Bike, Sweat, Drink…(with apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert)

The fantasy has ended. Sigh.  Although I am now back in the good ol USA,  my body still appears to be on Italy time, because I am awakening at a god awful hour.  And when I wake up,  at least for the first few seconds, I think I’m back in the villa.  Fortunately, the bathrooms both in the villa and my bedroom at home are in the same direction, and by the time I arrive at my destination I’ve got it all figured out.  (No bidet in the USA).

Anyway, my blogging, one again, has lagged way behind my travels. Here’s the thing. Blogging on an i-pad, especially when you have sporadic wi-fi connectivity, is not what one would describe as fun. At least not when the “one” in the preceding sentence happens to be me.  Indeed, it began to resemble work. And at this stage of my life, if it ain’t fun, I’m not doing it.  I think that might become one of the pillars of my current philosophy of life.  Does that make me a Hedonist?  I’ve been called worse.

But let’s get to that bike trip.  Here’s a map of the ground we covered.

We started in Parrina, staying at the Antica Fattoria for three nights, then moved to Magliano, where we stayed at another Fattoria (Farm).  The longest ride, according to the literature, was 35 miles, with options if a shorter ride was desired.  And, for one of the days, there was no biking at all–just a ferry ride To Giglio Island.  This was an “easy/moderate” ride.  No sweat.  Or so I thought.

On our first day of serious cycling, we headed to Talamone, a medieval fortress village on the coast, small enough not to make it to the map above, so you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that it is north of La Parrina.  The scenery along the way made you almost forget how hot it was.  (We, unfortunately, were there during record breaking high temperatures.)

It took tremendous self control to keep from stopping for a photo every 100 feet or so.  It is easy to understand how Frances Meyes fell in love with the area.

Here’s what we saw as we rolled down the “rolling hill” that we had just strained our way up.

Yep, that’s a fortress all right.  And those of you that know me well have probably guessed that I’d be planning to get up close and personal with that fortress real soon.  But first a stop at the renown beach.  At least, that’s how our guides described it.

What looks like school lockers are actually the changing rooms.  And they ARE about the size of school lockers, only slightly taller.  To add to the fun, only ONE is available for public use, so we all got to share.  Fortunately not at the same time.

The water was crystal clear, which was a good thing, because those big rocks that you see peeking out of the water had a bunch of little rock friends under the surface.

Next on the day’s agenda was a picnic lunch.  As usual, our group chose to take the more adventurous route to our destination, which just happened to be the way to the fortress.

Not only did we get to stretch our leg muscles, but we also got an even better view of the beach, which I am only too happy to share with all of you.

The picnic lunch was wonderful.

Angelo was a bit surprised when 16 female heads turned in his direction for a moment of silence, followed by peals of laughter.  He quickly learned that “sanitary napkins” was NOT the correct term for “wipes”.

We ended the day with a visit to the farm’s store, where we had a wine and cheese tasting event. Most of the products in the store come from the farm.  It was unfortunate that we were there so early in the trip.  Had we not had weeks more of travel time, I would have certainly purchased oil, vinegar, cheese and wine.

We ended this perfect day with the biscotti cooking lesson and an amazing dinner on the terrace.

Last look at Orvieto

There’s something about towers that I find irresistible. And Orvieto’s was no exception, so Diane and I decided late in the day was the perfect time to climb it.  Seen from this angle, it didn’t look all that high.

Inside had a bit of a different feel to it.

The view was well worth every one of those 250 steps.

I would have had to hang off the side to get a better shot of the front of the Duomo, but this gives you an idea of the size of that building.

We knew Torre del Moro was a clock tower, but we were not prepared for how loud the bell sounded when it is only a few feet away.  By the way, it doesn’t only BOINNNNG on the hour.  That sucker was sounding off every 15 minutes.  We didn’t linger more than a half an hour–two ear drum piercing tolls were enough for us!

And now for some random memories of Orvieto:
Sally and I found a little wine shop that gave us a private wine tasting. After trying three local reds and four whites, we decided that this label was our favorite.  Although, after all that wine, she could have poured us rat pee and we would have thought it was quite refreshing. (we don’t taste and spit…we are far too ladylike for that. Besides, why waste good wine?)

A favorite wine of ours

We managed to catch a couple of weddings on Saturday, and my favorite shot was this one.  Bad news, little girls. If you think the sandals are uncomfortable, wait till you graduate to big girl shoes–platform stilettos.

Sister, let’s get these shoes off. My doggies are KILLING me!

Wild boar is considered quite the delicacy here in Tuscany. And yes, I DID try cingale, twice. Even after I saw this guy’s head outside of the restaurant.

Cingale, anyone?

Saturday night a group from Michigan State performed a trumpet concerto in one of the squares, so we sat in a little cafe, drank wine and enjoyed the music. Sally figured that since she lives in Florida and they were from Michigan, these guys were practically neighbors she should introduce herself, so she did.

Trumpet concert

The courtyard of Hotel Duomo was our favorite gathering spot for our evening wine, cheese and fruit party.

Courtyard outside our hotel.
Susan, relaxing in the courtyard

Everywhere we looked we saw something beautiful.

Typical door in Orvieto

The city expanded beyond its walls and at the base of the hill.

Next post–the actual bike trip.

Orvieto’s Museums…and Dinner

Orvieto’s museums are small and are clustered around the Duomo. Friday afternoon was the perfect time to wander through all four. We quickly learned that weekdays are relatively quiet in Orvieto, but that changes on Saturday. Seems that even hilltop towns also have their weekend warriors.

The C. Faina museum is a three story palace facing the Duomo. In addition to the Etruscan vases and a stone coffin, it has a room chock full of ancient coins, with the modern convenience of trays that move when you press a button. If my cute boy had been by my side, I know he absolutely would have spent a fair amount of time in this room.

Ancient coin collection at Museo C. Faina

I have been more than slightly spoiled by NYC museums, so have already seen similar artifacts. What fascinated ME was the actual building itself. I wish I were more skilled at holding the camera correctly so that I could have better captured this ceiling. (I know Photoshop can work wonders but, as we say here in Italy “Io sono pigro”. Or that’s I would say if I knew how to speak Italian). But enough about my shortcomings, back to the museum tour.

One of many beautiful ceilings in C. Faina

Next stop, the Palazzi Papali which has been recycled into an archaeological museum. The nuns never mentioned that the popes owned quite a bit of real estate outside of the Vatican. Or if the dear sisters did, it was on one of the many days that I wasn’t listening, so finding Papal Palaces scattered throughout Europe has been a revelation to me.
This museum contained all the usual jewelry and vases, plus everything you needed to conduct your standard rape, pillage and plunder. But once again, I was completely entranced by the building. While I sat in a corner of the room, in the chair reserved for the guard who was out on the patio flirting with a sweet young thing, I was thinking deep thoughts. Let me share a couple of them:
“Man, I’m sure glad I was born in the 20th century”!
“Some of my friends have better houses than your standard 15th century Pope.”

Ancient coin collection at C. Fana

THe Duomo Museum only had frescoes, either copies or originals, I guess they had to be one or the other since most museums don’t intentionally display fakes, but I really didn’t care one way or the other. 10 minutes later I was out the door.

The Emilio Greco Museum was my very favorite. His ability to make a few ink marks on paper into something beautiful kept me mesmerized for quite some time.

The museum was only one room. The beautiful sculptures we plopped amid a whole lot of stuff: a piano, chairs, a spiral staircase. Still, the drawings and sculptures made you forget the cluttered space around them.

Emilio Greco Museum

Emilio also designed the Duomo’s huge green doors. Let me tell you, those doors have a whole lot of entwined bodies on them.

And since we are now back at the Duomo, here’s the story about how a little hilltop town got such a grand cathedral.
Back in the late 1400’s, one of the priests couldn’t quite wrap his head around the host literally being the body of Christ, until one day, while saying Mass, the host started to bleed. Fortunately, they didn’t have paper towels back then, so he quickly grabbed a linen cloth to tidy up. As mentioned earlier, popes were frequent visitors, and the Vicar of Rome just happened to be in town that weekend. He quickly decided that the cloth was “church worthy” and that a new cathedral would be ideal as a display case. And so the bloody cloth remains, up to this very day, in the little side chapel on the left of the main altar. No photos are allowed, but if the truth be told, I really wasn’t able to see the cloth anyway. I just had faith that it was there.

On to the next topic: Dinners in Orvieto are a magnificent thing, and the one we had at Restaurante Ancora was particularly grand. Diane and I discovered it while stumbling around town, looking for a bathroom. It looked interesting and Trip Advisor enlightened us further as to the merits of this particular establishment. We wisely allowed Carlo, the owner, to choose for us and it was fabulous. Delicious pizza bread, an amazing eggplant appetizer, a lasagna, a ravioli, veal with a delicious sauce, vegetables and dessert, plus wine–all for less than 35 Euros per person. Wow. What a way to end the evening.