The Fresh Air of Fiesole

As we boarded the number 7 bus opposite San Marco we appreciated that it was good to sit down for a while. The journey up to Fiesole takes about half an hour. And all was quiet when we got there. We chose to visit Fiesole on the Wednesday because that was the only day that didn’t threaten rain although it often looked very likely. We got off the bus in the main square and noticed a considerable drop in temperature. We soon found a little bakery where we chose a savoury pastry each followed by some little sweet cakes and tea. Refreshed we then began our tour of Fiesole.


Garibaldi etc

The Piazza Mino da Fiesole Continue reading


Acquapendente to Bolsena and Bolsena to Orvieto

Day 6

Free day in Bolsena: Explore Bolsena, its ancient streets, castle, Etruscan temples and church, and catacombs of Santa Cristina, site of the miracle of Corpus Christi. Swimming in the lake. Optional walk from Acquapendente through the low Monti Volsinii (12.2 miles, 6 hours).


Bolsena comes into view as we complete our walk from Acquapendente

Being gluttons for punishment of course we’d decided all along on the optional walk from Acquapendente. Lucky for us that Tuesday morning had been assigned by Annalisa as our ‘feedback’ time for the trip. So, as previously arranged, we met Annalisa in the hotel lobby and gave our views on the walks and hotels, restaurants etc. This slightly delayed our departure so A, whose home is in Acquapendente, offered us a lift to the start of the walk advising on places to buy lunch and water for the day. We bid her a very fond farewell as she drove off to her next assignment.

Farewell Annalisa

Goodbye Annalisa and Thank you! – Keep Smiling! You’re doing a great job!

Day 7

Bolsena to Orvieto: An old Etruscan lane leads up through woods to a plateau and across farmland. The first view of Orvieto, situated high on its extinct volcano, is unforgettable (11.3 miles, 5.5 hours). Don’t miss the magnificent cathedral with frescoes.

Wednesday, the final day of our journey to Orvieto, the weather was back to its usual blue sky and sunshine. We walked up through the old town of Bolsena and up out of the crater following a paved Roman Road and an Etruscan Lane. We were told that the route follows the historic trail of the procession of the Miracle of Bolsena.

Lake Bolsena last morning

Lake Bolsena as we leave the town

Bolsena 1

Historic Bolsena

Bolsena 2

Old Bolsena

La Medusa  Shop

La Medusa Shop – Maker of Replica Roman/Etruscan Artefacts??

La Medusa

La Medusa

Bolsena rooftops

The Rooftops and Lake – Bolsena

Bolsena Castle

Bolsena Castle

Leaving the town we soon turned from the tarmac road onto a long ancient track. “You are now walking on the old paved Roman Road to Orvieto with the flagstones clearly visible underfoot” declared the Route Booklet. I think possibly our route diverted quite a bit from the typical Roman straight-line road but we certainly approached Orvieto downhill and then uphill in a straight line.

Roman Road

The Roman Road leaving Bolsena

Ronman Road 2

Flagstones clearly visible underfoot

We crossed the border from Lazio into Umbria (Bolsena and Acquapendente are both in Lazio we left Tuscany behind between San Quirico and Latera on Monday). A couple of kilometres later we visited our final 9 Etruscan tombs. They appeared rather abandoned and the Information Board had been stripped of all information. About 5 km from our hotel in Orvieto we had our first view of the city perched on its extinct volcanic rock.

Some of 9 Etruscan tombs

Some of the 9 Etruscan Tombs

First view of Orvieto

Our first view of Orvieto

We made it! We arrived at our hotel in Orvieto with a great feeling of satisfaction and achievement. Our last night was spent in Orvieto but although the ATG holiday finished with breakfast the next day we were to travel on to Rome for a further night before returning to Yorkshire on Friday.

Orvieto Cathedral 1

The Orvieto Duomo or Cathedral at night

Orvieto Cathedral day

Begun in 1290 it is probably the finest example of Romanesque Gothic in Italy – The Duomo by day

Like our achievement – Magnificent!!


Sovana to Bolsena – Tracks and Tombs and Troglodytes … and Rain

Day 4

Sovana to San Quirico: Paths across farmland lead to an isolated church and fine Etruscan lane that descends into a gorge, from which rises crag-top Sorano. After exploring Sorano, paths along the gorge lead to the troglodyte habitations at Vitozza and the village of San Quirico (10.3 miles, 5 hours).

On the Sunday the walking began in earnest. Over 40 miles in 4 days – not bad going!

Church of San Rocco

The Abandoned Isolated Church of San Rocco


Crag-top Sorana from San Rocco Viewpoint

Via Cava San Rocco

Etruscan Lane of San Rocco

Via Cava SR tomb

Tombs along the Via Cava di San Rocco

Near the village of San Quirico (our destination on Day 4) we passed through the abandoned troglodyte village of Vitozza. This fascinating, rather eerie, place had been a medieval settlement dating back to the 12th century. There are the remains of castles, churches, and many other buildings plus many caves which were used as stables, storerooms and homes.

Troglodite homes Vitozza

Vitozza groto

Vitoza caves

Cave homes at Vitozza

Il Colombaio Vitozza

Dovecote or Columbario – 1st Century AD

Day 5

San Quirico to Bolsena: Cart tracks across farmland lead to an escarpment, where paths descend towards the small town of Latera. A climb through chestnut woods to the rim of a volcanic crater offers superb views. Tracks lead down to Lake Bolsena (10.4 miles, 5.5 hours), from where a private boat takes you across the lake to Bolsena (town).


Approaching Latera

Latera Square

We ate our picnic lunch on a bench in this square in Latera: Church of San Clemente and 1790 bell-tower

Pretty doorway in Latera

Pretty Doorway in Latera Piazza San Clemente

Leaing Latera

Leaving Latera

After leaving Latera and as we approached the crater edge with views of Lake Bolsena the rain began. Unfortunately, this meant that we were unable to take the boat trip across the lake. Annalisa had to come to our rescue and drive us round the lake to our next hotel by the lakeside at Bolsena.

A herd of sheep blocked our path

Our path is blocked by sheep – but not for too long!

Lake Bolsena in the rain

An early view of Lake Bolsena in the rain

Lake Bolsena

We arrive at the Trattoria Da Giggetto jetty


Tracks and Tombs around Sovana, Tuscany

“Day 2

Pitigliano to Sovana: Free morning to explore crag-top Pitigliano, its Etruscan houses, medieval fortress and synagogue. Then follow an Etruscan lane to a small plateau, with pastures and vines, to the charming village of Sovana (4.9 miles, 3 hours).

Day 3

Free day in Sovana: Visit Sovana’s fine Romanesque churches. Walk to see the outstanding Etruscan necropolis, including the Tomba della Sirena, restored by the ATG Trust (2.5 miles).”

After breakfast and our orientation meeting with Annalisa we set off on our first day’s walking. We felt that we had explored Pitigliano sufficiently the previous afternoon and were happy to get started with the walk in earnest.

Our next port-of-call was to be Sovana a pretty village, popular with day visitors (especially so probably because Friday 25 April was an Italian public holiday and the weather was good), just a few miles from Pitigliano.

Our path lead us through further fine examples of Vie Cave, past ancient Etruscan tombs carved out of the local tufa rock and along the ubiquitous strada bianca (small gravel country roads connecting farms) – marked ‘SB’ in our trusty route booklet.

Via Cava di San Giuseppe

Via Cava di San Giuseppe

Etruscan Tombs

Etruscan Tombs – good examples of ‘tomba a camera’

strada bianca

Our first Strada Bianca

After this relatively easy walk along open tracks and through woodland and further vie cave we arrived in Sovana in the early afternoon allowing us plenty of time to have lunch, explore the village and relax in the beautiful gardens of the Sovana Hotel and Resort right next door to the ancient Duomo.

Main piazza Sovana

Arriving in the main Piazza in Sovana

Via del Duomo

The Via Del Duomo, Sovana

Sovana Duomo

The Romanesque Duomo from the hotel gardens

Duomo from hotel window

The Duomo from the Hotel window

Carved Cathedral Door

The Carved Cathedral Doorway

It was lovely to spend two nights at the Sovana Hotel. The ‘free’ day was a Saturday and many people were visiting the village but our circular walk was mostly very quiet although we did join some others at the necropolis Parco Archeologico “Citta’ del Tufo” 

Discovered by S.J. Ainsley and George Dennis in 1843, the Etruscan Tombs are situated along the road from Sovana to S. Martino Sul Fiora. This valley, lined with tombs, is possibly the best preserved Etruscan necropolis. Whilst the tombs themselves are underground, above many of them Greek ‘temple’ style monuments have been carved into the rock. They were not only burial tombs but the flights of steps up the ‘temples’ meant they were places of worship as well. They were stuccoed and painted.” [Adapted from the Route Booklet]

At the Parco Archeologico

Tomba Pola

Tomba Pola

TP Impression

Artist’s Impression of the Tomba Pola

Ildebranda tomb

Tomba Ildebranda

IT column

Close-up view of the column at the Tomba Ildebranda

About the Tomba Ildebranda it says in the Route Booklet : “The magnificent tomb/temple was discovered only in 1925 and named in honour of Pope Gregory (who was previously Ildebrando [and born in Sovana in the Middle Ages], with whom the tomb clearly has nothing whatsoever to do! It was evidently the tomb of some wealthy, Etruscan-Roman governor of the municipium. It has an exterior resembling a Greek temple, with pillars and roof – all carved out of the rock in the 3rd to 2nd centuries BC.”

LTDS picture

La Tomba della Sirena impression

A short walk away and across the road from the Tomba Ildebranda etc is the Tomba della Sirena [Tomb of the Mermaid] the restoration of which was partly paid for by the ATG Trust. Dating back to 250 BC it was the first tomb to be discovered by Ainsley and Dennis in 1843.

LTDS notice

 La Tomba della Sirena from the Information Board

La Tomba della sirena

La Tomba della Sirena


La Tomba della Sirena – Acknowledgement of ATG Contribution

Via Cava SS

The now closed-off Via Cava di San Sebastiano

We spent much of the morning inspecting the tombs area and then completed the circular walk back to Sovana for lunch again at a pavement cafe on the Via del Duomo. We had hoped to take the opportunity this afternoon to visit one of the nearby thermal springs. Before the trip we had understood them to be within a short distance of the village but it turned out that they were over 20 kms away, were located within private spa resorts and transport seemed complicated and not helped by it being a public holiday weekend. They also threatened to be very busy. In the end we opted to relax again in the afternoon in preparation for the next four days walking – over 10 miles each day!


Etruscan Lanes to Orvieto – Day One – We arrive at Pitigliano

ATG’s most unusual trip!

“Crag-top towns approached by ancient Via di Cava, then lakes and plateaux, and finally Orvieto with its magnificent cathedral.”

This was our ATG Footloose Walking Holiday this year. Our third altogether. My sister and I travelled to Italy on 24 April and returned last Friday 2nd May. We flew to Rome from Leeds Bradford Airport where we were met by a driver and his Mercedes limousine in which we travelled in style and comfort for two hours to the picturesque town of Pitigliano in the very south of Tuscany.

Pitigliano from Hotel window

Pitigliano from our hotel window

Day 1

“Arrive in Pitigliano: Dramatic approach to Pitigliano on foot (1 mile) via 2,500-year-old Etruscan lanes is strongly recommended. Alternatively this walk can be done as an excursion after arrival (2 miles).”

After settling into our room we soon set off on the excursion recommended above by ATG. Here are some highlights from that walk.

Aqueduct Pitigliano

The Aqueduct “Built in 1545 by Sangallo for the Orsinis”

Romanesque wall panel

The Romanesque wall panel depicting Christianity defeating evil on the wall of the church of San Rocco, Pitigliano

Pitigliano from viewpoint

View of Pitigliano from the Church of Madonna delle Grazie

Typical Via Cava

Returning to Pitigliano via a Via Cava

Vie Cave : Our first Etruscan Via Cava – “cut by hand from volcanic tufa rock between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago. They were the main routes to crag-top towns such as Pitigliano and used for millennia by travellers and local farmers with their flocks and herds. Their scale carefully planned gradients, drainage channels, walk-ways and steps for animals make the Via Cava one of the major engineering achievements of the era. Some are still in regular use today, although tree roots during the past 2,000 years has caused rock falls and blocked others.”

We walked along many Vie Cave on the first few days of the trip. The friendly dog accompanied us from town to the viewpoint and we wondered how we would shake him off but when we arrived back in town he joined up with a small group of walkers heading out on the same route we had just taken.

Typical Etruscan Tomb

A typical Etruscan Tomb

Another feature of the walk that occurred again and again was the Etruscan tomb. On this first day we passed through a ‘honeycomb’ of tombs on our path out of, and back into, Pitigliano. Many are now used for wine storage and for farm implements.

Before we began our trek to Orvieto the next day we met our Route Manager – always a highlight of ATG holidays – Annalisa! She helped to make our trip as successful as it was. Thank you so much, Annalisa!

With Annalisa

Meeting Annalisa at the Hotel Guastini in Pitigliano before we started our journey