Italia: best served raw

7/3/10   –   20:43

The train from Rome to Orvieto takes one hour and covers about 60 miles. The national train company is called Trenitalia which I mispronounced at first making me chuckle on the inside. Haw. But yeah. Orvieto is one of the Italian hill-towns which dot the area between Florence and Rome. This town, and the nearby one I would visit, Civita di Bagnoregio, closely preserve an unadulterated version of Italy. Of course there are tourists. But not nearly as many as there are in the main three: Rome, Florence, and Venice. Even though Rome is only that short 60 miles away, it definitely feels like 200.  As a side note, another thing that feels like 200 is the temperature. -_-

I got to Orvieto and dropped off my bag at the establishment where I was staying, La Locanda del Lupo. The man that took my bags is not only the owner of the rooms he rents out, but also the restaurant downstairs. Now isn’t that neat? I had time to wander around the streets of Orvieto [which isn’t all that big a town], and was enamoured by the small-town Italian charm. When was the last time you saw a store that sells just fruit. Or just meat. We’re so used to Publix and Super-Targets that we forget what it’s like to specialize. The smells of Italian cooking [mostly simmering garlic] spill out into the street and it was as glorious as it was torturous. [I hadn’t had breakfast yet]

The bus to Bagnoregio, the city that connects to Civitá, left at 12:45 so I headed over to the Tabbach…eri.a.. [lol I don’t know what they’re called here]and bought a ticket from the clerk who didn’t speak English which was a little difficult, but not impossible. By the way, my Italian as of right now consists of the following: Buon giorno. Grazie. Dov’é. Scusa. and Prossima fermata _____. Uscita latto destro/sinistro. [From being on the Metro so often].

I had a bit of time before the bust left so I stopped by the Pozzo di San Patrizio which was a well built deep into the hill by Medieval or Renaissance people under orders of the pope. It’s 58 meters down [which tops the 20 meter one in Lisboa] and it has two sets of stairs, one going down and one going up, in a helix. It got really really cold at the bottom and it was much better than being in the 95 degree heat up top, but I had to catch the bus. I waited a little bit for noon to strike to have that Murakami-esque “well moment”, but there was no blinding flash of light when the sun shone directly down into the well. I guess things have to be positioned accurately for that to happen. Oh well. [Hah. hah. -_-]

The bus to Bagnoregio was filled with crappy roads, but I was too distracted by the vineyards, hills, and general Tusco-Umbrian beauty to care. Oh. I also met a group of travelers, Kathy and Candy, two elementary school teachers from Seattle, and Chris, Kathy’s husband. They just came from a couple weeks in Greece and they were headed in the same direction as I was. [Thanks, Rick Steves!] Spending the day with them, I’ve come to the conclusion that people from the Pacific Northwest sort of make my life. The young ones that I’ve met traveling are the chillest people ever [Patrick. Shelby]. And what’s better is they age into extremely nice and fun middle-aged people with the best senses of humor. At least in my experience.

Civita is lovingly[?] nicknamed la cittá che muore, or “the dying city”. It’s situated on a little island in the middle of a huge canyon and the only way to get to civilization is a tiny bridge. Rick Steves suggested this place and he hit it right on the money when he said that this is what real Tuscany is like. We were the only tourists there, and the rest of the town [all 20 senior citizens] were there just going about their business. We stopped in one of the three food places in the town and we got bruschette, which is bread toasted by the fire, drizzled with olive oil, rubbed with garlic, and topped with tomatoes and basil, or cured meats, or whatever you like. Dessert was a couple of tarts, one was with pine nuts and almonds, the other was some sort of berry. Needless to say, it was all delicious. Kathy ordered a liter of locally produced white wine and we all shared. They even footed the bill! Did I say that I love Washingtonians already? Kathy said that she’d want someone to do the same for her kid if they went abroad. D’awwwwww.

After a couple hours in Civita, we caught the bus back to Orvieto and I had to bid farewell to those three. I set up in the bed and breakfast and wandered around in the hour before sunset. Rick Steves is right yet again. At night, all the day-tipping tour groups go away and all that is left is the real populace of Orvieto. Walking aroud, it seems like everybody knows each other and the streets come alive with people just living here.

Seeing Rick Steves track record with this place, I went to the “world-class gelateria” that was in the square with the Duomo in it. He really hit it out of the park with this one. I was honestly disheartened and saddened to see that gelato go away. I had a cone with three flavors. Lemon [of course], white peach, and mirtillo. I’ll go look up what that is right. now. Hot damn, it’s blueberry. No wonder it matched so well with the lemon. Damn. The texture was the best part, though. Craziness. And apparently Florence is the place for the best gelato in Italy. I can’t wait to see them top this cone.

Further wanderings took me to the edge of town where there are gardens and a great lookout over the surrounding valley. I sat there with the bottle of ice-cold peach tea I bought and watched the sun glow red and set behind the mountains. Good stuff.

This is the Italy lots of people picture. Orvieto Scalo, the modern town at the base of the sheer rock-face may have been absorbed into the modern world, but Orvieto proper and definitely Civita di Bagnoregio still float about somewhere in the past.

Tomorrow is Florence. Remember when I was hooked on Assassin’s Creed 2 in the week before I left? Now’s the time. I can go free-running and guard-killing in the Piazza della Signoria and hide myself in crowds prepping for the next hit. ‘Cept not really. But I can dream, no?

Til’ then, I wish you were here. Really.


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