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. 

334 – 336: Sleeping With and In Memory of the Dead

334 – Saturday 19th March 2016: Sleeping with the Dead

Having largely got ourselves ready to move yesterday we both put in good runs around the slightly hilly campsite and then breakfasted outside.  Being able to sit out and enjoy the sun and the blue skies is truly one of the pleasures of a campsite, but, of course, it does come at a price.

A Few Rome Reflections

We would possibly have stayed in Rome longer, but the campsite put its price up from the ACSI rate of EUR19 to 28 to take advantage of the Easter holidays.  We’d stayed one night at the higher rate and witnessed the general clearing out of most motorhomes.  We both liked Rome a lot more than we expected.  This was my 4th visit, J’s second.  We had a 3 day honeymoon here 5 years ago but it had been too hot to do much sightseeing.  It was a honeymoon afterall!  I was last here for Maddy’s 16th Birthday two years ago … on being asked what she wanted for her birthday, she did not hold back and asked for a trip to Rome.  I had refused based on price and J and my parents had not held back either and told me to book it as it may be the last time she wanted to come away with me!

This trip we explored further afield than the main tourist trail … which can leave you feeling a bit Roman and Museum’d out.  We really felt that seeing the Mussolini EUR project and Garbatella helped us see Rome as a living city.  Our campsite was a 5 min walk to the Due Ponte station on Rome’s Northern Line – an Urbana train totally covered in graffiti and with green plastic seats BUT it ran every 10 mins.  Only EUR1.5 for 100 minutes once the ticket was stamped, so effectively the ticket covered the whole city.  Eat your heart out London Underground!  The bike tour was just fantastic at getting us through small streets and seeing some of the lesser known sites.  


Our destination for today was about 50km north – up to Cerveteri to the Etruscan Necropolis.  The town had been a major commercial centre, trading with Greece, Egypt etc since 9BC.  However, as Rome grew, Cerveteri declined and by 358 (precisely!) it was annexed by Rome.  A few KM from the town, the Etruscans built a massive necropolis for the wealthy to be buried in.  The poor were just cremated.  The necropolis is essentially laid out like a town with streets and the tombs resemble house that the families lived in.  There are over 400 tombs carved out of the tufa rock with stone blocks and mounds of earth.  The tombs are now empty, many have been raided over the centuries, but remaining artefacts are … in the Vatican and the British Museum!  Whilst in Italy we have visited many ancient sites, mostly Greek and Roman, but we think this may have been the oldest as the town went back to 9BC.


The Tumulus tombs.


They went sqaure when they needed more space for the middle classes … J is directing traffic at a street intersection.

P1100189Some were quite a climb down.  Once buried, the entrances were sealed up but then had to be dug out again for the next family member.  So unlike the Christian necropolis we’ve seen, no visiting your deceased relatives.


Tomba dei Rilevi is the only tomb here to have the internal decoration survive … The plaster reliefs are of food, utensils and tools, games and mythical figures.  As with other civilisations, the dead were buried with everything they may need for the afterlife. 

We did check and we are OK to park in the car park over night, surrounded by the tumuli … sweet dreams!


335 – Sunday 20th March 2016:  The Sunday Lunch Habit

A really peaceful night and the only other occupant was another British motorhome.  They kept themselves to themselves and since they had a small daughter, so did we!  In the morning we both ran around the site, passing tombs and no traffic :).  Over breakfast we watched the people come, by car, motorhome and coach – to visit the tombs, walk dogs and watch a small boy bomb about in his new mini quad bike.

Our destination today was Lake Bracciano, one of the volcanic lakes where the Romans escape to, when not flocking in droves to the coast.  We parked up along the lake just past Anguillara: Medieval and apparently the prettiest on the lake.  We had coffee in Chard whilst we weighed up our options.  The town is not big.  There is not much to do or see.  One of the guide books said there is a plethora of good trattorias … decision made…. Lunch.


Eel / lake themed fountain … won’t be picking that on the menu … too greasy.


Typical narrow street.


On a door … for the non-Irish speakers it means “A hundred thousand welcomes”

P1100204Our selected Trattoria was listed high in TripAdvisor and obviously popular … no room inside, so the waiter put a table together (literally stuck the legs on) on the balcony apologising that the season had not yet started.  They obviously had not expected the other 5 tables that joined us.  It was a memorable meal… this starter had 8 types of cheese and 8 salamis, served with a red pepper relish, honey and a strawberry & balsamic jam.  Our main were J:  ricotta ravioli with tomato and lemon and K:  lake Perch with a sweet and sour orange sauce.  All yummy and washed down with a litre of red.  We retired to Chard after for a huge nanny nap … or did we just pass out?

336 – Monday 21th March 2016:  Bizarre in Bomarzo

The morning run was down to the lake, which meant a steep up on the return, but really lovely to be along the lake shore in the sun.

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Going out …

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… and the return view. 

We lunched on soup in the carpark at Bomarzo’s Parco dei Mostri, although the founder called it Sacro Bosco (sacred wood).  At EUR10 pp it was a bit pricey, but different.  The garden was created by Duke Vicino Orsini 1522-1580 in memory of his wife, one of the Farnese’s.  Grotesque giants, faces, dragons etc were carved out of the existing stone, designed by the bod who finished off St Peter’s Basilica after Michelangelo died.  Once the Duke died, the garden had been largely forgotten and was discovered by Dali and other painters in the 1930’s but not restored until 1953.  

The pics say it all …


J trustingly putting his head into it’s mouth…. ‘cos I asked him to!


In keeping with the ‘Mannerist’ style, buildings were lop sided.





We have driven a short distance to Vitorchiano – not because it is in the guide books, but because my Parking App said it had a motorhome parking with services and free electric.  And so it does 🙂  And a superb view of the town. 🙂  But is also has very noisy workmen on the road behind us and I reckon we can expect them back tomorrow … it may be a very early run for us!

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Our View … and for free!