Viterbo is a medieval gem with a beautiful and interesting city centre, despite having sustained WWII bomb damage. It makes a good base for exploring Lazio's rugged north, or can be visited on a day trip from Rome.
Founded by the Etruscans and eventually taken over by Rome, Viterbo developed into an important medieval centre, and in the 13th century became the residence of the popes. Papal elections were held in the Gothic Palazzo dei Papi where, in 1271, the entire college of cardinals was briefly imprisoned. The story goes that after three years of deliberation the cardinals still hadn't elected a new pope. Mad with frustration, the Viterbesi locked the dithering priests in a turreted hall and starved them into electing Pope Gregory X.
In addition to its historical appeal, Viterbo is famous for its therapeutic hot springs.
Viterbo destination guides
The Road to Rome
Journey by foot along the last section of the old pilgrimage route across Europe to Rome