Domus Civita


Central Italy is a treasure trove of beautiful landscapes and natural sites, lively towns and cities as well as unique archeological wonders. Below is a selection of our favorite places that can all be reached in less than an hour’s drive from Domus Civita in the 3 regions of Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio.


Umbria has emerged from Tuscany’s shadow as a major destination. Its narrow borders contain a dozen or more hill towns, each crammed with treasures. Its pastoral countryside has earned it the designation as ‘the green heart of Italy’ and, as the birthplace of Saints Francis and Benedict. It is also known as Italy’s mystical heart—‘the land of saints.’


Orvieto is one of Italy’s most dramatically situated hill towns commanding a position atop a 600-foot tufa plateau. It dates from Etruscan times and boasts the most beautiful Gothic cathedral in Italy as well as some of Italy’s best known white wines. Frescos by Signorelli inside the cathedral are believed to have inspired Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Orvieto has many other visitable sites in addition to being a great place to stroll, shop, and enjoy the ambiance of a vibrant Italian town.

Todi & Spoleto

Todi and Spoleto are two of the most visited towns of Umbria. Todi is the rising star of Umbrian hill towns featuring a phenomenal position above the Tiber River which goes on to flow to Rome and the sea. It has a matchless ensemble of Medieval palaces, an excellent museum, and a beautiful cathedral. Outside the walls you will find a jewel-like central plan church attributed to the renowned Renaissance architect Bramante. Spoleto has long been the best loved Umbrian town for international visitors. It has many noteworthy churches, a lovely cathedral, and a picturesque piazza. Its outstanding natural feature is a wooded gorge that you can cross via a fourteenth century bridge and acqueduct which will take you to one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Italy.


Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis and home to his burial place, the enormous and beautiful Basilica of St. Francis. The construction of this impressive structure was a Medieval architectural feat and it is still considered one of the engineering marvels of the period. The walls of the lower and upper churches are decorated with remarkable frescos, the best known of which is one of Italy’s most famous works, Giotto’s Life of St. Francis. The town features many other sights and spectacular views of the Umbrian countryside from the castle. Despite some commercialization, Assisi’s delicate pinks and grays, and the rocks, olive trees, churches in the valley below still convey a gentle otherworldliness worthy of its most famous son.


Foligno is a quiet, prosperous town at the center of an essential piece of Umbria, a collection of four lovely hill towns and a beautiful abbey, none further than eight miles from the center of Foligno. A visit to this area will make an enjoyable day trip. Trevi has perhaps the most glorious position of any Umbrian hill town overlooking the Clitunno River valley. Its Medieval heart is a delight to wander through and its olive oil is prized. Bevagna in the Clitunno Valley is noted for it central piazza, one of Italy’s most perfect Medieval squares. Spello with its huddled mass of pink-hued houses on the slopes of Monte Subasio looks like the quintessential Umbrian hill town with Roman gates that are witnesses to its distinguished history. Montefalco with its panoramic views of the entire region is known as the “Balcony of Umbria.” On a clear day you can see all of Umbria from Spoleto to Perugia. In addition, it offers a museum featuring works by the most famous Umbrian artists, a stunning fresco cycle of the life of St. Francis by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Church of St. Francis, and a maze of charming Medieval streets. For an extra treat visit the nearby eleventh century Abbazia di Sassovivo which contains Umbria’s finest cloister.


Umbria’s capital and largest city, Perugia, was one of the twelve Etruscan city-states that constituted the federation of Etruria in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. Today the massive Etruscan walls and gates define the city center that includes grand Medieval buildings as well as a great university and wonderful museums. The late afternoon passegiata on the Corso is an experience that you will remember. Against the imposing backdrop of its great architecture the well-dressed inhabitants of the town participate in the timeless ritual of the see-and-be-seen evening walk. While this is a standard feature in all Italian towns, Perugia’s evening walk is one to remember.


Rome, the largest city in the region and Italy’s capital, dominates Lazio. Yet there is much to discover in this region including phenomenal Etruscan sites, splendid volcanic lakes, and a unique collection of villas and gardens, in addition to cities and towns steeped in history.

Lake Bolsena and the surrounding towns

The town of Bolsena sits at the eastern edge of the Lake Bolsena, a volcanic lake formed by an eruption 250,000 years ago. Like so much of central Italy, Bolsena bears the signs of almost every important period of the Italian peninsula, going back as far as the Iron Age and progressing through the times of the martyrs, catacombs, miracles and on to the Middle Ages. Worth visiting are the Castle, built by the Monaldeschi della Cervara family in the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, the Complex of Saint Cristina with its fourth century catacombs, eleventh century basilica and seventeenth century baroque church. Bolsena has also been known since Roman times for its wine and eel. A stroll through the quiet historic center and by the newer Lungolago along the lake will give you a good glimpse of Italian town life.
We recommend an excursion on the lake to visit the haunting Isola Bisentina and a swim in the cool crystal clear, spring-fed lake water. Other towns of interest around the lake include the picturesque fishing village of Marta and charming Montefiascone with its beautiful views of the lake from the gardens of the now ruined sixteenth century papal palace. For those interested in World War II history a visit to the Commonwealth Cemetery along the slopes of the lake is both moving and informative.


Viterbo’s origins are unknown. It was probably founded by the Etruscans but its existence is verified for the first time in the eighth century. Starting in the eleventh century popes made Viterbo their preferred residence hence the Papal Palace which functioned as a country residence and a refuge in times of trouble in Rome. Viterbo’s historic center is today recognized as one of the best preserved Medieval towns of central Italy. Worth visiting are the Romanesque Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Piazza del Plebiscito and its palaces, the Fontana Grande and many gothic and Romanesque churches. Of interest are also the Museo Civico (City Museum) which houses many archeological specimens from the pre-historical to Roman times and the Pinacoteca with a fine collection of Renaissance paintings

Tarquinia & Tuscania

Tarquinia was once the cultural and political capital of the Etruscans and now features an Etruscan museum and tombs as famous as any in Italy. The small museum houses the most beautiful Etruscan sculpture in existence, a pair of winged horses, as part of its excellent collection. Six thousand tombs honeycomb a plateau east of town and feature historically significant frescos open to only a handful of visitors at a time due to their fragility. A visit to Tarquinia presents a unique opportunity to appreciate the achievements of the most important early culture of the Italian peninsula. Legend has it that Tuscania was founded by Aeneas, founder of Rome. it was an important city during Etruscan, Roman and early Christian times. Today this honey colored town of tufa boast impressive monuments from of all of these periods, magnificent early Renaissance piazzas and the unique Medieval church complex of St. Peter.

Historic Villas and Gardens

The historic gardens of Lazio reflect the history of Renaissance Rome, where the gardens of Ancient Rome were recreated and redesigned by Renaissance architects. It is also the history of the great Roman families who used the city’s splendid history to enhance their glory by commissioning the design of palaces and gardens in the Lazio region, private worlds of beauty which we are now privileged to share.

Villa Lante

Villa Lante, a garden with two small summer pavilions, has come down to us almost unchanged since it was completed at the end of the sixteenth century. It has been admired for 500 years as the perfect example of a Renaissance garden. Known for its symmetry and its water works, it is considered a masterpiece of proportion and perspective by the great architect Vignola. It remains as enchanting and magical today as it was at its creation.

Palazzo Farnese di Caprarola

Built on the foundations of a fortress, the architect Vignola created a great pentagon shaped villa for Cardinal Allessandro Farnese, a great patron of the arts. The beautiful Renaissance retreat is best known for its monumental staircase, beautifully frescoed Room of Maps of the World, and its south facing summer garden and north facing winter terrace. Dominating the tiny village of Caprarola, the palazzo and gardens are at once majestic and serene. Nearby you will also find Lago di Vico, a secret little lake in the crater of an ancient volcano. Here you can hike forest covered slopes or drive the Via Ciminia along the crater’s summit ridges.

Sacro Bosco di Bomarzo

In a park below a still visible castello, the Orsini family created Lazio’s most extraordinary gardens: the ‘Park of Monsters’. Grotesques, moss covered sculptures, and huge, fantastic stone creatures give the effect of a sixteenth century fantasy theme park. It is an original vision of mystery and menace that stands in contrast to the restraint and elegance of Villa Lante only 8 miles away.Children will be especially enchanted by this Renaissance wonderland, but all will be fascinated by this unusual pleasure garden.

Castello Ruspoli - Vignanello

Castello Ruspoli, in the village of Vignanello, boasts the best preserved Renaissance parterre to survive anywhere in Italy. It was planted to be seen from above—directly under the windows of the Ruspoli family’s imposing fortress in the historic Cimini Hills outside of Viterbo. The pattern of the parterre, divided into twelve rectangular compartments, is exactly as it was laid out 400 years ago. To this day the castle is in the possession of the Ruspoli family who have restored and saved the garden for posterity.


Southern Tuscany is Tuscany at its best—pastoral landscapes that are gentler and more varied than those of the north, fascinating historic towns, tiny villages, and remnants of the Etruscan civilization that gave the region its name. This area proves once again that there is always something new to discover in Italy.

Pitigliano, Sorano, Sovana

Pitigliano is a well preserved hill town known as the “Little Jerusalem” because of the presence of a Jewish community that flourished up to the early 1900s. It sits on a beautiful tufa rock at the southern end of Tuscany. It is known for its white wine, its beautiful landscape around the city and its Etruscan tombs. Today Pitigliano still has a standing synagogue that is a testimony to its rich Jewish heritage. Worth visiting are the Castle of the Orsini family, the Vie Cave, an intricate system of roads excavated deep into the tufa rock that is a unique legacy of the Etruscans, the former Cathedral of Saint Pietro e Paolo and the church of Santa Maria. Sorano’s history is tied closely to that of Pitigliano. The city is of Villanovan and Etruscan descent and is built almost entirely of local tufa stone. It also boasts a rich Jewish history. Sites worth visiting are the Castle of the Orsini from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the town below, the Masso Leopoldino in the center of the old town. While tiny Sovana has only two streets and one square, it is as historically interesting a village as you will find in Italy. It is as old as the Etruscans, was the power base of the noble Aldobrandeschi family, and is the birthplace of a pope. This rich history accounts for the presence of one of Tuscany’s most beautiful parish churches with its remarkable frescos and ninth century ciborium. In addition, the surrounding countryside is scattered with hundreds of Etruscan tombs including the famous Tomba Ildebranda, considered Tuscany’s finest single tomb.

Montepulciano & Pienza

Perched on the crest of a volcanic hill since the sixth century, Montepulciano has numerous religious and secular buildings highly influenced by Florentine Renaissance architecture and is the birth place of the famous poet Politian. A stroll through the old town and a visit to the majestic Piazza Grande will charm any visitor. The views of the town and its environs from the tower of the Town Hall are magnificent. The Church of the Madonna di San Biagio just outside the Porta al Prato is a Renaissance masterpiece by Antonio da Sangallo and a highlight of Montepulciano. The town is also famous for its Vino Nobile, a delightful red wine made from Tuscany’s famed Sangiovese grapes. Pienza is the Renaissance city built by architect Rossellino and Pope Pius II Piccolomini. The historic town center is the most important example of an early renaiassance city planning that brought together civil and religious authorities. The Palazzo Piccolomini and the views of the Val d’Orcia from its courtyard are breathtaking in every season. The Cathedral is worth a visit and a stroll in the narrow streets of Pienza is a must. Don’t forget to taste the Pecorino cheese selections that add to the fame of this delightful Tuscan town.