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Report 472: Back to Uni to Learn Italian - A Month in Perugia

By Pamela R from Sydney, Australia, Fall 1998

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Page 5 of 31: Saturday 5th September - Orvieto

A coach was waiting, as part of our package, in Piazza Fortebraccio and we left at half past nine for Orvieto.

An unusual sight through the countryside was the number of voluptuous, dark-skinned girls, obviously prostitutes, operating along the roadside.

A one-and-a-half-hour drive through magnificent scenery, with occasional rain showers, brought us to downtown Orvieto from where we bought tickets and caught the funicular cable car up through the steep rock face to the level of the Pozzo di San Patrizio. A bus took us the remaining distance to the top of the town, inside the walls, depositing us in Piazza del Duomo. The heavy rain was no problem for a visit to the duomo which we’d seen only cursorily last time (as it had been a Sunday with a service about to begin).

At the tourist office we bought tickets to visit the duomo’s Cappella di San Brizio, which had beautiful frescoes and contained, in a silver reliquary, the blood-stained linen from the ‘Miracle of Bolsena’ where, it is said, in 1263, blood dripped from the Host onto the altar linen during celebration of the Mass.

While we were visiting the other, equally beautiful, Cappella Nuova, an official arrived to close it off to the public. As we walked away towards the main door, a bridal party arrived so we followed them back to the chapel accompanied by beautiful wedding music and watched their ceremony from a respectable distance.

Just as we were about to leave, some others of the group appeared in the duomo accompanied by the guide who was apparently to accompany our tour but had missed the bus, so to speak. How they found each other, we never did quite work out! As we wanted to revisit some places from last time, we decided to continue on our own, and we enjoyed the wandering which led us past some very smart shops, and into the main piazza which was abuzz with people.

Near the site of the ancient Roman forum was Piazza della Repubblica, which stands in Orvieto’s most authentic medieval quarter and here we visited the Chiesa di Sant’Andrea. It was built over a Roman structure which in turn was incorporated into an Etruscan building, but unfortunately the door to the crypt was padlocked so we couldn’t inspect the ancient foundations. After more meandering we reached the far walls where there was a stunning valley view. Dodging the rain showers, we returned to the market in Piazza del Popolo where we met up with Ellie and Pamela, and together we climbed the steps to a terrace on top of the Palazzo del Popolo from which lofty perch there was a wonderful view down over the rooftops to the surrounding valleys.

The weather wasn’t improving and we were feeling hungry but the idea of buying a few comestibles at the now-closing market and finding somewhere to eat them didn’t appeal to us as it apparently did to some of the others (although Peter probably could have handled a pork roll – the smell issuing from the porchetta van was pretty enticing).

These open-sided mobile vans are always to be found at town markets. The butcher carves succulent chunks from the still warm suckling pig and fills a rosetta with juicy meat, seasoning and crispy skin, then sprinkles it generously with salt before wrapping it in waxed paper and reaching over to hand it down to the salivating customers who give each other a knowing grin – they are about to enter taste-paradise.

So we retraced our steps looking for a restaurant we’d noticed earlier. Of course we couldn’t find it, but we did find another – Trattoria del Moro – where we enjoyed a wonderful meal while the rain pelted down outside. In fact Pamela rated the coniglio alla mia moda the best rabbit ever, and just had to ask (in Italian of course!) for the recipe. Fortunately this was very easily described and willingly given (the boned rabbit was simply stuffed with vegetables and fennel seeds and leaves, then roasted together with potatoes). Peter was disappointed to find the fegato was off the menu, but he enjoyed his braciola di maiale.

When we’d finished it was pouring again, but we waited for a break and then ambled back, enjoying great gelati on the way, and we met up with Suzanna at the Fortezza, the lovely park overlooking the surrounding countryside way, way below Orvieto. When the others arrived, we returned en masse by the funicular to our waiting coach.

The hottest story of the day was Angela and Peter’s. As they stood admiring the duomo’s brilliant facade, a few mosaic fragments fell off and landed beside them, after which the site was quickly closed off. They apparently failed to score a souvenir.

Back in Perugia by 5.30, we were all feeling rather exhausted and ready for an early night as we had another tour scheduled for tomorrow.

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