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On October 6th we went to Orvieto in Umbria. Our friends Michael and Ricki were in Rome, so we arranged to meet them in Orvieto for the day. They got a train from Rome, and we drove from Tuscany. We arranged to meet in front of the duomo. When we got to Orvieto we had no idea where the duomo was, so just kept driving, deeper and deeper into town, up and up, over narrower and narrower roads, eventually following signs to the duomo. And suddenly there it was. Right in front of us. It took our breath away with its completely unexpected grandeur and beauty.

Suddenly we realized we were driving right into the middle of a large piazza, and walking right towards the car were Michael and Ricki, who had just arrived at that moment. It was so synchronous as to feel kind of miraculous. Just driving and driving into the town because we didn’t know what else to do, and then suddenly seeing the duomo, and being the only car in the middle of a piazza, and then seeing Michael and Ricki walking directly towards us, all at they same time. It was weird, and wonderful. A truly joyous, funny and unexpected moment. They didn’t immediately realize it was us until we tooted. Then we all laughed, and piled out of the car and hugged. Fortunately for us driving in the piazza was allowed and there was parking close by.

Then we set out to explore Orvieto, a town that dates back to Etruscan times, about 2500 years ago.

We found this

And this – it’s wild boar hunting season right now and we hear shots from time to time

And this. I swoon for Italian pottery. Since I have no home to put it in I take pictures of it. Maybe I’ll do a blog post that’s all just pictures of gorgeous Italian pottery. The only other place I’ve seen anything like it is Mexico. Different style but same exhuberant use of colour.

And a whole town of streets like this:

A couple of days later we went to Siena. The duomo there is equally as beautiful as the one in Orvieto, and the interior stunningly rich and ornate.

A painting in the duomo,

and one of my favorite things in Siena – the Baptistry ceiling

The library of beautifully preserved medieval vellum illuminated manuscripts took my breath away. This is my only picture. It’s not very good, nor is it of the most beautiful of the manuscripts. There were about twenty or so of these huge bound vellum books, each double page measuring about 4 ft x 3 ft, and preserved under glass at an open page. Just exquisite work, and I thought of the monks, hundreds of years ago painstakingly doing the detailed paintings and perfect gothic script. For me it’s the excitement of seeing the real thing, rather than just reading about it in books, that makes travelling so wonderful. I never though I’d get to see actual real vellum illuminated manuscripts, and here was a whole room of them!

Beauty everywhere – this on the outside of a house

Creativity everywhere

In Siena we also saw a couple of boys practicing their flag throwing for the Palio, a crazy annual horserace around the town square, and heard, but could not see, the drummers practicing.

Speaking of town squares, the Piazza del Campo is astonishing in both it’s size and beauty. From wiki – “it’s one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares, and is renowned for it’s beauty and architectural integrity”. It’s huge, but still inviting in spite of its size. We stopped there for a coffee break of course. It’s like stopping for coffee on the Champs Elysees. How could you not? Don took this picture of it.

The streets of Siena

The next day we went to Volterra, another walled hill town, for more history and exploring and eating too much, though I have no memory of lunch in Volterra but I’m sure we had some, and gelato. We passed through quite different countryside on the drive there.

I remember Volterra for beauty in the cathedral

The Etruscan Gate (a pre-ancient Roman civilization in the area that is now Tuscany)

and the Roman ruins

Having had our fill of hill towns, we decided to go to the beach for the day and headed to Cecina on the Tuscan coast.


Reflection in Don’s sunglasses

I think the day in Cecina can best be summed up by this

Next blog – Florence, and a day in Chianti country.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.