We are going to see Orvieto, one of the most striking, memorable, and enjoyable hill towns in central Italy.
The drive is smooth and interesting because of the various landscape sceneries: wide valleys, hill side towns, green countryside, woodlands and well-maintained fields. On the way we’ll stop off to see Civita di Bagnoregio: built atop a peak rising high above a vast canyon it looks unreal and really worth of seeing.
Soon after the hill town of Orvieto will show sitting majestically on a cliff of volcanic rock.
We’ll enjoy here visiting the fantastic cathedral that has a vivid façade and a must-see chapel inside, strolling around monumental buildings and medieval houses, narrow street and alleyways, discovering least visited masterpieces of art.
We’ll do window-shopping and enjoy a light lunch, of course tasting the local wine.
The visit of Orvieto could be easily included in your transfer by car between Rome and Florence.
We’ll go to Cerveteri, a little village an hour drive north of Rome, to learn about the Etruscans, a pre-Roman population who had a great influence on the Ancient Rome.
We’ll explore the necropolis whose tombs, mirroring the homes of the inhabitants, reveal the social organization of the etruscan society. This perfectly preserved ‘city of the dead’, shaped in volcanic stone, has been declared Unesco World Heritage because it’s one of the most unbelievable example of archaic cemetery.
After the necropolis we enter the little etruscan museum which is housed in a medieval fortress: we’ll see the items that were found in the tombs, handmade artifacts that are featuring many aspects of the everyday life: urns, jewelry, potteries, ceramics, carvings of bronze and marble.
This mysterious and fascinating civilization that existed 25 centuries ago still communicates with us today!
Lunch in a restaurant on the sea or back to Rome soon after the visit.
An hour drive from Rome we see Tivoli, a little hill side town in the Rome’s surroundings with an intact medieval core and two major sites: the ancient villa of the Emperor Hadrian and the renaissance gardens of Villa D’Este.
We’ll visit the impressive ruins of Hadrian’s Villa, where natural beauty and architectural creativity blend together in a magic place designed by the emperor first and then by the time.
Then we’ll go ahead to the center of the town to have a walk through the winding middle ages streets and visit Villa D’Este, built by a cardinal who had great aspiration to become a pope, and famous for its amazing gardens ornamented with more than 200 fountains, nothing less than a feast for the senses.
Optionally, to those that like trekking, I warmly suggest to include the walk through Villa Gregoriana as well, with waterfalls, caves, ancient ruins and wild views, one of the most romantic gardens in Italy!
Stop at your choice for a light lunch or a drink to make a perfect relaxing excursion.
Let’s drive south-east of Rome to explore the area called Roman Castles: it’s a green volcanic complex with two lakes where since the days of Ancient Rome well-to-do Romans have had summer homes. Emperors first, then popes, cardinals, princes.
The volcano ahead, the arches of the aqueducts to the side, in 30 minutes we’ll see the lake, a few small villages spread around, renaissance villas, gardens, vineyards. Among the many sites my favorite are Castel Gandolfo and Ariccia.
Castel Gandolfo, summer resort town of the popes is a must-see; I definitely suggest to visit the papal residence recently opened by Pope Frances. The city of Ariccia, with the superb architecture by Bernini is outstanding as well: the ducal palace created for the Chigi Family in 1600s still has the original furnishings!
The area is definitely famous for its traditional cuisine and local wine, so that a lunch of your choice or a wine tasting can be easily included.
Ostia followed the same destiny of Rome either in its greatness and in its decadence. Important colony because of the salt flats first, then main sea-trade harbor of the empire, in the Middle Ages totally abandoned, covered by the mud for a long time, until last century was beautifully excavated.
Ancient Ostia is today one of the best examples of an ancient Roman town in all of Italy, second only to Pompeii and Herculaneum. It’s located less than an hour driving outside Rome.
Being a port town, Ostia accommodated people, maybe 50.000, from all over the known world and in our tour everything will take us back to the daily life of a rich cosmopolitan seaport.
Wandering among the ruins we’ll discover shops, houses, thermal baths, warehouses, the amphitheater, a forum with temples, a bakery and more than this, learning a lot of the Ancient Rome.
Magical site, really off the beaten path, the visit is one the most amazing archaeological scavenger hunt.