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Terni is due south of Foligno, 40 minutes by train. This was our first visit and we were to discover a city of unique contrasts. A Roman inscription dates the foundation of the town to 672 B.C. Located in a natural basin between two rivers, the Nera and the Serra, which are fed by the man-made Cascate delle Marmore waterfalls, the town became highly industrialized in the last quarter of the 19th century. Its steel mills became the engine for the regions economic rebirth. Because of this industry the town was heavily bombed during the Second World War which destroyed many of the historic buildings.

Thus in the historic center we found the past in the layout of the ancient streets and remaining monuments while within and around are more modern buildings dating to the rebuilding period after the war. There is a designated "industrial area" west and north of the city center.

It was a 10-minute walk from the train station to the Hotel Valentino, Via Plinio il Giovani, 3/5 at the corner of Via Mazzini, a lovely shopping way and the northern border of the ancient city.

The hotel was remodeled in 2005 in contemporary style. Our accommodations were quite spacious with decent quality furnishings including a king bed, desk, table and 4 chairs with double sinks, a whirlpool bathtub with shower and a heated towel rack in the bathroom. Best of all, it was a corner room with a large wraparound balcony and splendid city views.

We arrived on Feb.12 at the Hotel Valentino and would depart Feb.14, a very important day in Terni. St. Valentine, the patron saint of Terni, was born here in the year 175 and Terni is where his martyred body was taken upon his death. In an era of intolerance he celebrated the wedding between a pagan and a Christian girl thus becoming the saint of lovers celebrated Feb. 14th when hundreds of couples get married in the Basilica di S. Valentino. This was too good to be true.

We could hardly wait for midnight Feb.14 to eat the fabulous chocolate we found at Cioccolateria Artigiana Fani, Via degli Artieri, 23. In the shop, we watched Roberto Fani creating his handmade, superb quality chocolates for this shop and for his gourmet food store, Cibrus, in Piazza B. Bouzzi.

Street markets under tents are an annual February event in Terni, Italy.There are celebrations throughout the month of February as we were to find out as we turned south at Piazza Tacito on Corso Publio Cornelio Tacito, the main pedestrian street through the center of the city. Large white tents were set up from P. Publico to the heart of the ancient town, Piazza della Republica. The tents were filled mainly with sweets, but if you wanted to give your loved one a gift of bread, smoked meat or jewelry there were some wonderful choices.

Tacito is "the" popular shopping street where we found Gelateria Cinzia. The bacio, hazelnut and coffee were rich in flavor, smooth-textured and pure ecstasy, especially when crowned with panna.
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Reaching Piazza Republica we figured the Biblioteca (library) would be nearby and the person we asked told us we were standing in front of it. It must have been the large crowd in the square that had captured our attention. :-) Since the hotel charges an exorbitant fee for using their internet access we decided to check out the library. We had to register as guests and were told that there was a charge of .04€ per minute – we could swing it!

The room was filled with students. It's always a joy to see most of the young people working on their studies rather than frivolously using the Internet or chatting. (Not that I was purposely peeking.)

Several local people recommended Ristorante Tacitus, Piazza Tacito, 14, for very good regional home-style cooking at reasonable prices. It was obviously a favorite of locals. The atmosphere was friendly with the television tuned to a soccer broadcast throughout the evening. The boss made the rounds chatting with his friends. He welcomed us with enthusiasm and when we asked him for suggestions he declared that everything is made from the freshest, best quality ingredients from local farms and it just depended on what we felt like eating.

Fair enough; an excellent house red helped us contemplate. We had to start with the Terni region’s favorite pasta, oiriole, a long thick noodle cooked al dente, dressed in a sauce of tomato, basil and pepperoncini, simply luscious. We used the crusty, chewy bread to clean our plates.

Linda had a marvelous scaloppine al limone, tender white veal, lightly floured and sautéed with delicate lemon sauce. My scottadito di agnello, lamb chops, were dashed with olive oil (the marvelous local "moraiolo" oil) and grilled to perfection. I drizzled more of that oil on a fresh mixed salad. Follow the locals!

Hotel Valentino was a major disappointment at breakfast. The buffet consisted of sliced cellophane wrapped cheese, sugar cereals only, disgusting looking ham (grey), sweet water posing a juice, no bread except for the hard stale rolls on the tables. A sweaty and nasty smelling man was running around from one disaster to another as nobody was happy. We finally had to chase after him into the kitchen to order cappuccini.

Romanesque Cathedral, Piazza Duomo, Terni, Italy.We headed to the southwestern part of town to start at the Duomo. The pretty Piazza Duomo was filled with Carabineri and local police on hand to welcome the State Minister of Internal Affairs. The Cathedral of Romanesque origins was rebuilt in the 17th century retaining the handsome 12th century portal and the crypt. The lovely public gardens and Roman amphitheatre (32 A.D.), surround the Duomo. The remains of the medieval Roman walls run along behind the gardens as far north as Via Cavour.
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Leaving Piazza Duomo and proceeding north on Via Undici Febbraio there is a charming neighborhood of well-preserved old homes. At the end of the street is the adorable Romanesque stone Church of Sant'Alto with frescoes from the 12th to 14th centuries.

We were lucky to find L'Angelo del Pane, at Via Cavour, 72, just before they were getting ready to close for lunch. I say lucky because they bake marvelous breads, rolls, focaccia, pizza, etc. We opted for pizza topped with carciofi, ham and cheese, started on our way pizza in hand and after a few bites dashed back for an encore. Linda had more of the same and I opted for a cheese bun, soft dough filled with creamy cheese - to die for! The sweet young woman who waited on us insisted on giving us a few traditional carnival goodies to keep us going.

Via D. Leone brought us to Piazza S. Francesco and the church of the same name (no shortage of churches in Terni). Built in the 13th century, it has a striking bell tower decorated with Gothic mullioned windows. Inside, the Paradisi Chapel (built by the Paradisi family in the 15th century) features an important cycle of frescoes on the theme of the "Last Judgement" painted by Bartolomeo di Tommaso of Foligno.

Corso Vecchio is the north-south main street through the oldest part of the ancient town. It’s a busy shopping and social way in a setting of antiquity, as opposed to the more modern Corso Publio Cornelio Tacito. The side streets like Via Tre Archi and tiny squares like Piazza Clai with ancient stone buildings and archways are the most powerful reminders of the town’s roots. Indeed Terni is a city of contrasts.

Stinco di maiale al forno, Trattoria Moderna Alfio, Terni, Italy.The other well recommended restaurant was Trattoria Moderna Alfio, Via G. Galilei, 4. The attractive contemporary design is in contrast to the traditional menu. We were comfortably seated in the upper level where there is an open grill, forno and cucina. The menu offerings were a challenge, every one a favorite. We sipped Rosso di Torgiano, 2002, Antigniano, medium dry and fruity and decided on pappardelle al cacciatore as our primi, a great choice.

Linda chose scottadito d'agnello with roasted potato. The rib chops were cut thick and grilled perfectly medium rare, as ordered. I was truly delighted to find stinco di maiale al forno and secretly expected it could never live up to the version I had a couple of years ago in Bevagna. Wrong! This huge knuckle of tender pork was deliciously marinated and roasted to a juicy tenderness. It's a good thing that I am an experienced stinco surgeon and knew how to attack this mountain of meat.

The staff was very accommodating and personable. They knew all the guests and the ongoing banter and soft music made it a fun evening. Great food, service all at extremely reasonable prices makes Alfio a wonderful choice.

Tomorrow off to Orvieto.
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