Thursday, October 4, 2007

Day 3: Soriano nel Cimino

Another bright and sunny morning in Soriano nel Cimino. I walk down to town for breakfast supplies, today stopping in both the bakery (for rolls) and the pasticceria (for cornetti)--both are delicious---again.

A word about our is very comfortable with a bedroom with a comfortable bed, bathroom, and a combination living-room, dining-room kitchen--all very well equipped with television (satellite with English channels), dvd player, full stove, dishwasher, washing machine, all necessary kitchen utensils and dishes, American drip coffee machine and sophisticated espresso machine. Arriving guests find fresh flowers, a bottle of wine and one of olive oil, pastries, rolls, fruit, drinks in the refrigerator, fresh vegetables with seasoned oil for dipping. Michael and Paola really go all out. The apartment is in a small courtyard off the street to the castle and has a killer view from the bedroom window and out of the dining room french doors and off the small balcony. The bathroom is in fact a little tight but is manageable. It's a very steep climb from the piazza to the apartment, but also manageable. Here is a picture of the steps leading to the apartment and a planter (not Michael's, but reflecting the town's politics) in the courtyard.

For a better view of the apartment, take a look at the web site at the La Campana apartment.

And a word about the Sagra del Castagne, the big festival that is taking place during part of our stay. This is a big party built around the chestnut harvest and the traditional rivalries of the four rione (neighborhoods) of Soriano--Rocca (where we are staying), Papacqua, Trinita' and San Giorgio. The four neighborhoods meet at the central piazza but each is distinctively decorated and getting ready for the parades, feasts and competitions (jousting, archery, etc.) that make up the Sagra.

Here is the web site (in Italian) that will give you an idea about the activities.

After breakfast, we head out for the short drive north to Bomarzo. Bomarzo is a small hill town with a dramatic setting perched high above the countryside but its most famous attraction is the "Monster Park" or "Parco del Mostro"...a very kitch creation of an Orsini lord in the 16th century. Instead of creating a lush, manicured garden (like the Villa Lante), this noblemen commissioned scores of fantastic sculptures and a couple of buildings and set them in a park like setting under his castle. Today the park is a private attraction and is set up like a roadside themepark...albeit with the attractions 400 years old. Some people love the park, others hate it--the writers of the Cadogan Guide call it "dreary and over-rated" and criticize the picnic groves, gift shop, video games that you have to go through to get to the park.

Me, I liked the "Sacro Bosco"--or the Sacred Wood as it was called--I found the statuary very appealing in a quirky way. The structures range from the house that is built off-kilter (on purpose) to the Tempietto that calls to mind something from Palladio

you never know what to expect next.

You encounter large monstrous faces ready to devour passers-by

elephants and bears

giants struggling and ladies reclining

to say nothing of fierce dragons....

and all while taking a nice stroll in the woods.

After our experience in the Monster Park, we have worked up an appetite, so we drive back to Soriano, buy some sandwich fixings and fruit - local pomegranates and grapes - and drive up to the top of the nearby mountain--Monte Cimino--and have a picnic lunch in the beautiful forest called the Faggeta that covers the mountain. We have almost the entire mountain to ourselves...there are hiking trails and picnic tables and a big restaurant/bar close to the top.

Later in the afternoon, we take a quick trip to Viterbo, the provincial capital and one-time home of the Papacy on one of their enforced absences from Rome. By luck, we park in the old medieval neighborhood of San Pellegrino and spend about an hour strolling through the very austere streets dotted with pretty squares, fountains and lively shopping areas. We spend a few minutes admiring the Piazza Duomo and the Papal Palace, a very Gothic looking building from the 13th century.

We get stuck in Viterbo rush hour traffic as we head back to Soriano. Arriving back around 7:30 we find a parking space right next to the place where we plan on eating--the Taverna dei Fratti. Since it has been a full day, we decide to have an early dinner even though the restaurant is mostly empty. Dinner is excellent--we share an antipasto plate, we share a local pici-like thick pasta with a ragu and a fettucine with porcini and sausage--both are very good. Diana enjoys her lamb chops and roast potatoes and I like my grilled sausage and sauteed chicory. We finish off a bottle of red from southern Tuscany and neither of us have room for dessert.

The walk back through the piazza and up to our apartment is pleasant. We can see the neighborhoods getting ready for the festival activities that begin tomorrow night.


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