It was April. But in summer it’s almost even better. When after a few hours of travelling on the Autostrada, a sign with the indication “Viterbo. 2 km” appeared. On the back seats, the children started to rejoice because they knew that they were going to enjoy a three-day vacation full of discoveries and fun in the company of their friends.
We were a large group, but booking our accommodations – some in a hotel, some in a B&B and a holiday home – wasn’t difficult, and all of them were comfortable.
We found free parking in the centre of town, near Via Faul. The children were immediately attracted by a huge statue emerging from the ground called “Awakening.” Absolutely! It was quite a shock.
Quick, a selfie! Definitely complicated, with the giant and all our troops, but it worked. Then we could finally head off to discover Viterbo.
The historic centre welcomed us, still a bit dazed from our journey: our first destination was Piazza del Plebiscito, framed by two beautiful buildings, the Palazzo della Prefettura and the Palazzo dei Priori.
The entrance to Palazzo dei Priori, the town hall, led us through the main door into the courtyard: the 17th-century fountain is a beautiful sight, and splashing oneself with its water is not prohibited; on the other hand, it would have been impossible to curb the playful energies of the children. The view of the city from here is a fine calling card.
The grey colour of the buildings’ tufa stone and the basalt of the streets make the atmosphere very special; the beauty of the palaces and the numerous fountains present in each square helped us understand the richness and the splendours of the past. We all noticed it and a grateful thought went to those who had left these traces.
The few cars in the old part of the city allowed us to relax a bit, and give more freedom to the children, always intent on snooping here and there around the shop windows or hiding under the little stairs of the many protruding upper floor entrances of the medieval, yet still intact, San Pellegrino neighbourhood.
Before going on to visit the cathedral, we decided to treat ourselves to just a quick meal, in order to respect our schedule.
Coffee for the adults and ice cream for the children, after all, we were on vacation, then off to visit the Romanesque cathedral dedicated to San Lorenzo, the main place of worship in the city.
It can be glimpsed when walking along Via San Lorenzo. But first there is the square with the Palazzo dei Papi and the famous Loggia of Blessings. The children saw the sky through the lacework of the arches: they remained open-mouthed, and wanted to know who owned such a beautiful, elegant place!
It was impossible not to tell them the story of the rather indolent cardinals who, in the Middle Ages, more precisely in 1271, were locked inside the Palazzo until they elected the Pope. Which they did in a few hours. Previously, in more than a thousand days, they had not been obliged to ‘reside’ there.
This was how the “conclave” for the election of the pope began, which today is held in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
The Duomo is very beautiful, of course, many popes have stayed in Viterbo: and so there are many curiosities to capture the children’s attention, even – why not? – using smartphones to search for historical information and anecdotes.
They were very good, attentive, involved. The lift for going back to the car park where we had left the car was very convenient.
After a couple of hours of well-deserved rest, the question was “where do we eat tonight?”, a question that triggered the search for a restaurant, with everyone – but this time only the “grown-ups” – taking up their smartphones to browse websites and social networks, and then offering their own personal preferences. Within 15 minutes, a restaurant serving traditional food was booked, dinner was ensured and our discovery of Viterbo could continue.
The second day of our visit to the Viterbo area took us to Bagnaia, a small town not far from the capital where we visited Villa Lante, a 16th-century villa with a splendid garden, full of fountains and jeux d’eau and marvellous flowering terraces on five levels.
Obviously, the combination of water and children risked complicating our visit, but the garden was a continuous discovery and this distracted them from the stream of water that together with the sculptures is the hypnotizing element of this garden.
It was still early, and the visit to Bagnaia hadn’t taken much time, so we continued on to Bagnoregio, one of the most not-to-be-missed places ever, with the village of Civita, which the whole world knows as “the dying city.”
Once in the town of the “calanchi” (i.e.,gullies), although we immediately noticed the great influx of visitors, in the car parks there was room for everyone, including the many campers crowding the square!
We didn’t take the shuttle bus, we walked towards our destination: less than two kilometres away, walking is always good for everyone and the physical activity didn’t discourage us!
This site, a UNESCO World Heritage candidate, now requires the payment of a “small” ticket, paid more than willingly, before embarking on the climb up the long bridge that leads to the village.
This place is pure suggestion and the view of the gullies that surround it is something very unusual, the spires on sandy and unstable slopes seem like a balancing game arranged by sculptors, and instead all this was created by Mother Nature.
The village, built entirely of tufa, the stone on which it rests, has a charm that conquers everyone. Which reminded our children of those seaside villages where you can walk quietly on foot through fragrant narrow alleyways adorned with flowers and essences of Mediterranean scrub, while unknown faces of vacationers return from the sea in the late afternoon. Who knows why, maybe they are memories of happiness that only Civita can draw from their young memory.
The visit to this incredible place fascinated us, and we were in noble company: Charles of England had been amazed by it! Then it was time to go, one last group photo to capture a memory of our day and to add another post to our travel gallery.
The search for a bit of refreshment quickly led us to Bolsena, the town overlooking the lake with the same name that is only a few minutes by car; we enjoyed the breeze coming off the lake and the view of the old town dominated by the Rocca dei Monaldeschi, while the children were free to play on the sandy shores of the lake and in the equipped playgrounds.
On the morning of the third and last day of our vacation we felt a bit of nostalgia for this really hospitable place that welcomed us the way we welcome dear, long-time friends; we felt at home but it was time to resume our journey, for the last stage that we were sure would not disappoint the expectations of our “little ones”: we headed to the village of Bomarzo and its Parco dei Mostri (Park of Monsters).
Our visit coincided with the Palio of Sant’Anselmo, the village was full of the different districts’ banners hanging over the streets from balconies, people in costume were preparing for the parade that was about to begin.
The long parade proceeded along the main street of the town, the districts competed to the sound of drums and shows performed by flag-wavers, the “Pane di Sant’Anselmo,” a traditional sweet, was offered during the procession in wicker baskets by young women in period costumes. A beautiful idea, everyone liked it. And the show was engaging, it kept all requests or whims at bay.
The visit to the village of Bomarzo in the late afternoon was strategic, the influx of visitors to the Parco dei Mostri on certain days of the year is really heavy, there are many car parks but the queue at the ticket office can take a long time.
This park boasts lush, luxuriant vegetation; we let the children play and discover this strange place rather “far from the real world,” almost surreal and that even we adults enjoyed.
Photographs, selfies and unusual shots tell of our visit to the park and enrich the now extensive photo gallery of our vacation in and around Viterbo.
The ogre of fairy tales, the leaning house, the temple, the giant turtle, for our youngsters were all a surprise, they ran from one path to another, they discovered, sometimes fearfully, strange large-sized characters, and open mouths to enter with apprehension – they who are usually so bold – in a gorge, elephants with legs bigger than daddy … in two hours the Parco dei Mostri of Bomarzo was conquered, and we know now that it really impressed them: they still talk about it, proud of their adventure, with their friends!
An experience to repeat, maybe in a different corner of Lazio. And absolutely to recommend. For sure!