Take the Ancient Roads Less Traveled in Tuscany

Etruscan RoadThere is already so much to see and do in Tuscany, it might challenging to fit in just one more thing – although not so challenging as fitting in one more mouthful. But time permitting, you must really walk the ways of the ancients. Among the most ancient Tuscans were the Etruscans, and it is their roads you seek.

These early men were engineers before their time and used their skills to carve roadways through areas with challenging terrain. More than fifty of these roads are still as they were left thousands of years ago. You can find them in the area between Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana.

To visit an ancient mountain road, drive along a more modern road in the region keeping an eye out for small hand-lettered signs reading, “via cava.” These signs will be the start of a trail leading through the leafy Tuscan forest to a sight many still do not realize is available to them.

The Etruscan roads are not long paths of gravel or stone. Instead they are deep crevices cut between two sheer faces of rock, sometimes thirty feet high. The road you discover is likely hidden from view by the leafy greenery of the forest until you are suddenly upon it. The ground drops away and you will be standing on a path possibly no more than a yard wide with soaring, smooth faced rocks on either side.

These narrow confines protected the ancient people from enemies by keeping them hidden on their travels. The road is likely a few hundred feet long and the journey will leave you in awe of the abilities and determination of our ancestors.

Not only are the roads carved into rock, they are also peppered with spouts to collect rainwater. The water would be used elsewhere, and the ingenuity is easy to appreciate. The roads also have a series of steps to bring you up out of the deep confines before the end of the road to help keep you safe should you be an Estruscan.

Many tour books don’t yet include the ancient roads, but the locals can always tell you where to find the closest road. With more than fifty roads in a relatively small area, you’ll be sure to find one. And the amazing experience will take you back thousands of years.