Todi is a charming place...
where three 'layers' of history are visible - Etruscan, Roman and medieval - in concentric circles around the town. Enter through the gates and you will arrive at a beautiful piazza surrounded by medieval palazzi, and narrow streets lined with shops, cafes and restaurants lead off the square.
Spoleto is larger than Todi and has become well known for its 'Festival dei Due Mondi', which translates as 'Festival of the Two Worlds'. For two weeks every July, the town plays centre stage to an eclectic mix of music, theatre, dance, poetry and more. Some events need to be pre-booked, others you can just turn up to.
Day Trip to the Eternal City
A 5 minute drive from the house will take you to Attigliano where regular, direct trains will take you for a great day out in Rome in under an hour. The city which has captured the imagination of visitors for millennia needs no introduction but suffice to say, a day's sightseeing will only afford a tantalising glimpse of what it has to offer. A truly awe-inspiring city, there seems to be some new marvel around every corner. The many highlights include: The Forum and Palantine Hill, St Peter's Square, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and much more!
Take the train through Tuscany
Attigliano-Bomarzo station is just 5 minutes drive from the house. From here you can get direct trains to Cortona in 1 hr 15 mins and Florence in 2 hrs 40 mins. Enjoy the beautiful Tuscan countryside en-route and no need to worry about parking when you arrive.
Walk among the monsters!
In the beautiful medieval town of Bomarzo, approximately 11km from Giove, lies one of the most fascinating gardens in the world. The Garden of Monsters, as it is called, was created by the soldier-poet-dreamer, Vicino Orsini, who built his "park of wonders" in the 1550s, breaking all the rules of art of his time. He purposefully created a bizarre and unusual attraction to stun his guests and "to give vent to his heart”. The gardens are filled with many bizarre mythical creatures made out of stone. Enormous sculptures depicting an elephant tearing his enemy in half, a nymph with butterfly wings, a gigantic fish-head with a gaping mouth, horse with wings, and many more are scattered over several acres of land. When Vicino Orsini died the garden fell into neglect until it was rediscovered in 1938 by the Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali who then based one of his most famous paintings on the Bomarzo Monster Park.
Civita di Bagnoregio
This gorgeous Italian hill town (about 50 mins drive from Giove) teeters on a pinnacle rising high above a vast canyon ruled by wind and erosion. The area of land that once connected Civita to its bigger and busier sister town, Bagnoregio, has worn away. Photographs around town show the old mule path that once linked the hamlets. Today, the only way in or out is by a footbridge and supplies are brought to the town via mopeds! The main entrance is a huge stone passageway, cut by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago and decorated in the 12th century with a Romanesque arch. The beautiful cobbled streets transport you right back to the middle ages. There are no tours or lists of attractions, it is a place to wander, drink in the atmosphere, do some sketching perhaps if you are an artist. The ground beneath Civita is honeycombed with ancient cellars, perfect for storing wine, and cisterns for collecting rainwater. Many date from Etruscan times. A pre-Roman tunnel below the town doubled as a bomb shelter in World War II.
As part of your visit to Orte, why not take an underground tour of the waterways below the town, built in the Etruscan period and perfected by the Romans. Definitely recommended if you have an adventurous archeological side in you!
Wednesday is market day in Giove
Head into the village of Giove on Wednesday morning to enjoy the atmosphere and to buy fresh local produce for relaxed meals on the terrace. Perhaps do as the locals do and combine your visit with an espresso in the local bar.
Tallest man-made waterfall in Europe
Created by the ancient Romans, the Cascata delle Marmore is a staggering 165 metres high. It is just under an hour's drive from the house. The falls are only open at certain times of the day, be sure to check opening times before going.
One of the most ancient Umbrian towns, Amelia is enveloped by impressive polygonal walls dating from the 4th century, and underground the network of wells built by the Romans can still be visited today. Among the town's cultural offerings are the local archaeological museum and picture gallery which are in the same building in Piazza Vera. The former has some excellent finds whilst the latter makes a morning here well worth the visit. The rest of the sights are predominantly medieval, several striking Palazzi and the heavily reconstructed cathedral which has frescoes by Luigi Fontana.
This underground excavation lies directly under the Church of San Domenico, and was discovered in 1979. You can take a tour lasting one and a half hours, in Italian or English, that guides you through the local history with a look into Roman plumbing and even an underground Roman church with surviving frescoes.
Orvieto's towering black and white striped Gothic cathedral dominates the town, and was built to house the Holy Cloth taken by the local bishop from nearby Bolsena commemorating the Miracle, or Transubstantiation, of Bolsena and thus the Festival of Corpus Domini. Signorelli's majestic treatment of the 'Last Judgement' should not be missed in the Brizio Chapel, and the little museum next door has some very good Etruscan finds (for Orvieto was an Etruscan confederational settlement).
There is also plenty to see in Perugia. The Galleria Nazionale Umbria houses one of the great picture collections of central Italy. The works of Perugino and Piero are certainly highlights but much of central Italian painting from the 14th to the 17th centuries are well-represented including works by Gozzoli, Duccio, Gentile da Fabriano and Pinturicchio. There are many superb churches in Perugia so a full day out awaits!
The Lago di Bolsena is the fifth largest lake in Italy and also the one with the cleanest water so it is perfect for swimming. It sits on the ancient Via Cassia road which leads up to Montefiascone, a village renowned for its good restaurants and from where there are marvellous views of the lake.
Between Orvieto and Todi lies Lake Corbara, created in the 1960s when a dam was built on the River Tiber. It has developed into a fascinating ecosystem that is now protected as the Tiber River Park, and provides a number of quality facilities for visitors with an eye to preserving the environment. Activities on the lake include fishing, canoeing or hiring a row boat.
For days out in nature...
the Parco Fluviale del Nera and the Lago di Piediluco are wonderful places to explore. Centred around the river Nera and the lake respectively there are plenty of water activities to enjoy, or just walking, picnics and wildlife spotting - golden eagles are known to soar overhead! A drive along the river valley will take you past small fortified towns - Arrone, Ferentillo, Montefranco, monasteries and watch towers.
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