20 – Orvieto

Orvieto, Italia – 12th Novembre 2008 – “Papal Refuge”

Today we went to Orvieto, Italy; a really unique city about an hour’s south of our hometown; Castiglion Fiorentino. Its a unique town for two reasons; first its situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic rock (they call it tuff?) that rises above the valley with almost-vertical faced cliffs that are completed by defensive walls built near the low areas. The second unique reason is because of its history with the pope. In the periods between Pope Urban IV return home to Rome from their temporary residence in Avignon, France this town was used as a safe stronghold before their Church’s re-entrance into the eternal city. So of course; they is a huge church and a huge palace located here.

To access the town you have to take a funicular to reach the top of the rocky platform; that looks similar to the mesas in the American desert. We met up again with the tour guide from Assisi. She has been my favorite so far because she’s A) beautiful and B) has some serious charisma and charm. You can tell when she talks to the locals that they are all memorized by her accent and body language. We were very concerned upon arrival to town since the fog of Castiglion apparently was also consuming Orvieto. When we got to the appex we went to the Pope’s lookout ledge; that look very similar to the one in Lord of the Rings – but you could see absolutely nothing; like we were in a cloud. Luckily as the day went on the fog cleared and we got our view. I showed the differences in the photos below. Pretty crazy – this is a wild phenomena that happens in Tuscany daily.

The duomo here is different; well as different as an Italian medieval church could be, lol. It’s different because of its multiple types of reliefs on the surface of the facade It also has a variety of colors and mosaics coverings the front giving it allot of personality. My favorite part was its similarity with Siena’s duomo; utilizing alternating colors stones creating a neat looking band effect on the exterior. Their colors were different however going tan and brown instead of blue and white – giving a really warm effect. The interior also contained a chapel containing some of my most favorite paintings thus far; a really vibrant scene depiciting the last judgment covering the entire room. It was really colorful but the highlight was how abstract the scenes were; I was impressed at how much choice the artist was given over the content since the cannons were typically extremely outlined.

We walked around town like usual getting more details about the towns history from our tour guide. I got into an awesome discussion with her about the presidential election and the rising communist party in Italy – done in full Italian! Afterwards we hit up a cafe’ where I caught a great lunch! Spinach keish and a really unique antipasto. We ended the day hitting up the famous well requested by Pope Urban IV – to be used in case of siege on the town. It’s special because of the architects use of a double helix allowing the pack animals to not have to cross paths in retrieving water. We walked to the bottom and noticed how much money was sitting just a few feet below the water’s surface – I really wished I had a string with a magnet and almost attempted to jump in since I had a speedo in my backpack; unfortunately my ethics told me not too!

On the train ride home I exited a stop early in Cortona, about 10 KM from Castiglion. I had planned to run back to our hometown and brought all my running stuff, changed on the train and gave my bag to my professor to take home. The jog wasn’t bad; but I was still pretty sore from running 22 KM just last Sunday.

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