The Italian Almanac

etruscan fresco

Italian News - July 17

The Etruscan love of wine, elaborate meals and banqueting is the focus of a show in the central Italian town of Marzabotto. 'A Tavola Con Gli Etruschi Di Marzabotto' (Dining With The Etruscans Of Marzabotto) examines the food resources and dining habits of this ancient civilization, as well as considering the religious significance of funeral banquets.

Etruscan culture, which flourished in central and northern Italy until around 300BC, has remained something of a mystery, partly because their civilization was conquered and absorbed by the Romans. But a growing interest in this early Italian people has led experts to re-examine the few surviving Etruscan sites and artifacts, and this show considers finds from Marzabotto in the light of recent research.

Kicking off with a look at the ingredients used in Etruscan cuisine, the exhibit draws on the latest paleo-botanic tests to identify food compounds lingering in the soil. Combined with evidence from wall paintings and Roman descriptions of Etruscan culture, analysis shows that they cultivated barley, spelt, wheat, pulses and figs and produced their own oil and wine. Meat and dairy products came from domesticated sheep and pigs, which were supplemented by wild game and venison.

Wealthy Etruscans are thought to have dined lavishly, with roasted or boiled meat served with sauces of cereals, vegetables and spices. The meat, a luxury reserved for the higher classes, was probably accompanied by flat bread, eggs and vegetables, while fruit and sweet pastries would close the meal.