This is a part of my continuing series documenting my Italian vacation. This post describes an amazing 24 hours spent in the Umbrian Hill town of Orvieto on our 6th wedding anniversary.
While researching my Italy trip two previously unknown hill towns caught my fancy, one was Siena and the other was Orvieto. I have always preferred small towns over the large cities, so when it came to making a decision on where to be for our anniversary I chose Orvieto over Rome ( Which was our last destination).
We reached Orvieto train station, and immediately took the funicular from outside the station up to the actual hill town. The funicular dropped us off at the edge of the hill town, from where a bus was waiting to take the people off the funicular to the centre of the town i.e the cathedral square. All this worked like clockwork although there were just a handful of people on the funicular.
I had booked the Hotel Duomo, which as the name suggests was just off the Duomo square and was another one of Rick Steves recommendations. (As most of his recommendations go, it was exactly what we look for in a hotel, central location, affordable and a good breakfast spread.) We checked in and just dumped our bags and set out to see the Duomo as it closed early during off season and the next day was Sunday, where it would only be open in the afternoon after we left the town ( So this was our only chance!)
The Duomo at Orvieto has one of the most colourful facades of all the cathedrals we had seen yet. Frescoes in gold and multicolour interspersed with a few bronze statues. But I rushed inside as I wanted to spend adequate time inside the cathedral so photos of the exterior had to wait. I bought the tickets and entered the huge space. The interior is spacious but sparsely decorated, except for the chapels on each sides which are richly decorated.
The Chapel of the Madonna on the right is a riot of colours as compared to the rest of the interiors & has Resurrection and Last Judgement themed paintings on the roof and walls by Luca Signorelli. Very eye catching and detailed work!
The Chapel of the Corporal holds a relic from the Miracle of Bolsena (Google it! Its far too long and elaborate) and is the older of the 2 chapels with incomplete frescoes and gilded frame in the centre holding the relic.
I was distracted from my photography by what appeared to be someone playing a loud piano. It turned out that it was the famous huge church organ that was being played as practice for a concert later on in the day. The concert was by invitation only, but I got to hear the masterful artist rehearse for a good half an hour. It was an unexpected pleasant surprise.
We just sat in the chairs laid out for the concert and enjoyed our own private mini concert till he stopped playing. Then it was time for us to leave, it was well past the official closing time but they had been kind enough to let us watch the entire rehearsal, the guy at the gate even gave me a smile on exit.
The light was fading but I wanted to take a few photos of the Cathedral facade before the floodlights started. We even found a good place to keep the SLR safely for a ultra wide angle selfie.(Again!) But the most unbelievable thing was that apart from the Italian Army guys guarding the square there were just 5 people in the square, in contrast to the 500 in Florence! (Thats why I love these small towns)
Soon the lights came on and we wandered off to see the rest of this hill town all lit up. One of the most memorable things we have done in this Italian trip is walk these beautifully lit towns at night. It is an extremely safe and must do activity when in Italy. The photographs speak for themselves.
As we reached the far end of town where there are ramparts on top of the wall which surround the town which you can actually take a stroll on. The lights of the modern town below and the medievalesque yellow lights along the rampart made for a good walk to increase the appetite before dinner. The weather was mildly cloudy with the moon playing hide and seek and the whole scene was very beautiful.
I then put the camera away and just enjoyed a nice stroll with the better half in the magnificent settings. A memorable way to spend our anniversary. When we reached the end of the ramparts we doubled back to the Duomo square and our hotel to freshen up before dinner.
The restaurant we had chosen for our anniversary dinner was the Antico Bucchero, a small, cosy family-owned restaurant off the main road with great reviews. (Again a Rick Steves recommendation!) I had the duck breast in pepper sauce with mashed potatoes and a glass of the famous Orvieto white wine, the better half had gnocchi in a four cheese sauce. It was an excellent meal in all respects, great taste, good service, great ambience and a great white wine, what else do you want for an anniversary !
We then returned to the hotel happy and satiated and slept peacefully. The next morning we had planned a walk below the walls of Orvieto on a walking path called “The Rupe”. We woke up early and had a hearty and varied breakfast with great hot coffee. As we left the hotel it was very cold and foggy but we decided to soldiered on and descended to the path. It was so foggy that we couldn’t see anything beyond the path.
Initially the path was a well paved one but it soon became just a dirt track through the misty forest. We went off the track a few times and had to double back but the walls provided a good landmark to prevent us from wandering too far. The autumn colours, misty atmosphere and cool weather made the otherwise dull walk into a magical one.
It had been a great exercise in the morning and we climbed back into the hill town just in time for the sun to come out and the fog to start dissipating. We then went to the Piazza del Poppolo to see it in daylight. It was Sunday and hence totally deserted this early in the morning.
We still had time for a few lesser sights before we left for Rome. So we decided to go to the highest point and the lowest point of Orvieto. First we went to the St Patrick’s well at the edge of town just next to the Funicular. It is a well dug by a Pope to prevent sieges from affecting the water supply of this hill town (For the record the siege never happened!). It has an interesting double helix spiral staircase so that the way down is totally separate from the way up. Other than the interesting architecture its quite bare.
We were quite tired after the climb up to the surface so we rested for a while in the park just outside the well. I am a suckers for views so the tallest tower of Orvieto, the Terre del Moro or the clock tower was an obvious choice for the time left. Luckily for our legs it has an elevator part of the way up. We gladly took it and climbed the remaining (by now used to ) tight spiral stairs up to the terrace. Even though the tower isn’t that high the view over the town was spectacular and I’m glad I didn’t miss it.
We spent some time just standing on the terrace and taking in the view on all sides. It had been a great day spent in this Umbrian Hill town. We descended down the tower, returned to the hotel to collect our bags and descended down the funicular, well in time to catch our train to Rome.
It had been a perfect anniversary in a pretty town. Now all roads (or rather rails) led to Rome, where we would spend 3 days. But that is topic for another post ( multiple posts) another time.