After the dominoes fell sideways on Thursday (everything was late: two planes and a bus to Roma), I arrived in Roma just in time to check in and meet friends for dinner. No jet lag for me!
The next morning I took the train from Roma Stazione San Pietro to Viterbo, which I had visited many years ago as a day trip from Roma. This time I am giving it three nights. The bus from the train station drives through one of the city gates - the gate still has its wooden doors.
Viterbo has a haunting atmosphere in the rain (two days' worth so far). Colors of stone are brown and grey, which gives it a somewhat melancholy quality. Viterbo's heyday was the Middle Ages period just before the popes moved to Avignon. Five popes were elected in Viterbo, the first place the conclave was used. A guided tour of the papal palace and San Lorenzo is worth it.
There are many fountains in the middle of intriguing piazze, but my favorite part of Viterbo is the medieval quarter, with winding streets (and lots of restoration going on, watch for debris funnels running down the sides of buildings - a sign that things are getting better economically?), plaques with inscriptions everywhere, architectural details that span a millennium. The Etruscan Museum is in the newer part of town, definitely worth seeing if you really love archeology.
Restaurants are inexpensive for the most part, several gluten-free options. Note for people with gluten intolerance (but not celiac disease): I have no reaction to regular flour in Italy, but I don't eat it every day. Lentil soup on a rainy day, yum!
Tourists and pilgrims visit Viterbo, mostly Italian tourists in groups, pilgrims from all over the world follow the Via Frangisena (Way of Saint Francis). But the number of visitors is small.