After an interesting train ride conversing with a retired ex Army couple from Florida who were on their way to Bolonga to visit a friend and learning all about the places they had been to so that he could shoot things (kangaroos in Australia, antelope in Wyoming and wild geese in New Zealand ect) we arrived in Orvieto.
We wandered the streets up to the Duomo whilst waiting for our room and although we knew the facade was impressive it turned out to be mind boggling. No wonder it graces the cover of so many books on Italy, it is so detailed and so beautifully designed in its symmetry and composure.
A visit inside immediately was a must and although we have been into a lot of Duomo’s this one really took our interest especially the two chapels.
One from the 14th century was more serene with essence of compassion whereas the other from the late 15th and early 16th centuries Signorelli was full hell fire and brimstone but is truly a masterpiece at the standards of Raphael, Michelangelo ect.
After a superb chef standard lunch at Giglio d’oro we checked into our room at the hotel Valentino for well deserved siesta.
Being a Saturday night we expected the streets to be full for the passeggiata and we were not wrong, the place was buzzing . Everyone dressed up in their latest and best gear, women mostly in white trousers and men in jeans or brightly coloured trousers and the teenagers sporting the latest brush over fringe style haircuts that is preparing the males for their later years when they can do the brush over bald spot thing.
We found a delightful Pizzeria in the back streets and before we knew it so did all the teenagers but they were all having a good well behaved time and the Pizza was cheap and good, 5 euro each, bargain.
We continued wandering as the sun was setting and made some wonderful panorama discoveries and just got lost in the medieval street of this delightful Hilltop town.
It is only about less than 2km long by 1km wide so it should not take long to work out how the myriad of streets interconnect however its still very easy to lose you way and your sense of direction on an overcast day.
We shifted out of the Hotel the next day as our Apartment was now ready for us for the next 6 days. Casa Flavia owned by a local couple Marco and Roberta Ricci is located in Via Angelo da Orvieto in the centre of town just off the main drag, Via Cavour. Again for the same price as a 3 star hotel we get a huge bedroom, living, sep kitchen and a lovely sun terrace as well as a laundry… clean clothes.
Staying put in the one place for a week and deciding what side trips to do rather than packing up every day or second day to the next destination is a far more civilised way to go. The lessons learned over many years of travel are starting to pay off.
On Sunday we rose late and after breakfast explored the southern side of town where there were plenty of hidden gardens that we sniffed out and also some more amazing views.
We went to the Duomo Museum before ending the day watching the Passeggiata from a bar on the Via Duomo and snapping some voyeur shots with my zoom lens, very amusing!!!!
After a lovely meal and a bottle of Orvieto Classico Bianca at a Tarraza restaurant overlooking the sunset valley and more wanderings and plenty of photo snapping we strolled the streets at night listening to the sounds of a town slowing down and eventually found our way back to Casa Flavia and a good nights sleep.
Monday is shopping and washing day so we made good use of the continued sunshine getting out to the local cafe for free WiFi on skype, cappuccino and lovely cheap pastries before getting our supplies from the supermarceto so that we could wash clothes and cook some meals . The Fresh seasonal fruit & vegies were so tasty we got straight into them for lunch and dinner…bellisimo in the kitchen.
Another after dinner walk on a cooler evening ( jeans instead of shorts tonight) took us to more unexplored regions as well as some familiar streets as we piece together this fascinating place and its soul.
Bright blue sky greeted us Tuesday morning and with our fresh supplies it was breakfast on the terrace surrounded by our second load of washing drying in the warm sun.
Then after a stop at the cafe for of my morning weakness and some email checks we ventured up to the Etruscan Museum before further exploration down to the escalator tunnels and lunch in the Piazza Della Repubblica .
There is a beautiful 19th century Theatre “Theatro Comunale Mancinelli” just up the road and from us and dychpering the posters we figured that there was a free concert on. So we rolled in to be given the best seats in the house for an amazing show put on by the local music school.
The talent was extraordinary from 8 year olds up to high school graduates, a totally professional production all round. From a population in greater Orvieto of 12,000 people to amass such talent was amazing.
Wednesday is a public holiday to celebrate Unification Day so we cannot pick up our hire car until Thursday to do our Umbria discoveries. See sep blog.
But the real big weekend of the year is next weekend when we leave which celebrate Corpus Christi in the place where it all started from the Miracle of Bolsena just down the road so they are setting up the banners all over town. Oh well Unification day will have to do.
Well it had to happen, Wednesday is overcast cool and drizzly so the perfect day to go underground.
“Viaggio nella Citta Sotterranea” the underground caves that cover the whole of the plateau started by the Etruscans in the 8th century BC were used for all kinds of purposes, water storage, olive pressing , quarrying, pigeon keeping and hiding.
We went on a tour for about 1km of caves and chambers that were extraordinary feats of human ingenuity.
After a lovely pizza lunch at BP’s Jazz bar with Ben Piano playing the piano for us we climbed the 200+ steps of the Torre del Moro to pick up panoramic views over the town and surrounding countryside.
Thursday was our day to pick up the car but first it was up to the markets for some shopping and the sight of these amazing portable shops on wheels that go from town to town throughout the region and set themselves up undercover and then once done fold up and go home, sensational.
When we got back to Orvieto we went straight up to the Duomo for the celebration and procession that marks the beginning of Corpus Domino and found ourselves in the middle of a full blown mass with huge choir, Cardinal, about 30 priests and children all dressed up for the occasion in traditional outfits.
It lasted about one and a half hours but the whole experience was a highlight for me with the echoes of the voices and the stunning artistic environment.
John managed to have a snooze during the cardinals sermon all I could understand was Paradiso (heaven) and Fuoco (fire as in hell ) but the hand gestures were fantastic and this sermon was delivered to the young children down the front,with questions fired at them. Ahh !!it brought back memories of Mass with Monsignor Delaney!! Scary stuff.
The procession then went through the town with loudspeakers set up along the route to bring in the faithful, wow some of the things you can stumble across in your travels. We thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to experience it all.
After a drink at the bar and aperitvoes we wandered along the Corso Cavour that had a Mezzanote evening( shops opened to midnight). We noticed that the female singer we enjoyed from the teatro the other night was rehearsing with a band in a local bar, so we sat down and enjoyed some great entertainment from the young musicans.
Our last night in Orvieto and we cooked up a feast from from the local produce marketo and local wine to sample before setting off for Istanbul.
So long Orvieto it was nice knowing you so well.