Cover charges and tipping
When you are seated at an Italian restaurant, you should anticipate paying "coperto" or a cover charge, assessed on a per person basis. This ranges from something minimal to several euros, presumably depending upon the restaurant although I never analyzed this during our trip. Since the cover charge is intended to compensate the restaurant for the cost of doing business, including the employment of the wait staff, I was told not to apply the American standard of tipping 15% or more of the bill. Rather, the tradition seemed to be to put one's excess change on top of the credit card slip or cash to cover the meal. That sometimes resulted in several euros' "tip" but it would still be a fraction of what I'd pay at home, even if one included the coperto.
Nowadays one no longer has to reach the top of the cliff on a mule, for a modern system of "alternative mobility" provides an access to the town that is both easy to use and fascinating with the funicular (run by water in the nineteenth century and now completely modernised utilizing electricity) at one end and a lift and an escalator (next to Porta Maggiore) are at the other, signs that the old historical centre, built on a human scale, have been returned to citizens and tourists alike and is once more the realm of the pedestrian.
Famous frescoes and magnificent interior
Up to now I still don’t know if I liked the interior of Orvieto’s duomo or not. It certainly did not live up the expectations I had based on the façade. Maybe it was too colourful inside, too many different styles and decorations? It is huge, of course; the outside shows already its rough dimensions. The white-bluegrey stripes are continuing inside and frescoes have been discovered at the walls during recent restoration. To the left is the famous Capella del Reliquiario del Corporale with a beautiful gold shrine with gemstones for the chalice cloth (corporal in Italian). And to the right is Capella della Madonna di San Brizio of early 15th century. Luca Signorelli and Fra Angelico painted here the famous frescoes cycle of the Last Judgement. These have an incredible three-dimensional space I never saw in any painting before. Photography is strictly forbidden inside, but luckily Wikipedia has good photos of some of these frescoes: antichrist, the damned are taken to hell, elect in paradise, resurrection of the flesh.
There is an entrance fee for the capella, payable at the little gate in front of it. It is 5 €, but this includes entrance to Opera del Duomo museum at the back of the duomo.
The website I have linked below is also worth a look. It is a very detailed description of the interior of Orvieto’s duomo, by Texas couple Jane and Dick Schmitt.
Pottery heaven -- and other heavenly things
"Why did you choose to come to Italy?"
That may seem like a strange question, but it is one which struck me quite forcefully in connection with Orvieto. Because one might choose to come to Italy to, inter alia, (a) be in the presence of great art; (b) see amazing church architecture; (c) enjoy the experience of life in a Medieval setting; (d) follow-up an interest in Etruscans; (e) shop for interesting souvenirs for the folks back home; (f) eat, drink and be merry. Some of those options were more apparent in one city or town than another, but I found in Orvieto the perfect synthesis of all those reasons.
So I have to say: I came to Italy in order to discover Orvieto. And though there are obviously a myriad of other cities and towns to explore, I fully intend to return. After all, I never went down St. Patrick's Well!
"So, on the pottery front..."
Saying you'd like to visit a pottery shop in Orvieto is a lot like saying you hope you can find some alabaster in Volterra or some marble in Carrara. You stumble onto pottery shops wherever you venture, and the really remarkable thing is that they do not have the same merchandise! It's such fun to decide whether you're more of a fancy-pattern person, or a historical-bent person, or perhaps you just like something simple with olives or lemons or pears? Do you want vivid glazes or something more subdued? For me, it was a balancing act -- how much could I reasonably expect to carry home (without damage or triggering duty). Fortunately, there is a range from very tiny pieces to immense platters and tureens, so you're bound to find something you'll enjoy using as a reminder of your visit to this amazing town.
"And on the heavenly front..."
Orvieto's Duomo is stunning, outside and inside. We spent quite a long while there and probably would have lingered but for the fact that a wedding was about to take place, and it seemed gauche to be gaping at the happy couple.
"The front of Doumo"
Doumo is large and splendid. This is one of the most famous Romanesque-Gothic buildings in Europe.
Although construction work was started to Doumo in the end of the 13th century, even if it became the 16th century, it was still incomplete.
Many, builders, painters,engravers and mosaic workers were engaged in this construction.
Actually, I am not tired of seeing the tower and the sun which rise high highly clearly and the front decorated with the skillful mosaic which shines, forever.
This is one of the symbols of the Evangelists, 14 century bronze figures on the fore piers of the facade, atributed to Lorezon Maitani and his workshop