Saturday, November 24, 2007


Today we went to Orvieto. We meant to take the 8:00am train but there was a little error in reading the train schedules and the train we wanted left from a different station. So we took another train an hour later. Lesson: pay attention to the stations in Florence. There are three: Santa Maria Novella, Campo di Marte, and Firenze Rifredi. Here is a good summary of them.

Arriving at Orvieto, you can get up to the city by driving, walking, or taking the funicular (a steep cog railway) that puts you at the east end of the city. It is called the Bracci Funicular. The city (once you get up to it) is very walkable and if you take the main street Corso Cavour you are within a minute or two of everything, it seems.

Once on the hill we headed for the duomo and bought a ticket for a tour of the Orvieto underground at 5:15pm in Italian (for a challenge). Then we peeked inside the Duomo for a while, climbed the Torre del Moro, visited the Albornoz Fortress (a public garden) and then the descended the Pozzodi S. Patrizio (a well). All before lunch.

We had a very enjoyable lunch at he Antica Trattoria dell’Orso (Via della Misericordia, 18-20) where were the owners Gabriele and Ciro were very inviting and friendly. It’s my kind of restaurant because they read the options for each course and you order in progression (after each course). I don’t like reading menus.

After lunch we walked for a hour or two and then took the underground tour which was interesting. Basically, underneath the city there are a series of caves and tunnels and rooms (some private and connecting to houses). The city is built on volcanic tuffa which is easy to excavate and that’s what they did to create more room for doing things that the city above didn’t have enough room for, like olive pressing or storing stuff.

I was surprised on the train going to and from Orvieto on the shortness of the stops. We stopped in towns and there was literally 20-30 seconds for anyone to get on or off the train – that’s it. You are either ready or you are not! I love it. It’s your responsibility to be ready.

Speaking of which, the station sported one of those automated, self-cleaning water-closets (restrooms) which for $0.20 is how one relieved oneself. The board reported our train would be 10 minutes late so Mark headed for the WC. Unfortunately, the door hydraulics malfunctioned and wouldn't let him out. Giving up on the help button, he pried open the door and escaped. The board had updated again, reporting the train was back on schedule. And a moment later we were on our way.

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