The walls and fortress of Orvieto - circa 1300's

The walls and fortress of Orvieto – circa 1300’s

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St. Patrick's well

St. Patrick’s well

We are really enjoying this train travel. We considered renting a car but the train is getting us to all the places we want to go.   We had a 3 hour(because the trains were delayed) train ride today from Florence to Orvieto, and it was very pleasant.  It is sort of funny to watch some of the tourists unfamiliar with the train system get fines because they did not validate their tickets.  The train official goes down the aisle and if you don’t have it validated he wants the fine payment right there.  It’s funny to watch the girls try to talk him out of it.  And he just keeps saying ” no.  E40 please now.”  over and over until she pays.  Poor guy!  So we finally pull into the Orvieto train station and wanted to take Rick Steves advise and pick up a combo ticket for all the things we wanted to see here down at the station before we took the funicular up to the town.  But, of course, they were out of them.  So we try the other shop, and they just shrug and say “you get up at the cathedral”.  So we went up the funicular to the town to drop our bags off at the hotel and then go to the cathedral (Duomo) piazza to get the tickets.  But, surprise surprise……..it is siesta time and the information center is closed!  So then, we figured we were at the Duomo already we would take a look…..but they were closing for a couple of hours siesta too!  This siesta gets in the way of capitalism!  We are learning to go with the flow.  You have to here anyway….because that is how it is done!!  But the tower is always open!!!  And we must climb it!! The things I do for a picture.  Actually, all this climbing justifies our food indulgences.  It was such a pretty day today and the pictures really don’t do the beauty credit.  The tower was built in the thirteenth century pretty much in the center of town.  Orvieta sits on a hill of tufa which is volcanic rock about a thousand feet above the valley.  A regional power in the Middle Ages, a few centuries before Christ it was also one of the major Etruscan cities.  After we did the tower we went next to St. Patrick’s well.  It is 175 feet deep and 45 feet wide, designed in the 16th century with a double helix pattern.  Two spiral staircases allow one-way traffic.  Although there was no one down there but us – a benefit of off-season travel.  The well was built when the pope got nervous.  After Rome was sacked in 1527  by renegade troops of the Holy Roman Empire, the Pope fled to Orvieto.  He feared that even this little town(with no water source on top) would be besieged.  He commissioned a well, which started in 1527 and finished 10 years later.  A total of 496 steps!  From there we walked the Rupe (paved path) that completely circles the town at the base of the cliff upon which it sits.  Finished up back at the Duomo piazza and got a ticket for the underground tour.  This 45 minute tour took us down to the underground caves which date back to B.C. Etruscans.  We saw the remains of an olive press, a 130 foot deep Etruscan well shaft, and an extensive dovecote where the birds were reared for roasting.  There are hundreds of caves discovered under this town and more still being excavated.  I loved this place!  We are going to spend the night  – actually 2 nights – so we have plenty of time to just take it all in.

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