A Bit of History
Viterbo is actually in central Italy, around 105 km north of Rome. The medieval walled hilltown is situated in the Lazio region, and is the administrative centre of its province, the Provincia di Viterbo. Confusingly, the area is also known as Tuscia, and lies within the loosely-defined area of Etruria, which spreads through Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany.
Various local findings suggests the area of Viterbo has ancient origins. The area was the centre of the Etruscan civilization, whose remains are dotted around the countryside, and a later Roman town was situated nearby at Ferento. It was in the Middle Ages when Viterbo gained real importance. While the city of Rome struggled through chaos, Viterbo became a favourite refuge for embattled popes. It is surprising to say this now, but there was a time when Viterbo was larger and more successful than Rome, and much of its fine architecture, such as the Papal Palace, dates to this era.
Later, the town faded in importance (its population today is approximately the same as it was then). Prior to the unification of Italy, Viterbo formed part of the Papal States. Now it is in a quiet area usually overlooked by foreign tourists.