Sunday, September 27, 2009


After the summer holidays and the visitors we had recently, we finally got around to exploring more of the area via a day trip yesterday. Actually, "area" is pretty generous, since Orvieto is a two and a half hour regional train ride away from Florence. Nevertheless, we got to this city on top of a slab of tufa and took a cable car up the mountain. Once up, we immediately descended again, though this time in St. Patrick's well, which was dug in the 16th century to provide the city with water while under siege. A nice work of engineering, it has two spiral pathways (one for going down and one for going up), down to the water. After making it back up, we were ready for lunch, for which we walked into the city center. It seems like the main tourist season is over, since the main drag was not too crowded. (Then again, we're used to Florentine crowds...) After some pasta, we went towards the highlight of this town, the cathedral. Since there was a wedding going on at the moment, we first went to see the Etruscan collection in the Museo Claudio Faina e Museo Civico. The Etruscans had some interesting vases!
After a brief break for gelato (I had nectarine and fig, Kristen had pink grapefruit and grape/strawberry), we looked at the cathedral in detail. The facade is amazing -- a symphony of colored marble, glittering mosaics, sculpture, and masterful carved panels. And the interior isn't too shabby, either. The highlight is surely the Capella di San Brizio, which was frescoed largely by Luca Signorelli with scenes of the Last Judgement. That's always my favorite topic of religious paintings, and this version had fantastic studies of the human body. Apparently Michelangelo studied these frescoes before painting the Sistine Chapel. Since my ticket for the chapel included the Museum of the Duomo, I went to visit that afterward and was pleasantly surprised. While these museums are typically one depiction of Madonna with child after the other, here the old religious art was interspersed with a temporary exhibition of modern art and sculpture. Along with the jazz soundtrack playing on the stereo, it gave it more of a gallery vibe, and made the experience all the more pleasant.
After this highlight, we walked around the town a little more, seeing the interesting ten-sided bell tower of Sant'Andrea and the Palazzo del Popolo, before heading back. Unfortunately, the next train was not for another hour, and furthermore delayed, but we did manage to make it back to Florence.

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