Discover Etruscan art through the artifacts from 5 Etruscan museums

If the travelers in Italy who are familiar with the Etruscan civilization are few, even fewer are the ones who know something about Etruscan art. The responsibility of this and a mirroring situation are found in Italy. Too little time is dedicated to Etruscan history in school; dozens of Etruscan archaeological sites are semi-abandoned in the Italian countryside; lack of State funds destined to new archaeological research. Despite the popularity of the Roman civilization, the number of Etruscan artifacts in the Etruscan museums of Italy is astonishing. The discovery of Etruscan art will enthrall the lover of hidden gems and mysterious things.

Etruscan artifacts bronze statuette
Bronze statuette from SARDINIA| Etruscan Museum in Rome


The Etruscans are the first highly-developed civilization of Italy. They extended their political and cultural influence from today’s Campania (the region with Naples) to the Emilia Romagna (the region with Bologna, which was founded by the Etruscans.) Their power was at its height from the 10th to the 4th century BC.
Bolsena, a town located on the shore of Lake Bolsena was the center of the Etruscan confederation of 12 cities ruled by 12 kings.
Etruscan writing is not yet completely deciphered. The Romans called the Etruscans “Tusci“, while the Greeks called them “Thyrrenians”. The name of the Tyrrhenian Sea and of Tuscany, the most famous region in Italy, derived from the Etruscan people. Etruscan were the last three kings of the monarchy period in Rome, of the Tarquini dynasty.
The Romans took a lot from the Etruscans on a cultural, technical, and religious level.
One of the monuments of Rome, the Cloaca Maxima, the largest water collector in Rome, still working today, was realized by an Etruscan king.
These people were also experts in working bronze and stone. Etruscan art is remarkable: paintings, sculptures, ceramics. Countless Etruscan artifacts have reached us.

Etruscan art museum in Viterbo
Low relief decorating an acroterium | Etruscan art museum in Viterbo


The best known Etruscan museum is the Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia in Rome. In there, you can admire the Sarcophagus of the Bridegrooms and other artifacts from the Etruscan Necropolis of Banditaccia in Cerveteri, which is the largest necropolis in Europe.
There are many other Etruscan museums in central Italy, at least one for all the cities that had an important Etruscan influence.
The most remarkable Etruscan museums are:
– Museo Nazionale Etrusco in Viterbo
– Museo Archeologico di Vulci in the Badia Castle, northern Lazio
– Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Tarquinia, a small coastal town north of Rome.
If you have a true interest in Etruscan art, you must absolutely visit these three places.
Collections of Etruscan artifacts can also be found at the Archaeological Museum in Naples and Florence.
Surely you don’t need to visit the Museo Etrusco Gregoriano inside Vatican City to admire the best of Etruscan art. I’ve just recalled a few of the Etruscan museums of Italy.
You will find Etruscan artifacts in the museums of Pitigliano, a scenic village in southern Tuscany, and in the village of Trevignano Romano on Lake Bracciano, north of Rome.


The best way to learn about Etruscan art is to observe the exquisite artifacts recovered from the countless necropolises in central Italy, which are now preserved in museums.
The Etruscan artifacts found include sculpted sarcophagi, bronze and painted terracotta vases, bronze furnishings, gold, and crystal jewelry. Numerous objects imported from Greece and Egypt are also on display in Etruscan museums, as the Etruscans were admirers of these civilizations, and certainly cousins, as has been found in recent archaeological discoveries in the Aegean Sea.


Etruscan sarcophagi

All we know about the Etruscans, we learned it from their tombs, because there’s not much left of their cities, besides fundaments and place names. The Etruscan necropolises have kept a consistent amount of sarcophagi in terracotta or stone. The nobles were represented on the lids, as they were laying on a triclinium on a common day. The sides were decorated with human figures, winged beings, and marine beings.

Etruscan art stone sarcophagus Tarquinia museum
Stone sarcophagus with dame and tritone | Etruscan art in Tarquinia
Etruscan sarcophagus with man holding a scroll
Man with cap holding a scroll | Etruscan art in the Museum of Tarquinia
Etruscan sarcophagus particular decoration dolphins
Decoration with dolphins on a sarcophagus in the Museum of Viterbo | Etruscan art
Etruscan sarcophagus in the Etruscan Museum of Viterbo
Etruscan Museum of Viterbo, courtyard
decoration on an Etruscan sarcophagus
Charon leading the deceased | Etruscan art
Etruscan artifacts burial art urn
Urn | Etruscan Museum of Tarquinia | Etruscan artifacts
relief on an Etruscan sarcophagus
Etruscan Museum of Viterbo


Etruscan artifacts: pottery

The most ancient type of Etruscan pottery was decorated with geometrical shapes. It then evolved into human, animal, and fantastic figures. It was inspired by Greek pottery art.

Etruscan painting pottery
Curious decoration resembling a robotic entity
Etruscan pottery
Etruscan pottery | Museum of Vulci




Etruscan artifact representing a man riding a marine being
Man riding a marine being | Etruscan Museum of Rome
particular from an Etruscan temple's acroterium
Particular from a temple’s acroterium | Etruscan museum of Viterbo
Etruscan decoration of an acroterium representing a banquet
Decoratio of an acroterium representing a banquet | Etruscan art museum in Viterbo
Etruscan artifact mold
Mold with the face of a deity emerging from a shell
Etruscan artifacts
Uteruses | Etruscan Museum of Vulci
Etruscan throne at the Etruscan Museum of Bolsena
The Throne of the Panthers | Etruscan art museum in Bolsena



We know Etruscan painting through the wall paintings of the Tomb of the Lioness in the necropolis of Tarquinia and the Tomb of the Diver in the necropolis of Paestum. The paintings depict convivial scenes, dances, women in procession, men lying on triclinia, playing music, and banqueting. The figures express lightheartedness, serenity. Bodies are depicted from the side, the movement expressed through the representation of arms and legs as in Egyptian art.
In the “Tomb of the Diver” is portrayed as a man in the act of diving from a trampoline. That particular painting has been interpreted as the passage of the deceased into the afterlife.


When you get a ticket for an Etruscan museum, sometimes it includes a visit to the annexed necropolis, like for the museum in the Badia Castle in Vulci, Tarquinia, and for the Necropolis of Cerveteri. Etruscan archeological sites abound in central and northern Italy, you’ll need quite some time to explore them all. If you stick to the ones I’ve recommended, you will be satisfied.


If you’re really into the Etruscans, besides museums, set aside a couple of days to visit the Archeological Park of Tuff in Southern Tuscany.

I’m sure you appreciate this photo gallery about Etruscan art and artifacts and all the tips on the best Etruscan museum around. If you might have any questions, do get in touch!



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