VIA CASSIA – From Tuscany to Rome by car: An idea that is really worthy and we surely recommend is to take a day more to do this trip between Florence and Rome or between Siena and Rome (or vice-versa) by car, not with the highway but through an old Roman road - Via Cassia. At last, ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME. Via Cassia is an important consular Roman road built to connect Rome and Florentia (present Florence), later protracted until the Via Aurelia – the one that follows the coast – passing through Lucca and Pistoia.
Via Cassia goes across the intermediate territory between the two most important Roman roads: the Via Aurelia, along the Tirrenian coast, and the Via Flaminia, that connected easily with Via Emilia at “Ariminum” (present Rimini) to reach the Northern Italy. Via Cassia has been built over the reconstruction of pre-existent Etruscan routes. During the Roman times, the route used to start in Rome from the miliarium aureum – the Forum – leaving Rome through the gate “Porta Fontanalis”, going over the “Ponte Milvio” and passing through the territories of: Veio, Sutri and Vetralla. Via Cassia than reached the Southern “Etruria” at Castrum Viterbii (present Viterbo), the lake of Bolsena and the small Etruscan town of Velzna. From the lake it deviated to Clusium (present Chiusi), Cortona and from there it reached Arretium (present Arezzo). During the 2nd century a.C., the road has been extended up to Florentia (Florence), and secondly, to Pistoria (Pistoia) and Luca (Lucca). Only in the medieval times, there was a radical change in the route of Via Cassia, because of a severe bog of the Chiana valley.
Other issues have influenced this change, like the alteration of importance of the main towns, and the invasions and territory divisions among Byzantines, Langobards and the French. The new route passed through the hilly towns of Radicofani, San Quirico d’Orcia, Siena and others. What we proposed you here is to revive this legendary and simply beautiful route, departing from SIENA, down to ROME. The present road is known as Via Cassia, and has the number SS 2 (Strada Statale 2). It is a two-lane road, but it is well kept and you won’t probably find much traffic. It is now a panoramic road that will lead you to fairy tale places, with amazing views and charming towns where to stop.
Going ahead without stopping the trip might take aprox. 4 hours. We suggest you the following stops along Via Cassia for a day-trip program:
Departure: SIENA, take Strada di Pescaia and proceed on Strada Massetana Romana, the one that leads you to Rome, follow blue signs to ROMA or Cassia SS 2. The road will lead into the territory of the “Crete Senesi”. The “crete” are those clay hills which makes of this a unique territory, something like a lunar landscape.
Stop 1. Buonconvento: One of the most beautiful fortified villages in Italy. The medieval town has started on the 12th century, as a stopover along the road that connected Rome to France, the so called Via Francigena. Take the chance to have breakfast in one of the lovely cafes in the historical centre.
Stop 2. San Quirico D’Orcia: A town with Etruscan origins. It belonged to the Via Francigena, with a fully preserved medieval centre, Romanesque churches, medieval watch tower and city walls. The town located uphill enjoys a stunning panorama over the Orcia valley. A rest in the Leonini Botanic gardens will certainly recharge your energies to continue the journey. This is a typical example of a Renaissance Italian garden.
In the main square of the town you can visit the Church of Sant Francis from the 17th century and enjoy a brunch in one of the local cafes, or buy a delicious “panino” in one of the local “botteghe” (grocery that sells local products). Take the chance to purchase some typical products like homemade jam, pasta, salami – specially the “cinta senese” kind and the curious “coglioni di mulo”.
Stop 3. Bolsena lake. Once crossed the border between Tuscany and Latium, you reach the large Lake of Bolsena. Via Cassia surrounds half of it so the views from the road are simply amazing, specially between Val di Lago and Bolsena. Anyway it is also worthy a stop, by the town of Bolsena or by the lake’s beaches. The town is really charming, a medieval rock by the lake with stunning views, historical buildings, delicious cafes and restaurants. A stop for a delicious Italian homemade ice-cream is not bad at all.
Besides, the edge of the lake is fully equipped with many establishments. Probably you will be tired of the trip and don’t have enough time to go and swim, fish or make a boat trip, so at least take a few pictures and back on road.
Optional. Viterbo: this is one of the most important cities in the Northern Latium, surrounded by Etruscan sites, but according to how much time you dedicated to this trip, we would recommend you instead another impressive little Etruscan town, not so famous but really important for its heritage: Sutri.
Stop 4. Sutri: this is a really old town, positioned in an important territory for its topography and location between the Southern Etruria and the coast, along the transit line of Rome. Its location on the top of a promontory was ideal for protection and urban organization. The soil is basicaly composed of tussock. Its oldest origins date back the late bronze age (10th century B.C.). This can be clearly seen if you visit the Necropolis, from Etruscan period, certainly enlarged during the Roman times as a result of a demografic increase. This is one of the most important Necropolis in Italy, by its size, there are in total 64 thumbs.
Right beside the Necropolis, also carved in the tussock, the amphitheatre from Roman age, built probably between the second century before Christ and the first century after Christ, remained hidden underground until the 19th century. Built with the same structure as the Colosseum, it could hold 9000 people.
Uphill the medieval town with its imponent cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption, is certainly the msot important artwork of Sutri. Along the small medieval streets of the walled town, your can discover many secrets and enjoy a full immersion in history.
From Sutri to Rome there is still half an hour. If there is still light you can see the Lake of Bracciano, a second great lake positioned between Tuscany and Rome. It is up to you stay at Sutri for dinner in one of the many local restaurants, or reach Rome and go out to enjoy the night.
Along the river Tevere there are many stands with snacks and something to eat and drink, attractions, objects for sale and games. It is a great idea to stay at Rome for the night, so walk around in the downtown or if you prefer, pick a good restaurant for dinner by your hotel.