Around 15 miles south of Todi, just off the E45 highway as it heads towards Terni, is the abandoned Roman town of Carsulae. There are numerous signs from the road, but don’t follow satnav if approaching from the north: you’ll end up trying to navigate impassable Italian roads. Instead, approach from the south, following the brown information signs. The roads are still terrible, but at least they exist.
The car park is some way from the entrance to the site, which is marked by a recent building housing a small museum (not much to see, although the exhibits include English translations in a rather impenetrable baroque style), a ticket office, and a small cafe.
Given the little that’s written about the site in guidebooks, and the lack of visitors (at least, on the late August weekday afternoon that we visited), it’s a remarkable site. Once a important town on the Via Flaminia, and benefiting from both a theatre and amphitheatre, civic buildings and mausoleums, the town seems to have fallen into decline as the eastern branch of the Via Flaminia – passing up the Vale of Spoleto – became the preferred route to the north.
At the first the site didn’t seem much; a cluster of stone buildings and rocks strewn across a gently undulating grassy landscape. But soon become apparent were many striking structures: a sunken amphitheatre sitting below a formal theatre higher up the hill; the outlines of a forum, a public square, and civic buildings of uncertain use flanking the courtyards.
Venturing deeper into the site, along what remains of the Via Flaminia as it passes through woodland, we came across the astonishing Arch of San Damiano, which would have marked the northern entrance to the town. The central arch remains standing, now in the heart of a forest of oaks.
Slightly beyond this, outside what would have been the town walls, is a remarkable round structure: the mausoleum of one of the town’s wealthier families. Further down the hill, in a shady corner of the site, an information board marks the spot at which the lead-lined sarcophagus of a 10-year old girl was found in 2012. The lead lining itself is one of the more interesting, and poignant, relics to be found in the museum.