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Archaeological Sites and Museums in Italy

This page describes the most conspicuous part of Italy's archaeological heritage, as well as some basic information for an immediate reference, and a choice of itineraries and suggested stops divided by regions. An outline of art and culture that testifies the extraordinary richness of history and beauty that has made Italy the ultimate attraction for travelers, artists and students of all times and from all countries.

Prehistoric civilization

Etruria

Magna Grecia

Rome

 Archaeological Sites and Museums by Region:

Aosta Valley

Piedmont

Liguria

Lombardy

Veneto

Toscana

Lazio

Campania

Apulia

Calabria

Sicily

Sardinia

 

Prehistoric civilization           

There has been human settlement in Italy since Paleolithic times, as is demonstrated by numerous discoveries: Balzi Rossi in Ventimiglia, the caves at Toirano, Grotta Guattari at Circeo. Prehistoric art is fairly widespread although it varies considerably in importance, type and age. Among the most ancient objects is the so called Venus of Savignano, dating back to the late Paleolithic period, which was found near Modena and is now held in Rome at the Museo Pigorini.In the provinces of Lecce (Romanelli), Matera (Serra d'Alto), Reggio di Calabria (Roccaforte del Greco), Palermo (Grotta dell'Addaura) and on the Egadi Islands there are many grottoes which contain pictures and graffiti depicting animals, dating back to a period between 14,000 and 9,000 BC. Dolmen and menhir, which are quite common in southern Italy, date back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Among the most important discoveries from the same period are the rock engravings in Val Camonica and the stele-statues in the Lunigiana region. Finally the megalithic monuments of the Nuragic civilization in Sardinia are unique examples of their kind

Etruria          

 

Etruscan civilization developed between the 8th century and the 1st century BC over an area covering Tuscany, Umbria and upper Lazio. Important traces of the presence of this people have also been found in Emilia-Romagna (Marzabotto) and the Po Valley (Bologna, Spina). Etruscan art was the product of individual City-States. Stretches of their megalithic walls often remain (Volterra, Perugia). The necropolises which have been found are evidence of the great importance which the Etruscans attributed to the cult of the dead. Chiusi is famous for multicolored urns, Tarquinia for painted tombs, Cerveteri for monumental tumuli, Palestrina for oriental-style tombs. Discoveries in many tombs include delicate pieces of jewellery, important sculptures in terracotta and bronze, sarcophaguses and superb wall paintings. The most important museums of Etruscan art in Italy are in Volterra, Rome and Tarquinia.

Magna Grecia          

The coastal areas of southern Italy were colonized by people from Greece. Today there is still rich evidence of that civilization, which flourished between the 8th and 5th century BC. Art in Magna Grecia developed along the same lines as in the motherland, although it sometimes had original features. The archaeological sites which remain are among the most important and the most evocative in Europe. Outstanding examples are the great complexes at Agrigento, Syracuse, Paestum and Selinunte, including vast necropolises, theatres and temples, often splendidly preserved (the uncompleted so called Temple of Segesta, Temple E at Selinunte, the Temples of Poseidon and Hera at Paestum and the Temples of Juno and Concordia at Agrigento). There are important remains of sculpture and painted ceramics (Attic vases with black and red figures). The most important collection of discoveries from Magna Grecia is held in the Archaeological Museum in Agrigento.

Rome          

The cultural roots of Italy lie in Roman civilization.
The peninsula is studded with roads, bridges, aqueducts, arches and the remains of baths, forums, amphitheatres and temples. The urban ground-plan of the majority of Italian cities retains the outline of the Roman structure (Bologna, Verona, Florence) and the perpendicular streets of the original military encampments (Turin, Aosta). Roman art, blending and developing Italic, Etruscan and Greek traditions, has left?ts mark on the whole country. In addition to the great remains in the city of Rome itself and its port (Ostia Antica) and the traces which are present almost everywhere (especially in the center and the south of the country but also in the extreme north), the remains of entire cities such as Pompeii and Herculaneum have survived. Here, thanks to their incredible state of preservation, it is possible 'to reach out and touch" the daily life of that time: streets, shops, villas and inscriptions are all present as though crystallized under the ashes from the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

One could mention the House of Menander, the House of the Faun and the Villa dei Misteri at Pompeii and the House of the Bicentenary and that of the Deer in Herculaneum. Roman art covers a long stretch of time and can be divided into periods connected to political events and external influences. One of the characteristic elements of Roman art was the portrait, from Brutus Capitolinus to the various emperors. Roman architecture and sculpture have been admired, studied and imitated for centuries. Mosaics are important but examples of painting are much rarer, for the most part limited to the wall paintings found in Rome and Pompeii. The main museum collections of Roman civilization are in Rome (Museo Capitolino, della Civiltà Romana, dei Conservatori, Nazionale Romano)

Archaeological Sites and Museums by Region:          
Aosta Valley
  Aosta
Arco di Augusto, Porta Pretoria, Teatro e Foro Romani, Museo archeologico regionale
Piedmont          
  Turin
Porta Palatina, Museo dell'Antichità
Vercelli
Museo Leone (rich collection of glass)
Liguria          
  Ventimiglia (Imperia)
Grotta del Balzi Rossi (
prehistoric site)
Luni (La Spezia)
Remains of the Anfiteatro and the Foro romano, Museo Nazionale Lunense
Lombardy          
  Capo di Ponte (Brescia)
Parco Nazionale delle Incisioni Rupestri Museo (collection of prehistoric rock graffiti from Val Camonica)
Milan
Basilica e Colonne di S. Lorenzo, Museo archeologico
Veneto          
  Verona
Arena, Teatro, Porta del Borsari, Arco dei Gavi, Museo archeologico romano, Museo lapidario Maffeiano (
Greek, Etruscan and Roman stone memorials)
Tuscany          
  Volterra (Pisa)
Arco etrusco, Teatro romano, Museo Guarnacci (Etruscan objects)
Latium          
 

Rome
The entire city merits a visit: remains of Roman civilization are found on every corner.
They include: Fori lmperiali, Foro Romano, Foro Palatino, Colonna Traiana, Colonna di Marco Aurelio, Basilica di Massenzio, Arco di Tito, Mercati Traianei, Teatro di Marcello, Colosseo e Arco di Costantino, Terme di Caracalla, Ara Pacis Augustae, Pantheon, Castel Sant'Angelo, Via Appia Antica, Casa di Livia, Tomba di Cecilia Metella, Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia (
collection of Etruscan art), Museo Capitolino, Museo Pio-Clementino (works of sculpture), Museo Nazionale Romano, Museo Preistorico ed Etnografico Pigorini, Museo della Civiltà Romana.
Cerveteri (Rome)
Important Etruscan centre. Necropoli, Museo Nazionale Cerite (furnishings, vases, amphoras, tools and remains from temple)
Ostia (Rome)
Ostia Antica. Much of the ancient settlement can be visited. Of particular interest: the Teatro augusteo, the Terme and the Foro.

Tarquinia (Viterbo)

Important Etruscan settlement; to visit: the Necropolis and the Museo Nazionale Tarquinense
Tuscania (Viterbo)
Excavations have uncovered the remains of Etruscan necropolises. Museo Archeologico

Campania          
  Pompeii - Naples
With Herculaneum, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.
Foro, Basilica, Teatro Grande e Teatro Piccolo, Casa del Menandro, Casa del Fauno, Casa dei Vettii, Villa del Misteri, Terme Stabiane, Antiquarium
Herculaneum - Naples
Casa dell'Atrio a mosaico, Casa Sannitica, Casa di Nettuno e Anfitrite, Casa del Bicentenario, Casa dei Cervi, Casa del rilievo di Telefo, Terme, Palestra
Paestum (Salerno)
Basilica, Foro, Tempio di Cerere, Tempio di Nettuno, Teatro Greco, Anfiteatro Romano, Sacello sotterraneo, Museo (
Prehistoric and Graeco-Roman material)
Apulia          
  Bari and Lecce (Provinces)
Many megalithic remains are to be found in the Salentine provinces and Bari.
Dolmen di Chianca - Bisceglie - Bari, Pulo di Molfetta - Bari, Dolmen di Melendugno - Lecce, Menhir di Giurdignano - Lecce, Grotta Romanelli a Santa Cesarea, Terme - Lecce (
fossils and Palaeolithic handmade objects), Museo Archeologico di Bari, Museo Provinciale di Lecce
Calabria          
  Cassano allo Ionio (Cosenza)
Digs of Sibari, Roman theatre
Crotone
Temple of Capo Colonna
Locri (Reggio Calabria)
Digs of Locri Epizefiri
Reggio Calabria
Remains of the Greek City, Reggio National Museum Of Archaeology (Famous Riace Bronzes)
Roccelletta di Borgia (Squillace, Reggio Calabria)
Archaelogical Park
Vibo Valentia
Digs of Ancient Hipponion
Sicily          
  Agrigento
The splendid Valley of the Temples is one of the best preserved Greek sites.
Tempio di Giove Olimpico, Tempio di Giunone Lacinia, Tempio della Concordia, Tempio di Ercole, Fortificazioni greche, Quartiere ellenistico-romano, Museo Archeologico Regionale
Selinunte (Trapani)
Ruins of the ancient Greek settlement, Acropoli, Templi, Santuario della Malophoros
Syracuse
Tempio di Apollo, Fonte Aretusa, Teatro Greco, Anfiteatro Romano, Latomia del Paradiso, Castello Eurialo, Museo Archeologico (prehistoric and protohistoric Sicily)
Taormina (Messina)
Teatro Greco
Sardinia          
  About 7,000 nuraghi are spread over Sardinia.
Tempio nuragico di Santa Vittoria di Serri - Nuoro, Villaggio nuragico di Serra Onios - Nuoro, Nuraghe Losa di Abbasanta - Oristano, S. Andrea Priu di Bonorva - Sassani, Nuraghe Sant'Antine di Torralba Sassari, Su Nuraxi di Barumini - Cagliari, Museo Archeologico di Cagliani, Museo G.A. Sanna di Sassari, Antiquarium Arborense di Oristano
Tharros (Oristano)
Remains of urban complex, Tempio di Demetra e Kore, Santuario punico, Terme romane
     
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