I lost count of the fairy-tale like Borghi visited over the past month of vanlife, in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio (Italy). I warn you this post contains an overload of love for, and images of incredible Italian old villages (Borghi), scattered around breath-taking and peaceful sceneries.
Driving through this stunning part of the world, from one Borgo to the next, felt like dancing in a beautiful hall. Despite my lack of ballroom dancing skills, I found myself swinging around tight bends and waltzing along narrow roads with ease and enjoyment, holding on tight to the steering hands (wheel) of Peter Van. Well, it was more of a freestyling boogie, tbh. A freedom dance!
You’d think that after 2 or 3 Borghi, you’ve seen them all – enough. But no, each stop brought new surprises, encounters and emotions. I’ve associated a key word to each place.
LAJATICO (TUSCANY): Connection
Lajatico is where my sister and her family live. It is also the hometown of Andrea Bocelli and it hosts an annual summer concert at the Teatro del Silenzio: an open-air amphitheatre in a gorgeous spot among the Tuscan hills. http://www.lajatico.info/TeatrodelSilenzio.htm
I’ve been coming to this piece of heaven on Earth for years, but this time I was alone. A wonderful opportunity for extra special sister-love and quality time with my niece and nephew. I also gave presentations to three classes at the Secondary School, which is always an enjoyable and rewarding experience!
SAN GIMIGNANO (TUSCANY): Sweetness
One can never get bored of gorgeous San Gimignano and I could come back here again and again. I returned with Peter Van, my sister and my niece to enjoy a relaxing stroll together and a yummy ice-cream from the World’s best!
Here in San Gimignano I also spotted a sweet little art-shop with loads of colourful drawings of hot air balloons, my symbol for this year 2019! I bought one that is now travelling with me, hanging on the fridge door, inside Peter Van.
(LEONARDO DA) VINCI (TUSCANY): Inspirational
To mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, I took a day trip to Vinci. What an inspiration to visit the adorable birthtown of one of the cleverest and most talented human beings to have ever lived. https://www.tripsavvy.com/visiting-vinci-1548068
I learnt more about what we know of the Master’s early family history, I visited a dedicated museum, the church that houses his christening basin and the home where he grew up, which is further up the hills, packed with olive trees and overlooking a breath-taking panorama of the surrounding valleys.
POPULONIA (Tuscany): Thankful
I almost missed Populonia old town, when I drove to the Gulf of Baratti to spend a day on the beach. Thankfully, the lovely guy at the only beach-hut café recommended I drive further up the hill to see it.
I discovered this tiny walled Etruscan place, surrounded by archaeological sites dating back to the iron age and extensive views of the azure Tyrrhenian Sea; on a clear day you can see as far as Corsica.
BOLGHERI (TUSCANY): Poetic
Apparently, Sarah Ferguson lives in this area or is a huge fan of pretty Bolgheri and its local wine. Two facts I am unable to verify. https://www.discovertuscany.com/the-etruscan-coast/bolgheri.html
An iconic feature of Tuscany are the Cypress-lined roads and drives up to hilltop villas or agriturismi. After a lunch of seafood spaghetti and a glass of red, I drove along the Cypress avenue that runs from the Bolgheri Castle for circa 5km straight. This road is well known because famously cited in a poem by Giosue’ Carducci in Davanti San Guido.
RADICOFANI (TUSCANY): Special
Thank you Universe (and Google Maps!) for directing me to a simple Camper Carpark, right at the foot of this special little gem that I discovered only the next day because I arrived in the dark. https://www.e-borghi.com/en/village/154/Siena/radicofani
After a wonder around the medieval streets and treating myself to local biscuits from a small bakery, I hiked up to the Fortress. I took the road route up and came back down through the forest path. I had the whole site to myself which was incredible. Special VIP treatment! http://www.fortezzadiradicofani.it/
PIENZA (TUSCANY): Adorable
Pienza felt so homely and again the views here are jaw-dropping.
Its energy and the people I met were so warm and friendly. The curator of the main Duomo turned all the lights back on just for me, when I walked in as he was preparing to close it. Then I met a creative photographer while dining alone in one of the delicious restaurants in town. He took a couple of shots of me, immersed in my notes at my table (with retrospective permission!).
Pienza was built to become the “Ideal City of the Renaissance”, as imagined by Pope Pius II in the 1460s. Basically, it is a dream come true! It’s no surprise it features adorable street names like Love, Fortune and Kiss!
MONTEPULCIANO (TUSCANY): Mindfulness
Montepulciano was on my route from Pienza to Assisi. However, I didn’t make it to the main centre on this occasion; instead I opted to give my full attention to one of its gorgeous sites: the majestic Temple San Biagio that stands beautifully at the foot of the village (https://www.tempiosanbiagio.it/)
I took my time to relax and take in all the details of its architecture, the interior and its history, listening attentively to the guided tour from my headphones.
ASSISI (UMBRIA): Energy
Assisi deserves an entire blog or even book! So much to say about my experience of this place. https://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/umbria/visit-assisi-italy-attractions
There is such a powerful energy here and this kind of energy attracts amazing people. I stayed 2 nights at a rustic B&B run by lovely Sara (http://www.acasalelagerlaassisi.onweb.it) to use up an expiring Airbnb credit. I had the most amazing views from my bedroom!
Sara recommended a restaurant that hosts regular book launches and whose owner takes guests on a weekly night-walk! I made it to both events. I met the talented author and tattooist, Tommaso Buglioni, and loved the Assisi by night. Oh, and the food was delicious too (il Baccanale). Then at the campsite, I met a Finish lady who taught for years at the University of Helsinki and travels the world teaching the power of nature’s energy and eco-therapy! We spoke for ages.
I was pleasantly surprised by a festive event that weekend, with music and exhibitions taking place on the streets. Including a traditional show of flags. I was told however that the most striking event in Assisi is the medieval-themed festival called Calendimaggio held in May.
ORVIETO (UMBRIA): Synchronicities
As I travelled through central Italy, I quickly accepted that I couldn’t visit everything. You could easily spend a whole year in this area alone; it’s packed with amazing destinations, only a few miles from each other. As I reached the foot of Orvieto, I realised I couldn’t drive up very easily so I opted to admire it from afar, from a nearby panoramic spot.
Within minutes, two fun tourists from Israel turned up in a hired car and it didn’t take long to chat and for me to accept their invitation to join them to the town centre in their smaller vehicle. www.bellaumbria.net/en/orvieto/
We parked right outside the Cathedral that has one of the most beautiful mosaiced facades ever. The inside is just as jaw-dropping and we walked right into a mesmerising girl choir.
BOLSENA (LAZIO): Miraculous
I love being near the water so whenever possible I target seaside, lakes and rivers. Lake Bolsena has crystal clear water and a walk along the shores always brings me calm and inspiration.
While in Bolsena, I ventured up and down the old Borgo area, visited the castle and its museum, chatted to the fish living at the lake-life aquarium and finally visited the basilica church of Saint Christina.
A curator offered to talk me through the history of the different architectural styles of the church, the underground tombs dug in the rocks and the Eucharistic miracle of 1263, which was painted also by Raphael in his The Mass at Bolsena (in the Vatican palace). I also learnt of the torturous life of poor little Saint Christina.
CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO (LAZIO): Awe
O.M.G., Civita is such a spectacular place. As I approached the beginning of the walk-bridge that takes you to this “dying city”, I got my first glimpse of Civita, built on the only remaining rocks in the vast surrounding valley. It took me a while to grasp that this place was real.
I didn’t dream it up… I could still see Civita the next day from nearby Lubriano. Civita is said to be founded by the Etruscan 2500 years ago and more recently it turned into a “island” due to erosions and landslides. I visited it at sun set, which created an extra sense of wonder. https://civitavecchia.portmobility.it/en/civita-di-bagnoregio
I can’t get enough of Borghi. They are so charming and each triggered unique experiences and feelings. It’s a shame I had to miss a few on this journey and I wish I stayed longer in some places; but I am so privileged to have had the opportunity to enjoy so many.
You could spend a lifetime “dancing” from one to the next borgo to truly savour them all!