The Vie Cave (in English excavated roads), also known in Italian as Cavoni, are an impressive road network linking an Etruscan necropolis and several settlements in the area between Sovana, Sorano and Pitigliano, consisting mainly of trenches excavated as nearly vertical cliffs in tuff, sometimes over twenty feet high, possibly serving as an effective defense system against invaders.
They are narrow cuttings often running deeply through hills, are probably little changed since Etruscan times. Their construction may have mainly resulted from the wearing through soft tufo bedrock by iron-rimmed wheels, creating deep ruts that required the road to be frequently recut to a smooth surface. Their dating can only be deduced by that of settlements they pass between, and objects from tombs beside them.
In Roman times, the Vie Cave became part of a road system that was connected to the main trunk of the Via Clodia, an ancient road linking Rome and Manciano, through the city of Tuscania, which branched off from the Cassia road in Lazio territory.
Vie Cave of Sovana
Vie Cave in Sorano
Around Sorano the Vie Cave begin coming out of the Porta dei Merli, and descending into the valley of the river Lente.
The Via Cava (singular for Vie Cave) of San Rocco was on the opposite side of the Sorano county, along the ruins of the church of San Rocco, religious building of the romanesque art that retains parts of the original wall of the via. Behind the ruins of the church there is a vast Etruscan necropolis with tombs hewn into the tuff.
Near Poggio San Rocco and Poggio Croce there are also numerous Etruscan tombs and a columbarium, which are as rock-cut cells arranged in several rows one above the other. From Middle Ages on these ancient tombs became a shelter for pigeons.
Vie Cave of Pitigliano
Around Pitigliano there are several Vie Cave, including the one directed towards the archaeological area of Sovana.
- Izzet, Vedia, The Archaeology of Etruscan Society, 2007, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 1107320917, 9781107320918, google books