Top places to see in Blera, the Etruscan medieval village in Viterbo between history and tradition | Bellarome

Top places to see in Blera, the Etruscan medieval village in Viterbo between history and tradition

Blera is an Italian medieval village of 3.223 inhabitants in the province of Viterbo in Lazio. The toponym is well attested in the classical and late ages.

Apparently, the name originates from the Etruscan Plaise-ra, “the (city) of Plaise”, in which Plaise was an Etruscan name in person, attested by the noble Plaisena (Orvietan family, of which three tombs are known, are entirely hypothetical in one of its necropolises).

The most important period of the country is certainly the Etruscan one, in the archaic period (VII-V century BC), when, under the influence of Tarquinia, and then of Cerveteri, it reached that prosperity that is demonstrated by the vast necropolises that surround it. At that time, Blera was at a crossroads of itineraries that connected Cerveteri and Tarquinia to other cities in the interior, such as Norchia, Tuscania, Castel d’Asso, Volsinii (Orvieto), Veio. The importance of Blera continued also during the Roman Republican and Imperial age, when it was crossed by the ancient via Clodia, a consular road that ran through the Tuscia connecting Rome to Cosa. Of this street, in addition to several sections embedded in the tuff, the two bridges remain (of the Devil and of the Rocca), respectively of the first and second centuries BC. In imperial times Blera was elevated to the rank of Town Hall and therefore had its own magistrates. From that period there are several mausoleums and numerous remains of rustic villas scattered in the surrounding countryside. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the decline of the city also began.

With the advent of Romanticism and the revaluation of ancient civilizations, the country was described in several publications on the Etruscans, of which the most famous remains that of George Dennis, The cities and cemeteries of Etruria. In 1914 it was the destination of a German archaeological mission, which published an in-depth study on the city, then at the turn of the fifties and sixties of the last century, the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies, also with the direct participation of the King of Sweden, Gustavo VI Adolfo, began a systematic study that led to the enhancement of the protohistoric and Etruscan villages of San Giovenale and that of Luni sul Mignone.

Blera is still a virgin territory, where wild and luxuriant nature manages to resist human attacks, preserving the rich historical, agricultural and landscape heritage and offering the attentive visitor gifts of immeasurable value.

Let’s start our journey in this typical medieval village!

Civic Museum of Blera

The museum, founded in 1994, is named after the Scandinavian monarch (1882-1973) who, in love with Italy, conducted numerous excavation campaigns as a passionate archaeologist. The museum collection, which includes about 600 exhibits relating to peasant material culture, mainly develops the relationship between man and horse, from prehistory to the present day.

The thematic section “The Horse and the Man” of the Civic Museum of Blera “Gustavo VI Adolfo of Sweden”, inaugurated in 2002, was born from an interdisciplinary collaboration between archaeologists and cultural anthropologists with the aim of documenting, preserving and enhancing a a particular relationship, that between man and horse, which historically characterized the cultural area of ​​the Lazio Maremma. The museographic project does not aim only at the conservation and safeguarding of a cultural heritage, but above all wants to communicate to the visitor usages, customs and involving experiences.

Alongside traditional media such as panels, objects and captions, audiovisuals, dioramas, the diffusion of environmental sounds and direct contact with the historical and cultural reality represented are widely used.

The museum structure is divided into two sectors: one dedicated to the man-horse relationship in prehistory and protohistory; the other, on the lower floor and in the open area, reserved for the modern and contemporary age, which explores the folkloric aspects of the Maremma and the Roman countryside.

Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo and San Vivenzio

The church of Santa Maria Assunta, located in the historic center of Blera, overlooks the square of the same name. It borders buildings on the left side and via degli Eroi on the right side, while it is bordered on the back by a natural cliff.

The body, with three naves with raised transept and apsidal choir, is arranged along the east-west axis. The church is accessed from the three portals located in the east façade and preceded by the raised churchyard of seven steps; only the central portal is followed by a wooden compass. The naves divide two rows of architraved pillars that make up three bays on each side. The lateral naves open as many chapels with a rectangular plan, raised by a step and introduced by architraved openings.

The transept is raised due to the crypt below: it is accessed via a staircase consisting of nine steps that precedes the triumphal arch and which in the center it is interrupted by the staircase that descends to the crypt. Two other steps lead to the transept from the side aisles, which communicate through large architraved openings. The elevated interior is articulated entirely by raised pilasters on pedestals, crowned with festooned Ionic capitals. Above, there is a continuous entablature and at the top an attic marked by pillars. A lunette barrel vault is imposed on this.

Each of the three bays of the side aisles is divided transversely by lintels equal to the longitudinal ones; so that the coverage is resolved by crap times. In the transept, on the axis of the side aisles there are two rectangular chapels (one on each side), also introduced by architraved openings; while, in the head walls of the transept, two doors open which lead to service areas. The transept is also covered by a lunette barrel vault; while the cruise space is concluded by a dome on plumes, pierced by a lantern.

The choir, introduced by a round arch and raised by a step, houses the main altar in the center and wooden stalls on the sides. The door leading to the sacristy opens on the left side wall. At the bottom of the choir, there are the President’s seat and, above, the tabernacle, preceded by a staircase. The room is illuminated by a window on each side and covered by a barrel vault with a lunette, while the apse by a half-shell.

The transept is illuminated by rectangular windows which open into the lunettes of the vault and from the dome lantern. The central nave is illuminated by three windows on each side and one in the counter-facade, while the side aisles are illuminated by a window on each side in the counter-facade. The crypt, with a Latin cross plan, has naves divided by bare columns and is concluded by an apse, in the center of which the altar is located. The whole is covered by cross vaults. The facade is a newsstand with two overlapping orders both with pilasters. All the architectural members are in tuff, while the bottoms are plastered and with a pinkish color. The first order is Tuscan and divides the front, with the central sector wider and slightly jutting out; the second order rises in correspondence with the latter and is synthetic, but characterized by pilasters decorated with reliefs and flared upwards. The two levels are connected by curved sectors, decorated at the end with flaming vases.

The prospect ends with a triangular tympanum. A large rectangular portal delimited by an architraved marble frame and surmounted by a lunette opens in the center; on the sides the secondary portals have frames that end with triangular tympanums. Above these, rectangular windows open; while a large window with a frame on shelves stands out in the upper order. The bell tower is located to the left of the church and detached from it through a parish wing; it has a square plan and ends with a cusp roof.


Very close to the medieval center, there are the Necropolis of Pian del Vescovo and those of Terrone and Casetta, which are placed on opposite sides with respect to that center.

Pian del Vescovo is located in the Vallone del Biedano area.

The tombs of this burial ground range from the seventh to the fifth century BC. . The Necropolis is located on a vast tufaceous promontory at the Ponte della Rocca. (Roman structure in square work) and the ancient VIA CLODIA.

The Necropolis of Pian del Vescovo

It is a typical Rock Necropolis, without monumental tombs: it is made up of dice tombs and chamber tombs with domos. The chronology of the tombs proceeds from the top (VII century BC) to the bottom and therefore the oldest are located on the high plateau and on the edge of the cliff. Of considerable interest the so-called Tomb of the Sphynx, name derived from the monstrous figure that was carved there.

The other two Necropolis very close to Blera are also of interest (Del Terrone and Della Casetta) where there is a jewel of Etruscan funerary architecture: the decorated Penta Cave).

Near Blera, there is the Necropolis of San Giuliano (v. Barbarano Romano) and – a little further north – the suggestive Rupestrian Monumental Necropolis of Norchia (v. Viterbo) and, not far away are Sutri (Rupestrian amphitheater) and the capital Viterbo (Medieval Quarter, Bullicame, Ferentum and Necropolis of Castel d’Asso, Villa Lante in Bagnaia) while towards the Tyrrhenian coast there is the medieval Tarquinia with the Ara della Regina and, above all, the Necropolis of Monterozzi (painted underground tombs) ; on the nearby Lake Bracciano are the remains of the Forum Clodii settlement at the Tenuta di San Liberato (v. Bracciano) and, once you reach the lake, do not miss its picturesque coastal towns, the beautiful Air Force Historical Museum in Vigna di Valle and (in Bracciano) the large Castello Orsini.

Bridge of the Devil

The Bridge of the Devil, a Roman monument, stands at the foot of the town of Blera, immersed in a highly suggestive landscape context. These places, already of ancient Etruscan attendance, are surrounded by many legends that would like them once frequented by monsters who would have lived in the various cavities in the valley.

Dating perhaps from the first century. B.C. (republican age), the bridge, made of volcanic stone, is about 9 meters high and about 90 meters long and consists of a single central block with a round arch. The construction technique used is that of the opus quadratum, which consists in the overlapping of dry stone blocks, without mortar.

Roman evidence is found in the Devil’s bridge, at the bottom of the valley, in the remains of numerous columbariums, sometimes monumental, of columns, walls and ceramics.

Via Clodia connected via Aurelia, which followed the coast, with via Cassia, a parallel which connected with the north via the lakes. It was a route that served both for military purposes and for trade, bringing wealth to the territories in peacetime.

Regional natural park Marturanum

The Marturanum regional park is a protected natural area located in northern Lazio, established with Regional Law 41 of 17 July 1984. It occupies an area of ​​1,240 falling within the territory of the municipality of Barbarano Romano in the province of Viterbo.

The territory was shaped by Vicana volcanic activity, which ignimbritic flows, about 155,000 years ago, deposited the typical ‘black slag red tuff’ on the existing Flysch.

The area is therefore characterized by large tufaceous valleys, covered with dense vegetation, where two main rivers flow: the Biedano River and the Vesca River. As evidence of recent volcanism, there are also mineralized thermal springs, abundant in iron.

In the ravines, along the course of the rivers, there are numerous mammals, including the fox, the wild boar, the badger, the porcupine, the wild cat, the European skunk, the nutria. The presence of water and the scarce human attendance allow the survival of numerous amphibians, among which the rare spectacled salamander. Among the birds there are: the river nightingale, the blackbird, the European sea jay, the common kingfisher and the black stork. In the park, several species of nocturnal and diurnal birds of prey also nest, among all of which are mentioned: the lanner falcon, the biancone, the red kite, the common sparrow hawk, the kestrel and the peregrine falcon. In the central-southern area of ​​the park, characterized by pasture, animals bred in the wild are frequently encountered, such as Maremmana cows and horses.

The Park falls entirely within the Municipality of Barbarano Romano in a hilly area between the Tolfa mountains and the hills surrounding Lake Vico. Thanks to the scarce anthropization and the morphology of the places, it is a partially wild area, and it is exciting to discover the traces of the passage of animals or explore solitary environments cloaked by lush vegetation.