Orvieto is a small city in Umbria. It sits on a volcanic plug — the flat summit of a volcano — on what is said to be one of the most dramatic settings in the world. It was our last stop before we returned to Rome for the flight home.
I wondered when it was that the Orvieto volcano erupted for the last time. Long enough ago, I learned, that I couldn’t find any reference to it with a quick online search. But the town has been there since the Etruscans, circa 700 BCE, so it doesn’t seem to be something I needed to be too worried about it (said the people of Pompeii).
“Flat” in Italy doesn’t mean the same as it does in the States, because despite being “on a flat summit,” we still had to make our usual uphill walk from the bus park to the town center. We were on our way to a pastry shop, though, so perhaps it was for the best.
Our tour brochure said: “…you have the chance to taste local pastries at renowned Caffe Montanucci, a historic pasticceria for more than 100 year.” Well, yes, the pastries did taste like they’d been around for more than 100 years. Don’t be like the History Tourist and eat them anyway.
Orvieto’s primary tourist attraction is the Cathedral of the Assumption of Saint Mary, started in 1290 and completed in 1607.
The cathedral’s claim to fame is that it houses a piece of cloth that played a part in the Miracle of Bolsena. Bolsena is a small town not far from Orvieto and, according to the Catholic lore, during a mass at a church in Bolsena in 1263, the communion wafer dropped a few drops of blood on a square of linen (called a “corporal”) below. The linen is housed in the Chapel of the Corporal at the cathedral.
Next to the cathedral is a papal palace, where 13th century popes Urban IV and Martin IV lived after fleeing unfriendly conditions in Rome. Today, the papal palace belongs to the cathedral and is a museum.
Patricia and I returned to Caffe Montanucci for lunch — it was also a restaurant — because it was convenient. Lucky for us, their food was much better than their pastries.
After lunch, we just had time to stop at a park for some over-the-cliffs photos of the suburbs below. Then it was back on the bus and off to Rome.
Our final hotel was a suburban Best Western, which was perfectly lovely but not close to anything. That was fine, though, because we really didn’t have time for anything except getting settled in, and then boarding the bus again for a ride to our final event: a group dinner with an opera show. Yes. Opera (*sigh*).
The place was called Restaurante Tanagra and it was, for me, a waste of our final evening in Italy. If I were an opera fan, I would probably have liked it even less, so it’s not just my operaphobia kicking in. The food was just okay and the singing was pleasant — a stereotypical mega banquet venue and entertainment effort, serving busloads of tourists. Everyone else in the (cavernous) room seemed to enjoy it, though, so maybe was just me being cranky that it was our last night in Italy.
Guess what opera this is.
I swear I’m not a prude, but I particularly found off-putting one performance in which a well-endowed female singer went around to every man in the audience — several hundred — and mashed their heads into her bosom while she sang L’amour est un oiseau rebelle from Carmen. Like Bronze Juliet in Verona, I wish the woman (and the guys in the audience) a more dignified existence than this.
If I had it to do again, I’d skip the group outing and settled for a nice wander and dinner on our own. And an an early night, since our time in Italy would end with a 3:30 am shuttle ride to the Rome airport the next morning.