With the luxury of a month in Rome, it seemed that a day or two out of the city might be a good idea. So we scanned the 200 Day Trips App, and chose Orvieto. We then heard from a friend that he and his wife had loved this place, so figured we were on the right track. The fact it was only about a €7.50 one-hour train ride from Rome was a real advantage.
The major effort was in fact getting up early (yawn), getting to the train station, and finding the train itself (at the far reaches of the station, considerably adding to our km tally for the day). Orvieto itself was a breeze. It is an old town, perched on the top of a rocky hill, reached by a funicular (or for those of you who are in Wellington, a cable car similar to ours). We got there early, thankfully, because it meant that for just a few blissful minutes, we were free of tour bus groups.
The town itself was charming – one of those old, Umbrian/Tuscan hill towns built out of stone centuries ago, with window boxes and winding streets, and a lovely tree-lined street heading into the town. These are the towns you think of when you think of Italy. I know the travel-writing rules state you should never use the word “charming” but I have to in this case. Because I feel a little in love with Orvieto, and it took me back to our first Italian trip 15 years ago, when we explored Spoleto, Assisi, San Gimigniano and Volterra, to name just our favourites.
Orvieto was cooler than Rome by several degrees – blissfully so in fact. It made sightseeing easy, and as we had decided we weren’t going to rush around seeing all the sights, we felt very relaxed. The cathedral is the key attraction, dominating its large piazza, but entrancing because of its decoration –mosaics, and some gruesome figures outside, and stunning Signorelli frescoes of the Apocalypse in the chapel (where unfortunately we were not supposed to photograph anything).
We broke our rule about tourist traps, and decided to have lunch in the square looking onto the cathedral, but at a wine bar rather than café. So the fare was rather plain, but the wine was in fact very enjoyable. Orvieto is known for its white wines, and we ordered a “superiore” wine from their list of Orvieto Classico wines (on the advice of the waitress). So if I sound surprised that the wine was good, it is because I was, previously having had a rather poor relationship with Italian white wines (the occasional Vermentino excepted).
We couldn’t muster enthusiasm over a museum, and whilst we were somewhat attracted to exploration of the caves the timing of the tours wasn’t ideal, so instead we simply explored the streets of the town. And in doing so, we found some places and views that reminded me just how beautiful Italy can be.
Feel like taking a stroll through Orvieto? Only sorry I can’t provide you with the “limone” gelato. It was to die for.