This week I’m writing from Villa del Castello on the border of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. We’re loving the location—in the medieval village of Torre Alfina—and the fact that it’s off the tourist track, yet convenient for day trips and walking/hiking adventures. The week’s highlights include a hike in the forest of Il Sassetto and a walk along Lago di Bolsena. The weather has changed from hot and humid to cool and wet—but we won’t be deterred by a little rain! Here’s a little more about my adventures in this wonderful undiscovered part of Italy:
Living like a Local
If you’re looking for an authentic Italian village experience, Villa del Castello is your property! It’s located in the center of the medieval village of Torre Alfina, a rustic, rural spot populated by locals—not tourists. We also have three other villas in this area, each wonderful and unique and close by: La Cappella dell’Alfina, Antica Rocca, and Casale Giardino (more on these villas, as well as the region in general, in next week’s newsletter! Stay tuned!) Honestly, I almost hesitate to say too much about the area and the villas—lest it become a tourist destination! I can’t emphasize enough how peaceful and crowd-free it is relative to Tuscany.
Villa del Castello is more spectacular than the photos! The garden area is large and impeccably groomed. The furnishings are Old World and high quality. We felt as though we had stepped into a gracious, well-appointed home. There is good WiFi (in the dining room), adaptor plugs (and a power strip to accommodate all of our chargers!), a Tom Tom to borrow, two cell phones, and even a vegetable garden and chickens (guests are welcome to the bounty!) A few steps away there is a hotel with pool (open to guests of the villa) and restaurant. The village, which includes a world-class gelateria, is also close by. The caretakers live nearby and are always available.
Italy’s Green Heart
This part of Italy is an ideal destination for people who love the outdoors. There is an extensive trail network (for both hiking and mountain biking), as well as lakes (Bolsena and Bracciano).
- The owner of La Cappella dell’Alfina took us on a hike in a prehistoric volcanic forest which was only about 1-2 km away from our villa, just below the Castello di Torre Alfina. The forest was an otherworldly place, with many varieties of old-growth trees and lichen-covered volcanic boulders. We were shown caves in the forest where the villagers hid during the Nazi occupation.
The Via Francigena is one of Europe’s principal pilgrimage routes (like the Camino de Santiago in Spain) and was established in 990 for pilgrims en route to Rome. It passes through the countryside near Torre Alfina, also called the Alta Tuscia. Locally, the trail criss-crosses the Via Cassia (the ancient road to Rome) gravel paths and rural roads. A number of the trail’s most scenic legs start within a short drive of the villa.
- Lago di Bolsena is a beautiful volcanic lake that was formed by an eruption that occurred hundreds of thousands of years ago. All around the lake there are beaches, swimming holes, picnic grounds, and restaurants—not to mention clean, clear water! There are two islands in the middle of the lake, both with monasteries on them. In the summer there are regular boat cruises from Bolsena and Capodimonte. We hiked a beautiful trail, the historic Sentiero dei Briganti, which encompasses 100 km of trails along the Tuscany/Lazio border that were originally used as escape routes by local brigands. The trail is ideal for mountain biking, horseback riding, or hiking. Incidentally, Leg 37 of the Via Francigena, which originates in San Lorenzo Nuovo, follows the lakeshore to the beautiful town of Bolsena on a segment of the Sentiero dei Briganti.