Tours of Italy – What to do when you’re tired of Rome.
Most people who visit do tours of Italy concentrate on the main 4 or 5 sites: Starting in the south, Naples (Pompei), Rome, Florence, Pisa and Venice. We would like to suggest numerous other things to do in Italy, since going to these sites right off the bat was way down on our list for a few reasons.
First, both Carol and I had been to Italy before, and had been to Italy before. I went during college in the 70’s, and Carol did the Europe-on-$5 backpack trip at approximately the same time. We are sort of “country folk”, and we like visiting outside the cities, seeing the country, and getting the feel of the country. Second, we were planning to do the basic stuff with our kids later in July.
Specifically, in this post, we are going to concentrate on things to do near Rome Italy. Things that you could do if you had finished up in Rome and wanted some day trips near Rome. Generally, this is going to require a rental car, and maybe even an overnight stay somewhere.
Going just to the sights in the big cities, though very interesting in its own way, is similar to visiting the US and only seeing the tourist sights in New York and Washington. You see interesting things, but you really do not at all get a feel for the country as a whole. So yhere are some of the recommendations we have for things to do near Rome within driving distance.
The second part of our trip to Italy, after staying in Vicchio, north of Florence, was to stay for seven weeks near Montegabbione, in Umbria. Umbria is about an hour north of Rome, and at the very top of Umbria is Assisi, about two and a half hours from Rome.
Umbria is known as “the lungs of Italy” (as is a city further to the south, Abruzzo). The reason is that it is completely covered with forests that are lush green year round, providing fresh air to the country. This is what makes it so interesting to visit, compared to, for example, tours of Rome.
Assisi, the city of St. Francis and one of the main secondary tourist sights in Italy, is in northern Umbria. See our post on Assisi the City of St. Francesco, in Umbria. Nearby is Perugia, the city of one of the most important universities in Italy, dating from 1200.
To get to Umbria, and to drive across it, a possible route from Rome is to go north to stop at Orvieto for an hour or two, and go back to Ovieto Scalo and turn east to Marsciano.You will then wind through the fabulous lush forests, and a few small towns.
Just north of Marciano is the village of Deruta, known as a center of Italian ceramic art. (Wikipedia on Deruta). You coiuld spend hours viewing the dozens of art stores, and there are some great restaurants. (TripAdvisor on Deruta Restaurants).
If you are really adventuresome, you can find a couple great restaurants hidden in the hills to the east of Montegabbione, before Marsciano.
Orvieto is about one hour north of Rome. It is so close to Rome that it is a must see for anyone who is trying to find things to do near Rome. The parking and tourist facilities are very good, and it is very easy to get in and out of Orvieto.
Orvieto was a center of Etruscan life, starting in about 800 A.D. The word Tuscany, the land of Siena and Florence further to the north, is derived from the Roman word Etrusci, meaning Etruscans.
Orvieto was a favorite landing spot for Popes all through the first half of the second millenium, and was under papal control during this time and later, until it was annexed to modern Italy in 1860.
Orvieto has a number of very prominent tourist sights. Most notable are the Duomo di Orvieto, or the main cathedral, and the Orvieto Caves, which is an underground city constructed by the Popes.
Though it is not quite as tourist-friendly as Assisi up north, Orvieto is very famous for its cathedral, and that is a must-see for things to do near Rome Italy. If you have visited Siena, it is easy to see that the Orvieto cathedral has the some of the same Tuscan Gothic style influence.
My favorite part of the Orvieto cathedral is its incredible cylindrical columns inside, which consist of alternate rows of travertine and basalt, in black and white stripes. This pattern is repeated in the walls on the outside.
Another interesting thing about Orvieto is that it is well known for its own wine, called Orvieto Classico. …
Visit Assisi and Perugia
Wwe have planned out the next couple weeks, and last Monday, the target was to tour Assisi and to visit a possible dog boarding place near there. (Here is where we went: Dog’s Club . Good luck with the website, in Italian.) After visiting there, we drove the 25 km or so to Assisi.
Assisi was the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi. We have taken to using the name San Francesco. After being in Italy for a while, it become completely natural to use the Italian name for something, rather than English. His real name was Francesco Giovanni di Pietro Bernardone. You will see later that there is a statue of his father, Pietro Bernardone, near La Chiesa Nuova (new church).
I could not remember if I had ever been to Assisi before (many years ago), but approaching the city, it was obvious to me that I had not, because I would have remembered. The view while driving up is awesome — a fantastic walled city on top of a hill. Carol had never been there either.
Assisi has really gone to some fantastic effort to make the city a worthwhile place to visit. There are at least 5 large parking areas, s
ome underground. We parked in the Parcheggio Mojano, at about 2 € per hour (we stayed almost 3 hours). From the parking lot, there is a series of 4 long escalators ascending to the street just below Piazza Santa Chiara.
Though Assisi, like most places in Italy, is very dog friendly, I don’t think the dogs had ever been on escalators, and Rosie was having none of it…