Italy is not only famous for being the cradle of Roman civilization, but countless others that have come before. The whole peninsula and its major islands have played host to the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, and even the Etruscans.
Hence, if you’re thinking that Pompeii is the only remaining ruins of an ancient city in the country, then you better think again. Here are 5 other ancient sites in Italy you may not have heard of:
- City of Nora, Sardinia
Located on the island of Sardinia, Nora is a town with both ancient Roman and pre-Roman roots. It was originally founded as a colony and trading post for a different ancient Mediterranean power: the Phoenicians.
Though abandoned sometime in the 8th century, it was first conquered by the Carthaginians before falling fully into the Ancient Roman sphere of influence. Its history as a trading post of Carthage can be seen in the remains of the Punic Area.
The area’s various tombs are a rich trove of artifacts, with excavators finding ceramics, jewelry, and other ornaments of Latin, Greek, and even African origin. There are also the remains of a Roman forum, and the ancient thermal baths where citizens were free to bathe and socialize.
When Mt. Vesuvius erupted, Pompeii wasn’t the only city destroyed by the volcano’s pyroclastic flows. Due to the sheer power of the explosion, there were several urban centers destroyed. And one of them is located in the commune of Ercolano in Campania, Italy.
Similar to Pompeii, much of the ancient city of Herculaneum was preserved by the pyroclastic material which blanketed the city. However, the city had significantly wealthier citizens, which means its ruins have more finely decorated houses and ornate artifacts. The most famous of these is the Villa of the Papyri, which had one of the few personal libraries to survive from ancient times.
In the villa alone were 80 sculptures in excellent condition, though now housed in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. However, much of the architecture remained intact, with well-preserved frescoes of the highly rare Roman-era classical style.
- Sassi di Matera
The Sassi di Matera are a series of ancient cave dwellings in Matera, Basillicata. Getting their name from the Italian word for “stones,” the Sassi are a series of homes built by carving into prehistoric caves.
These Sassi houses, many of which are simply modified caverns, have been lived in by generations of residents. Some of the “streets” themselves are sometimes the roofs of houses in the lower levels. Though the place was previously known for its poverty, the influx of tourists has improved the lives of residents and spurred efforts to preserve the dwellings.
- Ostia Antica, Rome (Lazio)
Having served as one of Ancient Rome’s first colonies, Ostia Antica was also Rome’s harbor city. The term “Ostia” actually originated from the Latin word for “mouth,” neatly describing Ostia’s place at the mouth of the river Tiber—the lifeblood of Ancient Rome. This made the settlement an important connection to the Mediterranean Sea.
Ostia’s strategic location and proximity to the Eternal City meant that it had an equally vibrant population, and the landmarks to go with it. One of its famous landmarks, the theater, still even hosts modern concert performances. Nearby is the Square of the Guilds, which housed the ancient city’s traders. Some of their old signs are still visible.
- Valle dei Templi, Agrigento (Akragas)
The Valle dei Templi, or Valley of the Temples, is one of the largest archaeological sites in the world at 1,300 hectares. Though located in Agrigento, Sicily, it was originally an Ancient Greek colony known under its old name of Akragas. It features the remains of seven ancient temples of the Doric order.
Its most preserved temple is the Temple of Concordia, which was dedicated to the embodiment of agreement in marriage and society. Although the marble roof no longer remains, the colonnade remains intact.
Other temple ruins include those dedicated to Juno, Heracles (or Hercules), Zeus, Vulcan, and Asclepius. The remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, though consisting of only four columns, has become the symbol of modern Agrigento.
Italy is filled with historical and cultural sites beyond what you may have already heard of. If you want to experience Italy’s rich cultural heritage yourself, don’t hesitate to contact us now!