On a whim, the three of us agreed that, at least one of our unplanned days, would be spent in Orvieto, taking us out of Tuscany and into Umbria. We knew Orvieto was on a train line and it would be easier to get to than some of the other medieval hill towns we considered (Montepulciano, Cortona, and Montalcino to name a few.) Our train, although dubbed a slow train, got us from Florence to our destination in two and a half hours. The countryside had several fortresses and we could spy small towns perched upon hills in the distance. I loved seeing the small Italian cities demonstrating their thriftiness, and attachment to the old days decorating yards, terraces, decks, etc. with hanging linens and clothes drying in the sun on their respective lines. I thought to myself about how I was going to work on saving resources and respecting Earth more when I got back to America (recycling, clotheslines, yard sales, more walking, etc.)
The Orvieto train station is small and mostly vacant. Across the street is a building with the words “Funicolare” on the front. I walk in and, to my surprise, find that the funicolare is a trolley which rides up a steep hill, through paths cut into the cliffs, diagonally up to this hill town. Very cool! I had seen a you tube video about this while researching my Italy trip, but hadn’t recalled that this was one of the cities where one was located. I felt like a kid in a candy store, clapping my hands giddily. I was delighted, and my friends were laughing at my reaction. The town is in Southwest Umbria in Central Italy built on tuff volcanic rock 1000 feet above valley floor. We were on our way up, to Piazza Cahen, where our hosts were going to pick up and take us to our apartment. (Funicolare you tube video)
Piazza Cahen is where the Funicolare drops you off in Old Orvieto, next to Medieval city gates. You can walk through the Fortezza Albornoz and see an awesome view of the cliffs the city is built on. The Pozzo di San Patrizio (Well of St. Patrick) is near here and is a recommended architectural wonder worth the short walk.
Our lodging is close to the city center adjacent the Maurizio Clock Tower. We ate at an over 100-year-old restaurant named Bar Montanucci where I had one of my favorite meals in all of Italy. It was a freshly made pasta with 4 cheeses off their special menu while the girls ordered some more authentic Etruscan eats (see photo). It was divine, and I still dream of it. We purchased a delicious Chianti from here to take back to the apartment, where we went back and enjoyed the tranquility of our evening listening to the thunder outside.
In the morning, for €6, we took a one hour long underground tour and were surprised to learn that the city is built over 1200 tunnels, 3 of which we explored. Many houses have their own tunnels. Some dating before Christ. The Etruscans originally began digging them out and the continued inhabitants continued over a 2500-year span, using them for businesses such as oil making, pigeon farming, ceramics, etc. It was very fascinating, and I enjoyed it immensely. The tour guide made a good point stating that any visitor to Orvieto ought to take the underground tour before anything else because of the wonderful history lesson you are provided about the whole town. From there, your piqued interests may take you to the Pozzo di San Patrizio (famous well), or the cloth from the Miracle of Bolsena that started the feast of Corpus Christi and encouraged the building of the grand Cathedral.
Afterwards, we strolled into the Duomo (1290 AD), with its gold and mosaic façade, and marveled at the frescoes inside. That evening we had our first taste of Brunello (the best of the best Chianti) at the Enoteca al Duomo which had a quaint little patio adjacent to the Duomo itself.
Our time in Orvieto was a true opportunity to really observe the culture, buildings, and the people, without being rushed. We spent a lot of time just relaxing, closing our eyes, and listening to the town around us. It felt like the first time we just stopped and soaked it all in. We were in ITALY!!
Journal Entry Day 2 Orvieto, Italy: “Currently, I sit on our rented apartment’s terrazza (terrace) in the sunlight with a breeze going by. Neighborhood cats approach me, meowing their requests to come inside or for me to bring them some snacks. I hear the doves and pigeons cooing. The Duomo looms above me, with only one small building between it and our terrace. The apartment is called Apartment Casadarte (Casadarte on booking.com ) and, I’m guessing, is about 400 years old. The ceiling is wood beams and you can see the brick floor for the apartment above through the spaces between the beams. I love that every building I have laid my head to rest in here is older than anything I’ve been in before. The history of each of these buildings must be positively fascinating.
This city honors the Italian tradition of taking siestas, where the shops close for a few hours and re-open later (usually around noon to 4pm). The other, bigger cities we have gone to, we stuck to the areas that were heavy with tourists and found that the stores there seemed to not observe this tradition. So, when we saw this in Orvieto, we knew we had really found an authentic hill town. We also had observed that the tourists who came to town seemed to spend maybe 1 or 2 hours total here and then they were bussed out of town. I had the pleasure of walking around at night hearing nothing but Italian being spoke. It was a surreal, calming moment and I took it all in, taking pictures with my mind and hoping I would never forget the memory. “
PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT ANY ADVENTURES YOU MAY HAVE HAD IN ORVIETO, ITALY. COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS WELCOME.