Saturday, November 14, 2015

Last Thoughts on Orvieto

Choosing a place to spend two weeks when you have not been in the area before can be a hit and miss proposition. It turns out that in the Tuscany/Umbria area, it would be hard to make a mistake. Still, Orvieto turned out to be an excellent choice. We were able to make easy day trips to several other towns in the area including Lucca, Assisi, Gubbio and the resort town of Lake Bolsena. And Orvieto itself has a lot to offer. We spent several days just exploring the town itself without ever having a bother with finding something new to see.

Our home in Orvieto
The farm
Notice the new interchange being built.
It will save about 15 minutes travel time.
Orvieto Scalo, the new part of town
We chose to stay on a farm in Orvieto instead of in the city to get a different look at Italian life. Our choice turned out to be an excellent one as our hosts, Alessandra and Pierluigi, made sure we had the staples for cooking and brought us fresh eggs and fruits from their produce. They also had some great advice on things to do in the area. We never would have traveled to Gubbio or Todi without their recommendations. They have several chickens along with olive trees and a small vineyard and a large garden area. We were too late in the season to get anything other than a dozen cherry tomatoes from the garden, but we did get to see a bit of winemaking and olive harvesting in our time there. The little farm, really a hobby farm producing just enough for household use, was less than a mile from town, but we still chose to drive each time as it was all uphill and unlit at night making it not very safe for walking even during the day. Never mind the fact that you don’t want to get to town already tired from walking a mile uphill.

A modern crucifix

One of many street cafes
Inside another cafe where we had some excellent lasagna
St. George and the dragon
Building decoration
Advertisement for a woodworking shop
On our last day we also tried to visit an amazing engineering feat. In 1527, Pope Clement VII left Rome for Orvieto when Rome as sacked by the imperial army. He commissioned the building of a secure well so Orvieto would have a secure water supply in the very real possibility the Pope would have to seek refuge again in Orvieto. The well was a huge undertaking as it ultimately descended over 50 meters into the rock. Architect Antonio de Sangallo designed the well large enough for two spiral staircases, one for ascending and one for descending, with 248 steps each large enough for donkeys to carry the water. While windows were cut into walls to provide some light, the staircase is still gloomy and dank. The cost to go down into the well is €5 and there really isn’t much to see so we passed on the opportunity. It’s too bad they don’t offer a quick view for a small charge or even allow one to go down just a few steps to experience this amazing feat of engineering. Today, when faced with a daunting task, townspeople will say, “It’s like digging St. Patrick’s Well.” The name of the well comes from a resemblance to St. Patrick’s Cavern in Ireland.
The outer wall of St. Patrick's Well
Entrance to the park overlooking Orvieto Scalo

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