My first adventure outside of Orvieto

Monday June 8th – Arezzo

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Train station boredom

Today was the first day I had the balls to actually leave Orvieto. I didn’t even want to but I knew I had to step further outside my comfort zone so I ventured down to the train station, bought my ticket through the automated ticket machine, checked the train platform and schedule and suddenly felt like I was finally getting the hang of this traveling through Italy thing. I wanted to try out some Italian AND wanted to make sure I was, in fact, on the right platform so I turned to two women next to me and attempted to ask, in Italian, which platform was to Arezzo. They were American. There goes my attempt.¬†It was actually really nice that they did speak English after having been around mainly Italians for the past few days. Turns out they were both born in Italy but live in Chicago and California. One of the women’s daughter was getting married in Italy. Hello dream of mine! ūüôā

We “snuck” into first class, which had air conditioning (heaven) and chatted about Italy and life. They were headed to Montepulciano and asked me if I wanted to go with them. Since I had made the decision to go to Arezzo (and my host said it was a wonderful city), I stuck to the plan and said goodbye once we hit their stop. I was kicking myself shortly after I got off the train for making that decision. I felt COMPLETELY uncomfortable in Arezzo. It was dirty and the people weren’t as friendly and it was a much bigger city than Orvieto. Needless to say I wasn’t ready for it but I stuck it out anyways and explored a little bit of the city.

The only 2 places I actually went into were the archeological museum and the San Domenico church. The church wasn’t extravagant per say but the paintings. Oh my gosh the paintings were AMAZING. Some of them had chipped away over time but the intricacy of them was outstanding. When I enter churches I instantly feel connected. I know it sounds silly but I feel something wonderful in my soul and I love it. How could you not with images like this…

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After visiting the church, I walked around for a few hours. Unfortunately I forgot about Siesta and was unable to get inside anything else except the archeological museum. So I walked around a bit and took some photos.

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Little cool tidbit…

Life is Beautiful was filmed in this square in 1997

As I was sitting at the train station I began to reflect on my day in Arezzo. The number one thing I realized is that it is IMPERATIVE I learn Italian for next year. They make it seem like everyone knows English. THEY (whoever they are) couldn’t be more wrong. Here are some thoughts that I wrote while waiting for the train.

Even though I started out not liking it, I’m happy I came because I learned what not to do as a tourist and it got me out of my comfort zone. Traveling alone makes it easy to hole up and do what is comfortable. Taking my adventure to Arezzo pushed me way out of my comfort zone to the totally unfamiliar. It was kind of how I felt when I first got to Orvieto but at least I knew someone there (my host) and have met a few more people along the way. Feeling lost is a great way to¬†describe it.¬†

Being alone in Italy has¬†challenged me and taken me so far out of my comfort zone that I have had to and wanted to talk to people so that it feels less lonely and scary. It has, as a result made me less shy. I was hesitant to talk to anyone at first but I am getting better. It has been a great learning experience and now I really have no issue going places alone. Back in the U.S. going to a restaurant¬†alone was something I would NEVER do. Now, however, I LOVE it! (You’ll see why in the upcoming posts.)¬†

It’s funny how much traveling alone tests your confidence. I can have all the confidence in the world in the U.S. but being in a new country alone where very few people speak the language in the areas you are in and every sign is in Italian brings a whole new level of necessary confidence. I really had no expectations, had no idea I would feel so lost and kind of be okay with it, knowing that things would work out. When I arrived in Rome I had a panic attack, questioning why I did this, especially alone. But I guess I just had a subconscious faith that it would all work out. And so far, it has.¬†

That afternoon when I got on the Funicular to head back up to Orvieto, I took a HUGE sigh of relief that I had made it through my first day. About a minute after I got on waiting for it to move, my two new American friends that went to Montepulciano got on! I was hesitant to ask how it was for fear they would tell me amazing, which is exactly what they did. I got a little jealous and felt some regret in not going with them but then I reflected back on my train station reflection and reset my thoughts on the matter. I WAS happy I went to Arezzo alone (but still jealous).

So far, my Italian journey was going exactly as planned…there was no plan and that’s what made it perfect. And just a repost because this is my favorite photo.

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A little bit of history

Sunday June 7 – Corpus Domini

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Today was the day I was supposed to go to Florence but after finding out about the procession that was to take place in Orvieto and the importance and uniqueness to it, I chose to stay and watch. And boy am I glad I did.

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http://www.bellaumbria.net/en/the-feast-of-corpus-christi-in-orvieto/

“…this day is celebrated the¬†miracle of the Sacramental Bread, the¬†Eucharistic miracle of Bolsena. Tradition has it that in¬†1263¬†a Bohemian priest,¬†Peter of Prague, going to¬†Bolsenastopped to celebrate Mass at the altar of St. Cristina. The priest was plagued by doubts. He did not believe possible the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. During the consecration a miracle occurred: blood gushed from the communion bread.”

I always wondered what the significance of communion was when I attended Catholic School so to learn a little about it and to watch the people of Orvieto come together not only to dress up and participate in the procession but also to watch was really cool. There were thousands of people out and it was just so amazing to continue to see the culture existing in this small city. The locals dress up in these crazy intricate costumes to walk through the narrow, cobblestone streets (in 90 degree weather mind you and for over an hour and a half), representing different areas in the city, different businesses, the hospital, the church, etc. I can only imagine how much of an honor it is to be involved. And plus, my new American friends and I got the best seat in the house. Right outside the Duomo. ūüôā

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The bottom right in the picture on the right is the Holy Relic. It was so worth standing in the beating sun for an hour and a half to not only see the whole procession but to see the Relic.

Now what we didn’t realize was how difficult it was going to be to get around the city after the procession had passed us. Trying to get to lunch at a restaurant that was right in the middle of the procession was one of the more screaming “we are Americans!” situations than I would have liked. After squeezing ourselves to the walls of the buildings on the narrowest streets you could EVER imagine trying not to get in the way of the procession, we finally made it to the restaurant. I ordered an Italian sandwich that was probably the size of my head. And yes, I ate the whole thing. No food left behind in Italy. No way.

It was nice to chat with these girls who were studying art in Orvieto through Gordon College. They had been there for 4 months and were actually leaving the day I was set to leave. I couldn’t help but be absolutely, insanely jealous that they had spent so much time there. Oddly enough, none of them really picked up the language which was weird to me because by the time I left, I was beginning to pick up on more words and was starting to feel comfortable hearing the language AND trying to speak some myself, but that didn’t go too well. It’s the effort that counts, right????

After lunch I was seriously needing a siesta. All that standing in the sun was exhausting! But seeing how it was such a gorgeous day and I felt the need to move around in order to digest a bit, I decided to go on a walk. I let my instinct guide me and it was well worth it. At this point I had only explored the main part of the city and this one running trail my host recommended. This time, I decided to get “adventurous” and walk down a random road on the other side of town.

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On my way down I heard a dog barking and my heart literally stopped for a moment. I am PETRIFIED of getting attacked by dogs. I proceeded cautiously, not knowing what I would do if it charged at me but when I looked to my right, there was this tiny little thing that didn’t seem to want to do much more than bark. I reached the end of the road shortly after and turned to walk back up. As I pass the same house I hear a second dog, see them running, bolting actually, right at me. DEAR GOD I AM GOING TO GET EATEN ALIVE!!!! They ran right at me, sniffed me, decided I was OK and chose to walk with me. It was the cutest thing ever, especially after thinking I was going to get eaten.

Shortly after I returned from my hour and a half walk, which by the way was heaven (everything about this place was and is heaven. That’s the word of the trip in case you haven’t noticed), it started to get slightly suspicious of rain so I bolted home, showered and went out to dinner to the same place as lunch. Sitting alone in the corner of the restaurant, writing, reading and of course drinking my Orvieto Classico, I couldn’t help but feel completely at ease. I felt even BETTER when this came…

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OH MY GOD IT WAS HEAVEN!!!!!!! Two slices of classic bruschetta and one with pear and gorgonzola and covered in deliciously fresh olive oil. Holy hell. I could have bathed in the olive oil it was so good. I have never eaten so slowly. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want ANYTHING I ate to end. It was so satiating that I didn’t feel a need to eat anything else. I contemplated getting dessert and figured since I hadn’t had a cannoli yet, I may as well get two mini cannoli to go.

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It was the ONLY thing I ate there that I almost didn’t want to finish because the shell was soggy but I ate it anyway. ūüôā I am, to say the least, a cannoli SNOB and I should have known better than to get mini cannoli. I made up for it a few nights later.

Shortly after I went to bed full and happy. Another successful day of feeling as though I was in heaven was complete. I couldn’t help but start to think about the number of days left until I had to return to the States. I pushed that thought out of my mind about as fast as it came. Monday was to be the first day I ventured outside of Orvieto. Comfort level was challenged.

Until next time! (I promise it wont be another two weeks before I post again!)

Oh the views!

Saturday June 6 – Can’t get enough

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This place, OH MAN THIS PLACE. I started to create somewhat of an itinerary thinking I would go to Rome but I just couldnt’t get enough of Orvieto. There was plenty to do here. And the history of the city was just fascinating to me. There was and is a legitimate underground city. Due to the fact that Orvieto is on a cliff and there was no access to water waaaaaay back in the day, wells were built in order to retrieve water from waaaaaaay underground. Now, the wells that were in the underground caves were pretty cool but then I ventured into this one…

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Pozzo di San Patrizio

To give you a little bit of an idea if you don’t want to read about it at this website that I borrowed it from:¬†http://www.italyguides.it/en/umbria/orvieto/pozzo-di-san-patrizio

“First, an¬†extraordinary fact¬†about the ancient town of¬†Orvieto¬†is that it did not have a constant supply of fresh water. It was an impressive¬†fortress-city¬†in central Italy built upon a ridge formation. Orvieto’s location¬†on top of a bluff of sheer volcanic rock¬†served as a¬†defensive site¬†and¬†papal refuge¬†in ancient times.”

“Fearing troops might lay siege to the Orvieto, the pope commissioned architect-engineer,¬†Antonio da Sangallo the Younger¬†to build an underground well system. The future Pozzo di San Patrizio would provide Orvieto with an adequate water supply in case the pope could not travel outside its fortress walls to return to¬†Rome.”

“The bold scheme of¬†St. Patrick Well¬†consists of a circular shaft 200 feet deep and 45 feet wide lighted by¬†72-arched windows¬†cut into the Pozzo di San Patrizio. Two¬†spiral¬†staircases descend from opposing doors of the shaft to access and transport water.”

And HOLY MOLY was it a tiring hike back up because yes, I went to the bottom of the 200 foot well. The two spiral staircases were pretty cool simply because they were completely separate. I couldn’t really grasp the idea then and still can’t now.¬†2015-06-06 11.07.52By the time I climbed back up the spiral staircase I was huffing and puffing and sweating and SERIOUSLY needed something to cool me down. A glass of wine and water later and I am back on to my next underground experience.

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The Pozzo della Cava

http://www.pozzodellacava.it/caves/cosa/index.html

I visited this cave on my own so that being said, I didn’t really get the full history and explanation especially because it is a much more complex and MUCH cooler cave than the one I visited the day prior. But to be underground and see what they were able to construct without modern day tools is just fascinating to me. Not only here but with the Pozzo di San Patrizio. It makes us all look pretty lazy if you ask me. They adapted to their environment and thrived (and left behind some pretty sick artifacts). Walking around this cave alone was pretty creepy but at the same time I was walking through history. It was on the verge of being spiritual, as if there was a presence there that I could feel with an intensity that cannot be described. You have to experience it to truly understand it.

When I came back up, the little old man that I am assuming was the owner or manager took my hands and walked me to this…

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Yeah, that’s the cave below. Pretty badass. Then he told me I was Bellissima which put a little smile on my face. Grazie! ūüôā

After all this exploring and my daily run/walk through Orvieto and the surrounding area, I decided to hit up a new spot for my nightly pre-dinner glass of wine at Caffe Costadoro. It had a lovely seating area on a small square just off the Corso and when I sat down with my glass of Orvieto Classico, I was pleasantly surprised with a free¬†hor d’oeuvre and a wink from the rather cute waiter. Now I didn’t want to eat all of it and spoil my dinner but it happened anyways and therefore it became my dinner!

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After two mini sandwiches with prosciutto and salami (of course), 3 bruschetta (which by the way, the “ch” is NOT pronounced like “sh”, it’s a “k”. I learned that the way most Americans say it means lady of the night in Italian. Not exactly a good thing when you’re asking for it to eat…) with 3 different spreads that I still do not know what they were, and 2 glasses of white wine, I decided to indulge in gelato from the store that was said to have the best gelato in the region. Boy, was it good but the measly two scoops I was given just weren’t enough so what did I do once I got closer to the main square?

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Yup. Two separate gelato purchases within 5 minutes of each other. Heaven. On. Earth. I even splurged a little and got the whipped cream. When in Italy, right?? But to be honest I felt a little guilty, but not full oddly enough, so I decided to go for a walk and this is when I found the most beautiful views I saw my entire trip.

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Looking back onto the medieval section of the city

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City edge

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The cliffs were absolutely amazing

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Breathtakingly beautiful

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Not a sound. No cars. No construction. No people. Just me and peaceful quiet.

And my favorite…

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When I picture heaven, this is what it looks like.

Thank God I went for that walk.