Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The time change caused us to be awake very early but it gave us time to have a leisurely breakfast and meet the rest of our traveling companions.

After breakfast we boarded a bus to spend time in the hilltop city of Orvieto. Our first adventure was to ride the funicular, an incline car, up to the top of the city. We walked to St. Patrick's Well commissioned by Pope Clement VII in 1527. It is an example of perfect integration of engineering audacity and architectural decor.

Not completed until 1537, the well is a vast cylinder 53 meters deep and 13 meters wide. It consists of two spiral staircases down, one for descending, the other for ascending, totally independent of each other. There are 248 steps large enough to accommodate donkeys used to carry the water. Seventy windows cut into the wall light the stairs from the central shaft.

Several of us braved the challenge of the total 496 steps to see the well at the bottom. I am unable to post pictures but when I return home I will post them in sequence with a bit of a reminder for you all.

Next we toured two of the thousands of caves under the city. For over 3000 years, a labyrinth of caves and cavities were dug by the inhabitants.

There are artifacts indicating these were used as work areas to make olive oil, walls with niches where pigeons roosted and were used as food and to barter. Another area connected to the "hospital" indicating it was used as a safe escape place for those unable to leave in a time of siege. Two caves were opened to the public in the 1970s and the rest remain privately owned by the homeowners who live above them.

We had a typical Italian mid-day meal that was a total of five courses accompanied by wine and water. Water is purchased here in bottles served at the table. No free glass of water as you are seated. It also comes still or sparkling.

Our next stop was to visit the Duomo (cathedral) of Orvieto. The first stone was blessed by Pope Nicholas IV in 1290. It was completed in 1619. It is beautifully decorated outside and inside but without a tour guide we were left to our own devices to use the brochure to identify the importance of individual artwork.

A bus ride home found most of our 30 companions sleeping but I stayed awake so I could sleep at bedtime which turned out to be 8:30!

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