct. Transfer in the late afternoon to Perugia and overnight for two nights in Perugia at the 5-star Brufani Palace, built in 1884. This elegant hotel has had many illustrious guests including the Queen Mother and Prince Albert of Monaco. (B/L/D)
Perugia, the capital city of Umbria, was another of the twelve confederate cities of Etruria. Between the 6th and 3rd centuries BC, Perugia was enclosed by massive fortification walls that still stand today. There were originally seven gates into the city, and the six that remain contain remnants of Etruscan monumental architecture.
Our walking tour will take us to several important sites in Perugia. We will enter the Volumnus Hypogeum, the 3rd century BC underground tomb of the wealthy Volumnus family of Etruscan nobility. It has the characteristic layout of an Etruscan-Roman home with an atrium and seven rooms and is one of the most important monuments from this ancient time. The heads of Medusa, the mythological Gorgon with coiling poisonous snakes instead of hair, are displayed throughout the hypogeum. We will go into the Sorbello Well that once supplied water to the entire city. An extraordinary feat of hydraulic engineering, the Etruscans sunk an 18-foot shaft more than 115 feet deep under the city. To support the cover over the well, two massive trusses of travertine were constructed, and they still protect the cistern more than 2,000 years later.
Umbria’s Archaeology Museum is housed in the former Dominican convent of San Domenic. The most notable artifact of the Etruscan collection is the Cippo di Perugia, a boundary stone that contains the longest Etruscan inscription ever found. The Cathedral of Saint Lorenzo was constructed over a period of 150 years and the exterior was never completed. The interior is late Gothic with three aisles divided by octagonal pillars over crossbow vaulting, and the Chapel of San Bernardino contains Federico Barocci’s exquisite Deposition, painted in 1567-69. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
On our drive through the beautiful Tuscan countryside, the dazzling medieval hill town of Cortona will appear high on a mountaintop. It was made famous in recent decades as it was the setting for Frances Mayes’ novel Under the Tuscan Sun. The medieval walls surrounding the town’s historic center contain imposing remnants of fortifications built by the Etruscans. As we walk through the medieval streets, stop to visit the Etruscan Academy Museum, or Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca, to view fascinating finds from nearby excavations, and the Accademia Etrusca, housed within the Palazzo Pretorio. Down the slope of the hillside is the 16th century Santa Maria Nuova Church, built to house a miraculous image of the virgin, and at the foot of the hill are found beautiful Etruscan tombs and burial mounds, now incorporated into the archaeological park of Cortona. Overnight for two nights at the Hotel San Luca. (B/L/D)
Arezzo was once one of the Etruscan Dodecapolis. Our all day walking tour will give us views of the city’s most celebrated sites. Dominating the city is The Duomo, or Cathedral di San Donato. It was built on what was an earlier Christian church and possibly of the ancient city’s acropolis. The interior is embellished with frescoes by Aretine artists, seven stained glass windows created in 1516-1524 by Guillaume de Marcillat, and a well-known 13th century crucifix by Cimabue. The Medici Fortress is in the form of a star with five points. It was quarried from stone from the Roman amphitheater. Santa Maria della Pieve, with its striking façade, existed as early as 1008.
Behind its Romanesque apse, our stroll along Corso Italia takes us through the Piazza Grande. This medieval square is encircled by several landmark buildings. Notably, we will see many different architectural styles, from medieval towers to the Renaissance Loggiato Vasariano, from the Gothic-Renaissance Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici to Palazzo delle Logge designed by Vasari. A poet and scholar, Petrarch was the most famous man born in Arezzo. Located just off Corso Italia is Casa del Petrarca. Reputedly built on the 16th century remains of a medieval building, this is traditionally held to be Francesco Petrarch’s birthplace. The Capella Bacci, in the apse of the Basilica di San Francesco, showcases Piero della Francesca’s fresco of the Legend of the True Cross, one of Italian art’s greatest works. Ivan Bruschi, a wealthy antiques dealer, restored the 13th century Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo in the 1960s. Now a museum, it houses his personal collection including art from Etruscan, Greek, Roman, medieval and Renaissance periods. The Roman Amphitheater is a skeleton of a once important theater that held 13,000 attendees. The archaeological museum behind it houses an impressive collection of Etruscan and Roman ceramics and glassware. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Volterra is the very picture of a Tuscan hill town. Originally an Etruscan town, the fortification walls enclose the Parco Archeologico Enrico Fiumi. This park contains two Etruscan temples, as well as a intriguing 1st century basin that the Romans built to collect rain water and distribute to citizens who lived in lower-lying areas.
We will also visit the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum housing thousands of funeral urns and many unique bronze sculptures and terracotta pieces. Recent archaeological work has uncovered a large Roman amphitheater thought to date to the 1st century AD.
After lunch we transfer to Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in all of Italy and the heart of the Italian Renaissance. By foot we will explore the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including Ponte Vecchio and Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (the Duomo). Overnight for two nights at Boscolo Hotel Astoria, a charming 4-star hotel located in the heart of the historic city. (B/L/D)
The National Archaeological Museum of Florence is housed in the Palazzo della Crocetta. This stunning palace was built in 1620 for princess Maria Maddalena de’ Medici, sister of Cosimo II de’ Medici. The Etruscan collection includes some of the most valuable and unique pieces found throughout Italy. Highlights are the Chimera of Arezzo, the bronze statue of Arringatore, and the funerary statue Mater Matuta. Continue to the 14th century Palazzo Davanti created by joining together a number of tower-houses. It represents the transition between the closed, vertical structure of the medieval tower-house and the more spacious Renaissance palazzo arranged around a central courtyard. Lunch and the afternoon are on our own to explore the cultural and architectural gems of Florence before our farewell dinner at an elegant local restaurant. (B/D)
Transfer to the airport for your flight back home. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.