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98km (61 miles) north of Rome

The 2,000 years that have gone into the creation of the city of Viterbo make it one of the most interesting day trips from Rome. Although it traces its history back to the Etruscans, the bulk of its historical architecture dates from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when the city was a residence (and hide-out) for the popes. The old section of the city is still surrounded by the thick stone walls that once protected the inhabitants from papal (or antipapal, depending on the situation at the time) attacks.

Essentials

Getting There -- Take a direct train from Rome (at the Ostiense Station or Roma Trastevere) to Viterbo. The trip takes 1 3/4 hours, costing 4.50€ one-way.

If you're driving, take Autostrada A1 north to the Orte exit.

Visitor Information -- Tourist information is available at Via Ascenzi 4 (tel. 0761-325992); the office is open Monday to Thursday 9:30am to 1pm and 3 to 6pm, Friday and Saturday 9:30am to 1pm.

Seeing the Sights

The only way to see Viterbo properly is to wander through the narrow cobblestone streets of the medieval town. Piazza del Plebiscito, dominated by the 15th-century town hall, impresses visitors with the fine state of preservation of Viterbo's old buildings. The courtyard and fountain in front of the town hall and the 13th-century governor's palace are favorite meeting places for townsfolk and visitors alike.

Just down Via San Lorenzo is Piazza San Lorenzo, the site of Viterbo's cathedral, which sits atop a former Etruscan acropolis. The Duomo, dating from 1192, is a composite of architectural styles, with pagan foundations, a Renaissance facade, and a Gothic bell tower. Next door is the 13th-century Palazzo Papale, which was built as a residence for the pope but also served as a hide-out when he was in exile.

The best example of medieval architecture in Viterbo is the San Pellegrino Quarter, reached from Piazza San Lorenzo by a short walk past Piazza della Morte. This quarter, inhabited by working-class Viterboans, is a maze of narrow streets, arched walkways, towers, steep stairways, and ornamental fountains.

Worth a special visit is the Convent of Santa Maria della Verita, dating from 1100. The church contains 15th-century frescoes by Lorenzo da Viterbo.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.