The historical centre is still closed within the robust belt of the medieval walls and is situated on the Cassia Road, which leads to Rome. The territory is water from halfway down the Paglia to the north: by the Tevere, which marks the confines of the east, by long stretches of water; and by various rivers and tributary streams of the Tirreno. All the provincial territory is of great touristic interest: from the areas, rich in Etruscan testimony (Tarquinia, Tuscania, Vulchi, Sutri, Blera), Roman (like Ferento), medieval and renaissance (Viterbo, Caprarola, The Civita [Bagnoregio], Bomarzo).

Fortified by Desiderio, King of the Longobards and then given to the Church by Pipino (755), in the 10th Century, it was already a well populated and prosperous centre which became, exactly for these characteristic reasons, subject of contention between the Papacy and the Emperor. From documents dating back to the end of the 11th Century, the City was already an independent Council. In 1146 Pope Eugenio III found refuge in this City together with the Papal Court. In 1164, it was the seat of the Anti-Pope Pasquale III, supporter of Barbarossa: it’s not by chance, that in this exact period, in 1167, it was taken by the Emperor who elevated it to a standing rank. After a period of victorious battles against Ferento, it was created as the main centre of the Patrimony of San Pietro in 1207 by Innocenzo III, but not long after became excommunicated by the same Pontificate due to the welcome given to a group of heretical Patarins.
Re-approaching Guelphism, in 1243 the City managed to resist the siege of Federico II, and from then on became the normal residence of the Papacy, not to mention the numerous conclaves. Urbano IV (1261) was elected here, as well as Gregorio X (1277) and Martino IV (1281). Meanwhile, the feuds between the leading factions of Gatti (Guelphs) and the Tignosi (Ghibellines), to which were added the powerful family of the Prefetti of Vico, who now in contrast, were in agreement with the Papacy, took possession of the City during the first half of the 14th Century, and dominated (but only in alternative periods, because from time to time they were kicked out or subject to revolts or rule by the military of the Pontificate, until 1435 when Giacomo of the Prefetti of Vico was beheaded by the future Cardinal, Giovanni Vitelleschi). Viterbo then passed to the stable power of the Church, remaining so (except for a short period of French domination at the beginning of the 16th Century, during which it became the main centre of the Department of the Cimino) until the entry of the Italian troops in 1870.
It was then seriously damaged by the bombardments during the course of the Second World War.

The historical centre of Viterbo still seems like a medieval city and the monuments are perfectly preserved. The most noteworthy medieval complexes are the district of San Pellegrino and the Piazza del Duomo (the square containing the Cathedral). Amongst the monuments from the Roman period, we should take note of the Cathedral (17th Century), the Church of San Sisto, which was grafted on the walls in one application, the wall itself, the churches of San Giovanni in Zoccoli, Santa Maria Nuova, del Gesù, together with numerous other houses and palaces (especially the Palazzo Alessandri); to which were part of during Gothic times, numerous, elegant fountains, a true tradition of the City, some cloisters of great harmony, various churches (San Francesco, Santa Maria della Salute, etc.), the Papal Palace with adjoining rooms, the House of Poscia. The Renaissance is represented in paintings through the frescoes of Lorenzo da Viterbo in Santa Maria della Vertià and architecture as well as various churches, amongst which, that of San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist), from the splendid Sanctuary of St. Mary of the Quercia, rich in contemporary artwork.
The Civic Museum, sitting snugly in the convent of Santa Maria della Verità (with its beautiful Gothic cloister) containing a wealth of pre-historic Etruscan material, and a notable picture-(art)-gallery , with works from Sebastiano del Piombo, Vitale da Bologna, Salvator Rosa and local artists.


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