The old San Pellegrino quarter of Viterbo is one of Europe's best-preserved medieval districts. Here, one feels transported back in time about six centuries. It has some small shops, cafes, and ancient Romanesque churches all crammed together along narrow streets. This is a place to just stroll about and take it all in.
On the site of an ancient Etruscan temple stands the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Named for San Lorenzo Martire, protector of the city, it is a fine example of Romanesque architecture. The campanile, or tower, dates from 1368 and the front from 1570. Some parts are far older. It served as a refuge for the Pope after he fled Rome. Later, the Pope moved to Avignon, in France. After suffering considerable damage in World War II, it has been restored as far as possible.
Viterbo is noted for its splendid palaces, seats of both secular and religious authority. It often served as a refuge for the Pope when trouble was brewing in Rome (except during that period when the Pope stayed at Avignon).
The papal palace, dating from 1266, was the scene of five councils that elected a new pope. One in 1271 went on for 33 months! The locals became so impatient that they removed the roof, locked the doors, and reduced food rations to the cardinals inside. That led to a decision to elect the new pope, Gregory X. The closed door also gave us the term "cum clave", or conclave. Prominent local families contributed to buildilng, enlarging, and restoring this architectural masterpiece.
The Palazzo dei Priori, dating from 1263, has been the head office of the municipal authorities since the 16th century. It contains a number of art treasures, including urns from the Etruscan period and some religious art. It shares the Piazzo Plebiscito with the older Prefect's Office, where the city offices used to be. At the opposite end of the Piazzo Plebiscito stands the Clock Tower, from 1487.
Viterbo's cathedral is dedicated to one of the town's two patron saints, St Laurence (the other is Rosa). The cathedral was badly damaged during World War II, and the roof and nave were rebuilt. The interior was quite simple. There is a fine tiled floor though.
The Palazzo dei Papi or Palazzo Papale (Papal Palace) is a striking reminder of Viterbo's former importance as I mentioned in my general tips. It was built in the 13th century to house the popes who were seeking refuge in Viterbo. Its most striking feature is the seven-arched loggia. The small courtyard behind the arches is also pretty, with a lion-bedecked fountain and views out towards the city walls.
I came across several stories about the popes of Viterbo when I started to build my pages. One of the best stories I have come across is of an election for the papacy in 1268. 18 cardinals dutifully assembled in the bishop's palace, but after a year and a half they still hadn't managed to choose between candidates. The Viterbesi locked the cardinals in their conclave (the word comes from the Latin 'with key'), reduced them to bread and water rations and even removed the roof of the palace. Eventually the cardinals made their decision, but it had taken nearly three years - the longest ever conclave.
Viterbo's medieval architecture is the main attraction of the town. What we discovered during our short visit is the remains of its grand Papal Palace (Palazzo dei Papi) and the medieval lanes. Other individual sights of interest include a couple of museums (Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit the museums, which are Museo Nazionale and Museo Civico), the town Cathedral and a selection of other palazzi and churches.
Walking trough Viterbo’s small streets, in the medieval center, your steps might bring you in a beautiful part the town where artists are showing their creations.
We’ve been lucky enough to meet one of these artists and see his secret treasure.
Alberto Morucci is a men with an incredible charisma and magic hands, able to create art from recycled wood. He lives and creates in Marta, a small town close to Viterbo, close to a small blue lake, but he also has a small exposition in Viterbo.
With great respect I’ll show you some pictures we made in his atelier.
The best period to visit Viterbo is in the first days of September, when the city is presenting it's self in maximum beauty. celebrating Santa Rosa. From end august to half September Viterbo in one big podium where every moment something magic happens: historical parades, children going round the city with their smaller Macchina Di Santa Rosa etc.
To see the magical show of the Macchina di Santa Rosa you have to be in Viterboon September 3, at 9 o'clock in the evening. Choose first a location ( except if you have somebody able to provide you with a ticket for a tribune!). We choose Piazza Delle Erbe. Then you have to go there not later then 4 p.m. spot a good place and then wait till dark. It might seem a lot of time, but believe me every moment is worthing.
When the dark is complete, the light of the city will be put out and the Macchina will start her journey, carried on the shoulders by the 130 facchini, along the small medieval streets, from Porta Romana through the each of the major streets of Viterbo, concluding with a strenuous ascension up to the Piazza di Santa Rosa, its final resting place.creating the impression that Santa Rosa is flying above the city.
The Macchina is a an artistic illuminated bell-tower with an imposing height of 30 m. It weighs between 3.5 and 5 tonnes and is made of iron, wood and papier-mâché. At the top of the tower, is the statue of the Santa Rosa. Every 5 years a new Macchina is made.
This is the area that probably provides Viterbo's strongest claim to fame, magnificent Medieval street architecture.
It's not a common sight and it shares its square with other architedtural delights. Photos say more about it than words.
the town street's are veary clean and flowers evreywhere just a nice little town well worth the visit