MANY people say that teachers have great holidays. I am not here to stand on my soap box and tell you about all the times I spend my holidays working. I am not doing this because, this time round, I prioritised that millennial notion of “self-care” and did nothing. Nothing. Well, nothing except leave Rome for the first time in months. Before you get your metaphorical knickers in a knot, I did not leave my region as the borders are closed. I opted, instead, to explore a lesser-known area that tourists most often skip, Tuscia. No, no and no. This is not Tuscany. That said, there is a connection: The Etruscans. This civilization of ancient Italy preceded the Roman Empire (Julius Caesar eat your heart out – side note: he was a senator/dictator not technically an emperor) and occupied a territory that covered Tuscany, Umbria and Northern Lazio (the region where Rome is).
What did I want to see here? The Medieval villages (borghi), the countryside and, simply, I needed some fresh air. I adore Rome, but I craved open spaces, sprawling fields, getting lost in medieval villages with awful Google Maps. To get my slice of vacanza, I caught the train (literally leapt aboard before it took off from Ostiense Station in a flurry of wheezing) to Viterbo where I had booked a super cute B n B “La Suite del Borgo” smack bang in the historical centre. After surviving a first-class creeper on the train who touched my handed and thigh (in a pandemic…I know) before hopping off (thank God), I was much relieved to be lost in the labyrinth of cobblestone streets near Piazza San Pellegrino. After attempting to use the GPS that lead me up …. the garden path (or, for those Aussies who are familiar with the phrase, “up….creek”), I stumbled across the B and B. The host, Stefano, is an avid traveller who has been locked down by this pandemic. Not only that, but with a young family, he is coping with the disappearing act of the tourism industry. Generosity of humans is the most wonderful thing. Even though I was on a peasant budget, he had given me breakfast for free for my entire stay and even topped up my coffee pods! He patiently took me through all the main sites of the area and regularly checked up on me to make sure I was having a pleasant stay. When this pandemic clears, please support these locals as they are truly lovely.
After treating myself to a three-course lunch of truffle gricia pasta, roast pork, and a cheeky tiramisu I headed off to explore the town. I do not crave seeing people when I travel. In this sense, I am somewhat selfish as I want to have beautiful places all to myself. Viterbo was essentially mine for the few days that I spent here. The Papal Palace was closed to the public (like many other tourist sites during the pandemic), but the actual buildings of the town itself are UNESCO heritage listed. The numerous profferli scattered around this part of town add an extra attractiveness to what is already indeed rather beautiful: these external staircases – which used to connect the downstairs of the old houses (where people kept their animals or used them as workshops) to the upstairs, where the ancient Viterbesi lived – are a unique feature that can be found only in Viterbo and in a few villages nearby.
I hopped between a few Medieval churches and fountains before realising that it was heading for 6pm. Lazio is considered Zona Gialla (yellow zone) meaning that restrictions are lower than in other areas, but every restaurant shuts shop at 6pm. At that point I headed to my apartment (yes, free upgrade and no, not sponsored…not that cool) and started researching my adventured for the following morning.
A car was hired. I got bogged in the middle of nowhere and played damsel in distress.
Until my next update,