Cinigiano, as all Tuscany, is lusciously green this year. Visiting the excavations of the Roman villa at Santa Marta a year on, the thick hedgerow country seems almost English. Stefano Campana from Siena University greets me. He is excited by the new oval-shaped entrance yard they have exposed in front of the villa. Plainly a small early Imperial villa was re-envisioned in the fourth century not just with a fine bath-house paved with mosaics (found last year), but also with a hint of grandiose pomposity for visitors arriving from the hilltop Maremma town of Roselle and heading inland towards Arezzo.
Santa Marta's long history
But for all the walls, mosaics and villa living, Stefano is most excited by a deep trench beyond the entrance. Nothing of the villa came to light here, but down meters the mechanical diggers struck environmental gold-dust. Perhaps 4 meters down is a layer of colluvium - hill-wash - containing shreds of abraded hand-made Bronze Age pottery. Nothing elaborate, but diagnostic. Here, on this hill, almost two meters of clean soil - no trace of the Etruscans - separates the world of Homer and that of the Emperor Augustus.
Stefano Campana deep dig
Who would have thought it, we ruminate on the trench side. Soil movement on this scale may explain how elusive prehistoric and possibly Etruscan are in Tuscany. Well and truly buried by hillsides tempered by vegetation, the movement of soil is prodigious. No wonder the villa at Santa Marta has good, well-built drains to protect it from sudden inundation.
The trench also emphasizes the magic of digging and digging deep. Without it, the memory of a prehistoric place giving age-less memory to the Roman villa would be supposition.