Onward into Umbria

Trip Start Oct 24, 2010
Trip End Jan 16, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of Italy  , Umbria,
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We arrived at Orvieto by train. The city sits precariously on top of a high promontory overlooking a fertile Umbrian Valley. There is a funicular tram car that will take you from the railroad station to the top of the cliff, where you can catch the bus that runs throughout this city on a mountaintop.
We got off in front of the Duomo. It is constructed of black and white marble just like the Duomo in Sienna, but lacks the beautiful floor detail.
Barb and I entered the information office, as we had no room  reservation. We looked at the lists of alternatives and found two budget options near the center. While Barb sat on the bags, I pounded the cobblestones looking at the two choices. I choose the Posta Hotel as it was the cheapest, was clean, and had a grocery store across the street, and was right next to the town square.  We paid 56 Euro per night. The alternatives were much more expensive

We went to dinner. We are getting a bit tired of our do it yourself picnic meals, and had had a bad experience in Assisi with tourist trap restaurants that charge alot and offered bad food. Barb picked out a restaurant this time. It had a lot of award decals on the windows. These awards were from food related organizations, not travel books. We met the owner, an attractive middle aged woman, who was all over the floor monitoring the guests, and seeing to their needs. Barb ordered the more exotic on the menu, having truffles on toast (her first truffles) and roast rabbit. The rabbit was stuffed with potatoes and herbs, set on a large serving of  buttered spinach and was topped with a brown gravy. I choose the more traditional tourist menu of Spaghetti and roast pork.  In retrospect, I think I will have the rabbit next time, after having a taste of her meal, though my meal was fine.  For desert we choose to share a wonderful  desert, which I cannot spell nor even pronounce. Phonetically, it sounds like "Tira su- or Tira sew"  It was a specialty and can be described as an vanilla coffee egg custard on a sweet soft pancake crepe, with chocolate powder sprinkled on top.  Kind of a soft Creme Brulee'.  The dinner was wonderful, and renewed our faith in sit down restaurants.

After dinner, we turned in early ready for a full day ahead. We went to bed around 7:00 PM and I heard a loud bell pound out the seven clangs indicating it was 7 PM. I lay there thinking about the day and  was was just about to nod off when there came another series of seven clangs of the very large bell. It must be very nearby, I thought. How could there be two sets of seven...? Then there came another clang, a higher note from a smaller bell. What the devil was that?  The bell ringer must have made a mistake, I thought. My thoughts turned to his job. I imagined some guy either high on a cold tower with a hammer and two bells worrying that he was going to loose his job for misfiring and hitting the bell one too many times tonight.  I was tired, and the bed was clean and warm, and I went off to sleep. Bong, Bong, Bong, Bong, Bong, Bong, Bong came the large deep bell again announcing the number 7.  I could not believe it.  The third set of seven!, then there came 2 more of the higher pitched, but just as loud, smaller bell!  I was stunned. It was now 7:30. The bell ringer was giving me the whole sequence every quarter hour, with a single addition for 15 after, a double for 30 after, and I just laid there waiting for 7:45 PM. Damn, right on time the 7  clangs rang out, followed by three more for 45 minutes after the hour.

What luck, I thought. No mention in the information booth about our hotel being parked next to Gong Central before we rented it. The clock tower was just on the other side of this building. My mind then started calculating the numbers of chimes I was in for this evening.  During the now dreaded 12:00 PM hour there would be four sets of 12  (48) plus the additional 6 to indicate the quarter hour. That's 54 booming bell tones an hour. Oh Boy, I can't tell you how thrilled I was to come to this realization. I eventually fell asleep, but was awakened several times by the extended bell series during the night. (I got to hear the entire 12PM to 1AM set!) The next morning Barb joked that it was a good thing they did not use the 24 hour clock here!

The next morning we got up early and visited the oldest church on the mountain top. It was named Chiesa Di San Goivenale. It was constructed in 1004 A.D!  It is still an active church, and we were lucky to find it open. It is an example of Romanesque Gothic Art. On the columns were painted flags and coats of arms from that period, near the first Crusade.

We then visited the nearby Museum at San Agostino, which had on display many sculptures formerly housed in the Duomo (Main Church). These statutes were mostly depicting the disciples. They were done in white marble and were quite beautiful. I would take their photo, and memorize their names, thinking I could recognize them later while editing this piece. No luck! Days later, they are all a blur. They were  great sculptures, and there were a lot of them. I can't tell John from Peter at this point. Maybe you can.

There were two statues on display which I liked very much. They showed the scene when an angel tells the virgin Mary that she is to become the mother of Jesus. The two statures are carved and are meant to be seen together.  Mary, is startled from her chair, and is getting up, the chair is lifted from the floor. The angel is pointing upward toward heaven, while floating in the air. These massive stones had a sense of lightness to them, and the action was like it was taken with a camera, capturing the moment.

We had our traditional lunch, at our room and then visited the main church or Duomo. It was very big and had had all the monuments form later periods removed , so looked a bit empty when we visited.We walked the town and looked at some of the shop windows, some featuring wild boar meat. 

Finally we came back to the town square and we had a chance to climb the tower. We paid our euros and pounded up, and up the stairs. Once on top we were afforded beautiful views across the Umbrian countryside below. Next to us on the tower was a heavy metal stand with two large bells attached. They each had mechanical ringers. There was no monk in robes with a hammer.  As we were about to descend, I looked at my watch, It was 4:28. I set up my camera and recorded 4:30 for you ( see My Nemesis in pics following this post)

We finished the day with a walk to the other end of town, where the inhabitants had built a well, named Saint Patrick' well. This was constructed so that the people on the hillside could get water during times of siege. It is quite an engineering feat, being carved through solid stone hundreds of meters deep. There are two spiral stair cases inside, so that mules could walk down one and up another carrying water to the top.

We watched the sun go down, walked back, and packed our bags for the early morning train trip to Rome tomorrow.
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joni on

Bong...Bong.... wow...
I also loved the pic of the food and the descriptions! You are missing the snow here. we had 7 inches. spose to warm up and rain.
take good care!

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