Borgo, Borghi & Necropoli

We’re still hitting random villages in the Tarquina/Tuscana/Viterbo area. A couple of days ago we drove up to Vitorchiano – a hilltop borgo (village) just off a main highway near Viterbo. It’s very characteristic of the borgo in this area – narrow, winding streets, houses perched at the edge of steep cliffs of volcanic tufo.


It was a bit more touristy than some of the others we visited – likely due to the proximity to a major city and highway.

We climbed a tower thinking that it was the tower that housed an ancient clock and we’d be able to see the mechanics of the clock. At the top there was no clock. We climbed the wrong tower.


The view was worth it though. One can see views like this throughout much of Italy.

In the borghi that we’ve seen so far, the buildings are often incorporated into the tufo (rock) such that a building might have only a partial first floor – the remainder being tufo. In many cases the buildings appear to be perched precariously, about to topple off the cliffs. Apparently they don’t though. They’ve been there a long time.


The ancient path into the hill cities in this area are typically steep,winding, and cut into the cliff side – presumably to make it easier to defend the ones borgo when one had a spat with its neighbor(s).

We also drove to the borgo of Blera and nearby Villa San Giovanni in Tusca to check out more Etruscan tombs. The Necropoli di Pian del Vescovo near Blera is a site where Etruscan tombs were carved into a hillside, followed by Roman tombs centuries later.

Near Villa San Giovanni in Tusca were elaborate Etruscan tombs carved into the side of a cliff, including one with two rooms.

There are many Etruscan necropoli (cemetaries) and tombs in this area.

While wandering around in these old cities, one of the weird things I do is try to figure out how the infrastructure that makes a modern city possible is retrofitted into streets and buildings that are a thousand or three years old. What I’ve observed is that plumbing, sewers and electrical service are buried under the streets. The cobblestones are removed and replaced when work is needed, leaving little trace of the underground infrastructure. Utilities are either run up the outside of buildings or buried into the masonry walls and covered with stucco. Access to plumbing and electrical service entrances is via panels incorporated into the building masonry.


Must be expensive to install and repair.






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