May 8, 2012
On our last day in Rome we took the train to Orvieto. It’s about an hour ride and tickets vary from €7.10-€14.50 we ended up paying the higher fare because of timing. The city is perched on the summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff. In order to get from the train to town you ride the funicular, a cable car that propels up the steep cliff.

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The town itself is small and charming. Its centerpiece is the Orvieto Cathedral or Duomo. Construction lasted almost three centuries (1290-1591) as a result the design evolved from Romanesque to Gothic. The interior was deliberately left uncluttered and spacious. And like the exterior it is decorated with alternative rows of alabaster and travertine. Columns also consist of alternate rows of travertine and basalt. Its simplicity is striking.

As you wander away from the center of town you are rewarded with lovely views of the farms below.

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There is a long kept secret in Orvieto. The city within a city. Just below the surface there are a labyrinth of caves and tunnels. For €6 you can take the hour long underground tour. Excavation began in the sixth century BC by the Etruscans. They discovered the tuff crumbled with ease and they worked to draw water from the bottom via wells.

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They scraped tunnels and wells with bare hands. Creating cavernous spaces that were suited for work. The caves offered a constant temperature around 57 degrees which was ideal for olive oil production. Many mills were located beneath the surface.

These holes in the walls were used to breed pigeons and they were sold or eaten. Pigeon is still considered a local specialty.

Over the years, this series of caves and tunnels have been used for means of escape and shelter during WWII.

Today, locals use these tunnels as cellars. And colleges in the States have programs that send students to Orvieto to uncover archeological finds.

Prior to the underground tour we had a quick salami and cheese sandwich that hit the spot.

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And after, we wandered the streets in search of lunch. Only we found many places closed.

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We learned that Orvieto is deeply rooted in the slow food movement and the restaurant we stopped for lunch was al Saltapicchio. They take a sustainable approach to food and wine, by offering quality organic products from their family farm on their menu. We started with a house cured salami and continued on with fantastic prosciuitto, berries and freshly baked bread. Then, Frank had the asparagus risotto and I had homemade pasta with artichokes, bacon and orange. And to make the meal complete, we had the best organic white wine. The meal was a real treat.

With full bellies we were simply too exhausted to further explore Orvieto so we returned to the train station and caught the next train back to Rome. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Orvieto, I highly recommend it.


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