Rome, June 4 - UNESCO world heritage site the Necropolis of Banditaccia, a three-millennia-old Etruscan burial ground in Cerveteri north of Rome, has set its sights on becoming one of Italy's premier tourist attractions.
One of the ways of doing this, officials said this week, is to open fabled sites that are normally closed to visitors, such as the storied Tomb of the Painted Lions with its multi-hued decorations, which ANSA had a sneak peek at.
"Few people know this but this is the largest archaeological site in the world, even bigger than the Valley of the Kings in Egypt", Lorenzo Croci, Cerverteri's sustainable development councillor, told ANSA.
The enclosed Banditaccia site has 400 graves, dating between the ninth and third centuries BC, over a nearly 25-acre area, whereas the entire ancient necropolis area is nearly 1000 acres, leading experts to consider Banditaccia the cradle of Etruscan civilization. At present the site gets an average of 65,000 visitors yearly, which Croci wants to see doubled. The necropolis is the recipient of 2.3 million euros in funds from the European Union and Italy. The money goes to a project that focuses on preserving and protecting the tombs, ongoing targets of tombaroli (grave robbers), with restoration and video surveillance, and enhancing tourist services including a multi-media experience, itineraries, lighting, restaurant, bathrooms and welcome center.
On July 4 the new welcome center will open, on the 10th anniversary of Banditaccia's UNESCO recognition.