museums to discover the Etruscans by Giovanna Forlanelli

15 September 2023
Written by Giovanna Forlanelli

Giovanna Forlanelli is the President of the esteemed Luigi Rovati Foundation in Milan, a new vanguard institution dedicated to fostering a harmonious discourse between antiquity – particularly the enigmatic Etruscan legacy – and the contemporary artistic realm. Forlanelli invites us to embark on a voyage across Italy to explore and understand art, culture and traditions of the Etruscan people, and their influence on modern artistry. A sojourn which traverses the expanse of Italy, culminating in the hallowed precincts of privately-held Palazzi, bequeathing magnificent collections unveiled for the public eye.

Giovanna Forlanelli
Entrance to Ipogeo Floor by Giovanni de Sandre. Courtesy Luigi Fondazione Rovati


MAEC, Cortona, arezzo

Our inaugural destination beckons with a compelling allure: the MAEC, a hallowed haven known as the Museum of the Etruscan Academy in Cortona, Tuscany. Here, an assembly of venerable Etruscan artifacts takes center stage, including the awe-inspiring 16-armed bronze chandelier, a singular marvel showcased this year within the sanctum of our Foundation. The MAEC’s resplendent tapestry further encompasses an Egyptian enclave, a treasure trove of historical manuscripts, and the newly unveiled galleries devoted to Gino Severini, a celebration of his artistic sanctum. Commemorating Luca Signorelli’s quincentennial passing, a commemorative exposition unfurls within the MAEC’s walls (through Oct. 8), featuring masterworks from illustrious Italian and international galleries. WEBSITE

Ancient entrance at MAEC with globes


Antiquarium di Poggio Civitate Museo Archeologico, Murlo, Siena

Directing our gaze from Cortona’s elevated perch towards the Tyrrhenian Sea, we find ourselves immersed within the Antiquarium di Poggio Archaeological Museum, ensconced within the venerable Palazzo Vescovile of Murlo. This sanctuary safeguards relics from the pivotal Poggio Aguzzo and Poggio Civitate sites, paramount Etruscan settlements bridging the coastal and hinterland cities. Insights into Etruscan abodes emerge as a focal point of inquiry. Dominating the museum’s emblematic realm is the “Cappellone,” a terracotta masterpiece hailing from the 6th century B.C.E., an effigy portraying a bearded figure donning an ample headdress. WEBSITE

Antiquarium di Poggio Civitate Museo Archeologico, Murlo, Siena.


Museo Etrusco Guarnacci, Volterra, pisa

Venturing northwards, the charming enclave of Volterra opens its heart to us, revealing the opulent Guarnacci Museum. This repository, birthed by the munificent donation of Monsignor Mario Guarnacci, encompasses a trove of inestimable riches, with the Evening Shadow sculpture, a delicate votive bronze that kindled Alberto Giacometti’s sculptural oeuvre, reigning as its centerpiece. The Stele of Avile Tite, the Urn of the Bride and Groom, and the venerable Lorenzini Head, Verona’s oldest marble effigy, further grace this distinguished collection. WEBSITE

Courtesy of Museo Etrusco Guarnacci


Parco naturalistico archeologico, Vulci, Viterbo

Southward we press, converging upon the Vulci Archaeological Nature Park, an idyllic expanse that beckons with its trekking trails, inviting exploration amidst the splendors of the Maremma Laziale domain. A majestic panorama of ancient ruins unfurls, whispering tales of bygone glory: city walls, imposing gates, the stately Roman aqueduct, an expansive forum, a regal temple, sumptuous baths, and resplendent “domus” residences. The Necropolis, an enduring tribute to divergent burial customs, unveils its mystique, crowned by the monumental Cuccumella tumulus, Etruria’s grandest sepulcher. Nearby, the famed François tomb stands as a luminous testament, fusing Greek mythos with the annals of local heroism, notably the Etruscans’ valiant triumph over Roman forces. WEBSITE


Museo Etrusco, Chianciano Terme, Siena

Continuing our journey towards the southern realms, we arrive at the enchanting embrace of Chianciano Terme, where the Civic Archaeological Museum of Waters is poised. Renowned for its assemblage of Etruscan canopic vessels, funerary urns fashioned from clay and bronze, crowned by lids that mirror human visages, this treasury hails as a testament to the grandeur and prosperity of Etruscan civilization. Anticipate forthcoming galleries to house these vestiges, ushering us deeper into this captivating narrative. WEBSITE

Credits Museo Chianciano


Museo archeologico nazionale, Tarquinia, Viterbo

Our trajectory retraces, leading us once again towards the Tyrrhenian shores, where Tarquinia beckons with its National Archaeological Museum. Nestled within lies the Monterozzi Necropolis, famed for its illustrious Painted Tombs. Across three tiers, the splendid tapestry of Etruscan existence unfurls, tracing its evolution through epochs, interlacing sarcophagi, ceramics, resplendent jewelry, and an array of artifacts culled from the necropolis. Emblematic of this trove are the tumulus tombs bedecked with frescoes, illuminating Etruscan rituals and traditions. Many of these frescoes, meticulously detached from their sepulchers, are meticulously preserved within the museum’s hallowed halls. WEBSITE


Palazzo Butera, Palermo

Our sojourn forges ahead, drawing us to Palermo’s Kalsa district, where Palazzo Butera stands resplendent, a testament to the indomitable spirit of Massimo and Francesca Valsecchi. Resurrected through painstaking restoration, this palace has evolved into a bustling epicentre, a cultural crucible where history, knowledge, and artistic ingenuity coalesce, catalysing societal transformation. Within its storied chambers, an eclectic array unfurls: ancient masterpieces, contemporary marvels, porcelain finery, and English furniture, all harmonising within a symphony of equilibrium. WEBSITE

By Ermasfilms Courtesy of Palazzo Buttera


Etru, Museo Nazionale Etrusco, Roma

Our voyage reaches its crescendo in Rome, drawing us to the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, ensconced within the opulent embrace of Villa Poniatowski. A veritable sanctuary of cultural heritage, it cradles the iconic Sarcophagus of the Bride and Groom, a cherished emblem of Etruscan lore. Within these hallowed precincts, an effulgent panorama materializes: the resplendent Apollo, the golden Pyrgi foils, and esteemed private collections including the Barberini, Pesciotti and Castellani treasures. Amidst verdant gardens, a life-sized replica of the venerable Temple of Alatri stands resolute. Soon, Villa Giulia shall play host to the Spina Etrusca exposition, a beacon of splendor currently unfurling within the National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara, commemorating a century since the discovery of the Etruscan city, a linchpin of Adriatic trade. A selection of Spina’s artifacts, showcased last March at the Luigi Rovati Foundation, casts a luminous prelude to this grand celebration. Nestled within Villa Giulia’s precincts, the Nymphaeum serves as the regal abode of the Strega Literary Prize. WEBSITE


Palazzo Maffei, Verona

Keeping the house-museum vibe alive and kicking, we’re heading uptown to Verona. Palazzo Maffei’s rolling out the red carpet, ready to treat us to a historical journey spanning over two thousand years. This joint effortlessly straddles the worlds of yesterday and today, all packed into a 1600s-era architectural masterpiece. Inside, they’re going for the perfect medley – think paintings, drawings, sculptures, objets d’art, plus a sprinkle of Oriental flair and a dash of rare manuscripts. And they’re doing it all in style, set against the backdrop of ornate stucco and classic tapestries. Now, the 20th century takes center stage, revealing a smorgasbord of avant-garde vibes, from Futurism to Metaphysical art. The lineup? Oh, just some big shots like Picasso, Modigliani, Magritte, de Chirico, Ernst, Duchamp, and the rest of the heavy hitters from the last century. WEBSITE

Courtesy of Palazzo Maffei


Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venezia

Now, let’s talk passion for art and the whole collecting game. If that combo is your jam, then our picture-perfect adventure ends in Venice. We’re talking about Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, sitting beautifully along the Grand Canal. Once upon a time, it was Peggy Guggenheim’s pad. Fast-forward to today, and it’s the epicenter of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. We’re talking prime real estate for 20th-century European and American art. And the art-viewing frenzy doesn’t stop there. Let your gaze dance from Max Ernst’s “The Kiss” to “The Dressing of the Bride,” and then just keep the momentum going, hopping across the visionary galaxies of Magritte, Pollock, Braques, Dali, Picasso, Boccioni, Kandinsky, Mirò, Duchamp, and Klee. But wait, there’s more! Our whirlwind journey culminates at the Schulhof Collection, a treasure trove boasting the likes of Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Anish Kapoor, Alberto Burri, Jasper Johns, and Mark Rothko. It’s a finale that hits all the right notes, art aficionados, so don’t miss out. WEBSITE

© Edmondo Bacci. L’energia della luce, 1 aprile–18 settembre 2023. Collezione Peggy Guggenheim. Photo Matteo De Fina

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