Suggested day trips around many of Lazio's wonderful, undiscovered towns and villages from Soriano by car. (If possible by train*)
Etruscan history is very evident in Northern Lazio. There certainly are many places for you to explore nearby: Viterbo, Tuscania, Vulci and Sutri. Other places worth visiting are Bagniaia, Acquapendente, Vetralla, Lago di Vico, Caprarola and Civita di Bagnoreggio. The villas and gardens at Bagniaia and Caprarola are must sees! Also, don’t miss Vitorchiano, a superbly preserved medieval town close to Soriano where almost every house has pots of wonderful flowers.
Throughout the area of Northern Lazio look out for some of the local agricultural goods, such as local wine and exquisite olive oil, chestnuts, hazelnuts, kiwi fruit, sheep and cow cheeses, pork (porchetta), vine/tree-ripened fruits, the freshest artichokes and asparagus and fresh and locally grown vegetables of all kinds seasonally.
For more information on towns that I mention below you may need to conduct web searches or use your guide books. I refer you to the following web site for more information about most of the towns that I mention below: http://www.romeartlover.it/Viterbo.html, www.discoversoriano.com
We have visited all of the towns mentioned. Some of the towns suggested below are not included in guide books however, they are definitely worth a visit. All distances are sourced from Route 66.
*Soriano -Viterbo (14.9 kms; 23 mins). From Soriano follow the signs to Viterbo from Piazza Vittore Emanuelle. Along the way there is a chance to stop in at *Bagnaia (11.5 kms; 17mins) and marvel at the superb gardens of the Villa Lante. Also it is worth strolling through the old town of Bagnaia with its narrow streets and alleyways. If you have time stop at Vitochiano (11.3 kms; 18 mins) and stroll through another delightful medieval town. Take in the precipitous views!!
Viterbo, a University town of 100,000 people, just 20 minutes to the west of Soriano. The ancient medieval area of Viterbo is charming, filled with Etruscan, Medieval and roman history and buildings. This is a well cared for town A walk through Viterbo using the tourist guide map is a rewarding experience as it weaves through numerous piazzas, past ancient fountains, palaces and buildings. The Piazza del Commune or Plebiscite, Piazza dei Papi and the medieval section of the city called San Pelegrini (pilgrim) are just some of the highpoints.
Must sees, even if you have limited time:
- Ancient walls,
- San Pelegrini area,
- Papal Palace,
- National Archeological Museum in Rocca Albornoz,
- Palazzo dei Priori (free entry).
The city walls are still intact and you will be delighted by the medieval buildings and narrow, captivating streets. Viterbo has an illustrious past, from Etruscan and Roman civilizations to free town and then papal town. Viterbo still has its 11th and 13th century walls, and many medieval houses, squares and picturesque views, especially in the neighbourhoods of San Pellegrino and Piano Scarano. At the beginning of the 1200s Viterbo was able to accommodate as many as 40,000 people, over and above its own inhabitants. The pilgrims made their way to Rome along the via Francigena and contributed from Medieval times onwards to making the town the historical, administrative and economic centre of Tuscia.
Some important monuments are the Rocca Albornoz, now the home of the National Museum, the church of S. Maria della Verità with the adjacent Municipal Museum, the Church of Sant Andrea, the Santa Maria in Gradi complex and the many fountains such as the Fontana Grande in the square of that name. The Papal Palace is in the town centre. It was erected at the wish of Captain of the People, Raniero Gatti, and was built to receive the papal court, after their decision to move away from their tumultuous seat in Rome. This building was the setting for no less than five conclaves, including one which lasted thirty three months and ended with the election of Pope Gregory X. This fortified residence has a remarkable story to tell wherein lies the origin of the word ”conclave”. The Viterbans, tired of waiting for the cardinals' decision, made Gatti shut the gate “cum clave”, remove the roof and limit their supply of food. A decision was made forthwith!
The museums and historical sites are well worth the visit. The famous Terme di Papei is located here. It is a 600-year-old spa, built by one of the popes to take advantage of the hot mineral springs in the area. Walking around the shops is also very pleasant, especially Corso Italia!
Some places to eat
- ‘L Richiastro, a trattoria. Closed Sunday night to Thursday. Also closed July-September. Excellent food especially soups. Ambience is also great!
- L’Archetto, (photo) is renowned for its aqua cotta (soup). Not much has changed here for a long time!!
- L’Etrusca. Pasta and pizza all made in the house. Expect excellent food in a pretty restaurant.
- Il Monastero. Haven’t tried it but told pizza is excellent and huge servings.
- Le Torre, wine bar and restaurant. Restaurant is good food and wines but a bit expensive. Maybe 40 euros per person depending on the wine.
- Porta Romano, a trattoria. Closed Sunday. 1-18 August and 25-31 December. Good food and delightful family ambience.
Parking: Either on the street outside the walls or in a pay parking area just outside the walls.
Soriano – San Martino in Cimino. (15 kms; 20mins). This is a delightful planned town that was a very early social engineering project. The planning was requested by one of the Doria Panphilj’s to house the female prostitutes of Rome and also male prisoners.
Soriano - Bolsena, (45.8 kms;48 mins) Marta, (35 kms; 43 mins) Capodimonte. (39 kms; 49 mins). Less than an hour north from Soriano and truly wonderful places to visit and walk about. Medieval and well preserved with superb views of the lake, which, in itself is quite delightful with two islands in the centre. Also, eating here includes lake fish that are delicious, especially the latarini, small, like whitebait, that are available in the spring months.
Lago di Bolsena, one of the largest lakes in the crater of an extinct volcano. The lake is so large in circumference that it supports about 5 little towns following the shoreline around it. Montefiascone is another delightful old town worth exploring. This is where you will find a special wine called EST! EST!! EST.
Soriano -Bagnoregio. (44.5 kms; 49mins) The town of CivitaBagnoregio is called the dieing town because it sits on a tufa plug that is crumbling. To reach the old town, you must walk on a high bridge that only takes people and very light traffic. Quite a remarkable place to walk through, especially on dusk when the lights come on and give this tiny town perched on a hill top a fairy tale appearance.
Soriano - (direction Viterbo and Vetralla) - Norchia -Tarquinia. (57.9 ksm;1hr 1min) Takes about 3 hours round trip but depends on how long you stay in each place! This is a drive for those who want to experience Etruscan history! Norchia is virtually an abandoned site of Etruscan tombs situated over a vast and unmarked area just outside of Vetralla and in the direction of Tarquinia. It is difficult to find as it is poorly signed (see notes for guidance). From here or if you decide to give this a miss, carry on until you reach the outskirts of Tarquinia where there is an expansive site of Etruscan tombs. It is possible to pay for an audio guide in English (about 3 Euros in 2005) and I think it is worth it as there are about 18 well preserved underground tombs with remnants of the original frescoes on the walls.to visit and the audio adds to the experience. Drive into Tarquinia and the museum where vast finds from the tombs are located. The museum is housed in the Palazzo Vitelleschi built between 1436 and 1490. I think that the building itself is almost as amazing as the exhibits! This is the best and most extensive Etruscan museum that I have seen.
Soriano - Blera - San Giovenale. (Etruscan). (34 kms; 47 mins) Delightful walk at Blera with the possibility of a picnic about 10 metres from Etruscan tombs! San Giovenale is harder to find and you will need to follow a dirt road that is badly signed. Well worth the effort though!
Soriano - Cerveteri. (Etruscan focus). (72.3 kms; 1hr 24 mins). The necropoli are simply fantastic. 2 kms of tombs through a userfriendly area that even has picnic spots and a couple of bars if you need them. We visited in May and it was not at all crowded. Also you can go or return via Bracciano (17.4 kms;22 mins) and Lake Bracciano and visit the Odaleschi Castle that is in very good order and was originally an Orsini castle. Guided tours (in Italian) on the hour during opening times. (9-12 and 3-5 in May). Bracciano to Soriano is 55.8 kms so allow at least 1hr 5mins
Soriano - Tuscania. (39.4kms; 50mins) A walled town north of Viterbo, that dates back to medieval times. Delightful eating here as well. Try Palazzo Ranucci for a special occasion. Sitting on the terrace offers unparalleled views across to two 10th and 11th century churches just outside the town.
Bomarzo is a wonderfully preserved hill town that sides along a ridge and is worth a look.
It is also renowned for its park of gigantic statues. This strange park spreads over acres of wooded and grassy landscape and was built as a monument for a nobleman’s wife. Enormous mythological stone statues have been carved and placed throughout the park.
Soriano - Caprarola. (20.8 kms; 29 mins). This is a drive through delightful farmland planted with hazel nut trees, olive trees and seasonal fruit and vegetables. In April, May look out for the artichokes that look like a thistle and are often seen planted between rows of hazelnut and olive trees. The Farnese castle and partere gardens at Caprarola are quite remarkably preserved. Really worth a visit!
*Soriano - Vignanello. (10 kms;15 mins) On Sundays and public holidays it is possible to visit the Castello Ruspoli, a 15th century castle and palace that has the most stunning 12 partere gardens as well as its share of treacherous history! There are guided tours in Italian or you can go through the castle and gardens for about 4 euros per person (2005). From the train it is about a 400 metre up hill walk to the castle.
Il Moderno, in the main piazza is a good local restaurant. I can recommend it.
*Soriano – Civita Castellana. (28.7 kms; 42mins). About one hour. A delightful Faliscan town (600 BC) with wonderful views and a remarkably intact fort which houses a museum of ancient artifacts. Good array of shops in centro storico. Looked very swishy according to one lot of visitors.
Soriano – Greccio – Rieti-Terminillo. (72.4kms; 1hr 17min) Getting there: Take the road direction Orte and then follow the signs to Terni (E45 or A1 Roma-Firenze) Allow about 5 hours to do this trip (including lunch) if you want to explore Monte Terminillo. Another alternative is to just do the seminaries of St Francis. These seminaries and walks between each one are signposted.
I recommend this trip for scenery and history! Monte Terminillo looms large as you drive around the Rieti basin, situated between the Sabine and Reatina mountains. Moreover, the area is dotted with seminaries of St Francis of Assisi (dated 1217-1235) that give a wonderful sense of history as well as the countryside. If you want to walk there are pathways between the monasteries.
We left Soriano about 10.00 am and headed straight for Greccio, initially following the signs to Convento di Greccio, where we arrived about 11.30. The convent closes for lunch at about 12.30. This monastery hangs off the cliffs overlooking Greccio. After visiting the cave that St Francis slept in, we explored the small church above it as well as 13th century dormitories of the monks. The dormitiries and church are constructed from local timber and are quite amazingly preserved.
Apparently you can walk from here to Greccio (about 30 mins) along the marked paths and take a stroll through the tiny town of Greccio which is twinned with Bethlehem. We drove and went out of Greccio to Spennaccio (about 5 mins away) for lunch at Nonna Gilda’s! From here we drove in the direction of Rieti and stopped at the Convento di Fonte Colombo where St Francis stayed in 1223.
From here it is possible to drive to Monte Terminillo and Leonessa. In spring it is green and snow is minimal but in winter you may need chains as Terminillo is a ski resort for downhill and cross country skiing. Leonessa is a town that has been awarded the orange banner by the Italian Touring club. The orange banner indicates a town less than 15,000 people, with natural and historical beauty that has a good ambience and offers good local produce.
Place to eat: Hosteria di Nonna Gilda, 85 Limite sud, just outside of Greccio
Soriano - Anagni-Subiaco. (178 kms 2hr 22 mins) Allow about 5 hours for the round trip. Take the A1 to Rome and then the A1 direction Naples (Naples-Milan), come off at the Anagni-Fuigi terme) and drive into Anagni. Wonderful town to explore with great views and a remarkable romanesque cathedral. Also the site of some conflictual papal history. The convent of S. Benedetto just outside of Subiaco is an amazing construction dating from the 6th century.