Caprarola - Palazzo Farnese
Green landscapes and enchanting medieval villages characterize the Tuscia and its capital. It's an oasis of good food and relaxation, situated between the legacies of the Etruscans and the Via Francigena, where the rhythms of life from the mountains to the sea are dictated by nature and the ancient custom of peasant life.
Located between the southern borders of the Tuscan Maremma and Rome, Viterbo and Upper Lazio are characterized by a landscape of volcanic origin with the lakes of Bolsena and Vico having formed in ancient extinct craters. Flat in the north, the land becomes more hilly up towards Mount Cimino, then slopeing down to the Tiber. Beech trees dot the higher areas, while oaks and chestnut trees inhabit the lower altitudes.
A sandy shoreline and the Mediterranean bush characterize the area of the coast with its crystal clear sea. Among the destinations on the coast, Tarquinia Lido offers tourists the chance to swim in limpid waters, a vast panorama from the top of the Tarquinia Alta hill and the presence of an Etruscan necropolis with about 200 graves, where there are paintings representing the most conspicuous legacy of Etruscan art. The archaeological site was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.
Many archaeological finds unearthed during excavations are kept in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (National Archaeological Museum) housed in Palazzo Vitelleschi, considered one of the most important museums in Italy dedicated to the Etruscans.
Ancient Tuscia is still shrouded in the mystery that surrounds the Etruscan civilization, prevalent feature of this territory, the remains of which can be seen in the necropolis of Norchia and Castel d'Asso, or in the archaeological sites of Ferento and Acquarossa.
In the capital Viterbo, the beautiful historic centre has been preserved and comprises the old urban core enclosed by the town wall, while the modern, commercial and industrial part is close to the defensive walls. In the central Piazza S. Lorenzo are located the Cathedral, built in the 12th century, and the Palazzo dei Papi (Popes' Palace), residence for the popes since 1255 and remembered as the site where the longest and most disputed conclave in history took place. Not far away is Piazza del Plebiscito with the Palazzo dei Priori, considered the historical, social and institutional centre of the city, and connected by the Pinacoteca (Art Gallery) to the Palazzo del Podestà of medieval origin.
Not far from Viterbo is located the town of Tuscania, which boasts a striking presence of Etruscan remains and necropolis. Worth a visit are the characteristic churches of Santa Maria Maggiore, the oldest place of worship of Tuscania dating from the sixth century, with beautiful decorations in the interior, and St. Peter's at the top of the hill overlooking the village and built in the 8th century.
Viterbo is an ideal starting point for sightseeing tours and excursions following archaeological and historical itineraries such as those that wind along the route of the Via Francigena (Francigena Way), over the centuries taken by pilgrims who from the north would head for Rome. From Proceno to Acquapendente, from Bolsena to Montefiascone and then, again, past the Cimini mountains, the trail would continue to Vetralla, Capranica, Sutri and Monterosi.
In the province are also worth a mention the village of Bagnaia and the famous Villa Lante, a wonderful example of late Renaissance residence with an Italian garden, whose design is attributed to Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola as well as that of the Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola, another example of Renaissance pentagonal residence.
Well worth a visit also the parco dei Mostri (park of Monsters) of Bomarzo, a large park with gardens, buildings and fantastic sculptures, and the ancient village of Montecalvello, which rises around a castle where the famous Balthus, a contemporary painter, lived for thirty years.
The particular shape and variety of the land makes it ideal for hiking and all outdoors activities among the beech trees that populate the higher areas and oak and chestnut trees that characterize the lower altitudes.
The lakes of Bolsena, with the beautiful islands of Martana and Bisentina, and Vico are ideal for relaxing holidays or to practice water sports, sailing and canoeing, as well as horse riding. Lake Vico, which lies within a nature reserve, is equipped to offer hiking, mountain biking and horseb riding along paths that cross a nature of great charm.
One of the main attractions of the area are the spas, known since antiquity. Frequented by the Etruscans, the baths of Viterbo were expanded by the Romans, so that the remains of their structures occupy an area 11 kilometres long. In medieval times they became a favourite destination of many popes for the treatment of various conditions thanks to the properties of mud and water. The three best known are the springs of Aquae Passeris, Paliano and Bullicame, quoted by Dante in the Divine Comedy and also portrayed in a famous painting by Michelangelo. Today the famous Terme dei Papi offer a pleasant stay for cures and relaxation.
Among the festivals and popular fairs, the best known and most spectacular event celebrated each year in Viterbo is the festa di Santa Rosa, the city's patron saint whose remains are kept in the Duomo. For the occasion, a hundred people carry on their shoulders a structure lit by torches and lights, about thirty metres high and weighing five tons, on a journey of just over a kilometre through the narrow and steep streets of the old town. After the procession, the simulacrum of Santa Rosa can be visited for a few days.
Also characteristic are the events taking place in Soriano nel Cimino, including the sagra delle castagne (festival of chestnuts) and the palio delle Contrade (tournament of the city wards), during which the town is divided into four zones which compete in archery tournaments and ring jousting.
In Tarquinia the festa della Merca is held, with contests of dexterity in cowboy fashion and cowherds branding cattle. The sagra degli gnocchi (festival of dumplings) is held in Ronciglione, where the delicious dish is accompanied by the full-bodied local wine. Of ancient tradition, the Tiratura del solco dritto (Ploughing of the straight furrow) in Valentano is a propitiation ritual during which a pair of oxen draws a long furrow in the soil; the festival is a thanksgiving to Our Lady for the crops harvested in the year.
Viterbo cuisine as a whole keeps the characteristics of neighboring territories: the tastes of Roman cuisine, the simplicity of Umbria's gastronomy and the scents of the Tuscan one It is a cuisine tied to the territory and its main products. Of great quality is the production of extra virgin olive oil and of manzetta maremmana, a cut of local meat, particularly tender.
Among the typical products of Tuscia, worth mentioning are asparagus and olive oil of Canino, lentils of Onano and Corego fish from Lake Bolsena.
The most traditional typical dish is acquacotta, prepared with homemade dried bread and wild vegetables, but also lamb soup, enriched with a variety of vegetables, artichokes and potatoes. Known in the area of Lake Bolsena is the sbroscia, a lake fish soup with potatoes, bread and mint, which gives it the distinctive scent of the earth.
In addition to legumes soups, pasta dishes are prepared with homemade pasta, made just with water and flour, like lombrichelli, pasta straccia (shredded dough), gnocchi (dumplings) and strozzapreti served with hare, mushrooms or wild boar sauces. Among the meat main courses, the pignattaccia, a stew baked in a crock, is one of the most characteristic: among the ingredients, meat trimmings and beef and pigs entrails and a variety of vegetables.
On the slopes around Lake Bolsena and in the area of Montefiascone is produced one of the most famous wines of Lazio, the Est!Est!Est!, a renown DOC white wine, and also the Aleatico of Gradoli.
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