When I began my adventure to discover Tuscia last June, little did I imagine I would find such a wonderful area so close to Rome. Tuscia is situated in northern Lazio and bordered by Umbria and Tuscany, and while the influences of theses regions can be felt, I soon realised that it retains its own distinct character. It is crossed by the Via Francigena, touches the Tyrrhenian coast between Civitavecchia and the Maremma of Grosseto, and winds its way through ancient villages and towns. It is an area of great historical and cultural significance, with beautiful verdant landscapes, rich culinary history, magnificent Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance art and long-standing traditions. Tuscia is often referred to as Etruria, for it is the cradle of the ancient Etruscan civilisation, whose heritage can still be seen in the region to this day.
This is ideal terrain for a short break, as well as a relaxing holiday, staying in charming farmhouses, luxury boutique hotels and spas.
The ideal place to learn about the celebrated olive oil of Tuscia is Il Molino, an organic olive mill with centuries old trees, situated in Montefiascone in the heart of Lazio. The olives are stoned and cold pressed immediately after harvest and the resulting golden yellow olive oil, made from a single type of oil from the Frantoio cultivar, is highly prized for its supreme quality, full flavour and aroma.
Historical residence of the Count Cozza-Caposavi of Bolsena, this palace has been over the centuries an obligatory stop for those who crossed the Etruscan region of Tuscia
You can choose Stendhal’s room, the one where Oscar winning director Paul Haggis wrote his films, or the one where Carrie Fisher, Princess Leila of Star Wars, celebrated her birthday or one out of the many filled with history and memories from the last five centuries.
Have fun choosing and don’t leave without trying “Osteria del Contadino”
The Villa Gualtiero lies directly on the shores of Lake Bolsena and has simple but elegant rooms, which will transport you back to the 1920s. Dine nearby in the lovely Trattoria da Picchietto, a timelessly charming restaurant specialising in local dishes including the freshwater fish from Lake Bolsena.
The sixteenth century Sacro Bosco Di Bomarzo, often referred to as the Garden of Monsters, was commissioned by Prince Orsini as an expression of grief. Built in the mannerist style by the architect Piero Ligorio, it is populated by bizarre and often grotesque sculptures. Not surprisingly it was greatly admired by the Surrealists, as well as being an inspiration to Niki de Saint Phalle when she designed the Tarot Gardens in Tuscany in the 1980s.
This ancient home of the Orsini and Barberini was neglected for many years, but has been sympathetically restored in the spirit of its dignified history. With its restrained façade, original frescoes and lavish views, who can fail to be impressed by an event held here or even a few nights staying in an historic room overlooking the Tiber?
MOLE DI NARNI
Who said that in the summer in Tuscia you cannot take a swim in crystal clear waters? Known as the ‘Maldives of Umbria’, the enchanting clear emerald green waters of Mole di Narni are surrounded by lush vegetation and lie close to the Gorges of the River Nera and the magnificent Roman Bridge of Augustus.
A small community of friars used to live in this charming fifteenth century house in the heart of Viterbo. It is now a comfortable hotel with self catering apartments set in a landscape of meadows, olive groves, lavender fields and small orchards. A wonderful place to relax and take on a horse back riding class or a ceramic workshop.
The powerful and wealthy Farnese family, contemporary rivals of the Florentine Medici family during the Renaissance, have left breathtakingly beautiful villas and palazzi in the Tuscia area, as well as Rome and beyond.
When Paul III, the Farnese Pope, wished to show how powerful he was, he built in the early sixteenth century the massive Villa Farnese in Caprarola in the province of Viterbo. No expense or effort was spared. Equally glorious are the magnificent gardens of the Villa Farnese, as well as the Mannerist gardens of the nearly Villa Lante commissioned by Cardinal Gianfrancesco Gambara. The popes and the cardinals around them were competing for immortality.
Villa Farnese has made Caprarola famous, but nearby on the slopes of the Cimini Mountains is the wonderful Sapori di Leri, a family agricultural business run by Antonella Finocchi. It aims to make the most of nature, with no chemicals such as preservatives or dyes. Here you can buy products made from the home-grown fruits, vegetables, olives, hazelnuts, passata and chestnuts.