Moving up through Tuscany

The last few days in Lazio bring Italian life to the fore. Firstly dinner at Il Ponto restaurant overlooking the stranded village of Civita do Bagnoregio linked to the ‘mainland’ by the long pedestrian bridge.

20140828180444_IMG_2805 20140828175526_IMG_2798

The following day is spent enjoying the space that is Vittorio & Beatrice’s home- they live in the far side during the summer & leave their guests in privacy to enjoy the rest of the house & the pool.

20140828055446_IMG_2620

20140828055151_IMG_2615

They ask us to join them for the evening at Beatrice’s parents home across the valley. A group of young opera singers have joined their mentor to train their voices and family & friends are treated to a performance on the terrace under the stars. A bass sings four cantatas and then we all join in with a song sheet in Italian – not quite to Rock Choir standard! This is followed by a traditional meal for the 17 of us including lasagna, potato & beetroot & copious amounts of the local red wine. I am now a convert to cow mozzarella.

20140829_202724

It is with sadness that we leave Vittorio & Beatrice the following day. We came as guests and left as friends.

We drive across the farmland of Lazio, the scenery becoming less wooded as we move north via the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore providing a haven of shade from the parched landscape of southern Tuscany-not that there were many monks in evidence; just the well heeled clientele at the exclusive restaurant.

20140830114630_IMG_2846 20140830110649_IMG_2809

It is then across the dry scraped landscape of Tuscany towards Umbria. Parched rolling farmland split only by lines of telephone wires, clusters of olive trees & vines, bubbles of mixed woodland, farm buildings ancient & modern and that quentissential feature of rural Italy – the lines & rows of cypress trees. But then on a hill in the distance appears the silhouette of a tower or a spire or fortifications with modern houses & flats huddled around its base. Around the next bend another similar settlement appears to continually reassure that life has gone on in this way for centuries.

20140830115505_IMG_2853 20140830115913_IMG_2864

The drive ends in Umbria where the scenery changes yet again with wooded hills leaving wide fertile river valleys in between and large fields of tobacco & corn.

 

Advertisements

A chance sighting opens up Montefiascone

20140828150823_IMG_2626

 

Driving through the Lazio countryside we catch a glimpse of Montefiascone through the olive & fruit trees. The duomo rears up high, perched on the rim of an old volcano and dominates the skyline. The car seems to turn in that direction automatically.

Taking the lift up from the carpark (yes, lift) the small Etruscan old town is like going back in time. Up close the 17th century duomo is equally impressive as it is from a distance. This is yet another landmark on the pilgrim route that links Canterbury & Rome – the Via Francigena.

20140828153308_IMG_2644 20140828161633_IMG_2727 20140828155132_IMG_2677 20140828154401_IMG_2661

 

Everyday life of modern Italians is evident throughout the mediaeval streets that crowd around the duomo.

20140828153852_IMG_2656 20140828155415_IMG_2687 20140828165819_IMG_2780

 

The surprise, having snaked a route through the shadows of these narrow alleys is arriving at the western gate to see the whole of Lake Bolzano & surrounding countryside spread out before you in the glorious colours of the setting sun which sets up shadows to give an extra dimension to the landscape & atmosphere.

20140828155738_IMG_2696 20140828160246_IMG_2708

 

20140828160215_IMG_2707

As always, the town square is the hub of all the streets & alleys and of town life. The omnipresent fountain provides the focal point for whiling away time or chatting or just sitting to contemplate the day. I like this guy- people come to him!!20140828163200_IMG_2750

20140828164737_IMG_2769

20140828153649_IMG_2649

20140828153559_IMG_2647

 

 

Lago di Bolsena has it all

We have the sat nav to thank for discovering this place. Having decided to drive towards the coast we drop down to Lake Bolsena, the largest in Lazio & occupying a broad volcanic crater with its own microclimate around its shore where vines & olive trees grow in the fertile soil. The town of Bolsena has elegant avenues of huge deciduous trees leading to the shore, mediaeval nooks & alleyways running off the main drag and a 14th century castle perched over the western edge of a ridge overlooking the lake. The history dates back to Roman & Etruscan times. Dante praised the quality of the eels caught by local fishermen along with perch & pike, all of which feature highly on local menus!

So enjoy these images of the town & the lakeside.

20140827165446_IMG_2538 20140827162522_IMG_2504 20140827162303_IMG_2498 20140827162813_IMG_2508 20140827164220_IMG_2521 20140827165033_IMG_2535 20140827164943_IMG_2533 20140827165020_IMG_2534

 

As dusk falls  & the sun starts to set a quiet promenade is required through the avenue of large trees to the lakeside. A quiet beer on the ‘beach’ to watch the locals fish & catch the last few rays before dinner in the trattoria on its own small pier over the water. Aaaahhhh!!!

20140827170541_IMG_2549 20140827171035_IMG_2562 20140827173014_IMG_2590 20140827174436_IMG_2604

People watching in the Piazza delle Erbe in Viterbo

The old town of Viterbo is contained within tall walls & towers. Streets lead down from the gates, which take cars in single file, through dark, narrow streets fronted by tall terraced buildings to the ancient heart of piazzas, churches, town offices & the duomo.

20140826151931_IMG_2371

20140826150617_IMG_2345

20140826153140_IMG_2390

 

The old mixes with the new – look closely at this one; which Tom is peeping?

20140826165951_IMG_2466

The Piazza delle Erbe is a small square at the centre of the town with a fountain in the middle where five streets meet, including the main shopping stretch, and edged by cafes & gelateria. Locals of all ages pass & settle & gossip & chatter on their evening passeggiata dressed to kill in their classy glad rags and many with the indispensable accessory of a gelato.

20140826160408_IMG_2420 20140826161748_IMG_2439 20140826165058_IMG_2458

 

20140826162941_IMG_2455

20140826162530_IMG_2448

 

20140826162920_IMG_2454

20140826162807_IMG_2452

20140826170346_IMG_2472

20140826161518_IMG_2433

 

On our doorstep – the village of Bagnoregio

After a day chilling out at the house (more another time) to get over the days of driving, a small journey is called for to the nearest place of any size which has supplies – Bagnoregio. This is an ordinary, busy place which hides a nugget at the far end. Tatty houses & simple shops line the main road and up from here stretches a cobbled street along a ridge with narrow streets branching off on either side. These play host to the houses intermixed with simple churches & piazzas and to the local population of all ages who hang about chatting in the shade as all Italians seem to do – the men together at the bar, the older ladies on benches in the piazzas, people hanging out of windows watching the world go by and families pushing prams & children riding around on bikes linking it all together.

20140825152217_IMG_2291

 

“Well I’m going this way”

20140825160330_IMG_2306

20140825160354_IMG_2308

20140825160456_IMG_2310

20140825161234_IMG_2313

 

And then the nugget – the tiny village of Civita do Bagnoregio high above the surrounding canyons on a pillar of soft rocks that are being eroded away. The only way to reach the precariously balanced houses is by a 20 minute walk along a viaduct. More on this another day.

20140825163719_IMG_2331

Italy revisited – Tuscany, Umbria & Lazio

Driving down through France heading for the tunnels through the Alps, the first sign that the splendours of Italy await is the rear of Mt Blanc standing guard on the border. Once through its dim, subterranean dual carriage way the glories of the Italian Alps beckon you further in.

20140822080644_IMG_2198

 

The first thing that has to be done once over the border is to find the prettiest of places & stop for lunch & explore.

20140822124052_IMG_2238

 

Rabbit salad with a glass of ice cold rose on the shore of Lake Orta. This is one of the smallest of the Italian lakes, surrounded by mountains. It is as if Walt Disney has taken the place over to typify all that is Italian beauty. Picturesque old villages nestle around the shore cry out to be expored.

20140822131049_IMG_2258

20140822121243_IMG_2211

20140822121641_IMG_2214

 

The pivotal sight is that of the island of San Giulio which can be seen from every spot on the shore. Only 275m x 140m it oozes  a mixture of  scruffy elegance & class & history & religion & the Italian way of doing things.

20140822130931_IMG_2254

A day in Dubrovnik

A day is not enough time to explore all the corners & streets & churches & museums in this fortified medieval city. The onslaught of the big cruise ships & the land based tourists makes for tedious congestion in the streets & on the walls. Nevertheless Dubrovnik has a sense of history, both ancient & recent with pockets of charm, shade, music & elegance. Sadly most is designed to rip off the tourist. Ignore that & enjoy the twisting alleys & steps & the glittering Adriatic is always a backdrop.

20140805081741_IMG_1920

20140805085217_IMG_1975

 

20140805122218_IMG_2141

Someone has to clean the windows & polished the dome!!

20140805120938_IMG_2126

 

Before lunch we purchase a ticket from this lovely lady for a cruise around the harbour & nearby island skippered by this not so lovely gentleman.

20140805090639_IMG_1999

20140805092029_IMG_2008

See, I do take piccies of younger people occasionally! On the rocks on the far side of the island the meerkats stand & play.

20140805095017_IMG_2043

 

20140805121222_IMG_2127

20140805100608_IMG_2070

After a very classy lunch of sea bream with black truffle sauce I take in the views of the city from the surrounding walls.

20140805115101_IMG_2110

20140805115357_IMG_2115

20140805115301_IMG_2114

20140805113436_IMG_2091

Then we say a sad goodbye to Marko & Igor, our two Serbian drivers, and B our guide, as we settle down for our last night in Cavtat, just down the coast, before flying home in the morning.