OK, we have been planning our spring tour to Italy for nearly a year, making it special and catering to our small group’s particular whims and wishes. May is usually one of the most perfect weather months in the year in the part of Umbria we explore, but this year we arrive in heavy rains, chilled air and no end in sight! What do we do with our original itinerary, which was planned for about 75% outdoor time?
WE IMPROVISE! There are, of course, many indoor venues, churches, cathedrals, historical buildings, museums and underground cave tours that are perfect for time spent inside. So, we scrap the idea of hidden Italian gardens and plan for more indoor adventures.
The Jewish ghetto museum at Pittigliano is about an hour’s drive from our lodging in Civitella d’ Agliano. We drive in an on and off rain storm but this site is perfect for our purpose as it’s all underground. Umbrellas are our constant companions and can you believe it: I had to buy a jacket to stay warm! (The women in the little clothing store had to go in the back to dig out a winter wear jacket for me.) Pittigliano is home to a fascinating Palazzo castle of the Orsini family from the 12th century and we take time to wander through this massive structure, which is centered in one of the most unusual hill towns in the southern most part of Tuscany. (Yes, I said Tuscany. We are based in the tri-corner area of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, so have access to all of these regions).
Close by in Sovana, with a break in the rain, we visit this town’s two churches, one whose building was begun in the 10th century (beautifully Romanesque in it’s design) and the other in the 12th century. Another perk of spending more time indoors is that lunches get longer and more relaxed. We found a wonderful restaurant, connected to a nearby resort/spa that had the loveliest view overlooking the valley and spent more than a few hours enjoying the food and wine. This tiny village is really a trip back in time as you can see by the picture of one of its residents, carding wool.
Another activity we engaged in that kept us indoors was a cooking class. We grabbed our umbrellas and walked the two minutes to Friday’s farmer’s market (yes, even in rainy weather the open air markets operate), shopped and returned to the kitchen at our lodging, to spend the next several hours cooking a nine course lunch! This is a splendid way to spend a day, just cooking and eating; oh and tasting the wines that accompany each dish.
This trip we had planned on staying half the week in a hill town and half in the country at an agritourismo but due to the weather, shortened our stay in the country to go back to a small village environment. The rain and mud curtailed our plans to visit a beautiful waterfall and nature preserve for hiking in Umbria but Civita Castellana, where we spent our final two days was a perfect ending to our tour. This little town is an important center for the area of Viterbo in Lazio. It is surrounded by Mount Suratte, the Tiber and the Cimini Mountains. Before the Etruscans, the Falerii inhabitated it and their rich culture left behind very advanced art and artifacts that today’s inhabitants are still uncovering. The museum in its fort has one of the most extensive collections you will find in the area dating back some 3000 years or so.
In spite of the fact that we experienced some of the most unusual weather for May in Italy, this tour turned out to be most interesting and enchanting. The conclusion our group came to was that traveling in Italy in any weather can offer wonderful opportunities for exploration and creativity. Maybe its time to start planning a winter trip!
Ciao, tutti! Happy travels, all!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Cheryl has been traveling to Europe, particularly Italy, for more than fourteen years. Her interest in Italy, its history, art and rich culture led her to purchase property near Orvieto, allowing her to spend more time there. Cheryl’s exploration of Italy include the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, as well as the areas around Venice and south towards Sorrento. She continues to travel into Italy’s less traveled regions, and enjoys sharing her discoveries with others. Relaxed, leisurely tours (www.italianexcursion.com) are her specialty with an emphasis on the comfort of her guests. Cheryl spends the rest of her time near the beach in San Diego, cavorting with her two small grandchildren. She’s an avid reader, health advocate and community volunteer. Her career as a social worker brings an understanding of people’s needs to the tour business.
www.slowtraveltours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.
Bookmark and Share