Monday 21 October 2013

Day 42 A side trip from Bolsena to Orvieto

Monday 21st October Day 42 A side trip from Bolsena to Orvieto 

Orvieto is only about 20 km from Bolsena, and is closely connected - it is a city and comune in Province of Terni, southwestern Region of Umbria, Italy situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff. The Tuff - a fairly light volcanic rock that is relatively easy to carve, is what has enabled the areas inhabitants ( Etruscans, Romans, medieval, modern day) to carve fascinating underground caverns, cellars and work areas for thousands of years.

We catch a bus from the Bolsena Piazza at 6:45 am €8 one way for two of us to Orvieto,
Early morning Bolsena. The bar at the piazza is open for caffés !
it's great to arrive in Orvieto early at just before 8am and wander around up to the piazza Duomo before any crowds arrive. The Duomo is amazing,
The black and white is striking, and the mosaics on the front facade vibrantly eye catching
The intricate work in the detailed carvings and stories told in the scenes depicted...
There are also beautiful artwork and frescoes everywhere inside the duomo - but "no photo" 
We stop off for a Caffé and breaky snack at Hescanas on the Piazza -

 good wifi, Caffé and a glass area in the floor showing the steps cut into the rock leading underground.

Apparently various Popes over the ages have spent quite a bit of time staying at Orvieto, I was wondering if there is a Via Francigena variant going through Orvieto - cant find any information, but I do see a couple of VF signs in the red and white on some poles....
We buy complete tickets for all entrances and  the underground tours- 
We walk with an English speaking guide to the edge of the city wall- amazing views! I can see why Orvieto is strategically so important, why it was virtually impregnable and why Popes would come and stay here during times of unrest and uncertainty!

and we head through a stone arch-  underground!
The first area we stop at dates back to the Etruscans. As the guide explained, the city above became so crowded, and space so precious that every family home dug its own underground storage and work area. This space we visited was used as an olive mill and olive oil press. The stones and pressing area are still clearly visible. The processes to extract extra virgin olive oil haven't changed much over the last couple of thousand years! 
These caves have been used for work spaces, wine making and food storage for thousands of years! The interior temperature and humidity is very stable.
We wander through some other similar caverns 
And see an amazing Etruscan well. The Etruscan people were quite short, only about 1m 40 cm tall. Every Etruscan well discovered is the same dimensions (I think the guide said 120 X80 cm )
Just the right width and length to minimize digging, but allow the builders to reach either side with hands and feet to straddle the well and climb up and down!  in this very bad photo above you can just see the feet and hand holds on opposite sides of the well. This one is approx 80m deep.

 We go back outside the caverns and walk a short distance to another cavern entrance. These next caves are all quite different to the first caves we saw. All these ones have a window to the outside, and have these small evenly spaced holes dug into the surfaces.

They're for  pigeon raising, pigeon meat is traditionally a staple for the people of Orvieto, they are one of the only animals that doesn't require feeding or watering, as they do that themselves when they fly outside, the have a strong "homing" instinct so they come back to the same place to roost, and their breeding rate means they reproduce themselves every month. A regular, low maintainence food source! 

 Most recently, some of the caverns underneath the hospital were converted into ww2 bunkers for people to seek refuge in when the area was bombed.

Patrick perusing the local real estate....

After our first cave exploration, we're keen to look at more, so wander along to the next - Pozza Della Cava

Can you believe it? it's Chuisa on Lunidei! (closed Mondays)
We decide to find somewhere for lunch... Patrick has a quick peruse of Tripadvisor
While I check out the little nearby church
it's quite small, but has lovely proportions and is quite ornate
We decide on a lunch venue - based on proximity and trip advisor reviews,  lunch at the 'Al Pozzo Etrusco' in Piazza Ranieri. Having a day off walking, we decide to have a luxurious long lunch... and what a lunch! we start off with an Antipasti 'the Etruscan' just one to share...

 the dishes keep coming out! Meats, cheeses and fruit, vegetables....

thank goodness we only ordered one! Delicious!

For prima I ordered the house specialty, cacao pasta! Sounds strange, but it was scrumptious! the cacao flavour goes beautifully with the creamy, cheesy sauce and the salty proscuitto. Patrick has his standard ravioli - also very good! 

Patrick has room for dessert in his second special  'desert stomach' a zuppa Inglese, I'm Completo

Most houses and buildings here have their own cellar carved out of the volcanic rock, as does the restaurant... I have to check it out! Perfect wine cellar!

it's quite acwaybunderneath the building

We eventually wander backmup towards the Piazza Duomo 
to haveca look in the Etruscan museum- it's housed in an incredibly ornate Palazzo opposite the Duomo.

Our last visit for the day is one of the most spectacular! 

St Patricks well, built in 1527-1537 a double spiral / double helix 

with no overlap until the very bottom of the well to enable donkeys to go down and up without running into each other. amazing building and planning skills! so perfect!

finish walking up and down the well by 4:15 pm.

 then we have a wander along the fortress walls - they're near the bus stop.

We'll get the 5:15 pm bus back to Bolsena ( the last bus back) It starts to rain at about 4:45 pm
The rain has stopped by the time we arrive back at Bolsena, so we walk down to the Bolsena Lakeside

Walk back up to the Piazza and I have a look inside the basilica
There is a very old section, and catacombs that are closed after 6pm... so sadly I don't see them

Then stroll along for dinner at La Francigena - I didn't try the snails...

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