With 6 nights between leaving Cinque Terre and heading to Rome to meet up with Ryan's parents we decided to get a small place on the boarder between Umbria and Latium. On our way there we included a few stop overs in Pisa to see the leaning tower, Lucca to see the massive ancient walls and Assisi to see San Francesco.
After researching and finding a bargin on booking.com we found ourselves at a small town called Montebuono at a small boutique bed and breakfast where the owners spoke no English but cheerfully greeted us we a bottle of wine and olive oil from the trees and vines that surrounded the homestead. A small afternoon walk revealed that less then a km away was the ruins of an old castle - in the picture below - and that the locals were all very friendly, giving us big smiles as we walked past. From here we decided to do day trips in the surrounding areas, driving through fields and fields of sunflowers. First up we did a day trip to Tarquinia to see where the ancient Etruscan built tombs underground and visit the beautiful local museum and then on our way home stopping at a small hot spring. On the drive to the hot spring we were happy to see the clouds gather and break out in rain, cooling down the 35C heat to a chilly 21C and thankfully emptied the small springs so that when we arrived we were the only ones there. We quickly jumped into the warmest pool and covered ourselves with the therapeutical - apparently - mud and relaxed for half an our or so.
One place I was looking forward to going back to was Orvieto, so to make the best day we researched what day the local markets were and set off. Getting there nice and early was a great decision as we well and truly beat the tour groups from Rome. We were some of the only tourist in the large crowd of Italian Nona's trying to get our groceries for the week and getting our morning shot of coffee! After dropping off our fresh fruit, veges, wild boar sausages and cheese in the car we started exploring the town itself. Perhaps one of the most beautiful facades of a duomo in Italy is that on the one in Orvieto, but we also enjoyed the small winding streets, smaller duomos and the friendly people. On our way home we decided on a quick stop in Todi, a small town in Umbria, with yet another beautiful ancient city but devoid of the massive tour groups that haunt Umbria and Tuscany in summer. A nice little place to stop for a second coffee of the day and enjoy the breeze in the rose gardens behind the duomo.
Another recommendation from our friends Tara and Caz was the garden of the monsters in Bomarzo. Again they proved to be excellent tour guides, with us entering the almost empty complex and wandering through an almost deserted garden of statues commissioned in the 16th century by Pier Francesco Orsin for his wife Giulia Farnese when she died. Artists who worked on it included Pirro Ligorio, and the sculptururer Simone Moschino. The garden was abandoned in the 19th century then rediscovered and restored in the 1970s. Not only was it a beautiful tranquil garden but under the shady trees it was a welcome relief from the scorching heat.
On our final day we decided to day trip to Tivoli to visit Villa Adriana (Hadrian's villa). The villa was built by the roman emperor in the 2nd and 3rd century as a retreat from Rome. Adriana was said to have built it due to his dislike of the palace in Rome on Palatine hill and in his later years as emperor actually rule from this villa in Tivoli. Now Villa Adriana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an impressive attraction. Ryan and I both enjoyed walking through the ruins imagining how life was for the emperor when the villa was used by Adriana himself. We then drove up to the Georges town of Tivoli and enjoyed a slice of pizza and a gelato while exploring the town itself.