Orvieto is the name of a town in Italy.
Oliveto is the name of a popular Italian restaurant in Tulsa.
Hence my confusion.
Well, this Saturday we took a stroll (read: a train) to the nearby town of Orvieto. One of Rick Steves’ favorite Italian hill towns, it sits on the ruins of both Etruscan and Medieval civilizations, so there’s a lot of history and beauty to be seen here. Because it’s built on a hill, a cable car takes passengers from the train station to the town, which is a super neat experience.
The first thing we did when we got to the top was explore the ruins of the castle there, firstly because it’s a castle, duh, but secondly because the views from Orvieto are said to be the best in Tuscany.
Then we decided that we needed some food, so we stopped in at a little bakery for some pasta (pasta can mean a lot of things in Italy, like pastries) and cappuccino before heading on. Orvieto offers a really cool deal: for 17 euro, you can buy a pass that will allow you access to all of the sites–Saint Patrick’s Well, the Etruscan tombs, Orvieto Underground, the Duomo, and several archeological museums.
The first thing we saw was the Duomo, which is the cathedral in Orvieto. It’s apparently built in the Tuscan Gothic style, which means that it’s striped black and white so it kind of looks like a zebra. The facade is beautifully intricate, with statues and mosaics and paintings that can take your breath away. Inside, there is art that dates back over 700 years and frescoes that are so detailed it’s hard to look away.
The next stop was a tour of the Orvieto underground. Orvieto is home to over 1200 caves, all of them man-made by either the Etruscans or those who lived there during the Medieval times. (Oh, in case you were wondering, the Etruscans were those who lived in Tuscany before the Romans, from around 700 B.C.). We got to explore two of them which were used for pressing and storing olive oil and for housing pigeons. You can still buy roast pigeon in restaurants in Orvieto today, but I opted for some lasagna instead. The restaurant was IN A CAVE. It was basically the coolest thing ever.
After the caves and lunch and gelato, we trekked over to Saint Patrick’s well. It’s 175 feet deep and 45 feet wide and was built in the 1500’s for the Pope as a place of refuge. You can’t truly understand the size of it until you’ve climbed to the bottom and look up. It’s incredible that people had the ability to build it over 500 years ago without the tools we have today. The climb up was a testament to it’s depth and we arrived at the top breathing heavily and wondering how people carried water up from the bottom every day.
We spent a considerable amount of time looking for the Etruscan burial site, which was located at the bottom of the thousand foot hill that Orvieto was built on. The grave site is remarkably intact and the inscriptions made by the Etruscans above the graves are still visible today. It’s fascinating that people who lived so long ago made a mark that has lasted thousands of years.
After a race up to the top of the hill that is still causing soreness in my quads as I type this, we made it back onto the train that would take us back to Arezzo. Orvieto was a beautiful town, and I still have to pinch myself to make sure that this whole experience is more than just a very nice dream. Ciao!!!