If you twisted my arm for a favorite day of the trip, this would have been it. A driver and tour guide took us from our hotel to tour the historic hilltop town of Orvieto, and then to one of the most important cities in the world, Assisi. Mrs. Toepfer and I enjoyed Orvieto so much that we arranged another trip back on one of our free days to explore the town a little more.
I think one of the most important things to do while visiting Rome is actually get OUT of Rome and see the countryside. If you spend too much time in the city your view of Italy can become a bit myopic; plus you’re depriving yourself of some of the most incredible scenery you will ever see!
The drive from Rome to Orvieto will take about 2 hours. We’ll leave early in the morning so we can use the time to catch up on sleep or casually take in the scenery. To me it’s fun just watching the hills roll by, as well as watch Italians drive. Seriously, it’s something to behold.
It’s hard to see the detail in the pictures above, but the first is of a large field of Sunflowers. Surprisingly, these were everywhere and were an unexpected reminder of home! The second picture is a very large lake beyond rows of grape vines.
Many of the towns in the Umbria region are built into cliffs on the tops of hills, for their strategic importance.
To get up to this town, you get take a funicular train up the steep slope past olive trees, grape vines and cliffs.
Of course we should all learn and sing this song while we go up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XW0W7j04iRQ&list=RDXW0W7j04iRQ&t=61
Above is the view from the Rocca Albornoziana, or fortress built into the cliff at the top of Orvieto. The view is absolutely stunning! You can go right up to the top and take pictures; we’ll probably use this as our staging area while we wait for the rest of the group to take the funicular up to the top.
Walking into town
As you walk up into the heart of the town, you’ll see a variety of restaurants, shops and piazzas similar to Rome. It just has a slower, more “small town” vibe, yet alive with culture. There aren’t as many “tourist traps” like in Rome. Everything is authentic.
At the risk of over-simplifying, a Duomo is a major church or “Cathedral”, and the Duomo in Orvieto is absolutely stunning. While approaching the Duomo you walk through narrow, winding streets. Everything is small and quaint until you turn the corner into the large piazza, where the Duomo di Orvieto sits. This cathedral was built in the 13th century and is an incredible feat of architectural engineering and artistic expression.
There are also a lot of amazing restaurants, shops and gelato in Orvieto. If we have free time it will be fun to explore, but there is even more to see in Assisi.
Assisi is next!