Friday June 5 – Exploration of Orvieto!

2015-06-05 10.40.57-1

I woke up at 8:30 am feeling utterly refreshed. When I opened that window/door behind me to welcome the morning air and the views of the garden, I couldn’t help but feel completely relaxed for the first time in what felt like a lifetime. There was no thoughts about anything but relaxation and of course, breakfast. As I recall from the prior time (10 years ago) I was in Europe, breakfast is mainly meat, cheese and bread. If there was ONE thing I was looking forward to on this trip, it was breakfast. The fresh baked bread, the prosciutto and salami that seemed to have the perfect amount of salt, the cheese that with one bite had enough flavor to last me an entire trip and the butter, OH THE BUTTER!!! It tasted like it had just been churned. Spreading a whole packet on my two halves of bread and topping each side with a slice of cheese, prosciutto and salami – and sometimes jam which is weird I know – and then taking my first bite of a European breakfast in 10 years. Heaven. On. Earth.

2015-06-06 08.48.41

I got a little greedy and decided to try the yogurt and muesli, which don’t get me wrong were better than anything I have in the US but just didn’t compare to my meat, cheese, butter and bread. The rest of the time was just that. And maybe a croissant or two my last 2 days 🙂

Now that I had been fed, it was time to explore Orvieto!!! I step outside of my B&B and it hits me again. I am in Italy, alone. My Italian journey that was 10 years in the making is finally happening. I am living my dream. As I walk down the cobblestone to the main street I can’t help but think of Eat, Pray, Love and all the magical things that happened, hoping that I would be able to feel some of that magic myself. Walking along the Corso (main street), passed the caffes, restaurants, boutiques, gelato stands….yeah…I just get lost in it all.

I take a right up to the touristy part of Orvieto in search of the tourist information booth so that I could buy my ticket to the, shall we say, attractions of the city. As I get closer to the square, I see a Duomo for the first time in my life. Holy. Shit. Magic hits right there. I stand in awe as I can’t even get the whole thing in my picture frame. I stare at the intricacy of this, this, this…I don’t even know what to call it because it’s way more than a building, more than a church, more than architecture. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Every structure in America suddenly looked very boring to me.

2015-06-05 10.58.39

When I head inside I can’t help but feel at peace, calm and centered as I walk around and stare in awe at the beautiful paintings on the walls, the ceilings, the floor, everywhere! Paintings EVERYWHERE!

2015-06-25 17.17.49 2015-06-25 17.16.51

I will never look at a church the same way after seeing this.

The next stop on my exploration day 1 was the underground caves. I had about 20 minutes to kill and was feeling pretty hungry since it had been a few hours since breakfast so what do I go do?

2015-06-05 12.15.55

Gelato for lunch? YES PLEASE! Chocolate chip, banana and vanilla and I don’t even know what those gummies were but it didn’t matter. They were heaven. Everything was heaven to me. Now being that it was 90 degrees, I scarfed it down pretty quick and headed back towards the meeting place for the caves.

2015-06-25 17.24.08 2015-06-25 17.23.25

Read more about it here: http://www.orvietounderground.it/index.php/en/orvieto-underground-en/the-discovery

Basically Orvieto is on top of a vast underground cave system. I wasn’t that impressed with the tour because it was very short but I was more fascinated by the fact that the people of Orvieto were able to dig this massive underground cave and tunnel system, with nothing really but large picks and axes. That well on the bottom right was built in that shape so that the workers could shimmy up and down as they dug deeper and deeper until they hit water. The use of the wells was how they were able to supply the city with water as it is built on a cliff. The top left which looks like it could hold wine was actually to raise pigeons for food. Can’t imagine eating a pigeon but to each their own. The upper right was where they made their own olive oil and let me tell you, the olive oil in this region, OH MY GOD I COULD HAVE DRANK IT. 🙂

When we came out of the caves I was in awe, again, at the view that this city has.

2015-06-05 13.29.23

Now at this point I was feeling a bit restless so I decided to throw on my running shoes and explore the side of the cliff and into the valley. Normally I listen to music the entire time I run so that I can drown out noise and distract myself from either the pain of running or the monotony but here there was no need for it. The sound of the birds, the sound my shoes with each step as they hit the dirt and rocks, the sound of the breeze against the trees, the sound of the damn sun for all I knew was more than enough reason for me to go sans music. I was in heaven. I found a staircase, ran up it a few times, did some squats, lunges, burpees and push ups and just basked in the 90 degree weather with only a cloud or two in the sky.

 2015-06-25 17.39.50

Next up was my Siesta. My waterfall shower. My comfy bed. The breeze coming in through the window. A quick journal entry. A quick whatsapp chat to my parents. A quick nap. And then…a pre dinner cappuccino. I toured the Corso looking for the best spot for an afternoon cappuccino while I watched the world go by.

2015-06-06 10.08.31

Cappuccino quickly became my favorite thing on the trip, next to breakfast of course. There is something about the milk, full fat mind you, that is just a taste bud teaser. Maybe it is the sweetness or maybe it was the fact that it was mostly coffee and a little bit of milk instead of the other way around like it is in America so it gives you just enough of the good stuff.

As I sat there sipping my cappuccino I couldn’t help but think about the difference in lifestyle between Europeans and Americans. Granted I was on vacation so I had a different perspective but life seems slowed down there and appreciated more. I ate slower, I walked slower, I drank slower, I talked slower, I ran slower :-), I just existed slower.

And I ate this as slow as I possibly could because it was the best pizza I have ever had in my entire life.

2015-06-05 19.50.46

I had dinner at a lovely outdoor restaurant called Charlie. The crust is made in house which is fairly common even in America but I SWEAR they put something different in it or leave something out because the dough here doesn’t even compare to the dough there. And the freshness of the ham, the arugula, the cheese. God I don’t even know what kind of cheese was on that thing but it was savory and scrumptious. Bite by bite I would breathe in to get the most flavor imaginable and even then I felt there was more to taste. The house red wine was better than any non house red wine I’ve had in the states and it was about 3 euro. Score. I’ll have two glasses please.

I sat there checking out the map of Orvieto and planning day 2 of my journey. Every day just got better and better and the views, I keep mentioning it, the views were to die for. 🙂

My perfect Italian Journey – part one

Wednesday June 3 – Here I go

2015-06-03 18.57.17

I can’t put into words the number of emotions I was feeling as I finished packing and then took this picture. The main one wasn’t so much an emotion but a reaction. Anxiety and with that anxiety, wanting to puke. Holy shit this is actually happening. I am going to Italy ALONE. The next 10 days would prove to test my ability to deal with the unknown, to go way out of my comfort zone and to be in an area of Italy where not many people spoke English which brought crazy amounts of anxiety especially when I was asking for directions.

2015-06-03 19.45.222015-06-04 02.30.20I figured I start the trip off right by having some Italian wine at the wine bar in the airport and a nice, healthy dinner. This was the first of many times I would be dining alone over the next 1o days. It’s amazing how awkward it felt then compared to at the end of the trip when it felt completely normal to be alone at dinner because it gave me the chance to either talk to others that were traveling or to write about my experiences.

They say what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you. Well this trip challenged me in ways I never even expected. Tears were almost shed but I made it out alive, in fact, better than alive. I am rejuvenated with a whole new prospective on life that I will be blogging about for the next couple days, or weeks depending on how much I choose to divulge about this journey. But I will give you a day by day because I have so many pictures I want to share!

I got SUPER lucky when I got on the plane, getting 3 seats to myself! By the way, if you choose to fly overseas, please please please choose Virgin Atlantic. The attendants are SO nice, they feed you food that is quite delicious by airplane standards, the planes seemed to both be brand new AND the movies are FREE!!! And there are actually legit awesome selections. I didn’t sleep a wink because I was up watching Gone Girl and American Sniper. HIGHLY RECOMMEND! AND they give you a travel bag with socks, a pen, an eye mask, a blanket, a tooth brush and tooth paste.

2015-06-04 03.45.00 2015-06-04 03.02.46-12015-06-03 23.31.04

 Thursday June 4 – I have arrived

I arrived in the Rome airport and did exactly what I thought I would do. Freak out. What the hell did I get myself into? Where do I go? Who do I trust? Am I going to get kidnapped?? I knew I had to take two trains to get to Orvieto so I head to the train station and of course the woman hardly spoke english and was talking so fast that my head was spinning in circles. All I knew was that I had a 15 minute connection at Roma Termini. Now I am not sure what the hell I was thinking Roma Termini would look like or how I expected to find my next train but for some reason I wasn’t nervous. But then the train I was on was 7 minutes late, which left me about 5 minutes to find my next train after we had finally exited the train once it got to the station. I started to freak out again. I got off the train and it was just a mad house. Termini is the BIGGEST train station I have ever seen in my life.

Holy shit where do I go? I almost started crying until a young man asked me where I was going. Orvieto!!!! I have 5 minutes! As he brought me to my train, practically running, I couldn’t help but think of the movie Taken. If you haven’t seen it, don’t. If you have, you can understand my hesitation and anxiety. He gets me to my train, I check to make sure nothing was stolen, yell “Grazie!” and hop on my train. (I think he wanted money but there was NO way I was missing that train.) I asked the man I sat next to if he spoke english. Of course not. Orvieto? Si. THANK GOD. I plop down in my seat with a tremendous amount of relief.

At this point I had been up for 33 hours. I was hot, hungry, thirsty and tired. There was no AC on the train and with the windows being open, every time another train passed by within inches of us, there was a BOOM that would blow your ear drums beyond belief. I looked at my watch. 5:30. This train was an hour and a half. Shit. Good thing I didn’t have to pee or I would have been screwed.

We arrived at Orvieto station, I walked outside and looked for the bus to take me to the town. Of course the bus driver doesn’t speak English and wasn’t the right driver for where I was going. We talk at each other in our respective languages and I was picking up words here and there but it was useless. He eventually points me to the Funicular. I pay the 1.30 euro toll and head up to the main town. What now? Where the hell am I? DOES ANYONE SPEAK ENGLISH?!?!?!?! Some nice men at the produce stand told me, in Italian, to walk 1 km up the road and I will find my hotel. Ok. How far is that in miles? Well I know it’s less than a mile and I walk 1 mile to work in the morning so this should be no problem. Wrong. Sweating, making noise, getting stared at, feeling uncomfortable, hearing english. ENGLISH?! AMERICANS?!?!?! THANK GOD.

One of the girls ended up walking me to my hotel. That 1 km walk felt like 5 miles at that point. I dropped off my stuff and headed out onto the town for dinner. At that point I had been up for 35 hours. All I wanted was a shower, food and bed. Food was first. I went to a restaurant called Montanuccis, sat in the garden in the back, ordered a glass of wine, a salad and strawberry ice cream, which by the way actually tasted like real strawberries. I sat back and just took it all in. I was in Italy. Finally. It was finally happening. I had 9 months of attempting to learn Italian, 9 months of anticipation, and 9 months to plan what I was going to do. I didn’t learn Italian and I didn’t really plan what I was going to do. I was going blind into a country I didn’t speak the language and really didn’t know where the hell I was going.

But I did know that it was going to be the best vacation of my life and it started with soaking up this view. Heaven.

2015-06-04 20.49.36  (By the way, none of my photos have filters or have been touched up. This is real life.)

 I slept for 10 peaceful hours that night and woke up ready to take on Italy!

Until next post…