Thursday, 5 January 2012

Driving to Murlo

New Year is a good time to go down the memory lane and remember the enjoyable summer holiday moments in a sunny landscape. This summer we said fairwell to my father-in-law’s Tuscan house, which was luckily sold in the autumn. However, the few days we could spend in Etruscan Tuscany showed the versatility of Tuscan landscape. On our way to Murlo, a small paese famous among archaeologists, we descended from the peak town of Volterra to the pleasantly undulating landscape around Siena. Further south we encountered the flatter riverine landscape in the south. This route bypassed Siena and we followed the historic Via Cassia towards Murlo.

The only hotel – and especially its bar – in the modern centre of Murlo (Vescovado di Murlo) is heaving in July with archaeologists and students participating in the American excavation project. The project has its headquarters in Borgo di Murlo, the Medieval centre. This small circular ‘citadel’ is not the Etruscan centre; the archaeological excavations take place on the next hill and there is currently little to see. The consecutive relocations of local centre make the understanding of the local landscape more challenging than usually. However, the Borgo has been lovingly renovated and has a very good museum for those interested in the history of tile roofs and elite buildings during the 7th and 6th century BC. This museum is the main reason for archaeologists to come to this town.

Etruscan Murlo is famous for its terracotta statues that once stood on the roof of the main acroteria. The main character is not an Apollo or any recognisable Graeco-Etrusco-Roman god but ‘Il Cowboy’ with its large floppy hat. This area of Tuscany is now more remote and less populated than the core wine making areas and it is burning hot during August so that large hat must have been a local way of protecting from the sun. As far as I know it is considered an original Etruscan artwork but I cannot be without wondering how conveniently an American project managed to found an Etruscan cowboy, visibly placed in its past urban landscape...

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