“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

TravelHaven Journal: Italy 2013 – Orvieto and Sansepolcro

The weather was beautiful on Monday!  Sunny in the 60’s and finally not raining!  

We took the train from Arezzo (about a 45 minute drive from our villa) to Orvieto, which is about a 2 hour drive from where we are. We chose the train because we knew the way to Orvieto was mostly highway and we had already seen the scenery while driving from Rome to Monterchi. It was great for Arnold to get a break from driving. And I do love riding on trains!

Orvieto is not in Tuscany, but in Umbria. It sits on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff and rises dramatically from the almost-vertical faces of tuff cliffs that are completed by defensive walls made of the same stone called Tufa. 

Orvieto has three main claims to fame–cathedral, Classico wine, and ceramics.  We sampled them all, though not as in depth as we would have liked. 

Regrettably, we did not time our visit very well and didn’t get to Orvieto until about 11:00 a.m. We rode the funicular up the butte and became totally mesmerized by the area OUTSIDE the city, especially the walls. There was a great walkway on the top of the defensive wall that had fantastic views and wonderful archways. It was pretty incredible. We must have spent an hour just reveling in the beauty. 

By then it was one o’clock and time for lunch, which we had in a typical local restaurant outside the busy tourist area. I took a leap of faith and ordered porchetta orvietan (not having a clue what it was). The pork was great (lots of nice crispy, crunchy skin–yum!) but it was stuffed with a concoction of something containing wild fennel and, I think, pork entrails. I tried it, but wasn’t crazy about it so I ate the pork, but the stuffing mostly remained on my plate. Sorry, chef! 

We hadn’t even gotten to the main piazza or the duomo and now it was two-thirty. That, of course, means that the shops are all closed (they usually close for lunch from about 1:30 to 3:00 or 3:30. And the restaurants usually close around 3 so it presents quite a dilemma–eat or shop?  

Fortunately, not quite all the shops were closed–Arnold found a leather factory shop and, after much thought (did he really need it), bought a very nice leather jacket. I found a shop that had hedgehogs in the window. So, of course, I had to buy a hedgehog. For those of you who don’t know, my favorite animal (after cats and dogs) is the hedgehog and I have a nice collection of them from all over the world.

By this time it was after four. Our train leaves at five and we are all the way on the other side of town from the funicular. So we went in one church (not even the duomo) and headed for the funicular and the train station. We definitely have to go back to Orvieto, hopefully on this trip!

We had planned to go to dinner in Sansepolcro so we drove straight there from the train station in Arezzo. When we got there, we were thrilled to get a parking place very close the the city center. We parked the car, looked for the parking attendant who was nowhere to be found and decided to just go on in, figuring he would put the paper on the windshield telling us how much to pay for parking. We proceeded into the City center and it was like a ghost town. There was no one there and no shops or restaurants open. Turns out that most stores and restaurants are closed on Mondays because they are open on Sundays. Who knew?  We hadn’t encountered this before because we were in very tourist oriented towns, which Sansepolcro is not. Ugh!  

We didn’t have much at the villa to eat so I made a caprese salad and Arn ate cereal. Reminded me a lot of when Lynette and I went to Spain and couldn’t seem to get to a restaurant when it was open. We ate lots of cheese and crackers for dinner that trip!

So this was not our most successful day, but was still a great one. When surrounded by so much history and beauty, how could it be anything else?

Tuesday morning we went to market day in Sansepolcro. Our new friend, Rosado, who manages our villa for the owners who live in the UK, had told us we had to go to this market because it was huge and there was a guy there who sold fresh fish that we shouldn’t miss. So at 8:15 this morning, on a cloudy, misty day, we set out for the market.  We got there around 8:45, found a great parking space, and entered the city center. And hardly anyone was there. Uh-oh, had we messed up again?  

Finally, after walking through about half the city, we found the market. And compared to the Monterchi market, which had maybe 20-25 booths, it was huge with 100 or so booths. About half of them were selling cheap clothes and shoes, but there were also food trucks, vegetable stands, cheese stands, and, yes, Rosado’s fish man. We bought some fresh bread, some perch already breaded and cooked (for lunch, on the fresh bread), and some cod from the fish man. The cod we will have for dinner that night with some potatoes and a fresh caprese salad (yes, I love caprese salads–I could live on them!) and probably some fresh peas. The perch was fantastic!  Very fresh and tasty, though simply prepared. Yum!

After we came home, Rosado came by and we discussed the menu for our cooking lesson on May 30: pici o umbricelli (a very thick spaghetti like pasta that is very traditional in this part of Tuscany), arista di maiale (roasted herb stuffed pork), and contorno (fresh vegetables)). He also told us about some good restaurants in the area.

Sorry, no pictures this time. We didn’t take many in Orvieto and our trip to Sansepolcro was about fish, not sightseeing.