Day 18 – Rome on Foot

Wow.  After our little Twilight Stroll with Walks of Italy last night, we decided that we wanted to try to retrace our steps and take pictures of some of the things we saw on the walk.  We also decided that Rome is so full of things that interest us that we would make ourselves insane trying to get to all of them.  No kidding here.  If you have never been to Rome, you just can’t imagine what it is like to walk a few blocks and come across something of interest or historically significant or both.  We decided we really needed to limit ourselves to a small area and take our time exploring and enjoying it.

For breakfast this morning, we went back to Espressamente Illy, the place we had coffee yesterday afternoon.  I had a cappuccino and G-man had an espresso.  Here, they call espresso coffee.  He ordered a plain cornetto and I ordered the one with cream.  He should have gone with the cream one.  He got another plain one and I got one with nuts and cream.  Oh wow!  I should have gotten about 15 of the ones with nuts and cream.  Delish!

After breakfast, we spent the day walking and taking pictures and being totally overwhelmed by Rome.  Rome is packed with people just like any other big city on the planet.  The main streets have sidewalks.  The other streets may or may not have a white line painted along the outer two feet designating that space for pedestrians.  Scooters and motorcycles seem to be more popular than cars, but whatever they are driving they are battling each other for position on the road.  Yes, Roman drivers are as insane as the stereotype indicates.  The exhaust fumes are awful.  Either Italy doesn’t have any emissions laws and/or testing or the majority of the populations chooses to ignore them.  The buildings are black from the air pollution so I can just imagine what everyone’s lungs look like.  And speaking of lungs….everyone smokes.  OK, maybe not everyone.  We counted four people who weren’t smoking at the time we saw them, but three of them were in strollers and the fourth was getting a diaper change.  After having spent two weeks in a small town in Tuscany, we were dealing with extreme culture shock.

Here’s a bit of what we saw as we wandered the city.

Trajan's Column
Trajan’s Column
Columns in Trajan's Forum
Columns in Trajan’s Forum
More old columns
More old columns
Sometimes you have to build around columns
Sometimes you have to build around columns
and more columns
and more columns

This isn’t a column. It is an obelisk. But if you’re a country big on columns and you have an awesome army and you conquer another country that is big on obelisks, you can take their obelisks back to your column loving country. Italy has more obelisks than Egypt.

Egyptian obelisks
Egyptian obelisks

When you aren’t making columns, make some statues. Oh, skilled statue makers they were! The intricate detail a person can carve into stone boggles the mind.

Being a statue can be worrisome
Being a statue can be worrisome
This guy carries an obelisk on his back
This guy carries an obelisk on his back
Another statue
Another statue
Statue angst
Statue angst
Not a happy statue
Not a happy statue
Another stunning work of stone
Another stunning work of stone
Being a statue is a thankless job
Being a statue is a thankless job

Crests. Crests are very important. If you want people to remember you, slap your crest up everywhere. They, too, are fantastic stone works. What skill.

You can always tell a Pope's crest by the crossed keys
You can always tell a Pope’s crest by the crossed keys
A different Pope's crest
A different Pope’s crest
A third Pope's crest?
A third Pope’s crest?
More crossed keys
More crossed keys
Extra fancy
Extra fancy
more
more
and more
and more
Not a crest, but WOW
Not a crest, but WOW

As if all that stone beauty wasn’t enough, they do fountains, as well. Here’s a thought to ponder while you are looking at these…what did they do when they messed up? I don’t mean when they might have hit the chisel one too many times. I mean when something fell off. What’d they do??? I imagine stone isn’t a very forgiving medium.

I did NOT take this picture.  G-man did.
I did NOT take this picture. G-man did.
What is the message here?
What is the message here?
Still not sure what is going on
Still not sure what is going on
mmmmm....yeah, not sure
mmmmm….yeah, not sure

And no matter where you go, you can always find pigeons.

yeah, just hanging out
yeah, just hanging out
No respect
No respect
seriously - can you not see this horse is busy
seriously – can you not see this horse is busy
excuse me, get off my head
excuse me, get off my head
how do expect to slay something with a pigeon on your head
how do expect to slay something with a pigeon on your head

Day 17 – Off to Rome

We were up early this morning as we were turning in the key to the apartment at 0815.  It was pouring rain when we woke up which did not bode well for all the walking we were going to have to do within the next few hours.  I checked the weather radar and all of central Italy from coast to coast was covered with a big rain cloud.  Ugh!

We had to have the rental car back to Hertz in Orvieto by 1000.  G-man was able to make that little Fiat 500 break the sound barrier.  We made it to the Hertz place with minutes to spare!  The turn in went smoothly even with the language barrier.  From the Hertz office, we had an easy three minute RAIN FREE walk over to the Orvieto train station to take the train to Rome!  I just have to say those little tiny wheels on suitcases were not made for stone roads and sidewalks with granite curbs.  Just wanted to point that out.  We managed the self-serve ticket machine all by ourselves and after a bit of trial and error and trying three separate machines managed to validate our tickets so we wouldn’t get slapped with the big 50€ fine.  Yes, boys and girls, the conductor walks the train between stops and checks tickets.  We watched one couple have to fork over some euros due to the error of their ways.  The train ride was uneventful other than we bought first class tickets and sat in second class because there wasn’t a first class car on the train.  Meh.  Right after we got off the train, it started to rain again.

Hello Termini station.  We aren’t in Montepulciano anymore.  Sheesh.  Termini station is a mess.  There are two groups of people in Termini station.  The group who are trying to get from point A to point B and the group trying to sell a bunch of junk.  This is the one time I’ve been thankful for being born with a mean face.  If I’m not smiling, I look angry.  For once, it was a good thing.  No one would approach us.  We got a few looks, but then they would turn and go after someone else.  Brilliant!  Loved it.

By the time we made our way out of the station, the rain had stopped.  This time it was permanent.  YAY US!  We had a quick walk to our apartment in Monti.  Turned out there was a bit of a snafu about what time we were meeting our new landlord, Fabio.  It was entirely my fault.  I had somehow told him we would be there at 1500 and here we were standing in front of the door to the apartment at 1300.  God has smiled on us this entire trip.  What happened?  Our new landlord happened to be walking up the street.  He was meeting the cleaning guy for the apartment.  He threw our suitcases in the apartment and, even though it was my fault, he treated us to a coffee down the street.  We agreed to meet him back at the apartment at 1500, so after coffee G-man and I wandered around the neighborhood.  Wandering around the neighborhood lead to turning a corner and catching a glimpse of the coliseum.  Goosebumps, people!  Yes, imagine looking down the street and seeing a part of a world famous landmark framed by the buildings lining the street.  It took our breath away.  Needless to say, we managed to keep ourselves distracted until 1500 by strolling around the coliseum.

At 1500, we met with Fabio.  He walked us through the apartment, showed us the ins and outs, and gave us the keys to our home for the next four days.  This apartment may be the smallest of the three we have stayed in over the course of our trip, but it many ways it is the best.  Everything is brand new.  The shower is big enough that I can raise BOTH arms to wash my hair.  The kitchen is a hoot!  It is so tiny – as in, I’ve seen campers with bigger kitchens – that when G-man stands at the sink one shoulder touches the wall and one shoulder touches the cabinet.  But, it has absolutely everything we need.  Fabio has got “use of space” down to a science.  I’ll post some pictures soon.

After Fabio left us, we got our stuff organized, freshened up, then set off across town to meet our tour at the top of the Spanish Steps.  This was our first of three tours I scheduled through Walks of Italy.  It was the Twilight City Stroll with Gelato.  Our group consisted of two sisters from Belfast, two sisters from Australia, a family of four from Australia, a young woman from Long Island, New York, and our tour guide, Georgia from England.  Georgia was dynamite and adorable and I wanted to adopt her!  She’s probably in her mid 20s and is a walking fact machine on Rome.  She told us about the Spanish Steps, then took us to the Trevi Fountain (yes, we did throw our coins in the fountain), and then Pantheon.  After the Pantheon, she introduced us to Della Palma gelato!  The place has 150 flavors of gelato.  It was a madhouse!  It was a madhouse not because there were 150 flavors, but because the gelato is delicious.  Truly the best gelato we have had all trip.  After gelato, we went over to the Piazza Navona where she taught us everything there is to know about the Fountain of the Four Rivers.  She is just brilliant.  There was not a single question we asked that she could not quickly answer with authority.  We finished up the tour about two hours later at Campo dei Fiori.

Taking this tour was one of the best accidental ideas I had planning this trip.  Honestly, the only reason I signed us up for it was because Walks of Italy was running a special.  I got a discount for signing up for three tours.  The discount made this tour almost free.  I figured it would be an easy way to get our bearings on our first night in town.  It was, indeed.  So, that idea worked out perfectly.  Georgia, however, was the cherry on top.  Her depth of knowledge made the whole event so much more than a simple walk-about tour.  I cannot praise her enough.  Unfortunately for the rest of the world, Georgia is returning to England next month.  The tour world will never be the same.

I’d love to show you all pictures from today, but we didn’t take our cameras around with us.  Fear not, we will make up for it over the next few days.

Days 15 & 16 – Some More Montepulciano

DAY 15

Thursday was an easy going day in Montepulciano.  We took a food inventory, figured out what we needed to make two more breakfasts, two more lunches, and two more dinners.  We made our list and walked over to the Conad.  I managed to put only one extraneous chocolate thing in our basket!  We came back to the apartment, where we spent most of the day taking care of odds and ends in preparation to going to Rome on Saturday morning.  Finally by about 4:00 in the afternoon we were both getting stir crazy and needed to get out.  The G-man suggested going for a gelato.  Who would argue with genius??  I love this guy.  We went up the hill (everything is UP the hill) and both got a large cup.  G got all  pistachio, which he did not think was as good as La Musa in Orvieto, and I got part chocolate chip, part hazelnut, and part tiramisu.  I liked the tiramisu and the chocolate chip, but the hazelnut tasted exactly like a hazelnut, of course, and not like Nutella.  I kind of think everything should taste like Nutella.  After gelato, we decided it was so nice out we should go get our cameras because there might have been one or two stones or windows we had not yet photographed.  We spent a few hours snapping, then went up the hill to the west side of the wall to watch the sun set.  The clouds were magnificent!

Montepulciano Sunset
Montepulciano Sunset
THESE COLORS WERE NOT ENHANCED!!  It was beautiful.
THESE COLORS WERE NOT ENHANCED!! It was beautiful.
Making the walk back home...down hill!
Making the walk back home…down hill!

DAY 16

Friday, we have been preparing to leave for Rome tomorrow.  We washed all our laundry.  Laundry is quite an event.  Each load in the washing machine takes two hours.  The inside of the washing machine is about the size of a Dutch oven, so we can’t wash a bunch at one time.  Until today we were hanging our clothes out to dry, but because of the rain and humidity it can take two days for the clothes to dry completely.  On one of our walks earlier in the week, we discovered a laundry mat with dryers!  So we took all our wet clothes to the laundry mat and splurged on the dryers at 4€ each.  It was money well spent as all the clothes were dry within 30 minutes.  After laundry time, we can home and the G-man prepared fresh pici and Bolognese for lunch.  I promise we could eat that stuff every day for a while before we ever got tired of it!  We ate lunch then packed all our stuff.  We are ready to dash off in the morning for Orvieto where we will turn in the rental car then catch a train to Rome!

This evening we are meeting Jennifer for dinner one more time at the La Bottega.  Ok, later.  G-man just made toast with Nutella.

Nutella on toast!
Nutella on toast!

Day 14 – Sovana, Another Etruscan Necropolis, and an Accidental Visit to Pitigliano

This morning we set out to see some more Etruscan tombs situated southwest of Montepulciano in the area of Pitigliano.  We never take the same road twice if we can help it and today was no different.  This lead us to experience some Italian mountain driving that made me hold my breath a few times.

One of the things I’ve noticed since we have been here is a certain level of personal responsibility a person is expected to have.  For example, why waste money on guard rails when ultimately you are the idiot for driving off the road and you probably won’t make that mistake twice.  If you survive, you’ll be more careful next time.  I would show you pictures, but I was too white-knuckled to even think about picking up the camera.  Another perfect example is the cobblestoned streets and sidewalks.  Yep, they are lumpy and, no, there isn’t a smooth trip or stumble-free surface to be found.  If you fall down, you’ll be more careful next time to mind your step.  Personally, I think it is wonderful.  Sorry for the detour.  Back to the Etruscan Tomb adventure.  With Mario “G-man” Andretti at the wheel, we managed to stay on the hardtop and not experience any cliff driving, which may be very similar to cliff diving.

The Etruscan Tombs in this area are the most significant in Tuscany.  G-man studied ancient history in college, so he was looking forward to finally seeing up close and personal the very things he had only read about.

As we approached the area, it was close to lunch time so we decided to swing into Sovana and eat before continuing on to the tombs.   Lesson learned the hard way, if you don’t take the time to get lunch during the designated lunch hour, you will be looking for your lunch in a grocery store.  When the restaurant is full, there is no standing around waiting for someone to finish up and make a table available.  You just pretty much go away and look elsewhere.  Alrighty, so keeping the 1:00 p.m. custom in mind, we knew we had to find a place quickly or do without.  We pulled into the parking area at Sovana, walked down a little path, and emerged onto the main street.  Not just the main street, the only street.

Sovana consists of one street that may be all of 600 meters long.  On Google maps, the birds’ eye view shows three streets all running parallel to each other.  The street in the middle, Via del Duomo, is THE street.  The other two are more like service roads and one of them isn’t even paved.  More about Sovana in a minute.  Let’s go to lunch.

Sovana has several restaurants.  From what we could tell by walking the length of Via del Duomo, only two were open for business.  The first one we went in was a pizza place.  We saw several already made pizzas in a display case with about a dozen flies getting their fill.  We walked out and went to the other place on the east side of the piazza.  Yes, you are allowed to have one piazza in a town with a 600 meter street.  We ate our lunch at La Tavernetta.

La Taveretta
La Taveretta

The place wasn’t very crowded so we had our pick of available tables.

La Tavernetta, Sovana
La Tavernetta, Sovana
La Tavernetta, Sovana
La Tavernetta, Sovana

From what we could tell, this is a family run place.  Husband cooks, mother waits tables, and wife acts as hostess.  Sweet, sweet people.  No one spoke a word of English, which made the experience that much better.  Mama explained the menu to us, what our options were, and let us know if she agreed with our choices.  We ordered the prix fix menu which included an appetizer, a pasta dish, and either a quarter bottle of wine or a half bottle of water for 10€.  We both chose the bruschetta appetizer and the wine.  G-man opted for the polenta with meat sauce and I had the pici with Bolognese sauce.  Pici is the local pasta noodle – think very fat spaghetti.

La Tavernetta - I love the little pitchers of wine
La Tavernetta – I love the little pitchers of wine
La Tavernetta - the bruschetta appetizer
La Tavernetta – the bruschetta appetizer
Polenta with meat sauce
Polenta with meat sauce
Pici with Bolognese
Pici with Bolognese

After lunch, we went to the eastern end of the Via del Duomo and took a look at the ruins of the Fortress of Aldobrandeschi. Not much remains other than a tower and part of a wall.

Sovana Fortress
Sovana Fortress
Sovana fortress
Sovana fortress
Sovana Fortress
Sovana Fortress
Sovana Fortress
Sovana Fortress

There wasn’t much to see of the fortress, so we decided to walk to the western end of the street.  In the piazza which is about at the center of town, we looked at the Palazzo Pretoria which dates to the 13th century.  From the looks of it, all that remains is the façade as I could see sky beyond what appears to have been the front door.

Front door of the Palazzo.  I'm kind of thinking there isn't anything on the other side
Front door of the Palazzo. I’m kind of thinking there isn’t anything on the other side

Next door to the palazzo is the small church of Santa Maria Maggiore that dates to the 12th century.  There are amazing frescos inside.

Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana

The western end of the street is made up of residences.

The east end of Via del Duomo, Sovana
The east end of Via del Duomo, Sovana
Clock tower in the piazza in Sovana
Clock tower in the piazza in Sovana
The west end of Via del Duomo, Sovana
The west end of Via del Duomo, Sovana

So many of the residences look exactly as they must have hundreds of years ago.  This tiny village gave me the impression this must be how every other town started out; a single lane built around a church.  Some of these little places grew and grew and others didn’t.  We are glad we stopped there.  It was a neat experience.

About a kilometer west of town is the Etruscan Necropolis.

Citta del Tufo
Citta del Tufo

We parked at the tiny ticket office, paid 5€ each and were provided a map that showed how to get to the various archeological sites.  The tombs date back to between the 4th and 6th centuries BC.  As a layperson, I will tell you that if I did not know what I was looking at then I would see a bunch of rocks.  The area is heavily treed and the rocks are so eroded that had what is there not been pointed out to me, I don’t think that I would have recognized what I was seeing.  I think I could certainly tell that humans had chiseled the rocks, but I would not have known that the little stumpy thing was the base of a column.  I think you get what I’m saying.  Fortunately, each site was well marked and well described.

The Tomb Ildebranda - the most famous Etruscan tomb of Sovana
The Tomb Ildebranda – the most famous Etruscan tomb of Sovana
Those lumps are what is left of the base of the columns.
Those lumps are what is left of the base of the columns.
Etruscan tombs carved into the rock
Etruscan tombs carved into the rock
Etruscan tombs carved into the rock
Etruscan tombs carved into the rock

Beyond the educational aspect, we both tried to wrap our minds around the idea that humans, our ancestors, had created these monuments to their dead loved ones so long ago that we cannot fathom the passage of time.  I can’t even pretend to imagine that kind of time.  2,500 years.

We started on our way home and keeping in line with the idea of not taking the same road twice, we accidently drove through Pitigliano.  Holy smokes, people!!  This is a place to spend some time in!!  This is the granddaddy of all the hill towns we’ve seen so far.  The place is built on a rock.  And, excuse me, is that a real Roman aquaduct?  Wow. Just wow.

Pitiligiano
Pitiligiano
Pitigliano
Pitigliano

Day 13 – More Montepulciano

We had a beautiful day in Montepulciano.  The weather cooperated for the most part.  Actually, the rain stayed away until about 17:00.  We had just been sitting at a table in the grand piazza talking to Jay from Texas, said our good-byes and the drops started.  The grand piazza is at the very top of Montepulciano.  Our apartment is at the very bottom!  We ran down the streets until we got to the coffee shop at Piazza Erbe.  We dashed in only to join others who had sought shelter.  We were greeted with big smiles and lots of Ciao Ciao Ciao (you aren’t allowed to say it just once) from our barista.  We really like this place.  They are such sweet people and the espresso is the cheapest in town at 1 euro a cup.  Also, they make fantastic hot chocolate!  We threw back a quick espresso and waited a few minutes to see if it would let up.  Not much luck, so we ran a little further down the street to the wine bar that is right around the corner from the apartment.  Yep, we had a lovely glass of the local super Tuscan while we waited for the rain to let up.  Finally, we got a reprieve and made it the rest of the way home.  Here are some of the hundreds (no exaggeration) of pictures we took today.

I love the flowers in the windows
I love the flowers in the windows
the beautiful texture of old
the beautiful texture of old
the grand bell tower
the grand bell tower
would you want that face watching you go in and out?
would you want that face watching you go in and out?
more flowers in the window and we can't get enough
more flowers in the window and we can’t get enough
notice the window on the left is painted on.  This building on the main street is for sale...
notice the window on the left is painted on. This building on the main street is for sale…
see the date?
see the date?
one of the openings in the old town wall
one of the openings in the old town wall

DSC_0112e

ceiling of the temple of san biagio...currently having some kind of restoration done
ceiling of the temple of san biagio…currently having some kind of restoration done
the grand piazza
the grand piazza
the flowers of Montepulciano
the flowers of Montepulciano
taking a break on the church steps
taking a break on the church steps
more...more...more
more…more…more
more window flowers
more window flowers
another one of the locals
another one of the locals
someone had stucco'd over it
someone had stucco’d over it
store display on the main street
store display on the main street
One of the local characters
One of the local characters
what is she thinking when she turns back to look at him?
what is she thinking when she turns back to look at him?
he is quite the lady's man
he is quite the lady’s man
Found this fresco on the ceiling of a building that has been divided into apartments
Found this fresco on the ceiling of a building that has been divided into apartments
simple beauty
simple beauty
yep, they make and use these brooms.  it's not just a decoration
yep, they make and use these brooms. it’s not just a decoration
the beautiful texture of time
the beautiful texture of time
Worn beauty
Worn beauty

Day 12 – Orvieto

This morning we hit the coffee bar around the corner for a quick espresso and pastry before heading off to Orvieto.  This was our third time there and our last unless every other coffee place shuts down unexpectedly.  The espresso isn’t that great and bartender is young and snobbish.  If the guy can’t make eye contact, I can take my euro elsewhere.  Enough said.

Pile in the car and head toward the A1 southbound for Orvieto.  The G-man totally channels his inner Mario Andretti in the racing Fiat 500!  I’ve actually had to ask him to slow down on more than one occasion…this coming from a person who used to drive lights and sirens (shout out to Robbie, Robert, Ty and Ty), he scares me.  I’m the designated navigator and accidently navigate us right into the limited traffic zone of the ancient city.  Fortunately, we don’t get caught by the police and make it back out to a proper parking area.

Orvieto - they have some walls here
Orvieto – they have some walls here
Orvieto - a lot of wall building went on here
Orvieto – a lot of wall building went on here
Orvieto - yep, can't get enough of the less glamorous parts
Orvieto – yep, can’t get enough of the less glamorous parts

 

Our primary reason for visiting Orvieto….brace yourselves….is not for the Duomo.  Tops on our list was the National Archeological museum.  There was supposed to be an excellent display of Etruscan and early Roman artifacts.  We bought tickets to see both the museum and the necropolis.  We were rather disappointed.  The museum did, in fact, contain quite a few Etruscan and Roman artifacts.  However, the information reference said artifacts was limited at best and non-existent in most cases.  The Etruscan artifacts were unearthed at the burial grounds discovered just outside the city wall.  The majority of artifacts were in stunningly good condition.  Most of them look like they were just in use the day before.  There were two unmarked rooms in the museum that contained frescos from the Etruscans tombs.  Had it not been for G-man snooping around in an area that could easily have been mistaken for an employee-only area, we would have never seen them.  The one attendant on duty happened to see him looking around and offered to turn the lights on so we could take a look.  The one highlight of the whole museum experience was the one and only attendant on duty.  She enthusiastically suggested a place for us to have lunch and even went so far as to write on our tourist information map to tell Giam Piero at Trattoria La Palomba that Gabriella sent us.  We made a beeline for La Palomba only to discover that it was full by the time we got there.  The biggest disappointment of the day.  We were sure it would have been a wonderful experience.  We ended up eating at another place around the corner only because they had tables available.

After lunch we wandered around, heads on a swivel, taking in all the ancient-ness.  The Duomo is stunning, that goes without saying.  We, just like everyone around us, stood staring.  Such beautiful feats of construction are mind boggling and breath taking and just make you pause to take it all in.

Orvieto - we heard they have a big church here
Orvieto – we heard they have a big church here
Orvieto - The Duomo
Orvieto – The Duomo
Orvieto - Duomo detail is amazing!
Orvieto – Duomo detail is amazing!
Orvieto - how do the colors stay so vibrant?
Orvieto – how do the colors stay so vibrant?
Orvieto - Duomo sideview
Orvieto – Duomo sideview
Orvieto - the ever so beautiful side of the Duomo
Orvieto – the ever so beautiful side of the Duomo

But, at the risk of getting struck by lightening, I am not as attracted to the grandiose eye catchers as I am to the average everyday places.  I would rather see how the common man lived hundreds of years ago than where the rich folks hung out.  As such, we tend to stick to the back alleys and Orvieto has lots of back alleys to explore.  We love looking at a medieval building where people are STILL living and see where the original doors and/or windows have been bricked in and modern doors and/or windows inserted.  There are examples everywhere!  We are big on the old architecture, which is obvious when I download the cameras at the end of the day.  How many pictures of doors, windows, balconies, can a person take?  Well, apparently not enough by the looks of our photo collection!

Orvieto - more of the back streets
Orvieto – more of the back streets
Orvieto - yep, can't get enough of the less glamorous parts
Orvieto – yep, can’t get enough of the less glamorous parts
Orvieto - I look down this street and we can just see the medieval people
Orvieto – I look down this street and we can just see the medieval people
Orvieto - if you get tired of your medieval doors, just fill them in and put up something different
Orvieto – if you get tired of your medieval doors, just fill them in and put up something different
Orvieto - Miley Cirus isn't the first
Orvieto – Miley Cirus isn’t the first
Orvieto - some of the tourists are pretty good looking
Orvieto – some of the tourists are pretty good looking
Orvieto - crazy tourist
Orvieto – crazy tourist

In the middle of our meandering, it started to rain.  Fortunately for us we were right outside of La Musa Gelateria!  We went in and were greeted by a round happy-faced older woman who gladly over-filled our gelato cups!  What a perfect reprieve from the rain.

Orvieto - La Musa Gelateria
Orvieto – La Musa Gelateria

Our take on Orvieto?  We liked it and would love to have had more time to explore it.  I think next time we come to this area, we will base in Orvieto and spend much more time exploring it.

On our way out of town, we stopped at the Etruscan necropolis to check out the tombs.  Hhhhmmm.  If you have Etruscan tombs in your backyard, don’t you think you ought to really go a bit over the top to protect them?  Yeah, not so much.   I hate to sound critical, but there wasn’t so much as a fence around the place.   We parked in the “Happy Food” parking lot, walked down a path to an unmarked, one-room building where there were two women ensconced behind a couple of desks.  We assumed we might ought to check in with them even though there was no signage to indicate we needed to stop.   They tore our tickets and pointed us further on down the path.  No pamphlet, no information of any sort to advise us what we were about to see.  What we saw, and sorry we left the cameras in the car, were stone chambers one after the other below ground level.  On some of the stone lentils over individual doorways were Etruscan inscriptions.  We can only assume the inscriptions were the names of the individual or individuals interred in that particular chamber.  We were completely on our own to wander among the tombs.  We rubbed our fingers over the individual letters engraved in the stone and tried to wrap our heads around the idea that about 2,600 years ago another human being chiseled these letters.  That is just too much to take in.

Just before sundown, we started back for Montepulciano.  The rain chased us for a while before we finally got ahead of it and could see the clouds parting to let in the last rays of the sun.

Clouds over Tuscany
Clouds over Tuscany
clouds over Tuscany
clouds over Tuscany
clouds over Tuscany
clouds over Tuscany
clouds over Tuscany
clouds over Tuscany
clouds over Tuscany
clouds over Tuscany

We weren’t in the mood to fix dinner when we got back so we nipped down to La Bottega del Nobile.  We had a “mixed Tuscan” appetizer which was various types of bruschetta, none of which carried anything related to liver, smeared across the top.  For our primi, we shared Cacio e Pepe and YUM!!  Delicious!!!  There are a bunch of recipes on the internet to make this.  It’s basically cheese and pepper.  Simple, but wonderful.  Actually, I think what makes Italian food so wonderful is that it IS simple and the few ingredients are fresh and full of flavor.  Our second course was sliced beef from the chianina ox.  It is so tender you can leave your teeth at home.

After dinner, not because we were still hunger but because I have a sweet tooth that needs therapy, we went up the hill to our Café Poliziano where I like to fulfill all my dolce needs!  I am totally in love with what we have come to call the Nutella tootsie roll.  It’s a short little pastry tube filled with Nutella.  Y U M.  We both ordered an espresso and chatted with the bartenders.  These guys are great.  They teach us Italian.  We teach them English and between the four of us we have actual conversations.  The younger of the two studied Spanish in school so we incorporated that in, as well.  It’s kind of fun being able to have our questions about Italy answered by them and we answer their questions about the States.  Every night we go to Café Poliziano for our “night cap.”  I’m starting to have serious concerns about fitting into the airplane seat for the return trip.

Day 11 – Our Town, Montepulciano

It was supposed to rain today but we woke up to a beautiful blue sky!!  Yay us!  We got dressed and ran up the hill to try out a new coffee bar that I read about, but sadly it was closed on Sunday.  A man standing around the corner heard me groan when I read the note about being closed on Sunday.  He laughed and suggested another place back down the hill.  It turned out he, Jay, is an American and he and his wife own a little apartment in town and live here part-time.  They are originally from Austin, Texas.  We ended up spending quite a while talking to him while he waited for his wife to return from the Conad.  He recommended several restaurants and different places to try.  We headed back down the hill to get coffee at the place he recommended.  It was ok, not quite the experience we were anticipating.  I’m pretty sure newbies are treated a bit differently than the regulars.  Tomorrow, I think we will try the one we originally set out to experience.

After our Italian breakfast of a cappuccino and a cornetto, we walked back up the hill to the civic museum.  The museum is housed in a 14th century palazzo.  Unfortunately, the interior of the building has been so restructured to accommodate the museum that it is unrecognizable as its original residential purpose.  The first floor and basement contained Etruscan artifacts found in the area of Montepulciano.   The second and third floors were all very old religious paintings and paintings of important people from long ago.  I’d love to give you more information than that but all the informational signage was in Italian.  Still, we enjoyed looking at what was on display.

After the civic museum, we went to the torture museum.  Yep, that’s right.  The torture museum.  I won’t go into detail.  Suffice it to say it was rather unsettling.  It boggles the mind to think that people put so much thought into how to be so cruel and inflict so much pain, and in many cases eventual death, to another human being often in the name of religion.  Ugh.  I think we were both left feeling a bit dark when we left.  Oh, yeah.  As we were leaving, some woman had just come in with her two young daughters who appeared to be about 6 and 8 years old.  What a moron.

As soon as we step out of the macabre museum, we run right into a auto club coming down the street.  There were a variety of different cars,

a little dolce
a little dolce

Our appetites were not deterred after the torture museum.  We went to a place Jay recommended this morning, Osteria de Conte.  We were greeted by an young girl who spoke to us in Italian with an obvious English-speaker’s accent.  Turned out she was from Ireland.  Cool!  We ordered a bottle of water, half a bottle of the house red, and a bruschetta variety plate as a starter.  The different types of bruschetta were delicious until we got to the last one which was some kind of pate.  Non molto buono.  Sorry, neither one of us can take eating liver in any form and this just served to confirm we still had not developed a taste for it.  For our main course, we each ordered a different type of pasta.  Why fight it?  Pasta here is out of this world and we have always loved it so why not indulge when we are in the pasta mecca of the planet.  G-man ordered a tagliatelle with a wild boar sauce and I had tagliatelle with porcini sauce.  Both were molto buono!!  We finished our meals with our eyes rolled back in our heads.  Then, what happened?  Dolce time, baby!  Bisogno dolce!! I need dessert!!  We shared a tiramisu and a crostata with plum jam.  We ordered the tiramisu just to make sure that, in fact, Italian tiramisu is not the same as American tiramisu.  Our scientific research has confirmed our suspicions.  Italian tiramisu does not contain any lady fingers.  We were quite sated when we left.

The weather was still being amazing, so we went back to the apartment and grabbed our cameras.  We spent the rest of the afternoon walking the streets of Montepulciano.  We climbed the tower to the highest possible point in the city and took pictures while ooing and aahhing over the breathtaking views.  Then we searched out every alley we had not yet discovered and snapped pictures of every stone, every brick, and all the other things that struck us as being gorgeous, old, and oh so Italian.  Stuff like this –

view over the wall
view over the wall

As the sun started to dip, the winds picked up and the rain returned.  We just made it back to the apartment in time to get our clothes off the line.

G-man sliced a little mozzarella and tomato and poured the wine.  Ah, the dolce vita.  About 9:00 pm, we ran up the street to Café Poliziano perche bisogno dolce!  Buonanotte!!