Snapshots of Orvieto, Italy
I WISH you could have heard me in the car when I got my first glimpses of Orvieto coming into view!
“OH MY LORD, you have got to be kidding me!”
I actually pulled the car over. (Because it’s just me and I can do that if I want.)
The whole day had been green and blue and beautiful, and I’d already been wowed by the (not dying) city in the clouds, so I was just blissfully heading to the next stop on my itinerary,
AND THEN WHAM!!!
Orvieto showed up with all the BELLA!
I drove up into the tiny city lanes, talking out loud to Google maps,
“Um I’m not sure this road is for cars.”
“Also it’s awwwwfulllly steep!”
But the directions were right and before long I found the next monastery on my list, Villa Mercede. It was housed in an old Palazzo right across from the famous Orvieto Duomo (so fortuitously convenient!) and I was meant to park inside a garden next to it.
But first I had to drive through a TINY gate…that one on the left that looks like a door for people not cars.
And of course there was a car behind me waiting to get by while I took my time lining up straight to get through the little bitty hole in the wall.
I was not sweating at all when I got out to check into my room. PHEW!
But bless! The director was so extra lovely and he gave me a room with three beds (Where are my friends???) with window views out the back over the garden and a corner view of the Duomo square.
What’s that you say? What is the Duomo?
HERE YOU GO!
Excessive photos of gargantuan church that is very old (1290).
Oh wait! That was just the outside!
Lucky for you, I didn’t take too many photos inside. (They never quite capture the grandeur anyway.)
I stayed in the church for a long time. Twice actually.
I sat with this Pietà for a while. (Ippolito Scalza sculpted it from marble in the 1300s.)
I’ve always loved these representations of this moment after Jesus’ death and I found this one particularly moving.
From the other side you can see Mary Magdalene’s cheek resting on Jesus’ hand. Her hand on his foot. Her devotion is so beautiful to me.
But maybe the most interesting story about this church is that it houses a cloth that a priest spilled the blood of Jesus on.
Apparently he was struggling to believe in transubstantiation when his Host started bleeding on the altar cloth.
The cloth is housed inside a special case inside a whole special chapel that is dedicated to this little piece of material.
There are a BUNCH of churches in Orvieto. A couple more I spent time in were San Bernardino (which was right next to where I was staying) and San Giovenale (11th century, oldest church in Orvieto).
I love the quiet of a church after walking around a city. I can sit for hours staring at fresco covered walls, meditating and praying.
I sit pleading for peace over all the ways the world feels excruciatingly violent. Bombs sent by computers to wreak havoc on already war torn countries and the sting of poverty and suffering in the lives of individuals.
I am struck by the fact that Jesus is able to contain it all. He is not overwhelmed. He does not despair.
Like many before me, I find comfort in being able to look at artists’ representations of His face. Sometimes the face of Jesus is in agony and I can see that he knows suffering. Sometimes his eyes are full of compassion, grace and peace. And I am newly comforted by Him.
They say that an artist who painted Jesus always left his eyes for last because they are the most important. For the people gazing at the representations of Jesus, the eyes can be our window, an opening by which we truly see something of Him.
I loved this mosaic in San Giovenale Church. I would think the eyes of Jesus would be even harder to capture with mosaics.
Anella della Rupe or A Walk Around The City of Orvieto
If you look closely at the bottom of the cliff on which Orvieto is built, you can see a path running around the city.
It’s called the Anella della rupe.
You reach it by taking one of the five exits out of the city, which are marked on these signposts on the trail.
It’s a long descent from the exits, sometimes by winding trail and in some cases, spiral staircases.
I did part of the loop on my first evening in Orvieto and then finished it the next morning, but it could be easily done all in one day.
I somehow managed to lose the trail for part of the way (not unusual at all) and ended up walking on the road and picking it back up later after the Necropolis Etruscan di Crocifisso del Tufo (ancient tombs).
They were excavated over the last 100 years or so, but the spring growth all around them made it feel like maybe they’re disappearing again.
There was a high school group there listening to their teachers lecture about the tombs with the ancient lettering. Most of the students seemed super bored. I was thinking how totally unaware they were of how superior their field trips are to that of American high school students. But then I realized that my kids would probably be bored too if I was dragging them around old tombs.
But that didn’t keep me from wishing they were there, even if they would have been griping at me when I lost the trail.
When I found the way back (after asking someone…haha), it wasn’t that hard to understand how I’d lost it.
Hello spring green covering up the steps back to the trail!!
I followed it the rest of the way around the town and entered Orvieto again in the medieval quarter, through its oldest gate.
This part of Orvieto seemed to always be quiet when I was walking through it.
So it kind of became my favorite.
Which is why ALL THE PHOTOS!
I also happened upon a precious ceramic artist in this quarter.
Her name is Anna and she sold me a jug I’m going to use for holding water for my sourdough bread when I get home.
Before leaving Orvieto, I took a few photos of the garden behind the monestary. The director told me I could leave my car parked there as long as I wanted after I checked out, in case I wanted to spend some more time in Orvieto.
When I was eating my breakfast that morning, he told me to be sure not to hurry.
“Take time. Take time.”
I did take my time in Orvieto.
It’s always a treat to stay somewhere that so many people day trip to, because it’s empty at the beginning and end of the day.
I remember feeling that way about Manarola as well.
But soon it was time to drive back out into the green hills of Umbria.
Next stop: Assisi.