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Luni Archaeological Sites... where History comes alive

The little town of Luni came into being as a Roman colony in 177 B.C., placed about 2 km away from the sea. Its name is due to the goddess Lunae for its singular sickle-shaped territory. The particular position of the town allowed the Romans to easily predominate on the Ligurian areas, because Luni was placed on the borderline between Ligurian and Etruscan lands. The marble of the Apuan Alps represented the major resource for the area richness, in fact it was carried to Rome and to every corner of Italy in order to create statues and other furnishings. It was a great period of richness and well-being, where Luni represented the centre of many important trades: timber from the Apennines forests, tasty cheese of the shepherds who lived in Lunigiana mountains, wines.

In the late imperial age, the town became an Episcopal see under Eutichiano who governed with a great political and religious power and authority, and years later he was elected Pope. After the decline of the Roman Empire, Luni was undisturbed by the barbarians wars until the Lombards came and destroyed the town, dominating it with king Rotari. Subsequently, the city was attacked by Norman and Saracen populations, which together with several floods, illnesses and feudal wars took the area to a final decline, and in 1204 the Episcopal see was moved to Sarzana.

Currently, Luni is the major and most important Archaeological site of Liguria. It was inaugurated in 1964 in order to host the findings found in the excavation area and in 1981 it was completely reorganized because the exhibition area didn’t allow a perfect vision of the entire material. The whole complex includes the archaeological area, the near Ortonovo National Archaeological Museum and the well-preserved elliptical amphitheatre which was built in 1st century.

During the 19th century, there was a great excavation work dedicated to the archaeological research and Luni was involved in this action. But for Luni, it was particularly important the action operated by the Fabbricotti family, which increased the value of the sites and gave their collection to the Spezia Museo Civico and to the Carrara Academy.

The rests of the ancient city include its ancient central nucleus and some monuments, such as the eastern gate, some parts of the walls and a Roman house with mosaic floors which show Hercules with the bow, the seasons and some people dancing. In addition, visitors will have the chance to admire many sculptures of Etruscan influence.

In the past placed out of the city walls, the Amphitheatre nowadays remains intact lying near the Via Aurelia. It could host until 6,000 spectators (a considerable number, if we consider that the city counted about 10,000 inhabitants at that time!).The arrangement of the premises allowed bloody and violent shows, such as duels between gladiators or beasts hunting. The impressive and imposing Amphitheatre wonders tourists for its structure and shape. It preserves the palpitum area and the stage. In addition, in the site you can marvel at the bell tower and the basilica’s apses ruins.

From the newest excavations it was found the Forum, with arcades, the lateral porches, and the Capitolium, a temple dedicated to the Capitoline Triad, consisting of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

Nowadays, the excavation of a Domus, the typical Latin house occupied by the wealthy and middle class freedmen during the Republican and Imperial eras, is still in progress: it preserves floors in polychrome marble with geometric shapes, frescoes and a large garden.

The Ortonovo National Archaeological Museum was built during the 60s, in the centre of the ancient town, where the excavations plans, the city plan and the aerial photograph are exhibited. A summary of the historical happenings of the town and several panels showing the remains moved elsewhere.

The Museum halls contain an unending array of priceless treasures: here in fact, you can marvel at several statues, inscriptions made by Claudio Marcello, Acilio Giabrione and other personages of the ancient epoch, capitals and a geometrical mosaics dating back to the Republican era. In addition to this, in the gallery you will find also architectural elements and marble heads, besides artworks in bronze, frescoes’ fragments, frames in bronze, ambers, precious glasses, earthenware, gems, portraits, busts and much more.

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