It was a cloudy day when I decided to venture along unknown roads searching for the ancient town of Luni.
During the Middle Ages, Luni was known as “Lunum”; it was a small residential area, located close by the Tolfa Mountains - a mining area about 65 kilometers northwest of Rome. It is likely that commerce was the main economic activity for the town’s population. From Luni it was possible to control every approaching road, since this plateau - composed of volcanic rock (tufa) - is located at the intersection of three rivers that flow along a valley covered by a forest.
I drove for half an hour after leaving the town. There was mud and large puddles. I don’t have a jeep or a pickup, so I was a bit worried about any water that could hide any particularly large holes. The countryside near Luni is characterized by a plain, with shrubs here and there and not very many trees. There weren’t any street signs, so I didn’t have any idea about where I was going. I occasionally took a look at my gps, but the cloudy day wouldn’t afford me any clarity as to the proper direction.
After a while, I started thinking that Luni was in the middle of nowhere...
No one knows why this place was abandoned, but what we do know is that Luni was founded before the Middle Ages.
Archeologists have found traces of inhabitation dating back to the Bronze Age. The area was subsequently abandoned during the Iron Age and recolonized in the 4th century B.C., during the war between Rome and Tarquinia.
Around 1960, Swedish archeologists found several objects, now preserved in the Historical Museum of Civitavecchia (Province of Rome). Among them were artifacts from Mykonos, demonstrating that contact had been made multiple times with the Greeks.
I couldn’t wait to see the place. After coming to a gallery - probably the gallery of the old railroad station that passed the valley - I saw the old station of “Monteromano” half hidden by vegetation. I had the sensation of being close to my destination, so I stopped my car and got out. Rays of sunlight started to drill through the clouds. I turned back and then I looked up. I was astonished. On my right side, about 200 meters from me, I could glimpse a dome. I imagined that it was there to cover and protect something.
I started climbing the rock face and, subsequently, a small iron staircase. I arrived shortly at the top - Luni was there. It’s a suggestive and silent place that overlooks the valley. Like most places in Italy, Luni has been left to itself, devoid of any other presence. There are a few information plaques and you can walk across the ruins, but you don’t know what they were - whether huts or something else - nor can you know their age.
Upon reading the plaques, I was able to discover that the ruins mark the former presence of : huts that had been built over stone basements, an etruscan temple, defensive walls, and a nearby necropolis. Stones belonging to houses or defensive walls were strewn around as if a giant had amused himself by throwing them here and there all over the ground. At various points the vegetation was wild, but I noticed some signs of a human presence: around the most important ruins the grass was lower.
Walking among the ruins, I also discovered a small brook. It seems that it wasn’t difficult for the inhabitants of Luni utilize the brook for their water needs, without having to descend from the plateau.
I took the photos that I’m showing you in this article. It’s difficult to describe my feelings on that day. Quiet enveloped the plateau and its ruins, occasionally interrupted by the twittering of birds and a light breeze that was blowing from the South. I sat down on a rock, looking from the peak to the valley. “How many people have these rocks seen over the centuries?” I asked myself. I will be one of only a few.