The best things to see and do in Viterbo
Viterbo is a lovely medieval town 90 kilometers north of Rome. Thanks to its peaceful provincial atmosphere, beautiful artistic attractions and famous thermal baths, the city has always been one of the favorite destinations for Romans in need of a relaxing getaway. If you’re looking for an unusual trip, framed by medieval picturesque architecture, good traditional food, and relaxing spas, Viterbo can offer everything you’re looking for.
If you’re coming from Rome, Viterbo is easily reached by train. You can find regional trains departing from Station Ostiense, Trastevere, S. Pietro and sometimes at Termini. You can’t get it wrong: Viterbo is the last stop, just remember to get off at Porta Romana so you’ll find yourself just a few meters outside the city center. If you’re coming by car, be sure to take the Cassia Cimina, a road that will take directly to Viterbo passing through the scenic Monti Cimini, hills where you can breathe pure air and admire the wood’s colors – especially now in Fall!
Viterbo’s long history dates back to its Etruscan foundation. After being taken over by the Romans, the city became one of the most important medieval centers of central Italy. The list of things to see in Viterbo, luckily for you, is not short! I would suggest you start your tour from its medieval center, the San Pellegrino medieval neighborhood. Just cross the south city wall, Porta Romana, the one in front of the train station – go down straight and then turn left toward via San Lorenzo. You will be welcomed by beautiful medieval buildings, characterized by typical lancet windows and high terraced balconies. What I highly recommend you do is to get lost in San Pellegrino’s narrow alleys. No worries, you will find your way back thanks to the district’s circular plan.
Second stop is the Duomo di San Lorenzo. Constructed in XII century, you will find it right next to San Pellegrino. This is the most famous view of Viterbo – the one printed on postcards – I’m sure you’ll understand why! After having seen the Duomo and its beautiful panorama from the upper Loggia, Viterbo’s medieval atmosphere will surely take you back in time.
You will need a medieval lunch to complete this artistic time warp. The restaurant Il Richiastro, located halfway from Porta Romana and Via san Lorenzo, is a welcoming restaurant that offers original recipes inspired from medieval tradition. My favorite dish is without a doubt the chickpeas and chestnuts soup. I am sure that its incredibly rich flavors will make you reconsider the stereotype of boring soups. An alternative to Il Richiastro is L’antica Taverna, one of Viterbo’s most popular restaurants. It offers a typical menu, rich in handmade pasta, meat, and traditional desserts. Of course, everything comes from local productions.
After your lunch – if not too heavy – you can go relax at the famous Terme dei Papi. As the name says, in Medieval times, this bath complex was used by the Popes, who took advantages of the curative effects of the thermal water. The spa, besides a beautiful big hot water pool, provides its clients with luxury aesthetic and medical treatments. My favorite one is the thermal mud treatment, which not only leaves you with a beautiful bright skin, but also strengthens your bones and pleasantly relaxes your muscles. You can get to the Terme dei Papi with a provided shuttle – just call the spa and they will pick you up! Or with public transportation that departs every 40 minutes from the city center – Piazza del Sacrario.
If you still haven’t had enough of art, and you’re not too tired after the morning city tour, you can reach the Roman theatre of Ferento, an Etruscan city that was then conquered by the Romans. Although easily reachable only by car, the site is worth visiting since it is incredibly well preserved and located in an uncontaminated natural landscape.
Whatever you’ve decided to do in the afternoon, I highly recommend you to stop by L’antica Latteria, and pleasantly end your day trip eating a delicious gelato. The place is a family-run gelateria, praised multiple times by the famous Gambero Rosso award, and loved by the entire city. The variety of choices will leave you dumbfounded, but Viterbo’s classic favourite flavours are Lo schiaffo del Papa, a hazelnut cream with chocolate and crunchy nuts, and Ricotta e Canella, a delicate cream made from locally produced ricotta cheese.
Whether you walk in the city center or drive around the countryside, Viterbo will inevitably fascinate you, and surely encourage you to come back soon.