Don’t get me wrong, I like Rome. I like the smells, the sounds, the pavement, the way vespas ride alongside you on the street, the larger than life hand gestures, the foooood. But like any city, it’s relentless, constantly bustling, constantly racing against the clock. After all, it’s five hours behind somewhere, there’s no time to waste. Therefore, there comes a time in every cornelian in rome’s experience to simply take respite in a well-deserved and for the most part unplanned day trip. There’s so many places to choose from, as the Italian countryside is littered with tiny picturesque settlements perched atop grassy hills. My favorite is Orvieto, which is just that.
Human activity on the cliffs on which present day Orvieto sits stems back to the Etruscan times. Back in those days, because of the inaccessibility to water and frequent sieges, people dug caves into the soft volcanic sediment of the cliffs to seek water, shelter, protection, and storage for food and animals. Many if not all of these cliffs exist today, and quite a few of them are still being used by modern residents. Walking through the small town, you very much sense that anyone who lives there can trace their family lineage back generations to as early as the middle ages. Not much has changed, and, five minutes after walking through the quaint streets of Orvieto, you’ll wonder why anyone would ever want to leave. You literally live on top of a cliff and a thirty-minute train ride from Rome.
Orvieto is known for two things: its exemplary Romanesque medieval Duomo, which is so beautiful that even the Nazi’s couldn’t be compelled to destroy it, and the wine and food. First, the Duomo is a sight to be held. It easily stole the top spot on my list of favorite European churches, which, considering that I live in the center of Catholicism, is no easy feat. The outside is a wonder, with alternating green and white marble cladding, too many statues and engravings to count, and a massive rose stain glass window—the crown jewel of the building. It’s a church I can’t even begin to do justice in words. Don’t worry, I’ve attached a picture. I went to Orvieto with one of my best friends, Kelly, who came to visit over her spring break. We hadn’t seen each other in months, and so had a ton to catch up on, yet, in front of this architectural masterpiece, neither of us uttered a word to each other. We sat down in front of it and looked at it and didn’t say anything for like ten minutes. Hopefully, this is a better way of conveying the sheer beauty of it all.
As day turned to night, we watched the sunset in a small park behind a small church on a small plateau at the back of the town. No one but us was present, and the scene looked like a landscape painted by Da Vinci, specifically the background to his Mona Lisa. Wow, that was cheesy. Anyway, our train wasn’t until 9, so we got dinner at this small family run restaurant that our tour guide recommended to us. The best carbonara I have ever had, I kid you not. My mouth is watering just writing about it. Apparently, a famed New York Times food critic stumbled upon this place and bestowed upon it the distinction. Its legit. Every single person ordered the carbonara, which Kelly and I found hilarious.
After dinner, the time came to return to reality, Rome (which still isn’t much a reality at all). We nearly missed our train, which is a whole other story. On the train ride back, we talked about many things, one of them being that that day was one of the best.