Italy 75 - a return visit to Orvieto, a long way down and manna from heaven

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September 20th 2014
Published: September 20th 2014
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We have been many times to Orvieto but this is the first time we have used the dedicated sosta in the lower town. And what excellent facilities the town have provided. Hardstanding, electricity, water points, showers and toilets and a place to buy tickets for the funicular railway that links the lower town with the centro storico. What more could you ask for? Helpful staff and a cheap rate. Well we got both. The booking in system is highly technical. I was issued with a post it note with the time we had arrived written on it and confirmation that we had not asked for electrical hook up and told to bring it back when we left. Still it worked and it worked well.

The tickets for the funicular cost 5 euros for two of us for a return journey. The only difficulty was trying to find the lower station which was hidden beyond the main railway platforms but when we found it it was highly efficient getting us from the new town in the valley below to the upper town in minutes. Saved a hefty long uphill walk.

Our plans were:

1) To visit St Patricks Well. We had failed to find it on our last visit.

And 2) To go on the underground tour of Orvieto. This one would have to wait as the last tour had gone at 12.15 and the next one was not going until 4pm. So it was St Paddys

Well you may wonder as we did Saint Patrick and Orvieto have in common? Very little or nothing and in fact this amazing masterpiece of hydraulic engineering was originally named Pozzo della Rocca (the fortress well), as it is close to the Albornoz fortress. It was later named after Saint Patrick because it was probably used as a Purgatory of Saint Patrick, in the second half of the eighteenth century, in a way similar to the underground cave where the famous Irish Saint used to retire and pray and where the unbelieving who ventured to the bottom of the cave would gain remission of sins and access to heaven. So that is the history. It is hidden near the Belvedere and quite close to the funicular station so this time we found it easily.

Its construction was commissioned to Antonio da Sangallo the Younger in 1527, at the behest of Pope Clement VII approximately at the same time when the Pozzo della Cava underwent restoration on the opposite side of the cliff, in order to ensure water supply, should the city be under siege. It was completed in 1537 and is an ambitious project both daring, intricate and brilliant. It is a work of skilled engineering that is for sure and apparently that was preceded by hydrogeological research in order to identify the most suitable site to reach the clay layer of the springs below. The cylindrical hole that you descend is enormous and is 54 metres deep. It has a diameter of 13 metres and comprises of a double helicoidal staircase which allowed the pack animals that carried the water to climb up and down undisturbed on two one way staircases. Each have 248 steps and one goes down whilst the other goes back up again. You can wave to someone on the way up as you come down which is an odd feeling. There are 72 large windows that filter light and let it play with the various tones of the stone wall are particularly evocative. The walls ripple as they reflect both the light from the sky high above, from the windows and the water below. The story goes like Rome throw a penny in the water and you will return. Full price € 5.00 to enter the well and reduced is 3.50.

After our visit to the well we headed for our usual look at the church which is one of the most stunning in Italy. As we had already been inside we didnt want to go again but headed for dinner. We found a little restaurant which was or appeared to be empty. The waitress led us to the back and outside where we sat in the shade just us and a group of Americans . Ok what to have? The menu was inviting. We were hungry. We flicked through the pages. Everything looked wonderful but we had to make a choice . We chose Porcetta which tastes different to pork we cook back home, the herbs and the fat make your saliva drool. What would we like with it? Vegetables extra so we ordered fried potatoes and seasonal vegetables. We had a choice of chickory or spinach. Spinach chosen cooked in olive oil. When the plate arrived the porcetta looked delicious. A bit like belly pork but with thicker fatty bits. Oil and herbs drizzled all over it. The spinach ............. Never liked the stuff as a child but this meal was exquisite. Not as strong as we expected but every bit as tasty as the meat itself. We ate like kings and cleared every bit of it including the juicy tasty fat.

Must be one of the best meals of the holiday and to end it all we smiled as our tip of 5 euros was stuffed by the waiter down the waitress' bra. Now if that had been back home it would have been a clear case of sexual harrasment but all they did and we did was laugh.

Back down the funicular, paid our 5 euro parking and headed for a top up shop at the local Coop before heading off for our next nights stop.


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