Located in Latium (Lazio) in central Italy, Viterbo is understandably overshadowed by neighbouring Rome but still has a great deal to offer any visitor.

Although classified as an ancient city, little is known about Viterbo’s origins except the common belief that the site hosted the Roman colony of Vicus Erbii. Indeed, the new city of Castrum Viterbii was only recorded in the 8th century. Then under Lombard control, Viterbo was quickly absorbed into the Papal States. Continually flirting with independent status, the city was an historical retreat for numerous Popes during the Early Medieval period when things turned sour in Rome. As a result, from the 12th century onwards, the city grew prosperous and expanded until falling under the thrall of the local tyrants, the Di Vicos, three centuries later.

Eventually brought back into the Papal States, Viterbo remained relatively anonymous until absorption into the new Italy in 1871. However, with a beautifully preserved historic centre, fine food and proximity to Rome, it’s an attractive spot for the tourist.


Much of the city’s best architecture can be found in the Plaza di San Lorenzo, dominated by the Palazzo dei Papi. Expanded in the 11th and 12th centuries and used as a papal retreat, the Palazzo’s Sala del Conclave hall was the election point for many Popes, making it a site of historical importance.

Adjacent to the palace is the equally austere Duomo di Viterbo and adjoining campanile (bell tower). Built in the 12th century with a Romanesque façade, the Duomo’s current incarnation lacks its former splendour due to a poorly conducted reconstruction project. Nevertheless, the interior is remarkable for housing the tombs of at least two popes, Alexander IV and John XXI, and was a vital building during the 13th century.

Also contained within the Plaza is the town’s oldest hospital (with the original Etruscan foundations still visible) and the beautifully preserved medieval house of Valentino della Pagnotta.

There are many other beautiful edifices elsewhere in Viterbo, such as the 11th century Romanesque Chiesa del Gesù, the 9th century Chiesa di San Sisto and the Gothic-styled Chiesa di San Francesco.

Viterbo is awash with impressive palaces, the majority of which can be found in the Piazza del Plebiscito, such as the 15th century Palazzo Comunale, the 13th century Palazzo del Podestà and the rebuilt Palazzo della Prefettura.

Found in the former Convento S.M. della Verità, the Civic Museum contains an archaeological department and an art gallery.

For a pleasant promenade, look out for the Prato Giardino in the Piazzale Gramsci.

More uniquely, in nearby Bulicame (some 2 km away) you can find the thermal bathing springs noted by Dante Alighieri, still fully functional and a thoroughly pleasant experience.

The most important local event is the Macchina di S. Rosa. Taking place on September 3rd, it revolves around an illuminated bell tower with a statue of Viterbo’s patron saint on top, which processes through the city to the Piazza di Santa Rosa. A museum can be found in the city devoted to the centuries old practice.


The trade fair of Santa Rosa takes place on the 4th September and you can find plenty of local craftworks in Viterbo around the historic centre. However, most people use the city as a base to explore Rome.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Restaurants in Viterbo provide the Tuscia regional cuisine. Mixing the Tuscan and the Roman, speciality dishes include Acquacotta (stale bread, vegetables, catmint and stockfish), and Pignattaccia (oven-cooked stewed beef and pork along with vegetables). The local DOC wine is also excellent.

Of the many places to eat in the city, pizzerias like Il Monastero in the Via Fattungheri and L’Incontro in the Via G. Matteotti are both reasonable and enjoyable. You can also find international alternatives like Chinese at Grande Shanghai in the Via Cairoli.

Viterbo has plenty of pubs like The Bell & Crown in the Via Marconi and even a few clubs such as Istinto in the Via della Meccanica and Festival in the Strada Tuscanese.

Alternatively, you could seek out a show at the Teatro dell’Unione in the Piazza Verdi.

Tourist Information

Tourist Information OfficePiazza San Carluccio, 501100ViterboTel: +39 0761 304


Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport is recommended for visitors to Viterbo. Although some 80 km from the city, trains regularly depart from Rome.

Being the busiest airport in Italy, international and domestic connecting flights are available regularly to multiple destinations.

Alitalia (London-Heathrow) and British Airways (London-Gatwick and London-Heathrow) both use Leonardo da Vinci to and from British destinations.

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