TOU RUOTTOURUOT

of

CENTRAL
ITALY

NORTHERN LAZIO

Designed by GZ

Compiled by Giorgio Zanetti (Links checked Feb, 2010)

*** PART 1 - NORTHERN LAZIO ***
PHOTO ALBUM by Giorgio Zanetti
SUTRI BAGNAIA VITERBO MONTE SORATTE CAPRAROLA MONTEFIASCONE BOLSENA
PART 2: SOUTHERN TUSCANY & SIENA * * * PART 3:UMBRIA * * * PART 4: ABRUZZO
* * * PART 5: LAZIO - CASTELLI ROMANI

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INTRODUCTION:

Described in the following pages is a tour of Central Italy that my family and I undertook in the summer of 1989.
We arrived at Rome's Fiumicino airport on June 17 and departed from the same airport on July 16. After picking up a pre-booked rental car at the airport, we followed a broadly pre-outlined itinerary and, as we progressed on our journey, decided when and where to go next .

We will be visiting about two dozen places during this tour and I will be adding them at different stages.

The towns with a

coral background

are towns where we stayed one or more nights.


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WHERE

DESCRIPTION

SUTRI

(291 m. asl)

We leave Fiumicino airport eastward towards Rome and then follow the GRA (Grande Raccordo Anulare; 26 KM from airport) northbound till connecting with SS2 ( Via Cassia) which will take us to Bagnaia (Viterbo) (86 KM. north of Rome).

We are entering the area referred to as TUSCIA (sounds like fooschia).
First stop is the little town of SUTRI (50 Km. from Rome), the ancient Sutrium called the "Gate of Etruria" captured by Camillus in 389 B.C., picturesquely situated on a hill of tufa.

. THINGS TO SEE IN SUTRI

* The oval amphitheater (40 m. by 49 m.), practically carved out of the tufa rock.

* Madonna del Parto, a former Etruscan tomb (6th or 7th c. BC), converted into a mithraeum then into a church with a nave and two aisles (key kept by the cathedral sacristan).

* The old town with the Romanesque cathedral, greatly altered in the 17 & 18 c., and a fine belltower.
The whole itinerary can easily be done on foot.

TOWNS LIST

BAGNAIA

(441 m. asl)

We stayed at: BISCETTI, with a good restaurant.

We leave Sutri still following SS2, bypassing Vetralla, and in 31 Km. arrive in Viterbo. We continue to Bagnaia, 5 Km. away to the east, and look for accommodations there. Once in Bagnaia, and before crossing the railway tracks and the bridge, turn to the right and follow the one way street to get to Biscetti.

One evening while strolling about the narrow streets of the old town, just around the castle, we engaged in a conversation with a couple of the inhabitants sitting on a chair outside in the street while another one was overseeing the whole by a window above; my wife was eventually invited to visit one of the apartment inside.

. THINGS TO SEE IN BAGNAIA

* From the main piazza walk up to visit the famous Villa Lante (1477 and later) said to be one of the most significant Mannerist villas. In its vast terraced terrain, you will find an italian garden with its strictly geometric arrangements laid out by Vignola, and numerous fountains with varied waterworks and grottoes.

* Just before Bagnaia there is the pilgrimage-church of Santa Maria della Quercia commemorating the sighting of the Madonna in an oak tree (quercia) in 1414. The church is a fine Renaissance edifice of 1470-1525, with terracotta reliefs by Andrea della Robbia (1508) in the lunettes of the entrance and a wooden coffered ceiling by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1519-25); the ciborium is by Andrea Bregno (1490).

TOWNS LIST
VITERBO

(325 m. asl)

VITERBO by BILL THAYER

Viterbo , situated just north of the Ciminian mountains, is almost completely surrounded by ancient Longobards walls and towers. The town is frequently mentioned as a residence of popes and the place where papal elections were held in the 13th c.
Viterbo has been called by some old Italians authors the "city of handsome fountains and beautiful women".

. THINGS TO SEE IN VITERBO

* The Palazzo Comunale, begun in 1264 boasts a beautiful porch of the 15th c. and frescoed rooms of the 15-17th c.

* Via San Lorenzo, lined with many interesting palazzi, takes us to the piazza where stand the Cathedral (San Lorenzo) and the Papal Palace. In this piazza, on July, 1155, Pope Hadrian IV (Nicholas Breakspeare, an Englishman) ordered the Emperor Frederich I, as his vassal, to hold his stirrup. The church is a handsome Romanesque basilica of the 12th c. with a splendid 14th c. belltower. The Papal Palace, begun in 1266, contains a huge hall where the conclave for the election of Gregory X was held; there is also a fine Gothic Loggia (1267) with a fine view.

* The highly picturesque San Pellegrino Quarters still includes many medieval houses with archways and towers decorated with potted plants.

* The Fontana Grande, the largest and most original of this city many fountains, was built in 1206 with the large basin in the form of a Greek cross.
There are also over 20 other very fine churches worth visiting.

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MONTE SORATTE (Riserva Naturale)

(691 m. asl)

This next excursion will include a hike up Monte Soratte the "nive candidum Soracte" of Horace. From Bagnaia on the way to Soratte (about 70 Km. south east) we will visit Civita Castellana (145 m. asl), the "Falerii Veteres" of the Etruscan, picturesquely situated on a tufa plateau.

Civita Castellana by Bill Thayer

. THINGS TO SEE IN CIVITA CASTELLANA

* The Cathedral of Santa Maria with a handsome portico, built in 1210 by Laurentius Romanus, extending all the way along the façade of the temple.

* The Rocca erected by Pope Alexander VI in 1494-1500, with the octagonal inner tower designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder.

From Civita Castellana we take Via Flaminia south/east bound and in about 13 Km., after a railway underpass and just before a sharp curve, we veer to the left towards the town of Sant' Oreste (443 m. asl).

. THE HIKE to MONTE SORATTE

The hike will take 1:20' hr. up and 1:00 hr. down with a gain in elevation of 250 m.
The view, due to the isolated position of the mountain, is very extensive and encompasses the Tiber valley, Sabine, Volscian, and Alban mountains, the sea and the faint outline of Rome itself (on a clear day), the Bracciano lake and the Cimian forest.

From the main piazza in Sant' Oreste we take the road upwards to a large iron cross. Now we follow the wide trail which after about 20 minutes becomes steeper. Surrounded by an old growth forest of oak trees, the trail gains elevation with large switchbacks and reach a small chapel. In ten more minutes we arrive at the convent of S. Maria delle Grazie (630 m. asl) built in the first half of the 1800. It can be visited by ringing the bell. At the time we were there the gate was open and so we entered, but we were lead outside, almost immediately, by a not so friendly woman (or nun?). At the top of this mountain once stood a temple dedicated to Apollo. The church that stand here now dates back to the VI century.

TOWNS LIST
CAPRAROLA

(510 m. asl)

From Viterbo or Bagnaia we take the Cimina road south/east towards the Cimini Mountains and the charming crater-lake of Vico. The small town of Caprarola, surrounded by hazel groves, is 18 Km. south/east of Viterbo.

. THINGS TO SEE IN CAPRAROLA

* The town is dominated by Palazzo Farnese an imposing work by Vignola (1547- 1549) built for Cardinal Alexander Farnese and said to be one of the most magnificent châteaux of the Renaissance.
The palazzo should be approached from via Nicolai which rises steeply towards a front court and a triumphal flight of steps leading up to three stages of terraces.
The ground plan is pentagonal, with a central colonnaded rotunda and on the left the magnificent spiral staircase or scala regia, one of Vignola's most important works.
The typical terraced Mannerist park includes hidden grottoes, splashing rivulets and monumental fountains.

. CURIOSITY ON MONTE CIMINO

About 50 yards below the summit of Cimino Mountain, in the beech grove not far from Soriano nel Cimino, is the curious "Sasso Menicante", a trachyte block of about 9 meters long, was ejected by the nearby extinct volcano and fell on a projecting crag to become a rocking stone.

TOWNS LIST
MONTEFIASCONE

(633 m. asl)

We leave Bagnaia and Viterbo northbound by the Cassia road (SS2), aiming to reach Abbadia San Salvatore, in southern Tuscany (82 Km. from Viterbo), by mid or late afternoon.
Of course the province of Viterbo has much more to offer and should deserve a much longer stay. But move on we must.

Our first stop is the lofty Montefiascone, just 17 Km. from Viterbo, overlooking the lake of Bolsena and built on the site of the Etruscan Fanum Voltumnae, the most sacred shrine and meeting place of the Etruscan confederation of cities.

From the top of the old town one commands a magnificent view of the lake and surroundings.

Montefiascone is famous for its wine "Est! Est! Est!" a name based on the story of a valet who used to precede his master, Bishop Johann Fugger of Ausburg, while travelling in order to taste the wines, and when he found a good one he used to inscribe the word "est" on the door of the inn. Here in Montefiascone he found an excellent one.

. THINGS TO SEE IN MONTEFIASCONE

* The cathedral of S. Margherita whose dome was completed only in the last century and was built by C. Fontana above the central planned, octagonal building which was begun in 1519 by Michele Sanmicheli.

* The nearby S. Flaviano is one of the most original medieval churches in Italy with its two-story complex. The lower church, a pillared hall with a nave, two aisles continuing around the end with an ambulatory, was begun in 1032; the upper church, a basilica with a nave, two aisles and an open roof truss, was completed in the XII c.

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BOLSENA

(350 m. asl)

Our second stop, always following the Cassia road, is in Bolsena 15 Km. north of Montefiascone . This little town is picturesquely situated on the north/east bank of the circular lake, the largest vulcanic lake in Italy ( 43 Km. round and 14 across).

There is a peculiar phenomenon called "sessa" by the local people, and it describes what seems to happen only at this lake: a local tide but not of lunar influence. Every few weeks, the water fluxes from end to end as if the mostly flat bottom was rocking, sometimes for a few hours sometimes for a day and a night. Each flux takes three or four minutes and it is mostly visible from the little harbours of Bolsena, Marta or Capodimonte (Ref. no. 4).

. THINGS TO SEE IN BOLSENA

* The collegiate church of S. Cristina founded in the XI c. boasting an elegant Renaissance façade (1500). Above the doors are two terracotta reliefs by Andrea della Robbia. The interior is also very interesting with works by della Robbia and other artists of the XIV and XV c., culminating with a fine sandstone pulpit (1513-14) by Hans Lutz.

* Also worth seeing is the castle built in the XIII-XIV c., now the Museo Civico.

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SASSO SASSO SASSO

The above data was gleaned from the following sources:

(1) Italy: a Phaidon Cultural Guide; Prentice-Hall, Inc. NJ - 1985
(2) Muirheads's Southern Italy; Blue Guides, Italian Touring Club, Macmillan, London - 1925
(3) Beadeker's Central Italy; Karl Beadeker Pub., Leipzig - 1909
(4) Northen Lazio An Unknown Italy; Wayland Kennet & Elizabeth Young, Butler and Tanner Ltd., London - 1990
(5) A Piedi nel Lazio di Stefano Ardito (vol. 2); Edizioni Iter - 1987
(6) Various tourist brochures.

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Copyright © 2001 G. Z.