Tuesday, January 09, 2007

One thousands steps and more

Ok, last post about new year's vacations, both because it has been almost a week now and because after last wednesday, nothing much of interest has happened. All the pictures following can be clicked upon to get an enlarged version.

Wednesday the 3rd was the last full day of Susanne staying here and we decided to have a little day trip. After having evaluated Siena and Viterbo, both turned down because too complicated or too long to reach, the choice fell on a little, ancient and fascinating city in Umbria, Orvieto, which I happened to visit two or three times in the past, even because some relatives of mine live there.

So it was that we found yourself under my office early in the morning. There I parked the scooter and hoped to get the tickets at the travel agency right next to my firm's entrance, but that revealed to be a vain hope, as I actually should had imagined, given that the agency was closed. The line at the station's ticket office was better than I expected anyway and so, after little more than a hour of train in a freezing car (we discovered almost as we arrived in Orvieto that our car was the only one in the train with the heaters broken) surrounded by americans, we reached our goal.

Out of the station, a cableway took us up the steep hill Orvieto is built upon and from there, a bus rode directly to the Cathedral's square, right in front of the tourist information office where we could easily get a card allowing us to visit the most interesting things, with the exception of Saint Patrick's well. Our first stop was, obviously, the Cathedral (on the right, picture taken from the Moor's tower) and the famous San Brizio's chapel and its Signorelli's frescoes, which I always loved. After having given a look to the rest of the cathedral, we moved outside and we spent a few moments taking pictures over its steps.

Ah, the steps. The steps turned out to be the protagonists of our visit, the beginning, the end and the in between, above and under the ground. As we had booked a tour of the underground of the city (Orvieto is built over an immense number of artificial grottoes dug in the volcanic ground) and we had a bit of time, we decided to check the Moor's Tower, the highest point of the city from where one can truly enjoy a breathtaking panorama. If only the breath hadn't been already taken from him by the 240 steep steps needed to reach the top (left), which making the way back become 480. The view was truly magnificent anyway and we happened to be there at noon, which meant being deafened by the tower bell.

After those 480, it was the turn of the 200 or so of underground steps as we went visiting the quite interesting grottoes under the city, excavated for almost 3.000 years, since Etruscans time and until late XIX century, and used along the millenia as wells, mills (right), pigeons' farm (left), cellars, smuggling heavens and even bomb-shelters during WWII. And after those 200, the 240 of the not particularly interesting civic museum followed. At that point, it was finally time to eat something and, after having wandered a bit, we finally settled down in a nice restaurant where I had a language incident. It is common in Rome to ask for "two" of something indicating "a small portion of". Apparently, and for the first time ever, I found a place where this way of speaking isn't properly understood and in fact after I asked for "two potatoes" I was actually presented with two full portions of them, much to my puzzlement and Susanne's merriment.

Anyway, as it often happens, time ran fast as we sat at the table and enjoyed our meal and so, while paying the bill, we found out it was almost time to leave. But a visit to Orvieto couldn't possibly be finished without paying a visit to Orvieto's architectural wonder: Saint Patrick's well... and it's 248 (496 if we count both ways) steps. So we walked all the way there, we easily went down to the bottom (right, click to enlarge), which is incredibly suggestive and still water filled... but I must admit I heavily struggled my way back up. And so it was that we made it back to the station and the trip was over. Not really surprisingly, we ended up staying home that evening...

A few more pictures from Orvieto (as usual, click to enlarge):

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