Weekend p. 1: Comune di Orvieto


Today, as even most noble Aeneas did in book 6 of The Aeneid, Bliss and I set out on a journey this weekend—and unlike Aeneas, who visited the Underworld—to the city of Orvieto. Taking a short sleep-in, we woke up around 9 A.M. and prepared to set out on our trek. It was a long one.

After around two kilometers of walking, we finally reached the hilltop city of Orvieto. The winding streets that housed colorful, dainty shops extended from the eastern most wall to the western and the landmarks like the Teatro Mancinelli and the Torre del Moro stood tall in the hazy yet beautiful morning sky. It was a drastically different atmosphere than of any city I had visited before.

Because our legs were quite tired, our first stop was a steel bench that rested behind a panoramic view from the hilltop city. In the photo gallery, feel free to enjoy the view we were so lucky to see.

Following the short break, we took on a large challenge: climbing the clock tower. If you were to view the city from a slanted bird’s eye view, you would see one structure poking out from the maze of brown buildings—that is the clock tower. The tower stands 47 meters tall and rings every 15 minutes. In fact, it rung once while we were at the peak, and the sound was absolutely deafening. More deafening was the walk up, however. By the end of the walk up the winding stairs, we were extremely tired, similar to Aeneas and his men during the storm in Book 1 of The Aeneid.

The next stop was the Pozzo Della Cava where we discovered well-kept remnants of the Etruscans. The most remarkable aspect of the dig was a 36 meter deep well. This seemingly endlessly deep hole was once an Etruscan shaft adapted by Pope Clement VII to become a well in 1527. Throwing one Euro coins and hearing the “splunk” as they hit the water, we left our mark in the ancient structure. What I found most amazing about the cave and the well was the preservation. After digging in the trenches this past week and growing to further understand the difficulty of finding and preserving these artifacts, seeing such intact structures amazed me.

After making our way out of the cool (pun intended) cave, Bliss and I decided to sit down at the “Cibus” for lunch. With outdoor seating, the lunch involved both amazing dishes and a view, as it opened wide into the Via Garibaldi. We ordered a prosciutto as the antipasta and the surprisingly spicy pasta arrabbiata and pasta carbonara as the two main dishes. A delicious and filling meal, we were ready for some more walking about.

Following lunch, for some reason, we immediately thought about dinner. Having learned that the restaurant Trattoria dell’Orso was rated Orvieto’s best according to multiple sources, we realized that we had to visit. Therefore, we stopped by and made a reservation for the earliest possible time—7:30 P.M. Although we had initially planned on walking back to the convent after 6 P.M., we made slight alterations and agreed that the wait would be worth it. Bliss’s recounting below will report how smart (or how foolish) the wait was.

After making the reservation, we walked to the opposite side of the city where there was a park named Fortezza Albornoz that exposed an open view downwards from the walls of Orvieto. Although frightening for those scared of heights, it was quite the panorama. “Meandering” is the optimal word to describe our route around the park, for we walked without a path while reading all the English signs we came across. As Magistra Morris always says, sometimes peripatetic learning is the most effective method!

To the west of the park were two large structures: closer to the park was an old Etruscan temple called the Etrusco del Belvedere and a large well called the Pozzo di San Patrizio (or St. Patrick’s Well), which was sunk in December of 1527 to serve as a refuge for Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome. Even prior to that, however, the well served as an Etruscan tomb. In 1532, the builders of the well discovered the tomb at a depth of 200 feet. The walk down was remarkably tiring—possibly more difficult than the one up to the clock tower. Extending down at a depth of 62 meters, the well had two spiral staircases—one for downward, and one for upward—that each was composed of 248 winding steps. What made it worth it, though, were the 70 windows. (You may see them in the photo gallery—it was a sight difficult to describe). While at the bottom of the well, I felt like Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises, when Bane had deserted him in the deep cave. Unlike Wayne, I had a staircase to head up. That walk up, as expected, was more difficult than the walk down. Please take a look at Bliss’s state of weariness after our exit from the well. Believe me, I was in the same, or worse state. Fortunately, the sun was not as scorching as Friday afternoon, and the light breeze cooled our sweat off as we continued our walk through the beautiful city of Orvieto.

Bliss’s entry will continue where I left off—about 2:30 P.M. on Saturday.

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