I have just spent the four most wonderful days in a beautiful, Medieval town called Viterbo. On my way from Florence I met a Florentine man on the train who queried why I on earth I wanted to spend 3 days there. "What are you going to do there?!" I was meant to stay three, but extended it to four because it really is such a beautiful place to visit.
The countryside, the winding, cobbled streets (I got as lost there as I did in Venice!) and the people! The people are so lovely and welcoming. Daniela and Stefano at La Suite del Borgo, Cristina at the Panda Shop, and the lovely young couple who run Buon Gusto - all so lovely! I feel so lucky to have stayed there! (Special thanks to David M who recommended it to me!!)
So, I will try and be brief as possible! I did a lot!
My main reason for visiting was to visit Parco Dei Mostri, Bagnoregio and Villa Lante.
On my first day it was raining very steadily so I thought, "I'll go to Villa Lante!" Got on the bus... Had no idea where I was going. Asked some ladies, who spoke no English, where the stop for Villa Lante was... What I got in reply were strange looks and what was along the lines of "you crazy English woman wanting to go to a garden in this rain!" Got to Villa Lante, and it was closed. Because of the rain. Good. So I took a risk and got one of the very infrequent buses to Bomarzo to see Parco Dei Mostri.
Parco Dei Mostri (monster park) is, believe it or not, a renaissance garden. Created by the very eccentric mind of Pier Francesco Orsini after his wife died. Large sculptures of mythological creatures were carved out of existing rocks and surprise you whenever you turn a corner. The gardens also feature a building on a deliberate, heavy lean. Went inside, it was created such a head spin. It was spectacular and definitely well worth the 2km walk downhill from the bus stop in the mist and rain to get there. And then back up the hill. Haha....
Villa Lante (got there eventually!) are gardens created in roughly the same period. However, where Parco Dei Mostri is wild and expressive, Villa Lante is restrained and mannerist. It's where nature is controlled by man and everything is symmetrical. However, I did appreciate it the calming atmosphere it created. What I also appreciated is that as you departed from the lower level of the garden, that is very controlled, the style of the garden became more free, yet, with still the perspective of the garden focused on the bottom level.
I also travelled to Bagnoregio. It's a special little Medieval town on a hill (of course) that, over the years through erosion, has become a little island. You can only walk there via a long bridge. I thought it would be fascinating. Which it is.... From a distance. Very beautiful to look at. And then you get to the village (with the other tourists) and you're greeted immediately by many souvenir shops. Not really what I expected.
So! Now in Rome! (After being chatted up at the Viterbo train Station by a man probably in his 50s who spoke no English...haha) and kind of wondering what I'm doing in the city! Viterbo has made me miss the country lifestyle! Relaxed, country scenery, veggie gardens, good food and good people! (If I don't come back you'll find me in Viterbo)
Heaps of photos below! :) (Please excuse the low resolution of them.... I've been wrestling with the iPad for about 2 hours.... Time for a glass of vino!)