Often I am accused of over-planning. For me half the excitement of a trip is the anticipation. So I am enthused about what we are doing even before we go! There is always room for some spur of the moment adventures in any case. Today we really enjoy ourselves in two towns off the tourist beaten track.
This morning we go into Viterbo. The reason we are in Viterbo is that we wanted a stopover somewhere about an hour and a half north of Rome. I did not want John to have to drive all the way to Siena after being awake for more than 24 hours. Our chance encounter with Viterbo turns out to be a good one.
After driving into the old part of the city we find a parking lot and head off on foot up and down the narrow, steep streets. We are looking for the cathedral and the papal palace. Sarah is our tour guide.
We finally find our way to the cathedral where all sorts of uniformed men and women are streaming into the church. A sign says, “No turisti!” We discover that today, the one morning that we have to see the cathedral, is the day that uniformed people are having a special mass and blessing.
Okay, we will look around at the other buildings in the piazza. One is the papal palace. Viterbo acted as an alternative site for the papacy during the 13th century. Here’s a funny story about it.
“One of the best stories about the Viterbo popes is of an election for the papacy in 1268. 18 cardinals dutifully assembled in the bishop’s palace, but after a year and a half they still hadn’t managed to choose between candidates. The Viterbesi, exasperated, locked the cardinals in their conclave (the word comes from the Latin ‘with key’), reduced them to bread and water rations and even removed the roof of the palace. Eventually the cardinals made their decision, but it had taken nearly three years – the longest ever conclave.”
Finally it is10AM and the little museum that holds artworks and artifacts of the cathedral opens. We, of course, are eager to see and identify the various saints and situations in the artwork.
After finishing up the museum we find the car park and hurry back to the hotel to check out and begin our way to Siena.
Part 2 to follow