Thursday, July 2, 2009

Italy's Hill Towns - Orvieto & Civita, Italy


Destination: Orvieto & Civita, Italy

Where we stayed: Hotel Posta - 44 Euro/Night (no breakfast or wifi)

Best restaurant: Ru Artu served up amazing pizza (in our opinion tied for first place with Antica Pizzeria de Michelle in Naples). It's a thicker crust than Naples and the boar meat (Italian style pepperoni) was spicy & wonderful! Plus, they have free Wifi! Pizzas starting around 6 Euros and 250 Ml of local Orvieto Classico wine (1/3 bottle) for about 2 Euros! Our kind of prices!

Best of: The approach to Civita was magical! The town was unique in so many ways, definitely a great way to spend a morning!

Worst of: The duomo was free but they charge to get into the fantastic chapel San Brizio painted by Luca Sigorelli (1499-1504). It was 5 Euro which was kind of expensive for one small room...worth it but only if you like art.

Most Memorable: Watching the facade of the duomo change colors with the setting sun while sipping a glass of Orvieto Classical wine!

Escaping the busy, crowded, and densely populated Rome, we took the train two hours north to pleasant Orvieto. Making it on the tourist map as mainly a day trip from Rome, Orvieto makes for a great place to chill out for a couple of days after or before Rome. Like several other towns in Italy, Orvieto served as a stop on the pilgrimage trail to the Pope and grew up around the church. The churches magnificent facade, in our opinion the most ornate and spectacular in Italy, is a sight in itself. The Baroque style facade soars into the sky making it instantly recognizable on the approach to the town. Inside, Sigorelli painted his masterpiece in the right transept. The Book of Revelations is played out before your eyes. From the rise of the antichrist in the first picture to the raising of the just and damnation of the unjust on the opposite side, Sigorelli captures the scenes in stirring fashion. In true Baroque style, everything twists, turns and heaves and not a square inch is left uncovered. During the counterreformation, the church painted on the silly ribbons of cloth covering up unsavory sights. After a restoration in the 80's, all of the ribbons were carefully removed on the damned but the holy were spared their dignity as a sign that still today, the church has the final say.

After the church and a couple of other minor museums (included with Sigorelli chapel entrance) we grabbed our bottle of wine and enjoyed the sunset changing the colors of the facade of the duomo from washed white to a softer pink then finally to a golden tan.

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The next morning we, hopped on the local bus to Civita. Words cannot describe the approach to Civita - simply breathtaking. Like something out of a fairy tail Disney movie, the tiny town sits majestically atop a hill completely surrounded by castle walls. The only way in and out is by the one bridge, giving it a medieval aura. Arriving early means that the town will be deserted and magically silent. There are only a handful of restaurants and one tiny guesthouse making it an ideal day trip. Calling the town sleepy is somewhat of an understatement - the cafe on the square serving coffee didn't even open until 9:00 am. Sadly, the town is nearly a shell - very few people actually live here. Most homes are owned by wealthy Romans serving as a weekend getaway and the cost of living in a fantasy land is not cheap.

Aside from the setting, the town's couple of restaurants are worth checking out. In one man's basement there is an old olive press complete with descriptions in English. A small tip or buying a plate of tasty bruschetta will get you in. Just down the street purchasing a glass of wine will get you into an ancient wine cellar. Just as we were leaving, the "tour" buses showed up unloading about 8 people. We were happy to see such few crowds helping to preserve what makes this place so special.

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The next morning we picked up our rental car at the bottom of the hill in Orvieto for some Tuscan countryside driving!

To see more photos of Orvieto please click here! To see more photos of Civita please click here!

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