Viterbo, the city of art, where you can relax among thermal baths and parks
In the heart of the Lazio region Tuscia, one hour and a half from Rome, the beautiful Viterbo raises with its rich artistic, historical and cultural heritage.
Known as the Popes city, as it was the location of the Pontifical Curia during the XIII century, Viterbo is the place where its patron, Santa Rosa, was celebrated by the spectacular “Macchina di Santa Rosa” parade, on the facchini di Santa Rosa shoulders, around the city, declared UNESCO intangible heritage, more than 30 metres tall.
The medieval Viterbo
The historical city centre is what will mostly astonish you about Viterbo, in the 4 kilometres long ancient walls. Walking around the pretty san Pellegrino district, you will feel you went back in time, to the medieval era, among cantilevered houses, through the romantic covered passages they create, tower houses demonstrating the richness of the owners according to their height and the typical profferli.
You could expect to see Guelphs and Ghibellines in San Pellegrino square, but everything is still, as the church, we know about since the XI century and the wonderful Palazzo degli Alessandri and its profferlo, that is the beautiful typical external medieval stairs, and the balustrade decorated by diamond stars shaped medals, from mid-XIII century.
During the S. Pellegrino in Fiore festivity, between April and May, every window and door is decorated by flowers and you will fall in love with Viterbo.
Walking among churches
Viterbo is rich in noble palaces, such as the 1400s Palazzo Comunale, full of frescos by Ligustri and Cavarozzi, the 1200s Palazzo del Podestà and the Palazzo della Prefettura facing on Piazza del Plebiscito, where you can see the symbols of the city: the palm trees and the lions.
From the square, you can easily reach via Verdi where you can find Santa Rosa Church from the XIX century, next to the named Santa Rosa house, whose tomb lies in that church.
There are two very ancient religious buildings in Viterbo. The first one is S. Silvestro church, built in 1271, famous for Henry di Cornovaglia homicide, by Simone di Monteforte, as even Dante tells about. The second one is S. Maria Nuova church, from 1080, built on the remains of a temple dedicated to Giove Cimino: in the past, people thought the stone head out of the principal door was Jesus Christ face, even if it does represents the Roman god.
The Polo Monumentale Colle del Duomo
Saint Lorenzo cathedral is another church built on the ancient remains of a temple dedicated to Hercules, from the XII century, characterised by a Romanic style but a Renaissance façade, rebuilt in the 1500s. Have a look to the 1300s gothic bell tower, rich in double and three- arched windows, characterised by horizontal multicolour bands, then appreciate the cosmatesque floor, the beautiful picture “Christ benediction” by Girolamo da Cremona and Pope John XXI’s sarcophagus, near the apsis.
The Duomo is in the so called Polo Monumentale Colle del Duomo and there is also a museum and the Palazzo dei Papi.
The museum was opened in 2000 and it is made of three parts: artistic-historical, archaeological and the holy art one. This is one of the most important museum, as Museo Civico is, near Chiesa di S. Maria della Verità. The latter, including an interesting museum of works from the XII and the XIX century, there are some archaeological remains from the Stone Age to the Roman Age, and some others from Castel d’Asso and Norcia necropolis.
The Palazzo dei Papi is part of the history of the city: it was built in the XIII century and has a very beautiful gothic lodge made of seven arches on thin columns from which you can see a spectacular view of the city. You can visit the Aula del Conclave in it, famous because it hosted the longest conclave of the history, concluded after 33 months with the election of Gregorio X.
When Pope Urbano IV died, the cardinals couldn’t make any choice, so that the prelate of Viterbo locked them (that’s why “cum clave”), in order they could take a decision, as they finally did.
The gardens and the parks in Viterbo
The beauty of Viterbo depends also on its gardens and parks, as the Italian gardens of Villa Lante, in Bagnaia. You will get astonished by the role of water coming from a rock there. Everything raises around it, geometrically guided along a hedges way, creating lakes, waterfalls and spectacular fountains, among which the Fontana dei Moroni is the most beautiful one, made of 4 tubs under the 4 sculptures of the Moros, keeping the coat of arms of Sisto V.
The other park is just 20 kilometres far from there and it is the famous Sacro Bosco di Bomarzo, where you will get out reality to fall into a fantasy world, surrounded by mythological stone sculptures by Pirro Ligorio, on request of Prince Orsini, in the XVI century.
The open mouth of the ogre is the symbol of the park, but there are also other symbols, as the giant killing a girl, the elephant squashing a Roman soldier, the turtle, Neptune and the tilted house.
Viterbo and thermal baths
Viterbo is famous for the thermal baths too: the legend says Hercules, fighting against the lucumones, stuck a pale in the soil and the future first thermal source came out.
The good properties of those waters were well-known at the Etruscan and Roman times too: along via Cassia there were 14 thermal baths, but today you can just see the remains of the Terme del Bacucco, loved by Michelangelo, and the famous Terme dei Papi, hosting the remains of the ancient Jewish thermal baths.
There are many hydro-mineral and hydro-thermal basins benefiting the respiratory, reproductive and vascular systems. There are many establishments you can visit for free, such as Carletti swimming-pool, where you can take advantage of the frigidarium-tepidarium-calidarium effect, the Bullicame source and its 58 degrees water where you can relax in hyper-thermal and hypo-thermal water.
Do you want to stay in Rome?
For this location we recommend Hotel Ariston, the ideal starting point to discover Rome!