Exploring the medieval Vatican City: Viterbo, Italy

Viterbo, ItalyLast week I wrote about the Terme dei Papi – The Thermal Baths of the Popes – in northern Lazio.

In this port, I wanted to highlight the beautiful town of Viterbo, just a few kilometers away from this spa, and well worth a visit before or after you soak in the warm waters.

Viterbo, as its very name suggests, has ancient origins. The name Viterbo derives from the ancient Latin name for the town: Vetus Urbs, which means old city.

Traces of Neolithic civilizations have been found, and the Etruscans would settle the area, which would later be conquered by the Ancient Romans and developed into a military settlement.

Viterbo, ItalyViterbo is best known, however,  as the “Papal City”. In the 13th century it was the Pontifical seat, and for almost 24 years, the Papal Palace – Viterbo’s equivalent of the Vatican – saw the election of various Popes, and housed them once elected.

This period of Viterbo as the home of the Popes began under Pope Alessandro IV in 1257 and lasted, with various interruptions, through a decision returning Papal powers to Rome made by Pope Martino IV in 1281.

Viterbo, Lazio, ItalyToday, its historic center has many well-preserved medieval buildings and neighborhoods – even if many were rebuilt after bombing damage during World War II.

It’s a great town to wander, and you can’t go wrong stopping off here for lunch or dinner to enjoy the excellent Northern Lazio cuisine. That’s what my son and I did after a “tough” day at the spa. : )

For some other highlights in the area, see some of my earlier posts on the “dying city” of Civita di Bagnoreggio, The Monster Park of Bomarzo,  autumn in medieval Vitorchiano and neighboring Orvieto – from its panoramic medieval tower to its splendid Etruscan Museum. Enjoy your time in and around Viterbo.

Viterbo, Lazio, Italy

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