337-339: Blowing through Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria

337 -Tuesday 22nd March 2016: Blowing at Bolsena

From our superb free pitch at Vitorchiano, it was not far to Lake Bolsena – the larger of the two lakes in this area. We had ‘Bradged’ our deadly Navduo to a set of coordinates for a motorhome parking site with services. The journey was fine – and the coordinates did lead us to the correct location – which was – a small muddy area just off the Lunghomare!   There was a regular car park on the other side of the street with a motorhome parked – fortunately the Italian couple were just returning from a bike ride – and assured us that overnighting there was ok – they had stayed the previous night.  Additionally, the chap (in fluent english) gave us loads of advice on areas to visit and other free parkings – yet more Italian friendliness and help!  We lunched – and ambled in the town…. pleasant with views across the lake.  Little to do other than have coffee with the locals …  

Settling down for the evening, we noted that it was blowing quite a lot… But, we’re hardy folk – we’ve been blown about in Nordkapp and Castel del Golfo and other places.  We rocked and rolled through the night – borderline for moving the van – but we stoically stayed put.  Although we did change direction at 5.30 as the rattling the roof lights was keeping K awake.  Now the reader will know that morning is running time (after tea in bed – and philosophising on the day ahead).  I poked my head out of the van – hanging on to the door in the gale!  Cold, gale force winds and rain… Guess what we did? We wimped – and had some more tea!   In bed!!  In the warm!


Beautifully sunny.  Beautiful view (and that’s not just J!).  Beautiful free pitch. Didn’t want to leave. So we had another wander into town before leaving.


The cliff top town has a town wall on the only entry side … with inhabitants.  A few supplies including some lake Perch from a mobile fish van and a coffee.  Total spend only EUR15 but at least we gave the town back something for such an amazing camper stop.


Capodimonte on Lake Bolsena.



338 – Wednesday 23rd March 2016:  Orvieto Sampled

We had planned to cycle around part of the lake, but easily came to the conclusion that we could never pedal compete with the wind.  People have told us how pretty the lake and the towns are … yes, but you need some sun!  Fair winds ‘blew’ us towards Orvieto – hill town with (Guide Book recommendation) possibly the most beautiful cathedral in Italy. And into Umbria, via a corner of Tuscany.  Another identified free motorhome overnight parking with services – not free though. We arrived to see? An awesome motorhome park – with services – and WC, showers, shop – and open air cinema with padded armchairs and drinks service!!!   Ok, I made up the last bit… but a superb site – and quite ok for Euro 18 per night.  When we had parked our Chard – there were 3 vans on site. Later in the evening, 27 vans had cosied up together – and the site was still not full.  Any road up (Yorkshire-speak ?), our footsteps took us to the Funicolare – the town had located the rail station and Funi – right at the van parking area – how good is that ?  Or was it the other way around ?  We Funic’ed up the hill and perambulated (that word again) to the Duomo (more later) – and the narrow Vicolo’s (K has ascertained that  a ‘Vicolo’ is a narrow street – we have ‘Vicolo’d our way around Italy).  Somehow, our pramrelations (Italian wine is good!) took us to – a bar. Really good local red – and snacks…  After wine, K headed underground – this was not a wine effect but a desire to see some subterranean pigeon homes!  I retired downhill – to the van, late sosta – and chores….   


War memorial overlooking the Umbrian rolling hills.


Vicolo.  The stone blocks are tufa, along with the pozzuoli stone (makes cement) were dug out from underneath, giving each house a Medieval cellar.  In the 1970’s part of the hilltop subsided and residents are not allowed to make alterations to their cellars and additional columns have been added in some places and concrete is used to infill cracks.  House insurance?!


Other cellars were used as pigeon coops.  Pigeons replaced chicken in the Medieval diet – They came home each night.  They fed themselves.  Bred every 28 days.  And the poo made good fertiliser!  An all round win, except for the smell!  Apparently some restaurants still serve pigeon.

339 – Thursday 24th March 2016:   Orvieto Imbibed Some More

Morning – tea – and run (not timeulsaneously though) – a good romp for about 4-5 km. Brekkied, etc and again to the Funi – better weather for walking but still quite a chill in the air. Duomo closed until 2:30 (this was at !:00 pm)  – dilemma ! What to do?  How about lunch? – we said simulsomethingorotherishly (how about that for word mangling?).  We agreed with each other (funny that) and – the photos show the result.   The (post-lunch) Duomo is quite amazing – very much one of the most impressive we have seen in Italy – the reliefs, frescoes and paintings are stunning. Well worth a visit.  Back downhill to our van, we see there are now 30+ vans in situ for the evening – and the site has a few spaces left….. 

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Morning run:  The view back to hilltop Orvieto and J striding ahead.


St Patrick’s Well was dug for a Pope in 1527 who feared a siege.  It has a double helix (twin) staircase … 248 steps down and 248 steps up.  We elected not to do it just to be able to say we’d down it!  Named after Ireland’s patron saint … something to do with how deep down towards purgatory they had to dig.


I think this is the interior of Sant ‘Andrea; it had some C15 frescos, but I liked the pulpit and the columns.


A shop window …


… and inside another!  Titter!


We weren’t planning a proper lunch, but best laid plans, and all that.



The side of the Duomo.  A massive building nearby was built to house the workers and a clock tower to help them keep time.  The Duomo was started in 1290 and took 300 years in total to build.  We paid to listen to the audio information, which was like an architectural lecture and ended with ‘This is the end of the description”.  Really felt we could have done with more information as we went around the interior, but guided walks do not start till the weekend.


The pics just do not do the exterior justice.




There were 4 panels with scenes from the Old and New Testament from 1320.


Unusual to see so much marble used as an opaque window.


The Reliquary of the Corporal … the Miracle of Bolsena where “real blood fell from a consecrated host onto an alter cloth”.  The alter cloth is stored here and only comes out on special occasions … a notice told us to apply to the Bishop to find out when it would next be aired.


The Capella Nuova on the other side had the most amazing frescos from 1499 depicting the Last Judgement.  They had been seriously restored and just glowed.





This Dumo is just huge … possibly one of the tallest we’ve seen. 

186: Gubbio – The Gubbins

185 – 23rd October 2015:  Gubbio – the Gubbins

A crack of dawn start and a walk to the hospital.  A 20 minute wait and we saw the dentist … he was not able to help as J needs an Xray and serious repair!  He can only fix small cracks!  Pleasant enough … but tooth problem still needs ‘crowning’.  Perhaps Naples!

Quick hoover – J and identify some possible overnight Parkings in Assisi – K and we were off by about 11.  The guide book made Gubbio sound good, so we set this as a via point on Brad, the Sat Nav.  Perhaps I should explain … We had an incident with Sally, the Sat Nav.  Suddenly she became Afrikaans and we could not understand her.  About to re-set her back to Sally and thought we could do with a change of voice, so we now have Brad …. male American.  Brad as in Brad and Janet in the Rocky Horror Show, as he sounds like an all round nice guy, but a bit dim.  Sadly he does not say rout for route.  A slight digression …. Brad decided to take us the most direct rout(e) – over hills.  Lots of hairpin bends and hill towns with castles atop.  Pretty but slow driving.

As we pulled up to Gubbio it was really striking: a Roman amphitheatre in the foreground and layers of a glowing white stone town behind.  Banners proclaimed that the white truffle festival was on.  At the TIC we asked about the main sights, the truffle festival and an overnight Parking with water.  The Parking was only about a half km from where we had parked, so it meant we could wander at will and not worry about getting onto Assisi, which will keep till tomorrow.

Roman Amphitheater

Roman Amphitheater – the first sight as we arrived.

Our rout(e) around Gubbio included several of the truffle festival stall areas.  There were not many customers about and we were pressed with samples to consume … managed to come away without buying the EUR300 truffle I was kindly shown.  But did buy a tuna and pistachio paste, nougat for Maddy, a small lump of cheese and a bottle of very green pistachio cream (alcoholic!) … no  truffle products though :(.   Apparently to keep the truffles, you place on kitchen paper, which needs changing daily and place in a glass jar in the fridge.  I was told the Japanese often buy large ones which are unusable due to lack of care in the keeping.  My truffle guide unscrewed the lid on one truffle jar and the scent was very heady … almost tempting!

The historical part of our rout(e) was equally rewarding.  The Palace of the Consuls traced the history of Gubbio … prehistoric, redesigning under the Romans and then retreating up the hills when the Byzantines and Goths came as it was then easier to defend themselves from there.  As part of this redesigned city they used the latest technology – toilets and water pipework to fountains and really impressive huge arches to support the Piazza Grande.  The Palace also contains the Eugubine Tablets – 7 tablets with inscriptions on brass.  These date from 1BC and were undeciphered until the late 1800’s.  They provided evidence of how people lived in Umbria before the Roman Conquest.  The part I read (yes, translated into English) was about the detailed rituals for sacrificing a goat.  As well as art and stone, there was also a superb viewing gallery at the top.

We wandered the streets and somehow found ourselves in a bar enjoying a rather pleasant red.  More wanderings and stalls and back to Chardonnay.  Our neighbours are all Italian, but it is quiet and only EUR5 for water and waste etc.

A fantastic afternoon – one of those moments in time….


The Plazzo dei Consuls with the Piazza Grande supported by massive arches.

The Plazzo dei Consuls with the Piazza Grande supported by massive arches.


And this is what has held up the Piazza for hundreds of years

And this is what has held up the Piazza for hundreds of years

Shops were classy: truffle and other local food products and ceramics. But even so ... we still saw bows and arrows, a crossbow and a leg trap.

Shops were classy: truffle and other local food products and ceramics. But even so … we still saw bows and arrows, a crossbow and a leg trap.



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The Eugubine Tablets

Sunset over the amphitheater as we return to Chardonnay

Sunset over the amphitheater as we return to Chardonnay