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Montepulciano to Orvieto

Mr. Toad's Ride


View Italy for three on Deuxenvacances's travel map.

Before our drive to Orvieto, there was some discussion of "experiencing the road." Some of my fellow travelers think I aim for the bumps or speed up in the curves. I point out there is offend an Alpha Romeos on my tail. Even the Fiat 500s think I am slow.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, I turned to the left, not the right, our usual route and only a few blocks to the town gate. Our phone showed a narrow blue line threading through town. At the first intersection, it was clear this was an even more narrow route with very little clearance to make turns. Streets and walkways were virtually the same widths. I followed the phone map down between buildings, around corners, and down into a dark tunnel barely a foot wider than the car. We crossed a narrow street, then the path dropped down and around a blind corner. There was a lot of screaming. "We are going to die." "How will they pull the car out of that hole?" "Could they really get a wrecker in this place?" Such joy is driving is hard to find.

Orvieto is another hill town, perched about more modern parts of town. I use my phone to find a parking area on the edge of the old town, in a park-like area. Like other times, we struggled with the payment machine. I stepped back to watch the locals. They all had trouble. The machine was not taking credit cards. We collected all our change and received a ticket for three hours.
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Following our phone, we threaded our way through alleys and narrow streets to the Duomo di Orvieto, the Cathedral of Orvieto, another white and green marble church with a piazza surrounded by four or five-story stone buildings. People were taking pictures of the cathedral, sitting in cafes, or simply resting along the wall. After purchasing tickets, we passed through the required COVID screening and entered.

The Duomo was built in the 14th Century with massive brass doors and a dramatic gothic facade. Across the face were stone sculptures, mosaics, a stained glass window, and bronze Lamb of God and Saint Michael. Inside were two rows of dramatic marble statues, Saints, and other people. The lower half of the aisle windows are not glass but thin sheets of tan alabaster showing up in the light as almost modern designs because of the various bands of brown. Near the entrance is a vast marble baptismal font. The Duomo does not allow pictures.

After the Duomo, we walked through the museum, displaying original elements, sculptures, and paintings replaced by copies.

After lunch, we headed back to our car with only a few minutes to spare. Leaving the Piazza, I elected to follow some women in white gowns who had been part of a photoshoot on the Duomo steps. There was no doubt they were heading in the right direction. Eventually, we figured out we were going in the wrong direction. Phone navigation is at best uncertain in the narrow streets and regularly loses track of where we are. We discussed where we parked the car, the name of the lot, and other information we should have written down. Studying the phone map, we made a wild assed guess and headed back, retracing our steps and then headed in the correct direction. We found the car half an hour late but no ticket.

Back in Montepulciano, we headed out for wine and decided to take one of the wine cellar tours offered along town streets. We found one near the Pulcinella, the bell ringer, a white figure on a bell tower who strikes the hour. People were snapping pictures.
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The wine cellar didn't have an English guide available but gave us a map. The cellar was three stories below the street (opening out on lower streets) and stretched under seven buildings. We wound down steps into brick-vaulted tunnels with rows of large wine barrels, each labeled with a type and year. There were various stairs, tunnels, and rooms. In one was equipment for processing olives. In another room was the equipment for cleaning and washing wool. Cindy began to have trouble with claustrophobia, so we headed for the exit, following signs because there would be no way we could have figured out the tunnels. In one room, we found torture equipment. Cindy was eager to get up the step. Still, I was a little paralyzed by the medieval iron tortured device called a castratore. I needed wine.

Upstairs was a wine tasting with some very lovely nibbles of food. Sally bought the dried tomato relish. It was so good. She also purchased a bottle of the best wine we tasted.

Our supper plans were again at the mercy of luck. Many restaurants require reservations. One restaurant we have walked to three-night to find it booked. I had another restaurant possibility, La Biacola, a little further away. Luckily it was not full. We got a table outside under the brick vaulting over the alleyway. There was one other table free, but when two couples asked, they were turned away because they had two strollers. I walked inside to offer to swap tables because we were at the end with enough room for the strollers. The owners, after first not understanding, realized what I was offering. We moved tables, and the owner gave us a complimentary bottle of wine.
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The menu was very interesting and the prices reasonable. I finally ordered a Florentine steak, a kilo-sized t-bone from a specific breed of cattle cooked only to medium-rare at best. In addition, we ordered ribollita, pici with ragu, and a lovely salad. There was some discussion about the size of the steak, but I pointed out that the couple behind us ordered the same and they obviously were smart reasonable people The steak had coarse salt on top and was cooked to perfection. It was tender, juicy, with fantastic flavor.

We headed home with a slight detour for gelato.

Posted by Deuxenvacances 08:01 Archived in Italy

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