Famous Orvieto wine, oh so delicious
Wine making has a very old tradition in the region around Orvieto. Already the Etruscans made wine, because they realised that tuffa and volcanic soil are excellent nutrition medium and also the porous tuffa rock saves water or humidity. Wine lovers will know Orvieto even if they might not have been there yet: Orvieto (white) wine is famous throughout the world. Some of the exported one is or was quite cheap, a result of a brief period of money making rather than staying with quality, but most of the wine producers are back to high quality wines. I was lucky to taste some really excellent white wines at Locanda Rosati during our evening meals. Giampiero, the owner, brought us several bottles of white a friend produces. It tasted delicious and several of the guests brought cartons.
Check in the entoecas of the city, it is possible to sample Orvieto wine. The best option though is to stay at an agriturismo where you might be even able to watch wine making processes in addition to wine tasting. Orvieto wine
No screens means insects visit
A word to the wise: many Italian windows are unscreened. This can come as a very unpleasant surprise in warm weather if you failed to pack insect repellent. Having done so, I did not investigate whether it was available in Italian pharmacies.
The cliff on which the city of Orvieto stands is riddled with an unbelievable number of artificial cavities - an intricate labyrinth of tunnels, galleries, cisterns, wells, quarries and cellars. It is in the bowels of the city that the memory of the succession of inhabitants who once lived on top of the "Rock" still lingers on.
A guided visit, that winds its way easily through the caves, enables the tourist to fully appreciate this unique underground world. It is in a sense a journey in a timeless dimension, which narrates the story. of the geology of the rock and the specific aspects of Orvieto's history: the colombari, the pozzolana quarries, the underground oil-press.
The solution to the problems inherent in settling on the Rock have always been sought for underground: the search for water and the preservation of food. The micro climate to be found in the caves made it possible to preserve both solid and liquid provisions, including wine. The fact that one of the names by which Orvieto was known in antiquity was Oinarea, "where wine flows", gives us an idea of the great importance of wine at the time, and still today "Orvieto" is a wine well-known to connoisseurs throughout the world.
From a distance
Sitting as it does on a volcanic tufa plug, there are greta views to be had of the town from short distances out of the town. The surrounding, fertile land is also dotted with similar, but smaller, such 'plugs'.
Orvieto, a medieval town built on volcanic rock
"View from Orvieto"
What a stunning place!! We left Rome on a rainy day to drive up the west coast of Italy, slowly making our way up to Umbria and to the town of Orvieto. I have never been to a place where the view of it, in it, and from it was so breathtaking.
I recently finished a book called A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blas, which I loved. I always feel a connection to an author whose books I really enjoy, and I felt like Marlena was an old friend after just a few chapters. de Blas, a chef, now lives in Orvieto with her husband Fernando, and has written another book - A Thousand Days in Tuscany. I wish I wish I had read both books before the trip! It would have been even better to wonder the streets of Orvieto after having read a personal account of living there.
Marlena includes wonderful descriptions of the places she travels, as well as the food she eats. As we were walking through Orvieto one afternoon around lunchtime, we passed under a window just as a woman was tossing out her breadcrumbs. She apologized for showering us with them, but we were enjoying the smell of spices and herbs coming from her kitchen so much that we didn't mind. I'd like to think that woman was Marlena. :)
"View of Orvieto"
Even in the overcast day, Orvieto looked like a make-believe place in a children's book. After driving through the curvy roads on the hillsides, it was surreal to come out to the broad view of Umbria, with Orvieto jutting out of the landscape on a slab of volcanic rock.
"View in Orvieto"
This picture is of the Duomo di Orvieto, the building of which began in 1290 in the Italian Gothic style. The gorgeous facade contrasts to the rest of the church with it's black and white horizontal stripes.
Across the courtyard from the church, a few shops down a sidestreet, we wandered into the workshop of a man who makes prints of old engravings and then paints them. He was a very patient and knowledgeable man who walked us through the entire process. The prints were surprisingly affordable and my brother and mom bought two prints each. With his conversational English and our bits of Italian, he also told us about his trip to western America and how open the landscape was. He rented a Jeep to drive in America, which was huge, as the narrow cobblestone streets of Orvieto would scrape the sides off a wide vehicle.
Orvieto is also home to world famous ceramics. Two shops before the engravings, I bought a beautiful green and orange pitcher that is now displayed on my kitchen table.