Thursday, 19 July 2012

Kendra Joins Us in Orvieto

Early morning view of the Umbrian countryside

Pretended that we were locals and went shopping at the market for fresh fruit, tomatoes and basil by 7:00 am!

View of the funicular as we descended the hill on our way to pick up Kendra at the train station

Funicular car 

Funicular station at the bottom of the hill just across the street from the railway station

Kendra and Cathy outside our apartment - we're happy to be together!

We have had a quiet but very nice day in Orvieto. Actually, quiet and laid-back were what we looked for when we chose this lovely hill town. In the afternoon when most shops are closed for the siesta, the streets are deserted. It is possible to walk the entire length of a narrow street and not encounter a soul. By mid morning, however, the tourists have arrived from Rome on a day trip and things get busy--but nothing like Rome or Florence. It's heavenly.
Kendra arrived by train from Rome this morning. Her tour of the Mediterranean finished today, and we are very happy she'll be with us for the next week and will be on the same plane home on July 26. We are avoiding thinking about the end of our holiday--it's going by way too fast.
Orvieto, as mentioned, is 1000 feet above the train station, and most people get here on a funicular--a small railway car the is pulled by cable up the steep slope. It's cheap and only takes a couple of minutes to reach the top. A bus meets the funicular and takes you to the main square, the Duomo Square. 
This morning, after a good night's sleep, we were awake at 6:00 so we walked along one of the ancient ramparts that used to protect Orvieto from invaders. It is possible to walk the rampart around the entire town--a walk that takes about an hour. A project for another day. 
We stopped at the local market (open every Thursday and Saturday) where farmers from the region bring their produce to Orvieto and set up shop in a square. As we entered the square, we could smell fresh basil from one of the stalls. As well as delicious fresh vegetables and fruit, there was a fishmonger and an amazing refrigerated truck that opened its whole side panel to reveal a cheese store! It was so pleasant to be able to observe the local people out doing their shopping and visiting with the merchants and each other. it was all very relaxed and friendly. For a moment or two--as we made our purchases (they graciously accepted our fractured attempts at Italian and obliged when we point at what we wanted and held up fingers to indicate how many)--it felt like we were Orvietians (if that's a word). We bought some tomatoes, a small watermelon, oranges and cherries. We tried to buy basil, but the farmer waved away our money and handed us a small bundle at no charge! 
We eat breakfasts in the apartment (we bought cereal, orange juice, wholewheat bread, milk--and of course lots of fruit). For lunch and dinner, we usually go out. There are so many fantastic restaurants we want to take advantage of. We know that when we get back to Outlook, the restaurant scene is nil and it will be a long winter without good eating places. We are taking a cooking class and are hopeful to get the knack of making pasta and other Italian dishes to remind us of our summer here. 
Last night, we did not go to Mezza Luna as indicated. It was closed for holidays. Apparently, when it gets hot in July and August, some restaurants close and everyone goes to the beach. Instead, we came upon Le Grotte del Funaro, a rope makers shop in ancient times, now a superb restaurant. We ate on the terrace (cold Zuchhini soup and roast suckling pig for John, and Caprese salad and a chicken dish for Cathy) and watched the sun set over the Umbrian hills. As it got darker, lights appeared and twinkled from villages miles away across the valley. Needless to say, it was wonderful.
Tomorrow, we plan an early start to take the train and then a local bus to Cortona. We're cheating a bit because it will take us back into Tuscany from Umbria, but our neighbour has told us so much about Cortona that we want to spend a day taking in the sights of yet another hill town. In Medieval times, towns were built on hills to protect inhabitants from invaders. The history of Italy is rife with stories of feuds between towns. The Florentines were especially quarrelsome--and even today Florence is a bad word among some Italians. It makes the ancient grudge between the Capulets and the Montagues in Romeo and Juliet start to make sense.
The three of us hope to have some interesting photos and stories from Cortona tomorrow.

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