A couple weeks ago I talked about the dream that led to my idea for Olympus Gate. After the dream I started planning out some of the details of the book, including the when and where of it. I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to set it in Ancient Rome, but that still spans a lot of area and time. So bit by bit I put together the requirements for the setting.
-It had to be a large enough town that the society would be varied and interesting, but small enough to have significant farmland.
-It had to have been an Etruscan town originally, but be fully Romanized by the time of the story.
-It had to have at least one river nearby.
These requirements narrowed down my options a bit. Eventually I chose Clusium as the primary contender and set about finding a way to visit. Fortunately my husband and a group of our friends were all very interested in going to Italy, so in the middle of October of 2009 we took our trip.
We spent the majority of our time there visiting Rome (oh wow, was it ever amazing to see the Forum and Colosseum!) and Florence (the art! the views! the gelato!), but we also took a day to explore Chiusi, the modern version of Clusium.
Chiusi is halfway between Rome and Florence and is easily accessible by train. The train stop is at the bottom of the hill, and at first glance the town doesn't seem very promising. I remember getting off at the stop and wondering what exactly I had gotten myself (and my group) into. But soon enough we found a bus that took us up to the top of the hill and the main part of the town.
Before we did anything else we had lunch in a nice little restaurant called Zaira and took a tour of its wine cellar.
Afterward some of us explored the Etruscan museum. It had some really great pieces. I loved everything I saw, and I was even allowed to take pictures!
But the best part was when we all took a walk around the outside of the hill and exclaimed over the perfect vista. It was in that moment I knew I had picked the right place.