Checking out the Pope’s house in Viterbo

Over the weekend I went with a couple friends to Viterbo. What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of Viterbo? Viterbo certainly isn’t on the radar for most people, but it should be, because it makes an excellent day-trip from Rome. It’s picturesque and charming and weird:

picturesque!
charming! (it should be noted that this mile-marker for Rome was NOWHERE near a major road that could take you to Rome).

There were tons of strange little details in Viterbo that I had never seen anywhere else. Weird, random sculptures, located in funny places; and you could see that they were pulling from every artistic tradition that existed in Italy. Viterbo has Etruscan foundations, then was taken over by the Romans, and was a major papal stronghold in the Middle Ages. See this pretty papal palace that was built starting in the thirteenth-century:

that’s the cathedral on the left with the papal palace in the background in the middle/right

That open loggia is SO FRENCH gothic, it’s ridiculous. It wasn’t originally all open to the sky like it is now, but it is nearly 800 years old and Viterbo suffered A LOT of bombing during WWII, so we’ll excuse its dishabille, because it’s pretty:

oh la la!

All of these different traditions, plus the necessity to re-build after WWII created a mix of awesomeness that was unlike anywhere I’ve been thus far in Italia. The strange-ness wasn’t just in the architectural mix though. I’m not a newbie to Italy, but sometimes I feel like these towns will never, ever make any sense to me. While we were there, there was some sort of town-wide scavenger hunt/race that we kept getting in the middle of. Every person in Viterbo seemed to be participating and we kept butting up against starting lines, or rest-points, or god knows what all else. Despite all the evidence of this race/scavenger hunt taking place, there was nothing around that made it clear what it was! I assume it was some sort of charity race, or community tradition, but despite being right in the middle of it, I am still totally in the dark. Maybe it’s just what the Viterbese like to do on their Saturday mornings. Regardless, Viterbo rocked my socks and I will definitely be returning. But the trip to Viterbo was only part of my adventures this weekend. Stay-tuned tomorrow for the Villa Farnese at Caprarola!

for the non-Italian readers it says: Basilica of San Francesco of/at the Rock, 11-13th century, Semi-destroyed by the aerial bombardment on January 17, 1944. Reconstruction completed April 1953 by the Superintendent of Monuments of Lazio
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