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The Etruscans and the Happy Hour

by | Hidden gems of Rome, Roman Food | 0 comments

A taste of Etruscan art followed by a beautiful aperitivo location

Today we are going to combine some moments of exploration, with a happy hour in the end!

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The courtyard of Villa Giulia

Where can we find the Etruscans in Rome?

We are in the vicinity of Villa Borghese in Rome, in the famous National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia. This museum hosts the most important collection of Etruscan artifacts in the world!

All of this in this stunning location, a 1500s palace built by Pope Julius III. So it’s like a marvel inside another marvel, a lasagna of history and beauty.

This is what Rome is all about!


Michelangelo, among other artists, contributed to the project of this Villa. It is the most typical Renaissance villa, with beautiful gardens, spectacular staircases, nympheums and fountains.

The hemicycle (the circular portico) is decorated with wall paintings, inspired by the paintings of the Domus Aurea, the luxurious villa of the emperor Nero.

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The hemicycle frescoes, inspired by the Domus Aurea paintings

Pope Julius III built Villa Giulia to be his residential palace. That’s where its name “Giulia” comes from. After a period of abandonment, in 1889 it became the location of the National Etruscan Museum.


Villa Giulia has been a movie set for The Great Beauty, Sin and the TV series Medici: Masters of Florence. And it is also used for events, which can be booked through the website of the museum. Certainly a special location to choose!

But who were the Etruscans?

The Etruscans were the most ancient civilization of the Italian peninsula. Their most successful period was between the 7th and 5th century BC. This is when they extended between the north-central area of Italy and the area of Naples. The Etruscans also ruled Rome for some time.

The most important Etruscan cities were located north of Rome: Tarquinia, Cerveteri, Vulci. This is where today you can visit the ancient Etruscan Necropolis and their impressive tumuli tombs!


The concept of the tumuli tombs is very similar to the Egyptian pyramids. But instead of a pyramidal shape on top of the burial chamber, you would have a huge mound of earth, like a small hill.

Here in Villa Giulia you can find two of those tombs which were moved here for preservation. And the effect as you enter them is just breathtaking!
Most of the pieces of this museum came from the Etruscan necropolis, the tombs. They were the grave goods that would accompany the deceased to the underworld and his next life. So they were objects of everyday life.


When you look at these objects you might think of them as a boring list of archaeological stuff. But actually these pieces all tell us something, they talk to us about the everyday life of our ancestors.

For example, imagine you were invited to a banquet by an Etruscan family. You would get into their house, into the dining room. What you would see is the dining table, with a big symposium vase in the middle, which is a vase where wine was mixed with water. Yes, because wine at the time was so strong that could not be drank on its own!


You will also find objects which belonged to women. The beauty tools, mirrors, perfume bottles, combs.. Imagine how many times an Etruscan woman must have used these tools for special occasions, or for those bad hair days where everything just goes wrong!

So then you start realizing this is more than just a collection of static objects. They represent the emotions, the feelings that those people lived.. just like YOU and ME.


Etruscans took a lot from the Greeks, starting from the vases in this museum, which are all Greek, made in Athens and brought to Etruria. But also habits were imported from the Greeks, such as banquets and symposiums, the pleasures of life, the love of life.


But the Etruscans brought these to the next level

Their banquets were lush, women would dress up so much and show off super precious jewels (which you can see in this museum). And the Greeks though, criticized Etruscan women because they would sit together with men, something that Greeks would never do. They were closer to us, sitting around together, men and women, and enjoying the moment.

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The Sarcophagus of the Spouses

The most famous Etruscan archaeological find in the world is the Sarcophagus of the Spouses.

It represents a woman and a man laying down a kline, a bed used for the banquets.

We don’t know exactly what relationship connected them, but it is very likely that they were wife and husband, peacefully enjoying the banquet with their guests.

One of the most fascinating features of the Spouses is their smile. We know that is not a real smile, because Etruscans depicted almost every figure with this expression, so it’s more a stylistic feature. But still, their expression transmits to us their serenity and enjoyment. We like to imagine this was a picture of them, while they were looking at their friends during their banquet, really enjoying their company.


This sarcophagus was found in 400 fragments! So imagine the patient work archaeologists had to do to put all of this together!


But now why don’t we put into practice what we learned from the Etruscan banquets and switch from exploration mode to our happy hour moment? 🙂


Walking distance from Villa Giulia, we head down to the Satyrus Temporary Bar.

This lounge bar is located in a stunning location, at the beginning of Villa Borghese, one of the biggest parks of Rome, facing the beautiful Modern Art National Gallery. It’s an outdoor lounge bar, therefore it’s perfect for an aperitivo just before sunset time, to enjoy the transition from daylight until the colorful light bulbs turn on and give the place a magical atmosphere.

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Aperitivo time!

Here you can have any drink, but if you want to do things the Italian way, your drink is Spritz!

What is Spritz?

Spritz is a mix of Aperol or Campari (you choose the one you prefer) with prosecco, soda, orange and ice. That is the drink we drink in Italy roughly between 6pm and 9pm.

That is the time frame in which we usually do the aperitivo, a pre-dinner drink accompanied by snacks.

The snacks are usually included in the drink price and, depending from the bar, can vary from a small tiny cup of crisps, to dishes of pasta and pizza. In that case aperitivo becomes a a real dinner.

In Satyrus the snacks are more “classy” meaning that they serve small portion of refined snacks. When I went they served little crisps bread with seeds and mozzarella cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado with cheese.


I hope you enjoyed this itinerary of culture and happy hour and that it inspired you for your future trips to Rome. I love mixing the learning part of the museums and archaeological sites with the relax and glam in lounge bars, and Rome has so much to offer in this sense.

There is so much beauty everywhere you turn, that it is quiet difficult not to find a lounge bar with a super cool location!So next time you are in Rome, you must try and immerse yourself in the “dolce vita” mode.


Have you ever been to Villa Giulia? Did you know about the Etruscans and the way they loved life?


Remember we also do LIVE virtual tours which you can join from anywhere in the world! Check out the tour page to browse our tours!


Thanks for reading and see you soon.. CIAO!

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