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Hike among Etruscan Tombs in a forest from Vetralla – Parco Regionale Marturanum

Hello hikers!

In today’s post we explore the possibility to visit the Marturanum Park by train. Typically, most people visit by car – either hiking from Barbarano Romano, or directly at the Park Entrance. While that certainly is a way to do it, in this "Hike by Train" series we’re exploring ways to make great trails also available to those that prefer to use the train.

Hiking by train takes a bit extra planning and at times we have to accept some compromises (e.g. reaching the trail head might take a bit, constraints in terms of time table etc.), but if you have the mindset that it’s about the journey, not the destination, then you’re good to go!

Etruscan Tombs

There is an amazing forest tucked away inside a valley, which hides some incredible Etruscan tombs – for a real Indiana Jones feeling – in Northern Lazio (in the Viterbo province). Both the train ride as well as the trail to get to the Marturanum Park aren’t short, but the payoff is worth it (in my opinion).

What can you expect?

Here’s a quick video to give you an idea:


  • Etruscan Tombs
  • Valley and Forest
  • Nice forest river (dry during summer months)
  • San Giuliano Church
  • Ancient Roman bath
  • Panoramic views
marturanum park etruscan tombs 1 rotated
Seeing Etruscan tombs hidden inside a forest is definitely something else!

Tech specs

  • Official difficulty scale: E (according to the Italian Alpine Club (CAI), however the Park website uses “EE” as a scale
  • Best period to visit: Generally all year round, but best avoided in summer months, or in rainy periods
  • My difficulty assessment: Medium (the biggest challenge to some might be the heat in summer and the overall length, as well as the elevation gain in the Marturanum Park).
  • Elevation gain: 270m
  • Elevation loss: 270
  • Type: Out-and-back (Loop inside Marturanum Park)
  • Length: 16.6km
  • Time: about 5.5 hours (longer if you take your time exploring in the Marturanum Park)
  • Trail quality: Mostly easy to walk before reaching the Marturanum Park, inside the park the terrains is more diverse and requires more attention, some exposed areas when venturing up the valley (optional), a river might needs to be crossed (depending on the time of year)

Some things to be aware of

⚠️🦮 From Vetralla you will need to cross agricultural lands, where sheepdogs protecting livestock. If you do, there are four simple rules to follow (via https://www.caniprotezionebestiame.it):

  • do not approach the dogs and the livestock
  • do not show threatening attitudes
  • do not run, if you’re on a bike get off the bike and walk
  • don’t feed the animals

Encountering such dogs can be intimidating as they may run, bark, and in some cases, even surround you and jump at you. It can be a frightening experience, especially the first time. However, it is important to know that these dogs follow a specific protocol, which can help you handle the situation with ease.

To begin with, when facing such dogs, slowly and steadily move away from the livestock. If you are with a group of people, it is advisable to stand together. The dogs may continue to follow you, possibly barking. In less aggressive instances, they might simply nudge you with their heads and guide you away from the livestock. They will likely continue following you for a while, and it’s common for one of the dogs in their team to stay with you until they feel you have reached a safe distance from the livestock. Even after that, the dog will remain observant, ensuring you keep walking.

It may seem unusual, but these dogs have been selectively bred by humans centuries ago to protect livestock from dangers, such as wolves and bears. Their specialized training and instincts make them excellent at their job today.

However, it’s important to note that attempting to walk through a flock of sheep is not recommended. Instead, stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings. If you hear sheep and dogs barking in the distance, it is wise to consider alternative trails. In some cases, it may be best to turn back and call it a day.

⚠️🌞🌡️ The initial segment of the trail is completely exposed to the sun, making it susceptible to intense heat, particularly during the Italian summers. The temperatures can soar to dangerous levels, even if you have an ample water supply. Furthermore, it’s essential to note that this stretch of the trail is quite isolated, devoid of any bars or water fountains along the way.

However, there is a possibility of finding refreshments at the Marturanum Park, where they may have a restaurant open. Typically, during the summer season, the Restoration Area "Area Attrezzata Caiolo" operates from 8 am to 5:30 pm, and during winter, from 8 am to 6:30 pm. It’s worth mentioning that their food and beverage services are often only available on weekends, and it is advisable to make a reservation beforehand if you plan to have a meal there. Call: +39 333 943 4489 or contact [email protected]. They also have a Facebook page).

⚠️🐗 The park is abundant with wild boar, and it is not uncommon to hear their sounds or catch a glimpse of them within the Marturanum Park, particularly when visiting during quieter days with fewer visitors. It is important to note that wild boars generally do not seek out human encounters, especially as they perceive such encounters to be risky during hunting season when they venture outside the park. Consequently, they tend to avoid human contact to the best of their ability.

marturanum park trail map rotated
Here is an official trail map (download) while here is the map of the archeological site (download).

How to get there

By car

If you are traveling by car, it is advisable to park directly at the Caiolo Parking Area, located approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes from Rome. To reach the parking area, follow these directions:

  • Head north in the direction of Via Salaria.
  • Take the exit to the Grande Raccordo Anulare heading towards Fiumicino.
  • Shortly after, take the exit towards Viterbo.
  • Continue on the road SS2bis until you reach the exit for Cesano/Cassia (SS2).
  • Proceed north on SR2 until you encounter a road sign indicating Barbarano. At this point, turn left at the traffic light.
  • From Barbarano Romano, follow the signs to the Parco Regionale Marturanum – Area Attrezzata Caiolo, which is approximately 3 km away.

It is crucial to check the opening hours of the park to ensure that your car does not get locked in after closing time, typically around 5 pm or 6 pm.

By public transport

Some trains to Vetralla take 1h 53 minutes, others take 1h 38 minutes, from Ostiense Station. The ticket costs 5,10€ (one way). Make sure to check the available departure times and connections on https://www.trenitalia.com.

While the train station is called Vetralla, we are in a borough called "Botte".


Adjacent to the trailhead (Trail 103) in the direction of Necropoli S. Giuliano/Barbarano Romano, you will find a welcoming bar named "Coffee Time." This is a convenient spot to replenish your energy and use the restroom before setting off on your hike.

From there, the trail begins on a regular road, heading south towards a local football field. On the right side of the field, a small trail leads uphill, leading to a charming forested area. This forest offers a pleasant retreat and provides much-needed shade on sunnier days.

Continuing along the trail, we eventually encounter a point where we need to cross a railroad. Afterward, we take a left turn, and the path runs alongside a road, creating an ambiance reminiscent of an American National Park, with the encompassing woods adding to the scenic surroundings. As we progress, we gradually approach some agricultural facilities, where you may encounter barking dogs and a few curious horses.

marturanum park valley rotated
The trail entering the canyons made of tuff stone

From this point onward, we embark on a stretch of picturesque countryside as the dense forests gradually give way. We continue along the dusty road, offering us the opportunity to admire the flourishing fruit and vegetable gardens on the nearby properties.

After a while, we reach a point where we need to make a left turn, leading us uphill for a brief ascent. However, the uphill portion is rather short. Once we reach the peak, the remainder of the journey becomes a downhill descent, bringing us closer to our destination – the Marturanum Park!

marturanum park sign trail 103 rotated
A few trail signs with a warning that there are sheepdogs at work

As we bid farewell to the country road, our next step is to take a left turn, leading us onto a wider road for a short stretch. Exercise caution in this area, as cars sometimes tend to speed. Stay on the left side of the road, ensuring good visibility of oncoming traffic. Cross the road when you spot the connecting trail on the other side, which will guide you to a parallel path alongside the road.

Continue along this trail, and soon we will arrive at a small gate that we must enter (remember to close it behind you). Congratulations, we have officially entered the Marturanum Park!

marturanum park canyon entrance rotated
Bring a good set of binoculars to get the most out of this trail

We opt for the first trail on the left, which gradually descends, crosses a small riverbed, and then ascends once again. On the left, we notice a bridge that emanates a somewhat dystopian vibe. After a short while, we arrive at the Caiolo Park. Here, you can take a moment to rest on one of the benches (some are free, while others are reserved for guests) and enjoy a refreshing break before delving into the forest.

Now that we have replenished our energy, it’s time to enter the forest and immerse ourselves in the exploration of the archeological sites. The valley is home to numerous captivating locations worth visiting. I highly recommend taking your time to appreciate the diverse tombs and the natural beauty that surrounds them. Along the way, you will encounter stairs that lead to elevated viewpoints, offering breathtaking vistas and the chance to explore the upper part of the valley. However, exercise caution as these viewpoints are not protected and have steep drops adjacent to them.

Remember, you need to save some energy for the return journey, so don’t exhaust yourself entirely.

Enjoy your adventure!

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