Orvieto; Overground and Underground
SB is shaving in the bathroom. He hears footsteps behind the door. Someone is calling. The door to the bathroom flies open and a young woman is standing there in her bathrobe speaking “mile a minute Italian” and calling for me. SB calls me too. I quickly jump into some clothes and go up the back stairway of the apartment to see what the commotion is all about. It is Francesca. She wants to greet me to Italy and her home. She is an animated woman with laughing eyes. Suddenly she realizes we speak English so she speaks in English, but when she does not know a word in English she switches mid sentence to Italian, or just mixes the two together. It could be a new language. It is one I understand. She is instantly likable and not concerned at all that she is in her bathrobe, uncombed snatches of hair going every which way, and SB is in his underwear with shaving cream on his face. She is so sorry she could not meet us yesterday, but hoped we saw the festival. She asks us about our dinner plans for the day and what we would like to see. She wants to know if the apartment “is good.” She wants to know if we have enough to eat for breakfast. She wants to know if she can get us anything. Then she is off as quickly as she came. She is like a tornado. She quickly comes and quickly goes. I look up after her as she retreats up a steep stairway that bridges the buildings together. Between her building and our building is the wood-working workshop below. I realize the stairway is the indoor shortcut. As we leave for the day, a truck has pulled up to the front of our building and the men are unloading wood planks. We peek in the expanded open doorway hearing the buzzing of saws and smelling the fragrance of newly cut wood. It is a large work area filled with tables, hutches and sawdust. We are off to explore the ramparts of Orvieto. We walk along the inner edges of the massive wall and the narrow streets of new neighborhoods we have not explored yet.
SB loves going below ground or climbing a bazillion stairs to view something. Our next stop is the Well of the Cave, an underground network of Etruscan era caves, wells and tunnels that were discovered in 1984 when a family was renovating their trattoria. We walk into a modern room roped off as if we are entering a movie theater. An elderly man takes the money and points for SB to follow the roped edge along the wall of pictures of excavation into another room leading to the underground level.
As SB explores the caves I check out a small church across the way. Our next stop leads us to the other side of Orvieto, through a small park where the town cats lazily lie in the sun and down a rough gravel path to meet up with a guide and other tourists to delve deeper underground into the caves of Orvieto. I go inside the first cave, but decide I will go no further. The cave path is very narrow and very dark and very down hill.
An Australian woman and I decide we would rather sit outside at a picnic table overlooking the Umbrian countryside while the others go on. SB later tells me I made the right choice since in some spots of the cave the narrow openings were barely slits in the rock to squeeeeeeze through and the ground steep and tough going with boulder steps. I had an enlightening chat about Australia with my new friend.
Our last stop of the day was the Etruscan Museum, a former palace across the street from the Cathedral. The hand painted scenes on the walls and ceiling are breathtaking. Crystal chandeliers shimmer glitters of light over the pale blue-sky color that dominates the rooms. The ground level of the museum boasts fragments of Roman and Etruscan sculpture while Etruscan jewelry and Roman coins are featured on the first floor.
We finished up the day with a fine meal at Trattoria Palomba, a stone building, alley way eatery with a waiting line to get in every evening. A family member seated us at a square table along the wall, covered with a red checkered cloth, and pointed to the daily special menu on the blackboard. It was just like in the movies!
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