This morning we hit the coffee bar around the corner for a quick espresso and pastry before heading off to Orvieto. This was our third time there and our last unless every other coffee place shuts down unexpectedly. The espresso isn’t that great and bartender is young and snobbish. If the guy can’t make eye contact, I can take my euro elsewhere. Enough said.
Pile in the car and head toward the A1 southbound for Orvieto. The G-man totally channels his inner Mario Andretti in the racing Fiat 500! I’ve actually had to ask him to slow down on more than one occasion…this coming from a person who used to drive lights and sirens (shout out to Robbie, Robert, Ty and Ty), he scares me. I’m the designated navigator and accidently navigate us right into the limited traffic zone of the ancient city. Fortunately, we don’t get caught by the police and make it back out to a proper parking area.
Our primary reason for visiting Orvieto….brace yourselves….is not for the Duomo. Tops on our list was the National Archeological museum. There was supposed to be an excellent display of Etruscan and early Roman artifacts. We bought tickets to see both the museum and the necropolis. We were rather disappointed. The museum did, in fact, contain quite a few Etruscan and Roman artifacts. However, the information reference said artifacts was limited at best and non-existent in most cases. The Etruscan artifacts were unearthed at the burial grounds discovered just outside the city wall. The majority of artifacts were in stunningly good condition. Most of them look like they were just in use the day before. There were two unmarked rooms in the museum that contained frescos from the Etruscans tombs. Had it not been for G-man snooping around in an area that could easily have been mistaken for an employee-only area, we would have never seen them. The one attendant on duty happened to see him looking around and offered to turn the lights on so we could take a look. The one highlight of the whole museum experience was the one and only attendant on duty. She enthusiastically suggested a place for us to have lunch and even went so far as to write on our tourist information map to tell Giam Piero at Trattoria La Palomba that Gabriella sent us. We made a beeline for La Palomba only to discover that it was full by the time we got there. The biggest disappointment of the day. We were sure it would have been a wonderful experience. We ended up eating at another place around the corner only because they had tables available.
After lunch we wandered around, heads on a swivel, taking in all the ancient-ness. The Duomo is stunning, that goes without saying. We, just like everyone around us, stood staring. Such beautiful feats of construction are mind boggling and breath taking and just make you pause to take it all in.
But, at the risk of getting struck by lightening, I am not as attracted to the grandiose eye catchers as I am to the average everyday places. I would rather see how the common man lived hundreds of years ago than where the rich folks hung out. As such, we tend to stick to the back alleys and Orvieto has lots of back alleys to explore. We love looking at a medieval building where people are STILL living and see where the original doors and/or windows have been bricked in and modern doors and/or windows inserted. There are examples everywhere! We are big on the old architecture, which is obvious when I download the cameras at the end of the day. How many pictures of doors, windows, balconies, can a person take? Well, apparently not enough by the looks of our photo collection!
In the middle of our meandering, it started to rain. Fortunately for us we were right outside of La Musa Gelateria! We went in and were greeted by a round happy-faced older woman who gladly over-filled our gelato cups! What a perfect reprieve from the rain.
Our take on Orvieto? We liked it and would love to have had more time to explore it. I think next time we come to this area, we will base in Orvieto and spend much more time exploring it.
On our way out of town, we stopped at the Etruscan necropolis to check out the tombs. Hhhhmmm. If you have Etruscan tombs in your backyard, don’t you think you ought to really go a bit over the top to protect them? Yeah, not so much. I hate to sound critical, but there wasn’t so much as a fence around the place. We parked in the “Happy Food” parking lot, walked down a path to an unmarked, one-room building where there were two women ensconced behind a couple of desks. We assumed we might ought to check in with them even though there was no signage to indicate we needed to stop. They tore our tickets and pointed us further on down the path. No pamphlet, no information of any sort to advise us what we were about to see. What we saw, and sorry we left the cameras in the car, were stone chambers one after the other below ground level. On some of the stone lentils over individual doorways were Etruscan inscriptions. We can only assume the inscriptions were the names of the individual or individuals interred in that particular chamber. We were completely on our own to wander among the tombs. We rubbed our fingers over the individual letters engraved in the stone and tried to wrap our heads around the idea that about 2,600 years ago another human being chiseled these letters. That is just too much to take in.
Just before sundown, we started back for Montepulciano. The rain chased us for a while before we finally got ahead of it and could see the clouds parting to let in the last rays of the sun.
We weren’t in the mood to fix dinner when we got back so we nipped down to La Bottega del Nobile. We had a “mixed Tuscan” appetizer which was various types of bruschetta, none of which carried anything related to liver, smeared across the top. For our primi, we shared Cacio e Pepe and YUM!! Delicious!!! There are a bunch of recipes on the internet to make this. It’s basically cheese and pepper. Simple, but wonderful. Actually, I think what makes Italian food so wonderful is that it IS simple and the few ingredients are fresh and full of flavor. Our second course was sliced beef from the chianina ox. It is so tender you can leave your teeth at home.
After dinner, not because we were still hunger but because I have a sweet tooth that needs therapy, we went up the hill to our Café Poliziano where I like to fulfill all my dolce needs! I am totally in love with what we have come to call the Nutella tootsie roll. It’s a short little pastry tube filled with Nutella. Y U M. We both ordered an espresso and chatted with the bartenders. These guys are great. They teach us Italian. We teach them English and between the four of us we have actual conversations. The younger of the two studied Spanish in school so we incorporated that in, as well. It’s kind of fun being able to have our questions about Italy answered by them and we answer their questions about the States. Every night we go to Café Poliziano for our “night cap.” I’m starting to have serious concerns about fitting into the airplane seat for the return trip.