Orvieto - It Is All About The Cathedral

Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
Trip End Mar 04, 2006

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Flag of Italy  ,
Tuesday, December 27, 2005

After two solid days of Italian overindulgance, I am off for an overnighter into the Umbrian countryside, to the town of Orvieto. It is a two hour or so regional train trip towards Roma.

Arriving at Orvieto's station, you are greeted by the town above you, with the wall of its old fort hanging over the hill. Luckily a furnicular is there to whisk you upwards to the medieval town above.

After inspecting a few hotels, I found one within the budget. It is an old 16th century building that was a palatial home for some well-to-do in Orvieto way back when. Today it appears enormous and I suspect empty except for me.

Orvieto has all the necessities of your Medieval Italian town - your grand piazzas, old palaces, cobblestone streets, and Benetton shops. It is a nice wander, but at around 12 it closes for the regulation afternoon nap time.

It was drizzling so to escape from the rain I wandered into the reception area of a museum. I had no idea what was inside, but it was one of those occasions where, as no one is there but you and the ticket seller, you feel it would be rude not to enter. I paid over my cash for entry, which also gets me into the town Cathedral once it re-opens in the afternoon. This museum was a collection of Vigin Mary statues from churches around the town. Probably not necessarily my cuppa-tea, but it did get me out of the rain for a few minutes.

By the Cathedral's re-opening later in the afternoon, the sun peaked from behind the clouds for a minute or two. That allowed some happy snaps of the beautiful face of the church. It is all gold and frescoes, and very beautiful.

Inside appears dull at first, but once your eyes adjust it is a worthy visit with internal frescoes and colors in the semi-darkness. In the corner, hidden away is "the" reason to visit.... the Cappella di San Brizio.

The guard takes your ticket, tells you to take no photos, and points you through a gate. I see him reach for some form of light switch. Shazam! The Capella di San Brizio lights up in a blaze of glory. The Chapel really does take your breath away.

The room is full of gold and amazing frescoes and murals. It was painted around 1499 by Luca Signorelli, and is said to be the piece that inspired Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. There is some argument that this piece is just as beautiful, if not more. It is quite an amazing sight.

Sadly it is an amazing sight that I am not allowed to take photos of! I never take photos with flash, so it is a great pity as no harm would be done. I can't even slyly take a quick one as the guard is always on watch. The photos will have to remain in my mind. Indeed they are spectacular.

After some more medieval wandering it is later in the afternoon. I return to the hotel, and then head back out to walk the town by night, with people walking around under Christmas lights in the persistant drizzle. It is time to eat so I find a small pizzeria which serves up a treat. Just on 9pm I walk outside, to a ghost town.

It is winter. No bars, no cafes, no internet - everything is closed. My room has no TV. I just finished my book. There is nothing open, there is nothing to do. I am the only one in a 16th Century building in a medieval town in the middle of Umbria.

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