Once a glorious medieval city, Viterbo has flourished through the centuries thanks largely to the generous hands of numerous popes. Today it has a certain grandeur that is difficult to find outside of Rome, and the city is considered to be one of the best preserved examples of medieval Italy.
For the locals, however, it’s simply a beautiful place to shop, stroll and relax in the many alfresco cafes.
Viterbo has a bit of a coffee and cake culture – a rare thing in Italy – so you’ll have plenty of excuses to sit at a sidewalk table and enjoy the sights or simply watch the effortlessly elegant Italians as they go about their day.
Viterbo is best known for its proliferation of profferl or the external staircases that were common in medieval homes.
You can soak up the best of the medieval architecture in the San Pellegrino quarter.
Palazzo dei Papi
The home for two-decades’ worth of popes, this majestic palace is carved out of grey stone and is the sort of destination you’d expect the wealthy papacy to take refuge in in times of war and rest.
Cathedral of San Lorenzo
Originally built as episcopal see of the exempt bishopric of Viterbo in Romanesque style by Lombard architects at the site of an ancient Roman temple of Hercules, it was rebuilt from the sixteenth century onwards.
There is a spa complex where you can enjoy Viterbo’s very own brand of hot spring, but if you’re looking for something more scenic and more importantly, free, follow the locals to a small spring located just outside the city in what looks like a gigantic baseball field.
The water here flows at a constant temperature of 38°C and the pools are open 24/7.