Saturday, October 10, 2009

Our Trip in a Nutshell- Part II

The Etruscan City of Orvieto:

I should mention this before I go any further. My favorite parts of the Italy trip really were the small towns/walled cities. Venice and Florence (in that order) were my favorite large cities, but the little ones: Orvieto, Siena, San Gimignano, and Assisi were, in my opinion, far prettier than the big places. I came up with a lottery scenario. Should we ever win the lottery and have millions to burn, I'd get a home on one of these towns. But I digress.

Orvieto is an ancient Etruscan walled city at the top of a mountain. From a distance it looks like someone carved the top of a mountain into buildings. It's really cool. You had to take a little tram to the top. I love it. The town had these adorable narrow streets and it looks like something right out of a Medieval era movie, but really clean and tidy. We walked with the Australian couple around this little place and had a really great time, we popped into little shops and took tons of photos. We got there just as the little city was waking up so the only eatery open was a little coffee shop. I have to admit, I hated the coffee in most place. Unless I asked for a cafe latte, it was a strong-ass, bitter little shot of rocket fuel that I really couldn't drink no matter how much sugar I used. Aaron loved it. This place had really delicious stuff. I don't know how they made their rocket fuel shots but I could actually stand to drink it and dare I say, even loved it.

So yes, after two shots of fuel, we really started exploring. We walked into a tiny church in the Piazza della Repubblica and walked out a few minutes later. The place really was a Medieval era church, all dark wood detail but pretty stark. The other problem was that it kind of smelled like a Medieval era church. It smelled super musty and dusty. It was still being used, just not very tourist friendly. Tons of photos later and we finally got back to the Duomo. Now that the rest of the tour group was out exploring other stuff, we decided to go in.

Now, if you think this exterior is gorgeous, you to see the inside. I mostly took video since it was just easier. The whole interior of the church has the beautiful black and white stripes that you see along the side of the church. The place is much smaller than most other Duomos we saw but quite possibly one of the prettiest. It also holds a miracle item. A traveling priest once found a host that was bleeding and stained an altar cloth. The cloth is now stored inside the Duomo. We didn't find where it was because before we got to finish walking around a mass started and we felt funny about looking around while a mass was taking place.

We decided to go and climb the clock tower which is supposed to give you a fantastic view of the are but they closed it for lunch hours. Note: Most places in Italy will close between 1:00-ish and 2:00-ish, some later. They're no joke about it either, 1:oo comes along and they are shoving you out the door. So we did as the rest of the town, ate lunch. I had a lovely salad with some of the freshest yummiest cheese I have ever tasted and another shot of fuel. I think we introduced the Australians to gnocchi. After lunch we wandered over to one of the city walls and lookout point and I fell in love. The view from this place really made me want to stay there. The view looks like something out of a painting and even has the ruins of what looks like an old lookout post or an old castle in the distance. How cool is that?! But alas we had to move on.


Walking into Siena was completely different from Orvieto. We walked into the city walls and into a dark narrowish street at the bottom of some pretty imposing looking, old stone buildings. The streets pretty much go up and down hills which make the walk into the center of the city kind of... well... you find yourself asking, "where the hell are we going?!" Then you turn down a small street, down a staircase and enter into the city's center, the Piazza del Campo. This piazza is huge! Twice a year they have a horse race around of the edges... yep, got a Pony photo. They day we were there they happened to have the awards ceremony for the best performing group to win the horse race, so we got to see a band march through and guys in costume doing a flag tossing thing. If want a better idea of what I'm talking about, check out "Under the Tuscan Sun" parts of it were filmed here. WE walked around on our own here. We hit the Duomo, the Baptistery, Sanctuary of Santa Caterina and the Basilica of San Domenico, or Basilica Cateriniana. The Basilica Cateriniana is where they have St. Catherine's head and finger on display. Kind of messed up, but there you have it, she's right the in the middle of the right wall as you walk in (back to front).

Getting to some of these places, though was a workout and a half. Holy crap, the hills in this place make horesebarn hill in Storrs, Ct. look like a bump. On our way back to the dinner meeting place, Aaron and I hit a wine shop another new friend, Arti from the tour recommended. A group of us planned on getting together to drink wine and have snacks since we had an early night. This shop was awesome and they ship! We got two bottles of delicious wine, I got truffle oil really cheap and a small bottle of 15-year-old balsamic vinegar that I will only share with Aaron. This stuff is beyond good. I'm talking, I contemplated holding the lady up (just for a second), just to take the barrel of the stuff. No one got held up and we walked away with only one bottle, I will however be ordering more, eventually.

Back at the Piazza, we had our first pizza in Italy. Yum! We also had our first Gellato. Double yum! Back at the hotel, we met up with people from the tour, got to make more friends, this time with a couple from Alabama, Sam and Nicole (Awesome people). We stayed up drinking and chatting with everyone till about 1:00 am-ish. I swear I think I was channeling Vizma with the chatting. Even Aaron got a little of it. It was different but we went along with it anyway.

Tomorrow: San Gimignano and the first night of Florence. I'll add in more photos, I swear. I'm still sifting through the hundreds.


Chele76 said...

It's great you got to see some of the small town life. Much different from the cities!

Now when you were in Orvieto, was that a funiculare you rote up to get into the city? I rode in one to get up to capri and my freind and I were singing 'funiculi funicula!' the entire time - it was just silly and I think the locals wanted to kill us.

Pizza in Italy - to die for, isn't it? SO much better then anything you've had here, right? I think they put crack in it.

BeeOhVee said...

Teehee yes it was a funiculare. And the funny thing is when we were in Venice at night one of the bands playing in the Piazza de San Marco played the Mario Lanza - "Funiculi , Funicula" piece. The crowd ran over and started singing and clapping along.

Tom Bailey said...

I connected to you through another blog. This type of travel reminds me of the friends I have met traveling as well. Your blog is great.

Best regards

BeeOhVee said...

Hey, thenks Tom. Glad to have you reading.

Cathy said...

Bren, it sounds like your trip was friggin amazing! I can't wait to see more photos & stories :)

welcome back

Dizzy Vizzy said...

Now I have "Funiculi , Funicula" in my head - LOL. Thank you for sharing the trip details - I need to go see it myself! And the aged balsamic vinegar makes me drool...nom, nom, nom.