The origin of the town dates back the beginning of the Etruscan period, along the second half of the VIII century B.C. It was founded on the hill to the south-east part of the medieval village, called “Civita”, a populated area which ancient name is unknown. Nowdays, all that remains of the Etruscan town are a few faint traces, while are numerous and important the monumental funeraries structures carved with skillness in the tufa and the rich materials discovered in the sorrounding necropolises (Vigna la Piazza, Centocamere, Pianezze) which are exhibited in the Civita Museum. The ancient settlement survived untill the arrival of the Longobardi in the VII century, when was devastated and its survived inhabitants were forced to find shelter in other safer and more defensible areas. In 1537, the Pope established the Ducato di Castro granted to Farnese family, including Grotte . Under this Ducato, the town lived a period of peace and prosperity. There were built Palazzo Ducale, the Palazzo Innocenzo Iuzzi and the Basilica Sanctuary SS. Maria del Suffragio. To build the Palazzo Comunale, today seat of the Civita Museum was called the famous architect Vignola. With the end of the Ducato di Castro in 1649, Grotte passed definitively to the power of the Church, and in 1870 the town became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
OPENING HOURS MUSEUM AND NECROPOLIS OF PIANEZZE AND CENTOCAMERE
Friday 10.30 am-1 pm
Saturday 10.30 am -1 pm /3 pm-5 pm
Sunday 10.30 am-1 pm
From wednesday to sunday: 10.30 am -1 pm /3.30 pm-6 pm
Address: Piazza G. Matteotti, 01025 Grotte di Castro (VT)
The necropolis of 'Centocamere' (Casale Centocamere) owes its evocative name to the presence of numerous tombs connected by an intricate system of holes and tunnels, opened in the walls of the burial chambers by illegal diggers to pass easier from one to the other burial structure.
The entire hill of Centocamere has a total of more than fifty tombs with multiple depositions, mainly along an axis perpendicular to the entrance.
The most impressive tomb unearthed so far (CC4) is sixteen metres long and comprises five coaxial chambres and three lateral chambers.
NECROPOLIS OF VIGNA LA PIAZZA
Dates between the end of the VIII and the beginning of the VII century B.C., the sector B of the necropolis is characterised by the presence of individual burials, often inserted in a central position within a circle of dry stones walling.
The deceased was laid supine in direct contact with the ground, but in some cases the presence of a wooden sarcophagus is attested.
In sector A of the necropolis, there are chamber tombs from the middle of the VII and VI centuries BC. Among them, the tombs VLP 7 and VLP 31 are of particular importance, whose finds can be admired in the Civita Museum.
NECROPOLIS OF PIANEZZE
The necropolis of Pianezze, in use between the VII and VI centuries B.C.,is characterised by chamber tombs excavated in the western slope of the tuffaceous ridge of the hill and arranged in at least four orders.
The tombs are an atrium type, from where three rooms in the Ceretan tradition are overlooked. This plan, with other features, such as the double-sloping ceiling and the presence of architectural elements carved in the tufa, seem to reproduce the house of the living into the world of the dead. A more realistic example of this transposition is evident in the tomb P2, in which the roof frame is meticulously reproduced in red colour and the pillar of the back wall is sculpted in relief and fully painted.
The structure consists of a long open corridor leading to the tapered front door with recesses for the closing slabs. This is followed by a covered corridor that gradually widens inwards and leads to the atrium, overlooked by the burial chambers. Next to these more elaborate structures there are also single-chamber tombs.
BASILICA SANCTUARY OF MARIA S.S. DEL SUFFRAGIO
On the ruins of the ancient Pieve, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, dating back to the VIII century, rises the current Basilica, built in 1625 by the architect Girolamo Rainaldi and completed in 1672 by Andrea Selvi. In the Basilica there are works by the “School of Guido Reni” and the “School of Pietro da Cortona” as well as the painter and sculptor Luigi Fontana.
We find then set in a majestic gilded wooden base, a precious and venereted wooden statue of the Madonna del Suffragio, dating back to the beginning of the XVII century by the sculptor Bartolomeo De Zettis.
ANTIQUARIUM OF THE BASILICA OF MARIA SS. DEL SUFFRAGIO
The Sacristy leads to the antiquarium of the Basilica, which houses a collection of sacred art works and treasures, as well as Etruscan and prehistoric remains. Among the objects of sacred art, are worthy of note the reliquary of the Holy Cross, donated, according to the tradition, to the church, by Pope Pius II in 1462, numerous ex-voto and the remains of a young woman who lived at the end of the XVII century.
CHURCH OF SAINT PIETRO APOSTOLO
At the highest point of the historic centre of Grotte di Castro stands the church of St. Peter the Apostle. The original construction dates back to the XII century, when, it was consacrated by the Bishop of Orvieto Guglielmo, in 1118. Of the original appearance of the church remains today only the Romanesque bell tower. The interior, houses works of great value such as San Paolo preaching in Athens by Fontana and the venerated XVI century statue of Madonna of the Assumption.