Orvieto Duomo is an Umbrian highlight!

Orvieto is a stunning hill top town in Umbria, Italy. At its pinnacle is Orvieto Duomo, a brilliant example of Italian Gothic architecture dating from 1290 AD. The façade is constructed to enhance the illusion of soaring into the heavens! It is embellished with a dazzling, colourful array of sculptures, mosaics, bas-reliefs, and an ornate rose window. Within the the Duomo heavy Romanesque style black and while pillars dominate the large space. And, the alabaster windows glow in multiple shades of golden-brown. The walls are adorned with frescoes by Luca Signorelli who is said to have inspired Michelangelo. In addition, there are remains of more ancient frescoes. So, here are some glimpses of this amazing place!

Francigena Val di Susa Marathon

On the 17th June this year, I walked in the second of four Via Francigena Marathons in Italy. The Francigena Val di Susa Marathon began in Avigliana near Turin, and continued for 42 km to an ancient Roman amphitheatre in Susa. There was an air of excitement as we traversed the cobble stones of the Piazza Conte Rosso beneath the ancient ruins of the Avigliana castle. Then, the marathon continued through all the amazing places seen in the photos. You can read all about the marathon at Via Francigena Tours.

Grand-St-Bernard Pass

Grand-St-Bernard Pass is a gateway between Switzerland and Italy that has been used by travellers for thousands of years. But at an altitude of 2473 m (8114 ft) the weather can be very unpredictable, as I discovered last Saturday!  I travelled up to the Pass to attend a 'Compagnons de la Via Francigena' celebration. It has been 20 years since work commenced on alpine segments used by pilgrims. Their hard work has made it possible for Via Francigena pilgrims to make the journey from Canterbury to Rome.

Last Saturday, a Swiss group walked from Bourg St-Pierre, in the blizzard-like conditions, to Grand St-Bernard Pass Hospice to meet the Italian group who had walked from San Rhémy. There was great excitement as the two groups met, followed by exuberant speeches in the magnificent Chapel, and a communal meal.

The Hospice has cared for travellers ever since it was established by St Bernard in 1050. The hospitality today is just as amazing. Somehow they managed to cater for our large group, a big parish group, a wedding and many pilgrims.  And then, there were the famous St Bernard dogs walking the Alps and in their kennels in the Museum.

See my article on Via Francigena official website.

Go to Via Francigena Tours to arrange your visit to Grand-St-Bernard Pass


Amiens Cathedral


Lausanne in situated on the shores of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). When I visited I headed straight for Lausanne Cathedral.  It is a very steep walk from the Lake up to the Cathedral.  But, well worth it as a tour of the city, and for the amazing views to the Lake and Alps.  

The Cathedral is considered to be the most beautiful Gothic Church in Switzerland and the spiritual heart of French-speaking Switzerland.  Its construction began in 1170 and it was consecrated in 1275.  It is famous for its examples of polychromy which is the coloured paint still visible on its statues in the Chapel of the Virgin and the Painted Portal.  The Painted Portal is enclosed with glass and I sat peacefully for some time absorbed in the beauty of the statues.

Medieval pilgrims flocked  to the Cathedral to pray before the Golden Virgin hoping for miracles.  Sadly, in the Reformation, the Golden Virgin was melted down to make coins!  But, the glorious south rose window has survived.

In the evening, I walked along the shores of the Lake towards Vevey admiring the sculptures, the Lake and the Alps. After a while, I found a great spot to sit and sketch the Alps and watch the sunset.  I imagined I was Turner sitting there! And was surprised to see the golden yellow colours, so typical of Turner's sublime paintings, appearing in the evening sky.

I did indulge in the luxury of eating a very tasty veal knuckle and risotto in a Swiss/Italian Michelin star restaurant near my hotel.  But the best part was sampling the local Lavaux wine.  I could see their vineyards in the distance as I sat sketching.  Lausanne is well known for its amazing food and has many events throughout the year celebrating its cuisine!

Go to http://www.lausanne-tourisme.ch/en/ to find out more about how to enjoy a visit to Lausanne.