Viterbo, northern Lazio’s largest town, lies an hour north of Rome. Its heyday was the Middle Ages, when it was a favoured place for different popes to escape their troubles in Rome. Their legacy is the walled centro storico, packed with grand palaces and fine churches.
The entire city has an intensely medieval atmosphere, best appreciated by exploring the San Pellegrino neighbourhood, a tight mass of hilly streets dotted with towers and medieval walkways. The heart of the city is Piazza del Plebiscito, a fine square encircled by 15th- and 16th-century buildings. From here, head to Piazza San Lorenzo to see the 13th-century Palazzo dei Papi, with its Gothic loggia overlooking the green gorge that cuts through Viterbo’s centre. Opposite is the austere and beautiful Romanesque Duomo, with its superb columns and Cosmatesque (mosaic) floors. There are several good museums, including a Museo Archeologico, the Museo Civico and one devoted to maiolica.