Day trip in Tuscany: Etruscan tombs and wine tasting
There is much to see and enjoy in Tuscany, as you are probably well aware. Last time we were there, we visited the main sites – Florence, Siena, San Gimigniano – and we did not get to see any Etrucscan heritage. To me, the Etruscan sites are a typical interest for a second visit to the Tuscan region. And since have enjoyed our second family vacation to Italy this summer, I prepared some day trips in advance. Our visit to the off-the-beaten-track towns of Montepulciano and Chiusi was a great success.
Morning tour of Chiusi
Something I have learned from previous trips with our children, is that you start the day with an activity that appeals to them (rather than just to adults). This is why your ‘Etruscan’ day trip should start with hunting for Etruscan adventures in Chiusi. And because wine tasting in Montepulciano is something best enjoyed in the late afternoon, but let’s keep that a secret between you and me.
Chiusi offers both underground walking tours and colourful Etruscan tombs. If you would like to educate your children about the ancient Etruscan culture before leaving for Chiusi, I would suggest the book Vulca the Etruscan. As much as we know about ancient Romans, as little we still know about the Etruscan era. My children loved the mystery around these people from ‘a long time ago’. I tried to enthuse our oldest to learn to write his name in Etruscan, but no luck there. He was more interested in the story about how people are still looking for King Lars Porsena’s tomb in Chiusi which supposedly holds an enormous treasure… Which we tried to find, obviously.
Chiusi’s Etruscan labyrinth
Chiusi was founded over 4000 years ago. Somehow, it has not been discovered by the tourist crowds and therefore it is a perfect destinations for a day trip with children. There are several attractions that will appeal to kids. Both can only be visited with a guided tour, which are only offered in the morning and in the late afternoon.
Most children will be excited to visit the Museo Civico with 140 metres of underground passageways filled with sarcophagi and Etruscan tombstones. We skipped that one and chose for the tour through the underground Porsena’s Labyrinth at the Museo della Cattedrale. This drainage system was built by the Etruscans in 500-600 BC and rumour has it that Porsena’s tomb was located here. We received an English-language leaflet on the labyrinth to prepare us for the tour in Italian. Our Italian guide explained which route we were going to take underground. And off we went … If you are on the claustrophobic side, you might want to skip this one. For this underground labyrinth is rather narrow, at least it is for northern-European sized adults.
Actually, there is not much to see down there. It is, however, quite impressive to see that Etruscans built this drainage system thousands of years ago. The children loved the underground narrow passageways more than we did. It is cold, dark, mysterious and the odd chance of stumbling upon a lost treasure! They used the flashlight of my mobile phone to look for signs of Porsena’s tomb when we stopped for an explanation in Italian.
At the end of the tour – we did not find the treasure … – you find yourselves at the bottom of the belltower. If you are both claustrophobic and afraid of heights, you can exit here. If you love the challenge of climbing twelve sets of stairs to the top? You can and should.
Afternoon of wine tasting in Montepulciano
“Of the many enotecas in Montepulciano, two are particularly suitable for visiting with children. The first one, Contucci Cantina, has great wines and a dramatic cellar, and the second one, La Citta’ Sotteranea, is not just an enoteca but also a mini-museum that kids will love.” – travel guide book Florence & Tuscany with kids (2013), page 345
From Chiusi it is only a 30 minute drive to Montepulciano. And if you would like to taste some vino nobile, the famour red wine – and yes, why not – one has to go to Montepulciano. And you know the drill: take some snacks, some colouring books and a fully-charged iPad and give yourself and your partner some free time to enjoy a wine tasting. Montepulciano is a much larger town than Chiusi and more touristy as well. Wine tasting opportunities are everywhere and tourist traps are around every corner.
When traveling with children, sometimes you deliberately choose a more touristy setting. I was prepared for a tourist attraction after reading the description of the win-win enoteca, La Citta’ Sotteranea which combines wine tasting with Etruscan tombs, medieval weapons and tools. But actually, this underground (sotteranea) was a true find. You can roam around an underground route with wine casks around every corner, some twice your size. Well yes, we bought the wine we tasted at the end of this visit to the cellar. But their Brunello wine actually is rather tasty.
This day trip turned out to be one of the highlights of our holiday in Tuscany. The combination of the adventurous underground Etruscan aquaduct and the wine cellar labyrinth made this a top attraction for our children.
Travel guide Florence and Tuscany with kids
The idea for this day trip to Chiusi and Montepulciano is from the travel guide book Florence & Tuscany with kids. In this extensive guide on well-known attractions and lesser known destinations, you can find both itineraries, information and children’s games.
Updated in August 2014