I’m involved teaching a group that has arrived in Rome Fiumicino airport to explore Tuscia and the Papal States – unknown, unspoilt Italy. No tourists – except us. Italian visitors, and a quiet, welcoming atmosphere that I remember from my first visits to Italy before mass tourism began. Then E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View, written early in the 20th century, depicted a Santa Croce in Florence with a few earnest visitors, with or without the local Anglican priest as a guide,all seeking out the Donatello annunciation, the Giotto chapel and the humanist tombs, superbly carved by Desiderio da Settignano and Rossellino (one of the brothers!) and without a Christian reference on them… I digress.
In spite of the rain, the Caere (Cerveteri) tombs in the Bandatelli cemetery – one of many – were impressive and one member of the group said that the tour was already worthwhile. We arrived in Viterbo at 5.30 in time to settle into the hotel before a welcoming dinner. What a feast! It consisted of 4 courses: crostini, really toasted bread with their own olive oil (a terrible temptation to spoil what was to follow!) – home-made pasta with an exotic sauce and much else.