Long ago, the esteemed poet, Vincenzo Cardarelli defined the Civita as “…a mystery embedded in nature and the surrounding landscape with a grand intriguing urban plan, engineered by the religious and political fantasy of the Etruscans…” (Villa Tarantola, 1948).
Walking along the plateau of the Civita while catching a glimpse of the Tyrrhenian Sea between the rolling hills, you find yourself catapulted back in time to one of the most famous Etruscan cities. Speaking of which, there are ancient literary sources which tell the legend of Tarconte, the city’s founder. One day, while plowing his fields, he caught sight of Tagete, a divine being who appeared to be a child, but with the face of an old man. Tagete revealed the divine laws to Tarconte, known as the Etruscan Disciplines, which became the foundation of the Etruscan religion. Thus, the Etruscan city became renowned throughout the lands for the prominent role it played both culturally and religiously.
Titus Livy defined the Etruscans as the “most religious amongst men” (Liv. V, I, 6). The Civita of Tarquinia is situated on two plateaus united by a narrow isthmus where archaeological excavations have been underway since the 18th century. During the first half of the century, the archaeologist Pietro Romanelli brought the profile of the Etruscan city to light, discovering traces of the original wall which surrounded the city uniting the “Pian della Regina” where the majestic sanctuary, “Ara della Regina” rested, with the eastern flatland that now conserves the remains of domestic dwellings.
Lying at the junction between the two plains, on the side which faces inward, the original gate was discovered and even today bears the same name as then, “Porta Romanelli”. In 1982, the Department of Archaeological Studies at the University of Milan began excavations on the eastern plain unearthing the Monumental Complex – the most ancient sacred Etruscan area discovered to date, as well as the oldest portion of the sanctuary of the “Ara della Regina”. In recent years more in-depth studies have begun on the surrounding wall thanks to funding from the Superintendence for Southern Etruria’s Archaeological Heritage in collaboration with the University of Milan.