The term Tuscia was used by the Latins to indicate the land of the Etruscans. This historical region was located between Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. Nowadays, Tuscia refers mainly to an area of northern Lazio in the province of Viterbo, about 1 hour away from Rome (view a map of the Tuscia – opens in a new tab).
The Tuscia has an important historic and artistic heritage, shaped mainly by the Etruscan civilization and by the Vatican, as Viterbo was part of the Papal States. When visiting the area, you will be enchanted by its mysterious frescoed Necropolises, castles, fortresses, palaces and stately gardens. You will also fall in love with the natural landscape of this evocative land of volcanic origin.
The gems of the Tuscia Viterbese
Farnese is a medieval village built on a tufa cliff. Like other places of the area, its historic center features some “pozzi da butto” (literally, “throw wells”) carved directly into the rock: they were used initially as silos for wheat conservation or as water tanks, and eventually as waste dumps. The material that was found inside them is now kept and visible at the local civic museum.
Civita di Bagnoregio (picture above) offers a dramatic sight as it sits perched on a clay plateau. Founded by the Etruscans more than 2,500 years ago, it is now a ghost village due to the slow but constant erosion of the plateau edges, which causes the buildings to crumble as their underlying support falls away.
The medieval village of Calcata saw its local residents move away in the 1930s, when the government condemned it for fear that the volcanic cliffs on which it was built upon would collapse. Yet, in the following years, artists and bohemians would repopulate the historic center. Eventually, the government reversed its decision, and Calcata is now at town with a thriving artistic community that The New York Times described as what “may be the grooviest village in Italy”.
At the foot of Mount Cimino you can enter a fantasy world in the Sacred Wood, also called Park of Monsters (featured picture above). Prince Vicino Orsini and great architect Pirro Ligorio designed this unique statue park in 1552. The eccentric woods features enigmatic figures of monsters, dragons, mythological icons and exotic animals, a crooked house, a funerary temple, fountains and obelisks with carved inscriptions.
If you would like to learn more about artistic, natural and historic itineraries to be enjoyed in the area – such as famous local families, the Calanchi Valley and the Brigands’ Path – have a look at our blog post called “Discovering the magic Tuscia in central Italy”.
Wine & Food: local specialities
Thanks to the diverse morphology of the territory – which spans over gentle hills, vast plains, the Mediterranean coast, the Tiber Valley and the mounts – the eno-gastronomic products of Tuscia have truly unmistakable flavors.
Among the local wines with the DOC quality label are the Aleatico di Gradoli, Cerveteri, Colli Etruschi Viterbesi, and Est! Est!! Est!!! If you have never heard this last name, you are probably wondering what this strange-looking name means. According to the most famous legend, while traveling to the Vatican in the 1100s, a German bishop would send his manservant a day ahead of him in search of accommodation with quality wines. At an inn in the village of Montefiascone, the manservant was reportedly so impressed with the local wine that he wrote Est! Est!! Est!!! (Latin for “It is”) on the door so that the bishop would not fail to stop by. The bishop also fell in love with the wine, and from that day forth the wine from this area bore the name Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone.
Typical food products from the Tuscia Viterbese include extra virgin olive oils, cold cuts and chestnuts. Even the water here is delicious: the famous Acqua di Nepi gushes out from the local volcanic rock. Chestnuts are celebrated annually in their own festival – called Sagra della Castagna – that takes place in Soriano nel Cimino (picture on the left from inviaggionellatuscia.it). This is one of the most particular food festivals in the Lazio Region, as it also includes a medieval costume parade and a palio (horse race).
Among the traditional dishes from the Tuscia, you cannot miss the acquacotta, which is an ancient soup of peasant origins made of stale bread, wild chicory, lesser calamint, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, chilli pepper and salted codfish or egg. Feel like tasting something rare? You can enjoy the Sbroscia (often only upon reservation) in a few restaurants overlooking Lake Bolsena: it is a tasty soup made with local fish and produce from the vegetable garden, prepared in a traditional “pignatto”, or terracotta pot.
Most main courses feature simple base ingredients (water and flour) and a cozy homemade feel, enriched by the flavors of the woods – such as porcini mushrooms, truffle and chestnuts. You can explore local cuisine and traditions with gastronomic itineraries that involve senses other than taste.
For example, the “Etruscan Gold” path will take you through the history of this ancient civilization, not only with guided visits in necropolises and museums, but also by tasting the traditional products of the ancient Etruria, such as extra virgin olive oil, wine, sauces and cheeses. The “Art and Chestnuts” itinerary will delight you at the majestic Palazzo Farnese, and show you all the possible ways of enjoying and using chestnuts. The “Forest Flavors” route takes you into the Nature Reserves of the Tuscia, where you can taste local products from the woods.
Foodie Academy for amateurs and professional chefs
The Tuscia Viterbese is home to one of the most prestigious cooking schools in the Lazio Region: Campus Etoile Academy opened more than 30 years ago and is located in Tuscania (Viterbo) in the beautiful San Francesco complex dating back to 1281.
The academy offers a series of courses for amateurs and professionals, including specific courses on: bread, pizza and focacce; creative cuisine focused on fish or meat dishes; cold cuts, smoked products and conservation; aperitifs, appetizers and prestigious buffets; patisserie; ice creams and semifreddi; chocolate art… among others!
Whether you have finished a hospitality course and would like to undertake a chef career without any experience, or you are a successful chef with a desire to broaden your knowledge, or you simply love to cook for your relatives and friends at home, you will certainly find your ideal cookery course at Etoile Academy.
Another gastronomic experience that cannot be missed is called “A Cena con lo Chef” (dinner with the chef): an authentic cooking show by the expert chefs of the academy, a journey that takes place within the ancient walls of the building and the most modern open-plan technology to witness the art of cooking. Every dish will come to life in front of your eyes as you listen to the story and secrets behind it. Can you guess how the night ends? Correct! You get to taste the delicious creations with a selection of great wines.
Weddings and Events in the Tuscia
The Etoile Academy and its talented chefs work with the beautiful Torre Alfina Castle in the organization and catering of weddings and special occasions.
Torre Alfina is perched on a spectacular cliff, immersed in the green Lazio countryside. It is protected by massive walls and features large outdoor parks, Italian style gardens and an elegant courtyard. Indoors, the castle features frescoes from the 16th century, colourful marble floors, refined period furniture and amazing fireplaces in basalt stone.
If you would like to plan a special occasion or foodie break in the Tuscia area or in any authentic destination off the beaten track in Italy, contact Italian Special Occasions DMC for creative ideas and a passionate service.