"Palazzo Catalani in Soriano nel Cimino"
That's a mouthful, but It's where we stayed in April 2023.
I had never heard of Soriano nel Cimino, (about 60 miles from Rome) until we started planning a trip to Cinque Terre. Soriano was nowhere near the 5 seaside villages. However, we suddenly felt certain we should complicate our plans and start our travels with a stay in Soriano's, Palazzo Catalani.
Why? Photos of the hotel were enough to lure me, but the photos of the medieval town convinced me.
I loved the idea of staying in an isolated village... with a castle on a hill and very few tourists!
The website told me the palazzo was a 17th century noble residence. For $100 or less, we could stay in a pink palace! But the website was hard to navigate. The few photos looked magical, but there was little explanation. Reviews can't always be trusted, but I only found raving reviews and enthused descriptions. I trusted my gut and fell in love with the palazzo and the village.
I actually called on the phone and booked 5 nights at the Catalani! I wanted to be sure I could reserve a room, with a view of the castle. The photo above shows the lovely pastel palazzo, to the left of the steeple. It was taken from Orsini Castle and you can see our windows on the right, below our balcony.
Getting to the Hotel
It was a mini adventure getting to the hotel. The train took us from Rome to Orte. A taxi, arranged by the hotel, picked us up at the station. Our cab reached Soriano in less than 30 minutes, but it could only make it to the street, pictured below.
(click on images below to enlarge)
Stefano from the hotel, met us at the cab and took our bags. We followed him up the passage to the right and zigged and zagged over the slippery cobblestone, until we reached the door with the Italian flag! Whew!
Once inside Don and I were welcomed by Sara, at the hotel desk. I'd communicated a number of times with Sara on the phone and with emails.
Soon we were off, following Stefano and our bags, through the lovely lounge/bar area. We headed up a flight of stairs and through another lounge.
This one had beautifully decorated walls and ceiling, plus comfy seating. There was even a table full of games.
Room 14 Solarium
There were more twists, turns and steps, before we reached our apartment/room. The sign on the door looked comically modern-ancient.
When we stepped inside we were also met with modern-ancient, in the best way. The beamed ceiling high above Don's head, was a reminder of the building's age. (1600's!) Don's back issues were pleased with the comfy modern couch and equally comfy chairs at the table.
The table for 4, made me wish we had others to help us enjoy our stay! The TV wasn't needed, but there was a fridge in the cabinet and we made good use. The view from the table was stunning. We had the same view from the bathroom!
Having great window light, was such a plus. Having a bathtub with a view of Orsini Castle, was the absolute best!
Just outside the bathroom we had a mini kitchenette, with sink, dishes, a stove top and microwave... then there was this crazy set of stairs.
I knew I had requested Room 14 with a balcony and castle view, but I'd totally forgotten it was a 2-story room!
My photos don't come close to sharing how odd and tricky it was, to make a trip upstairs, carrying bags. When I reached the second floor, there was a nice sitting room and 3 other doorways, (with more steps) opening to another bathroom, a bedroom and the balcony!
There were a few more steps to reach the balcony. What a spectacular view of Soriano's tile rooftops and the castle Orsini Castle. I don't has been "guarding" the town since 1277. It also was used as a prison for about a century. Until 1989.
The balcony was huge and the patio chairs and loungers were comfortable!
There was lots to look out at besides the obvious castle, but my eyes kept returning.
The castle has been "guarding" Soriano since 1277. Over the years, it played the part of a fortress, a palace and it even housed a prison for over a century, up until 1989. Pope Nicolas III, died in the castle. Lots to think about.
Don was less excited about the charming beams on the second floor.
He had to duck to get into the upper bathroom, which also had a slanted ceiling. He tested the height of the beams above the chairs.
I found the attic bedroom charming and cozy. The room had no window, so the skylight was a plus. The tricky bed space and the winding stairs, made me realize that it would be wise to head up to bed, when alert. NOT in a sleepy or drunken state!
I was delighted to see the green grass on the lawn below.
The April temps were chilly (for us Texans) but the sitting areas looked so inviting.
The yard below our room was lovely in the morning light. Behind me, you can see our 2 windows on the upper right. Balcony above.
Some of the trees and vines were still bare from winter. But it was nice to see spring, just coming to life. Plus we had better views of the rooftops and winding alleys and yards below.
The "New" Building
Just across from the Palazzo's entrance, was another building with more grounds to explore. This building was a new addition to the Palazzo Catalani "Resort". But the lovely structure wasn't new. It was historic as well.
Inside the stone building, there were more guest rooms and a fitness room and spa area, which we didn't use. We did however enjoy the garden area above.
There was more seating, to take in the view. Some very curious seating.
The view of the two buildings was lovely. We know the Catalani family lived in the pink building, long ago. Who were their neighbors across the way?
One day, we headed up the path with sandwiches and had lunch in the upper garden area.
Yet another view of Castello Orsini!
Dining at the Palazzo
Luckily I had read good reviews about the hotel's restaurant, Locando Catalani. We arrived on Easter weekend, so many restaurants in town were closed.
The restaurant was in the lower part of the building, with patio tables as well. If only it had been warmer.
Bright and Modern
The first evening, we were able to find pizza in town, but I peeked in at the restaurant. I was surprised at how modern and somewhat casual the restaurant appeared.
Older photos on the internet showed tablecloths and darker walls. I'm unsure when the most recent renovations took place.
Complimentary breakfast was served each morning in the restaurant. On our first morning, I made sure to enjoy lots of my favorite food group... bread.
That morning happened to be Easter and my 66th birthday, so I ate as much bread as I wanted! First time ever that my birthday and Easter have been on the same day!
Sounds on Easter Morning
I loved the sounds on our first morning. I woke to pigeons cooing and church bells ringing. A little later, I heard squeals and giggles through the window. Some Italian children had taken over the yard, while the parents lingered over a meal.
Most of the day was spent exploring Soriano. I visited 2 churches before and after Easter masses. Don and I spent a couple hours as the only "tourists" wandering inside Orsini Castle.
By about 7, it was time to remember my ancient age, as we looked over the medieval village. Don and I headed to the balcony with a bottle and glasses.
I wore a retro, paisley dress in honor of my less ancient self. It reminded me of a dress I might have worn in 1969, over a half-century ago! That was the year, (the only other time) I had a birthday in Italy. I turned 12.
Party Game - Blog Tangent
For some added birthday fun, I rolled a set of dice. I told Don if I rolled my age (6 & 6) I would win my wish, to bring our whole family to Italy! Rats! I rolled 5 and 5. So I decided to see how many rolls until I got my birthday sixes. The number of rolls it took, would be my lucky number for the year!
It took me 55 rolls (funny... after my 5 & 5) to get double sixes. 5 is actually my favorite number, so clearly #55 was meant to be my lucky number, as I began this new age. I quickly made a plan. My Lucky 55 Plan: To celebrate/enjoy the company of 55 friends, (new and old) in my year of being 66. Make sense? Probably not!
At 7:30 we were off to dinner. The hotel was serving a 5-course (plus wine) Easter dinner, which meant I could just enjoy without decisions. I had hoped for white tablecloths and dimmer lighting, but there were flowers and chocolate eggs and an odd chick, on the table.
There were a few choices we needed to make, but I think the waiter figured out that we were having a hard time translating the Italian. He ended up just bringing us way more than 5 courses.
We each sampled 2 appetizers and 2 pastas, rich and filling. My beef dish had bottomless beef and artichokes. There were so many foods,
I can't remember all that we ate. Eventually we figured out that lamb and rabbit were in some of the dishes... on Easter! Yikes.
All was fun and tasty, but we were nearly miserable with feasting by the time the lights suddenly went off. The soft music halted and a recording of "Happy Birthday" suddenly filled the intimate space. The waiter carried my dessert with a candle and our amused, fellow diners clapped. A sweet and funny surprise! It was about 10 when we finished our cappuccinos. What a memorable Easter & Birthday Celebration!
Over our 5-day visit, we spent the days and evenings exploring Soriano and some nearby areas. It was always a treat coming back to relax in the Palazzo. We made good use of the common areas.
We enjoyed the lounge nearest our room, with a glass of wine one evening.
Another evening we met a couple from England in the downstairs bar/ lounge. We hit it off in a matter of minutes. On the last evening, we went out to dinner together.
I tried to explain to Pete and Diane about my Lucky 55 Plan, from when I rolled the dice on my birthday. They became the first of 55 mini friend celebrations, during my year of being 66!
Tragic Stories from WWII
We were able to learn more Palazzo history from Pete and Diane, since they were repeat guests and knew locals. The darkest bit of history involved WWII, when Nazis occupied Soriano and took over Palazzo Catalani. Evidently they damaged some of the frescoes by adding their own artwork to the walls. Our new friends were also able to tell us why everyday, we heard air raid sirens in the town. The sirens were a reminder to locals, to never forget June 5, 1944.
Gian Paolo, was a staff member who shared more of the sad history... because we asked. He told us about the tragic event in 1944, that has never been forgotten, On June 5, Allied bombers attacked Soriano, killing 188 civilians. Gian Paolo was younger than us, but clearly the war had affected his family and him. He was from nearby Virtebo and his grandmother told stories of fleeing to Yugoslavia, with Gian Paolo's 2-year old father. It was sobering to realize the there were many older folks living in town today, who actually experienced the terrifying day in Soriano.
This view from Palazzo Chigi-Alani, shows no hints of the town's sad past. At least to me. I hope those who do remember, can still enjoy the beauty of the village.
If I had lived here 90 years, how would I feel about this view today? By the end of our 5-day stay, I know I had grown to love the town and to appreciate the history.
Palazzo Catalani would have been a wonderful place to stay, even if we'd never left the grounds. But it was the connection of the historic building to the town, that added such value to our visit. Below are just a handful of places we came upon, as we wandered on foot.
(click to enlarge photos below)
The town felt isolated, but never claustrophobic. I never got tired of wandering and discovering new walkways or churches or stair steps to climb!
With a 5-day stay, we allowed ourselves just a day to explore outside of Soriano. The hotel helped us arrange a driver to visit 2 special places, not far from Soriano. Staying at the Palazzo made it possible to revisit these wonderful places, that I never expected to see again!
Park of the Monsters
First we visited Park of the Monsters, near Bomarzo. I have dream-like memories of this monster-filled park, from my family's visit in 1969. We had the mysterious park to ourselves!
Climbing on the creatures, (sculpted in the 16th century) is no longer allowed. But the visit was just a crazy-magical as I remembered. (I should have worn red socks again!)
St. Patrick's Well in Orvieto
Almost as eerie and unusual, was our visit to Orvieto's old well, from 1527. I have fond memories of this childhood adventure as well, except for the part when I cut my arm on a nail. No cuts this time and I didn't count the 249 steps again. I did when I was 11.
You can't tell in the photos but there are 2 spiral staircases, one going down and one coming up. The separate sets, kept the water-carrying donkeys apart!
I've rambled for days. But I clearly am in love with Palazzo Catalani and Soriano nel Cimino.
Our stay was above and beyond what I had hoped for. The hotel and town felt friendly, quiet, safe and charming. It was also reasonably priced at less than 100 dollars a night. I am so glad we had more than one Notable Night. What a treat to stay in a nobleman's resident, with my noble travel buddy!
Would I return? Si per favore!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!