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Report 508: Small Town Couple Takes Small Towns Trip, May 1-31

By B. Dupree from North Carolina, Spring 2004

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Page 6 of 7: May 19-21, Umbria - Orvieto, Spello

May 19, Wednesday

Today was as frustrating as yesterday was wonderful. Our plan was simple - do our laundry and hang it out in the morning, drive to Spello for lunch and a look around, back home for wine on the lawn at sunset. But it was not to be.

The first bad news was that the washing machine was broken. Next the laundry in town said 2 or 3 days. No laundromat in Torgiano or in Deruta, but the lady at one of the dry cleaners said there a "lavanderia a gettone" in Ponte S. Giovanni. So we drove to this awful suburb of Perugia, finally found the lavanderia only to find that it was not "a gettone". By the time we got back to Torgiano with our load of laundry still in the trunk, it was after 1:00, our clothes were still dirty, and I was in a foul mood.

We ate lunch at SiRo, then returned to the apartment, washed all the clothes by hand, hung them out and collapsed, exhausted mostly by stress.

Despite my navigating us the wrong way out of town, we managed to put a good ending on the day by driving to Bevagna where we had an excellent dinner at Ottavius Ristorante. We started with gnocchi Sagrentino, the lightest, plumpest gnocchi I've ever had with a yummy wine sauce dotted about with pancetta. Jim had a lamb stew that he enjoyed and I had beef slices with balsamic vinegar and arugula.

At dinner, we had an interesting conversation with a Belgian couple sitting next to us. They were traveling through Umbria and Tuscany with a caravan. It was parked at Lago Trasimeno and they were visiting the nearby towns. No sunset at the Poggio today, but tomorrow will be better.

May 20, Thursday And how! We started off for Orvieto around 9:00. Everything went smoothly until we missed the turnoff for the station parking lot. We realized it right away, but decided to drive up to the other lot and take a bus. Unfortunately that lot is reserved for commuters now. No matter, back down to the lot, up the funiculare, onto the shuttle bus, and there we were at the fantastic Duomo.

No wonder everyone raves about it. I became fascinated right away with the mozaics and the friezes beside the doors depicting the Judgement, Hell at the bottom and Paradise at the top. Such detail and intricacy. Inside the tremendous height of the nave is awe inspiring.

The Cappella di San Brizio frescoes by Signorelli have been restored and they are wonderful. Fortune smiled upon us again. There was a tour group viewing the chapel. I usually abhor being among groups in such places because it's hard to look and to think about what you're seeing. This time, though, we took advantage of the English-speaking guide and thoroughly enjoyed her descriptions of the frescoes. The depiction is of the coming of the end and Judgement day. The figures are incredibly powerful, their bodies muscular, but tortured. Of course I had read about them, but I don't carry my Cadogen around and I just can't bear to tear pages out as I do with other guides.

Although it was filled with tourists this morning, we enjoyed Orvieto. The archeological museum is interesting - Etruscan pottery, coins, and jewelry (Jim says he's seen enough vases). It was market day, so we wandered around a bit looking at the fruits and veggies and the clothes which always seem to form the biggest part of Italian markets.

We found L'Asino d'Ora, the restaurant reviewed so highly on SlowTalk. I certainly concur with the reviewer. The restaurant is down a tiny street, Vicola di Popolo, and has a few tables outside. The wait staff was friendly and knowledgeable. Jim started with cinghiale proscuitto and I with anchovies and onions in a light olive oil and tomato sauce. Jim had zucchini with tomatoes and onions and I had insalata Catarina - mixed greens, two cheeses and more anchovies. We shared pinci with fave and pancetta. We had 1/4 litre of Orvieto Classico and 1/4 litre of red wine.

As we were walking back to the funicular, I saw a lovely necklace in a jewelry shop. I couldn't resist.

For some reason the drive home seemed to be shorter. We made it back in an hour - in time for wine and sunset.

May 21, Friday

We did get to Spello today. It is a hill town, but not in the usual sense. It cosies into the side of a hill so that when you park just outside the walls as we did the walk is all uphill. We visited Santa Maria Maggiore to see the Pinturrechios. The frescoes have been restored. There is a great deal of detail, but the whole thing seemed to pale after seeing those magnificent Signorelli bodies yesterday. The piazza is unusual, a tree-lined park. And there is another park area with tennis courts overlooking the valley.

After the frescoes, we continued up the hill to the top of the village. Standing at the overlook we were able to see how much building has taken place in this valley since we were here three years ago.

We had decided to have lunch at Il Pinturrichio which was near the top of the hill, but I had seen some ceramic Christmas ornaments when we first entered the town and I was afraid they would close for siesta and not reopen before we had to leave, so I rushed back down to the bottom, bought the ornaments for Paige and Michelle, then trudged back up the hill. Needless to say after all of this, I was ravenous and I was richly rewarded at Il Pinturicchio.

We began with mixed bruschetta of tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant and garlic and oil - continued with a fabulous ravioli with ricotta, eggplant and zucchini in a very delicate sauce. Then Jim had rabbit and I had lamb - both cooked the same way, spread with herbs, rolled, sauteed, and then baked with a light wine sauce. Remarkable!

We were pretty tired, so returned to Torgiano, made our usual stop at the Conad, and readied ourselves for our last evening at the Poggio. Nature was kind to us and presented a beautiful sunset over the hills of Perugia.

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