Sunday, January 10, 2016

Off The Beaten Path: Orvieto

“A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.” Lewis Mumford

Sometimes we have this idea that in order to disconnect and recharge we have to go to far away lands or to an exotic paradise.  While living in Italy, I was hoping to see all its regions and whenever I had a chance to travel, I went to destinations as far from Rome as possible.  I kept putting nearby day-trips aside for later.

Finally, one day I decided to visit Orvieto, a town north of Rome, located in the Umbria region and only an hour and a half drive from Rome.  I've heard of it, but I didn't know the true jewel I was going to find there. 
TIP: Many times, due to time constrains, travelers have to decide between visiting the north or the south of Italy.  If you choose to tour Southern Italy, a visit to Orvieto will give you a taste of the northern medieval towns without too much of a detour from Rome.  The town sits on top of a hill and once you get there there is a fantastic view of the country side from the municipal parking area. 

I was fascinated by the charm of Orvieto.  Its cathedral with horizontal black and white stripes on its sides and vertical pink and blue lines on the facade, in addition to the elaborate decorative stone work is so beautiful you want to sit on the other side of the piazza and just stare at it for a while.  

Another spot you must visit in Orvieto is Saint Patrick's Well.  Completed in the year 1,537 was originally commissioned by Pope Clemente VII to ensure proper water supply for the city during times of turmoil.  The engineering of the well is impressive.  A center circular shaft 200 feet deep is surrounded by two spiral staircases built in such way that they don't ever collide.  It was design so two mules could access the well at the same time without crossing paths.  Each staircase has 248 steps, and for the modest sum of five euro and a little bit of courage, you can descend to the bottom of the well.  A fantastic experience! Make sure to take breaks and look up or down through the arched windows that provide light to the entire structure.

If you are tired after the stair master class, take a break on the main piazza, sipping some wine and maybe buying the beautiful umbrian pottery.

That is all for today, arrivederci amici!