On our way from Monte Cassino to Cervara de Roma we had a serious mishap – we got stuck in a very narrow back street (it was so narrow you could say more it was more like a back passage) in the appropriately named Medieval village of Arsoli.
What a disaster! We missed our turning (probably distracted by the hilarity of the village’s name) and the sat nav system then took us through the narrowest of streets on a convoluted one-way system through the bowels of the village.
The narrow alley became narrower but we thought we could get just squeeze through. However, a slight deviation in the road, a brick wall on one side and an iron staircase on the other and we were stuck!
There was just no way of going back and if we went forward we couldn’t help but damage the van. “Arsoli!” we exclaimed before easing forward to the accompaniment of an unpleasant graunching sound.
There was a nasty gash on the side of the van where it had connected with the iron staircase but fortunately Jonathan was able to bodgy it quite artistically using silver duct tape to follow the lines of the existing duco patterns.
After a rather (dare I say it) shitty start to the day we travelled on to Cervera Di Roma a charming hill top town around 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Rome.
This village is quite unusual for a number of reasons. Firstly, the historic center of Cervara can only be reached by foot after a 35-metre (115 ft) climb. Secondly, this village – dramatically perched on a cliff in the Monti Simbruini Regional Park – has only just over 400 inhabitants but has over the years, attracted some of the great artists of Europe who have left their paintings, sculpture and even music on rocks, walls and cliff faces around the village.
We discovered many works as we slowly climbed the steep steps up to the village and as we wandered the narrow alleys and vaulted passages.
At the top of the village as well as the very fine views, we found the remaining traces of a medieval stronghold and below it, the 14th century Church of Maria SS. della Visitazione.
Unfortunately, there was a service underway in the Church so we were unable to see inside.
Our next stop was Tivoli, a charming town founded in Roman times and an important settlement during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.
Being so close to Rome it is a popular place for tourists but the day we arrived the town didn’t feel overcrowded and parking in a huge car park within walking distance of all the sights was free. The drivers were much less macho than around Naples and all the locals we came into contact with were charming and friendly.
With so many possible places to visit it was difficult to choose where to go and in the end we decided on the magnificent Renaissance Villa d’Este Palace and its glorious terraced hillside gardens.
We looked round the sixteenth century palace first and were dazzled by its spectacular and well restored frescoes (although rather over the top for our taste.)
The gardens were truly magical and the sound and atmosphere created by the moving water in the hundreds of fountains was absolutely gorgeous.
We would have liked to stay longer in Tivoli but we had a lot of ground to cover so drove on to our next destination- Orvieto in Umbria.
Here we found a great camper van park with all facilities for only 18 Euros a night at the foot of this lovely town perched on a massive cliff. . The park was near to the train station which made it a little noisy but from there you could get to both Rome and Florence by train very easily. It was also right next to the Funicular (cable car) station which carries passengers up the steep cliff to the town of Orvieto.
Things were definitely looking up after the crap time we had in the Arsoli of Italy!