Viterbo: Wikis


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Comune di Viterbo

Location of Viterbo in Italy
Country Italy
Region Lazio
Province Viterbo (VT)
Mayor Giulio Marini
Elevation 326 m (1,070 ft)
Area 406.28 km² (156.9 sq mi)
Population (as of 2008-04-30)
 - Total 61,473
 - Density 151/km² (391/sq mi)
Time zone CET, UTC+1
Coordinates 42°25′N 12°06′E / 42.417°N 12.1°E / 42.417; 12.1
Gentilic Viterbesi
Dialing code 0761
Postal code 01100
Frazioni Bagnaia, Fastello, Grotte Santo Stefano, La Quercia, Montanciano, Montecalvello, Monterazzano, Sant'Angelo, San Martino al Cimino, Vallebona
Patron Saint Rose of Viterbo and St. Lawrence the Martyr
 - Day September 4, August 10

Viterbo is an ancient city and comune in the Lazio region of central Italy, the capital of the province of Viterbo. It is approximately 100 kilometers (60 mi) north of Rome on the Via Cassia, and it is surrounded by the Monti Cimini and Monti Volsini. The historic center of the city is surrounded by medieval walls, still intact, built during the 11th and 12th centuries. Entrance to the walled center of the city is through ancient gates.

Apart from agriculture, the main resources of Viterbo's area are pottery, marble, and wood. The town also hosts the Italian gold reserves, an important Academy of Fine Arts, and the University of Tuscia, and is located in a wide thermal area, attracting many tourist from the whole central Italy.



Although Viterbo is very ancient, its precise origins are unknown. According to the notorious forger, Annio of Viterbo, it originated as an Etruscan town. At any rate, on the present site of Viterbo, or nearby, there was a little Roman colony (Vicus Elbii); whether this is the same center referred to as Vetus Urbs ("Old City") in the Middle Ages is uncertain.

The first firm report of the new city dates to the eighth century, when it is identified as Castrum Viterbii. It was fortified in 773 by the Lombard king Desiderius in his vain attempt to conquer Rome. When the Popes switched to the Frankish support, Viterbo became part of the Papal States, but this status was to be highly contested by the Emperors in the following centuries, until in 1095 it is known it was a free comune.

In a period in which the Popes had difficulties asserting their authority over Rome, Viterbo became their favourite residence, beginning with Pope Eugene III (1145-1146) who was besieged in vain in the city walls. In 1164 Frederick Barbarossa made Viterbo the seat of his Antipope Paschal III. Three years later he gave it the title of "city" and used its militias against Rome. In 1172 Viterbo started its expansion, destroying the old city of Ferentum and conquering other lands: in this age it was a rich and prosperous comune, one of the most important of Central Italy, with a population of almost 60,000.

In 1207, Pope Innocent III held a council in the cathedral, but the city was later excommunicated as favourite seat of the heretical Patari and even defeated by the Romans. In 1210, however, Viterbo managed to defeat the Emperor Otto IV and was again in war against Rome.

In the thirteenth century it was ruled alternately by the tyrants of the Gatti and Di Vico families. Frederick II drew Viterbo to the Ghibelline side in 1240, but when the citizens expelled his turbulent German troops in 1243 he returned and besieged the city, but in vain. From that point Viterbo was always a loyal Guelph. Between 1257 and 1261 it was the seat of Pope Alexander IV, who also died here. His successor Urban IV was elected in Viterbo.

In 1266-1268 Clement IV chose Viterbo as the base of his ruthless fight against the Hohenstaufen: here, from the loggia of the Papal Palace, he excommunicated the army of Conradin of Swabia which was passing on the Via Cassia, with the prophetical motto of the "lamb who is going to the sacrifice". Other popes elected in Viterbo were Gregory X (1271) and John XXI (1276) (who died in the Papal Palace when the ceiling of the recently-built library collapsed on him while he slept), Nicholas III and the French Martin IV. The Viterbese, who did not agree with the election of a foreigner directed by the King of Naples, Charles I of Anjou, invaded the cathedral where the conclave was held, arresting two of the cardinals. They were subsequently excommunicated, and the Popes avoided Viterbo for 86 years.

Without the Popes, the city fell into the hands of the Di Vicos. In the fourteenth century, Giovanni di Vico had created a seignory extending to Civitavecchia, Tarquinia, Bolsena, Orvieto, Todi, Narni and Amelia. His dominion was crushed by Cardinal Gil de Albornoz in 1354, sent by the Avignonese popes to recover the Papal States, who built the Castle. In 1375 the city gave its keys to Francesco Di Vico, son of the previous tyrant, but thirteen years later the people killed him and assigned the city first to Pope Urban VI, and then to Giovanni di Sciarra di Vico, Francesco's cousin. But Pope Boniface IX's troops drove him away in 1396 and established a firm Papal suzerainty over the city. The last Di Vico to hold power in Viterbo was Giacomo, who was defeated in 1431.

Thenceforth Viterbo became a city of secondary importance, following the vicissitudes of the Papal States. In the 16th century it was the birthplace of Latino Latini. It becoming part of Italy in 1871.




Viterbo experiences a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa).

 Weather averages for Viterbo 
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 10
Average low °C (°F) 1
Precipitation mm (inches) 55.9
Source: [1] 2009-06-03

Main sights

[[File:|250px|left|thumb|The Palace of the Popes - In the background the bell-tower of the cathedral]]

Viterbo's historic center is one of the best preserved medieval towns of central Italy. Many of the older buildings (particularly churches) are built on top of ancient ruins, recognizable by their large stones, 50 centimeters to a side.

The main attraction of Viterbo is the Papal Palace (Palazzo dei Papi), that served as a country residence and a repair in time of trouble in Rome. The columns of the palace are spolia from a Roman temple.

File:San Lorenzo
St. Lawrence Cathedral and bell-tower

The second most important monument of the city is the Cathedral of S. Lorenzo. It was erected in Romanesque style by Lombard architects over a temple of Hercules. It was variously rebuilt from the sixteenth century on, and was heavily damaged in 1944 by Allied bombs. The notable Gothic belfry is from the first half of the fourteenth century, and shows influence of Senese artists. The church houses the sarcophagus of Pope John XXI and the picture Christ Blessing by Gerolamo da Cremona (1472).

Other notable monuments are:

  • The Palazzo Comunale (begun 1460), Palazzo del Podestà (1264) and Palazzo della Prefettura (rebuilt 1771) on the central square Piazza del Plebiscito. The Palazzo Comunale houses a series of sixteenth century and Baroque frescoes by Tarquinio Ligustri, Bartolomeo Cavarozzi and others.
  • The small Gothic church of Santa Maria della Salute, which has a rich portal.
  • The Romanesque Chiesa del Gesù (eleventh century). Here the sons of Simon de Montfort stabbed to death Henry of Almain, son of Richard of Cornwall.
  • The Palazzo Farnese (fourteenth-fifteenth century), where Alessandro Farnese, the future Pope Paulus III, lived in his youth together with his beautiful sister, Giulia Farnese.
  • The Rocca (castle).
  • The Romanesque churches of Santa Maria Nuova (twelfth century), San Sisto (second half of the ninth century), and San Giovanni in Zoccoli (eleventh century).
  • The Palazzo degli Alessandri in the old district, a typical patrician house of Middle Ages Viterbo.

[[File:|200px|thumb|The Fontana Grande (Big fountain) on the homonymous square]]

  • The Fontana Grande, begun in 1206.
  • The Gothic church of San Francesco, built over a pre-existing Lombard fortress. It has a single nave with Latin cross plan. It houses the sepulchre of Pope Adrian V, who died in Viterbo on August 17, 1276, considered the first monument by Arnolfo di Cambio.

The Museo Civico (City Museum) houses many archeological specimens from the pre-historical to Roman times, plus a Pinacoteca (gallery) with paintings of Sebastiano del Piombo, Antoniazzo Romano, Salvator Rosa, Antiveduto Grammatica and others. The Orto Botanico dell'Università della Tuscia is a botanical garden operated by the university.

Patron saints

Santa Maria Rosa is the patron saint of Viterbo. The legend of Santa Rosa is that she helped to eradicate those few who supported the emperors instead of the Popes, around 1250. San Lorenzo is the male patron saint. A native of Viterbo, Blessed Dominic Barberi, was born on 22 June, 1792 and would later minister in England.

Macchina di Santa Rosa

The transport of the Macchina di S. Rosa takes place every year, on September 3, at 9 o'clock in the evening. The Macchina is an artistic illuminated bell-tower with an imposing height of 30 m. It weighs between 3.5 and 5 tonnes and is made of iron, wood and papier-mâché. At the top of the tower, the statue of the Patron Saint is enthusiastically acclaimed by the people in the streets of the town centre, where lights are turned off for the occasion. One hundred and thirty Viterbesi men (known as the Facchini) carry the Macchina from Porta Romana through the each of the major streets of Viterbo, concluding with a strenuous ascension up to the Piazza di Santa Rosa, its final resting place. Each Macchina has a life span of five years, after which a new one is built.

Coat of arms

Viterbo has two heraldic badges in its coat of arms (stemma): The Lion and the Palm Tree. The lion represents Hercules, one of the mythological founders of Viterbo. The palm tree was added sometime in the Dark Ages (4th-9th century CE) when Viterbo conquered and absorbed a neighboring town: Ferento. The letters FAUL, often surround the badges. It is unclear what they refer to. Some suggest the four legendary Etruscan nobles families, believed to be involved in the founding of the city, while others claim that they are in reference to the four hills of Viterbo.


Viterbo currently has a small military air force base, located 3 km from the town. On November 26, 2007, Italian transport minister Alessandro Bianchi announced that Viterbo had been chosen as the site of the next Airport in Lazio to serve Rome, over Latina, Frosinone, and Guidonia. [2]


External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Viterbo is in Lazio, a central region of Italy.

Palace of the Popes
Palace of the Popes


As a settlement Viterbo dates back to Etruscan times. Between around 1100 and 1300, it was one of the most important cities in Europe. By the 13th Century it had 50 castles under its control. It was the place where Popes took refuge when driven out of Rome and for several decades was the seat of the Papacy. It was the scene of battles between potential invaders of Rome and papal armies. With the departure of the Papacy to Orvieto and then to Avignon Viterbo declined in importance. It was further hit by Black Death, which killed two-thirds of its population and a major earthquake in 1349. Last century it was damaged by appalling Fascist-era town planning and then by Allied bombs. These days its population is about the same as it was in the 13th Century, at around 60,000. Apart from its tradition its main claim to fame now is that Italy’s gold reserves are held there.

Get in

By train

Main railway stations are Porta Fiorentina and Porta Romana. Both are quite close to the center. From Rome: trains [1] almost every hour, mostly departing from Roma Ostiense station (go and return for 10 €). The trip takes about 2 hours.

By car

From Rome take the ring road of GRA to the Cassia bis exit and follow this road to Viterbo. An alternative, but longer route, is to take the A1 motorway (from Rome follow the signs towards Firenze, and exit at Orte. Then take the S204 towards Viterbo (about 3 € tolls from Rome). It´s not really comfortable to drive inside the historical centre, as all the streets are quite narrow and "one way". Better to park your car out of the town walls.

Get around

The historical centre is small enough to be visited on foot.

For longer distances you can use the local bus network (ordinary 90 min. ticket for 0,70 €; daily ticket for 1,55 €). Tickets can be found at tobacconists, and must be validated when getting on the bus.

  • San Lorenzo. The cathedral dates back to the 12th Century but the façade is 16th Century and the tower 14th. There is a tomb for Pope John XXI. Pope Alexander IV was also buried there but his tomb was unaccountably destroyed during 16th Century renovations. According to legend the cathedral was built on the site of an Etruscan temple to Hercules
  • Palazzo dei Papi. This was formerly the bishop’s residence but was enlarged for the popes. It was the papal seat between 1257 and 1281 and hosted six popes. It was the site of the first Papal Conclave when the local people got so fed up with the cardinals taking too long to elect a pope that they locked them all in until they came to a decision. The practice continues to this day in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.
  • Church of San Francesco. Built in the 13th century in Romanesque-Gothic style, this church was completely destroyed by bombs in 1944. It was reconstructed in 1953. There is the superb mausoleum of Pope Hadrian V, who died in Viterbo in 1276 and the mausoleum of Pope Clement IV, who died in Viterbo in 1268. There are also remains of the tomb of the so-called “Pope-of-one-day”, Cardinal Vicedomino Vicedomini, who would have become Gregory XI, if he had not died the night after his election.
  • Palazzo dei Priori. This originally dates back to 1263. Inside there is a garden court with arcades of 1682 with an elegant Baroque fountain and a beautiful view. There are some interesting frescoes.
  • Church of S. Maria Nuova. This is one of the most ancient churches in Viterbo, built in 1080 on the remains of a temple.Externally, on the left, there is a pulpit on a column, from where St. Thomas Aquinas preached. The church has a wide range of Viterbese frescoes and paintings from between the 14th and the 16th Centuries. In the apse of the left aisle there is a precious tryptych from 1180 painted on leather with the effigy of Christ.
  • Rocca Albornoz. Piazza della Rocca, 21/b. This castle was greatly destroyed by the bombings in 1944. It took over a century to build and was finally completed in 1462. The Rocca Albornoz houses a national archeological museum (Museo Nazionale) with a permanent exhibition on Etruscan and other cultures. 8:30 to 19:30 except Mondays. € 2,00;
  • Piazza Commune (Piazza Della Plebescità) and the surrounding Government Palace.
In the San Peligrino area
In the San Peligrino area
Once a palace, now the Town Hall.
Once a palace, now the Town Hall.
  • Thermal springs

Already famous in Roman times, and quoted by Dante in his "Divine Comedy"...having a bath in one of their natural thermal springs is, perhaps, what you would never miss from Viterbo. As they are in surrounding open-air countryside areas, you can use them all year, every time of the day (for free, of course). Water reachs temperatures of 55º C, so the experience gets more amazing in freezing days (and nights).

The most famous ones are called Bulicame (2 km from Viterbo, on the road that leads to Tuscania). On the other hand there are also some springs run as spas centres (Terme dei Papi and Pianeta Benessere)

  • Il Monastero, Via Fattungheri, 10. Huge and delicious pizzas around €5.
  • Also good is Pizzeria San Pelligrino, on Via San Pelligrino.
  • Tre Re at Piazza Del'Erbe has excellent pastas and other Viterbese fare for about €10-€20 per person.
  • Il Laberinto. Great cheaper restauraunt just a few steps away from Il Monastero.  edit
  • "Caffe Cavour" on Via Cavour, has the best cappuccino in town.
  • Tuscia Hotel, via Cairoli 41, Ph.+39 0761 344400, Fax +39 0761 345976, e-mail:, [2]. In the centre of Viterbo/ Lift, bar, air conditionned lounge, breakfast room, free internet point, roof garden with views, garage.
  • Country Hotel Rinaldone, Strada Rinaldone, +390761352137, [3]. Old rural buildings inside a 180 hectare farm, 3 km away from Viterbo. Consists of 20 rooms with bar-fridge, TV and telephone, placed in a row and facing green areas. Also tennis-courts, a 250 mq swomming-pool, mountain-bikes, table-tennis etc. The restaurant has been built in the most ancient part the building, dating back to the XVI century.  edit
  • Hotel Viterbo , Via San Camillo De Lellis, 6 · 01100 Viterbo Italy Ph: +39 0761.270100 · Fax: +39 0761.275717 · Toll Free: 800.820.080 [4].

Get out

Viterbo is the center of a really fascinating area and there are many places that can be explored by car in an easy day trip. To the east is the Etruscan city of Tarquinia, to the west Orvieto and in a general southerly direction places such as the park of monsters at Bomarzo and the Etruscan/Roman remains of Sutri should not be missed.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun


  1. Province of Latium, Italy.
  2. Capital of the province of Viterbo.


  • French: Viterbe (1, 2)
  • Italian: Viterbo (1), Viterbo f. (2)


Proper noun


  1. Viterbo (province)
  2. Viterbo (town)


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