Food, Travel

Last Time I Was In A Cave…

Screen shot 2013-02-05 at 2.01.24 PMQuite delayed indeed, as time seems to simultaneously amble along and fly by here. But our girls’ trip to Orvieto last Saturday cannot be disregarded. Here she is for point of reference, just an easy one-hour train ride from Roma Termini. On this particular map, the only places I have yet to visit are Perugia, Assisi (definitely going to take a day trip), Capri, and Naples. Just tearing through this country, man.

When you arrive in Orvieto, you are immediately ushered into a lift that takes you up the mountain to the city center, followed by a bus that drops you off right at the Duomo (Duomo No. 84710 in this dang country). Its real name is just as original: The Cathedral of Orvieto. Its appearance however…

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And that’s nothing compared to the inside. The history of this Duomo began in 1290 when Pope Nicholas IV blessed the first stone, and its creation was in conjunction with the 1293 miracle of Bolsena when the eucharist (allegedly) starting spontaneously bleeding during a blessing. I’m thinking that priest needed some emergency medical attention and just sucked it up when everyone started gasping and fainting and shouting, “It’s a miracle!” So props to that guy.

But seriously, the inside of this cathedral is unbelievable, definitely my favorite chapel interior I’ve seen so far. It’s a massive rectangular area with two flanking aisles of side chapels, but with a square tribune instead of a semi-circular apse thanks to the “generational crisis” and changing tastes around 1310. The best part are the two large chapel at the end of the transept arms. On the left, the Chapel of the Corporal, over the entrance of which hangs a gargantuan 16th-century organ designed by Ippolita Scalza. More importantly, the right “Capella Nova” chapel has some of the most ridiculous frescos I have ever seen in a fresco. And I do mean ridiculous. With paintings like the End of the World, Preaching of the Antichrist, Resurrection of the Flesh, and Antinferno, the thing looks like a sci-fi movie. There’s dead people rising out of the ground, the devil shooting out lasers at people…it’s nuts. Also, there are portraits of ma boys Dante, Virgil and Lucretius, so that always goes in the “pro” column.

Apologies for the lengthy recap, I just want to be able to remember these things. Moving on to where all the most important parts of our day took place: underground. Orvieto is an ancient city people. In Latin, “urbs vetus,” which is where the name comes from. That said, there are a tremendous amount of Etruscan caves that are still being discovered. Caves like this:

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Last time I was in a cave, I learned the true meaning of being pigeon holed. Basically the Etruscans inhabited Orvieto from like the 9th – 3rd centuries BC, and each family would have one of these caves under their houses. They didn’t all keep pigeons (we saw some that were used to make olive oil), but there were a lot of pigeons. They would just leave the window of the cave open, the pigeons would go out and feed themselves, come back to the cave, have babies, and then get eaten. I knew pigeons were stupid animals. This is the view from out the cave window. Not bad.

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And here’s an Etruscan well. Those holes on the side? Yeah, those are for their hands and feet as they climbed down to dig it out. Not scary at all.

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We loved being underground so much that we had to eat in one. And my God was that a good decision. Evidence: wild boar ragu. And the general caveness of this restaurant.

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Riding a wave of wild boar and black truffle-induced enthusiasm, we made the trek up the however-many stairs of Orvieto’s bell tower. And we were glad we did. Hello zebra church!

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Despite GALE FORCE WINDS. Seriously, we had to hold only the meatballs so they wouldn’t blow away.

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And finally, St. Patrick’s Well, which my Achilles wouldn’t let me go all the way down (maybe I should get that checked out).

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Orvieto man. 24 hours without being on ground level.

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