As a settlement Viterbo dates back to Etruscan times. Between around 1100 and 1300, it was one of the most important cities in Europe. By the 13th Century it had 50 castles under its control. It was the place where Popes took refuge when driven out of Rome and for several decades was the seat of the Papacy. It was the scene of battles between potential invaders of Rome and papal armies. With the departure of the Papacy to Orvieto and then to Avignon Viterbo declined in importance. It was further hit by Black Death, which killed two-thirds of its population and a major earthquake in 1349. Last century it was damaged by appalling Fascist-era town planning and then by Allied bombs. These days its population is about the same as it was in the 13th Century, at around 60,000. Apart from its tradition its main claim to fame now is that Italy’s gold reserves are held there.
Main railway stations are Porta Fiorentina and Porta Romana. Both are quite close to the center. From Rome: trains almost every hour, mostly departing from Roma Ostiense station (go and return for 10 €). The trip takes about 2 hours.
From Rome take the ring road of GRA to the Cassia bis exit and follow this road to Viterbo. An alternative, but longer route, is to take the A1 motorway (from Rome follow the signs towards Firenze, and exit at Orte. Then take the S204 towards Viterbo (about 3 € tolls from Rome). It´s not really comfortable to drive inside the historical centre, as all the streets are quite narrow and "one way". Better to park your car out of the town walls.
The historical centre is small enough to be visited on foot.
For longer distances you can use the local bus network (ordinary 90 min. ticket for 0,70 €; daily ticket for 1,55 €). Tickets can be found at tobacconists, and must be validated when getting on the bus.
- Viterbo Cathedral (Cattedrale di San Lorenzo). The cathedral dates back to the 12th Century but the façade is 16th Century and the tower 14th. There is a tomb for Pope John XXI. Pope Alexander IV was also buried there but his tomb was unaccountably destroyed during 16th Century renovations. According to legend the cathedral was built on the site of an Etruscan temple to Hercules.
- Palazzo dei Papi. This was formerly the bishop’s residence but was enlarged for the popes. It was the papal seat between 1257 and 1281 and hosted six popes. It was the site of the first Papal Conclave when the local people got so fed up with the cardinals taking too long to elect a pope that they locked them all in until they came to a decision. The practice continues to this day in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.
- Church of San Francesco. Built in the 13th century in Romanesque-Gothic style, this church was completely destroyed by bombs in 1944. It was reconstructed in 1953. There is the superb mausoleum of Pope Hadrian V, who died in Viterbo in 1276 and the mausoleum of Pope Clement IV, who died in Viterbo in 1268. There are also remains of the tomb of the so-called “Pope-of-one-day”, Cardinal Vicedomino Vicedomini, who would have become Gregory XI, if he had not died the night after his election.
- Palazzo dei Priori. This originally dates back to 1263. Inside there is a garden court with arcades of 1682 with an elegant Baroque fountain and a beautiful view. There are some interesting frescoes.
- Church of S. Maria Nuova. This is one of the most ancient churches in Viterbo, built in 1080 on the remains of a temple.Externally, on the left, there is a pulpit on a column, from where St. Thomas Aquinas preached. The church has a wide range of Viterbese frescoes and paintings from between the 14th and the 16th Centuries. In the apse of the left aisle there is a precious tryptych from 1180 painted on leather with the effigy of Christ.
- Rocca Albornoz, Piazza della Rocca, 21/b. 8:30 to 19:30 except Mondays. This castle was greatly destroyed by the bombings in 1944. It took over a century to build and was finally completed in 1462. The Rocca Albornoz houses a national archeological museum (Museo Nazionale) with a permanent exhibition on Etruscan and other cultures. € 2,00.
- Piazza Commune (Piazza Della Plebescità). That's where the Government Palace is.
- Thermal springs
Already famous in Roman times, and quoted by Dante in his "Divine Comedy"...having a bath in one of their natural thermal springs is, perhaps, what you would never miss from Viterbo. As they are in surrounding open-air countryside areas, you can use them all year, every time of the day (for free, of course). Water reachs temperatures of 55°C, so the experience gets more amazing in freezing days (and nights).
The most famous ones are called Bulicame (2 km from Viterbo, on the road that leads to Tuscania). On the other hand there are also some springs run as spas centres (Terme dei Papi and Pianeta Benessere)
- La Buca di San fastino. Wonderful family restaurant with delicious food! And really cheap too. 10 euros for primo, secondo, plus contorni.
- Il Monastero, Via Fattungheri, 10. Huge and delicious pizzas around €5.
- Also good is Pizzeria San Pelligrino, on Via San Pelligrino.
- Tre Re at Piazza Del'Erbe has excellent pastas and other Viterbese fare for about €10-€20 per person.
- Il Laberinto. Great cheaper restaurant just a few steps away from Il Monastero.
- Convivium, piazza della Morte, 14, ☎ 0761324397. Recently opened. delicious apertivs, dinner, and wine.
- Tredici Gradi, Piazza Don Mario Gargiuli, 11 & Piazza del Gesu', 18, ☎ 0761-305596. Restaurant, bar, & wine bar (vineria con cucina e slow bar) The menu varies daily, by season & the mood of the cook. Fantastic food & amazing antipasti featuring regional artisanal meats, cheeses & other delicacies. Simply amazing food & a great experience. The also have a sell lots of goodies typical of the region to take back home including an incredible wine selection.
- "Caffe Cavour" on Via Cavour, has the best cappuccino in town.
- "Blitz" - great food and drinks
- "Shu Lounge" - pricey drinks, nice outdoor seating, good music, friendly workers
- Tuscia Hotel, ☎ , fax: +39 0761 345976, e-mail: email@example.com. Via Cairoli 41. In the centre of Viterbo/ Lift, bar, air conditionned lounge, breakfast room, free internet point, roof garden with views, garage.
- Country Hotel Rinaldone, Strada Rinaldone, ☎ . Old rural buildings inside a 180 hectare farm, 3 km away from Viterbo. Consists of 20 rooms with bar-fridge, TV and telephone, placed in a row and facing green areas. Also tennis-courts, a 250 mq swomming-pool, mountain-bikes, table-tennis etc. The restaurant has been built in the most ancient part the building, dating back to the XVI century.
- Hotel Viterbo, Via San Camillo De Lellis, 6 · 01100 Viterbo Italy Ph: +39 0761.270100 · Fax: +39 0761.275717 · Toll Free: 800.820.080.
- Mini Palace Hotel, Via Santa Maria della Grotticella 2/b, ☎ , fax: +39-0761-344715, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Viterbo is the center of a really fascinating area and there are many places that can be explored by car in an easy day trip. To the east is the Etruscan city of Tarquinia, to the north Orvieto and in a general southerly direction places such as the park of monsters at Bomarzo and the Etruscan/Roman remains of Sutri should not be missed.