Green rolling hills spread in every direction. Yellow flowers decorated waves of grass as the sunlight created light and shadows along the fields. Groves of olive trees, their silvery leaves shimmering, met rows of vines. I looked out over the vast landscape to the castle on top of the hill. Soriano nel Cimino, Viterbo Italy, my home for the next ten days.
Unlike when I spent a week in Florence, where tourists marched through the city daily, and locals spoke english, now I'm in a small village untouched by time itself. Each day after exploring the region, the bus drops me at the bottom of the hill and I begin the long climb up ancient stone stairs, past stucco and stone buildings with bright-colored laundry hanging from the clothesline.
In the square people stare at me. There are no calls of, "Ciao, Bella". Instead, this is a place where everyone has grown up together. Small shops with flowers, shoes, and clothing along with cars that move up and down the cobblestone streets are the only sign that I'm not in the 17th century. People call to one another, each person knowing the other in the town. Teenagers sit in the piazza that overlooks the Tuscan valley, bored of their small village and dreaming of someday leaving. Yet, there is a real community here of family. There isn't one tourist shop with t-shirts or calendars. The only hotel is the one I'm staying in and it's only been in the village for eight years. It has eighteen rooms decorated with the original frescoes.
I pass the square and climb another hill. Here I stop for vegetables in the produce shop, cheese from the butcher, and pasta at the place where the old woman smiles at me and says, "Bella" each time I come in.
Back at the hotel I walk the wide stone steps to the lounge where I look out across the village to the castle high on the hill. Once an Etruscan fort, (the original Tuscan people) the Romans turned it into a prison and now it stands empty. At night it is illuminated for all to see.
The closest town of Viterbo is a half hour drive. Another medieval town, but one that has modernized its outskirts. Here people can go to the cinema and shop in malls. Large supermarkets are available. Other small towns in the surrounding area have large gardens such as Villa Lente in Bagnaia. At one time, the popes ran from persecution in Rome and designed this area with duomos and gardens.
But here in Soriano, there is a simpler life - one that Rome has left untouched. It is a place of long walks and time sitting in the square. Men smoke and drink coffee while they retell stories. And everywhere I look is a view of the Tuscan valley below.
My brain has shut down. I have no desire to do anything but eat and take in the scenery - to walk the streets at night in the quiet. At the hotel, I've met wonderful people who have become friends for the week as we've explored the region. Most of all, I've gotten into my Italy mode - a time where I taste life more deeply and slowly.