Monday, April 30, 2012

Just Another Week In Italy

Well the last post left off on Monday night.. Tuesday we just had to turn in our journals in Marcos class and continued project presentations – nothing too exhilarating. Wednesday was also spent in presentations – I had mine this day. I got it over with first thing in the morning and proceeded to begin reading The Hunger Games the rest of the afternoon. By the end of the presentations I was on chapter 8. It sucks you in!

Wednesday night we celebrated being finished with some wine from the professors and a dinner at Da Carlo – a place we hadn’t eaten yet. It was really good! We told him we wanted to eat “Italian Style”. So he proceeded to bring us out plates of bread and tomatoes and meats. We ate on this and sipped some wine until our pasta came out. I got Umbrichelli pasta with  a peppery sauce… more pepper than I was expecting, but it was pretty good. We finished off dinner with Tiramisu – which was also pretty appetizing.
Waiting for the sunset one night
Thursday was basically our first official day of summer. We turned in all of our work and were finished with everything! Of course I had to go to the market… what will I do when I don’t have this?! Then Katie and I spent the rest of the afternoon souvenir shopping and laying out in the sun soaking up some Vitamin D. All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon. And this rolled over into Friday. We got up and made our way to Castiglione del Lago to spend the day on the water. A group of about 15 of us packed up and headed to the lake where we spent 4-5 hours… and yes, I did get fried. But it was such an enjoyable, relaxing day I didn’t really care that much. When we got back to Orvieto we decided to go to Sfizio’s for dinner one last time for our favorite pizza. It was delicious as usual… and kind of sad since it was our last time. We finished up and went home to enjoy a bowl of ice cream and homemade hot fudge made by Cammie (what will I do without her next year?!) and a movie. What a great day! This will probably end up being my favorite week of Italy.
Watching the sunset
Saturday morning we had to wake up bright and early to begin our Val D’Orcia trip with Marco. It is in Tuscany – in the countryside of Siena. It is absolutely beautiful. We made three stops – the first was at a monastery. The grounds for it were pretty large and very beautiful – lots of green and paths. We weren’t able to spend much time here so all we really got to see was the monastery itself, but it was pretty amazing too.
The monastery
Our second stop was in a small town where we had our group lunch. It was so good! We had a plate of breads with different kinds of spreads on them, some meats and some cheeses. Then we had a pasta with wild boar sauce and meat and a salad. And to top it off, some wine that the owners of the restaurant make themselves. It was a great lunch! After that we walked down to another church and were able to hear them do their chants inside. It was pretty incredible.
Church-stop number 2
Our final stop was Pienza. We were only able to spend about an hour here so we didn’t see much, but it was still a pretty cool little town. There were a lot of spots with good overlooks and a lot of artisan shops. I spent most of mine in leather shop admiring all the handmade products he had… and I love the smell of leather… We wrapped up the day and headed back to Orvieto. We made reservations at Mezza Luna so we could go eat the famous Carbonara (again for me) because it is delicious! And of course I got the sorbet again… can’t pass it up!
All the yellow in Pienza

Sunday was another day filled with Italian fun! We paid a little money and got to take part in Orvieto con Gusto. This is an all afternoon event filled with Orvieto style food and wine. Our first meeting point had a bunch of cheeses and honey to take samples of. Then we headed to our first stop for our appetizer. This was a plate filled with different meats and cheeses and breads and a few different types of Orvieto wine you can taste. It was a lot of food for an appetizer, and we still had three stops left! We finished up and walked towards our second stop where we were served two different types of pasta and some more Orvieto wine. After this stop I was already full… but we had to keep moving and keep eating. You can’t say no to this food! Our next stop was a meat and potato course, and yep, you guessed it, more Orvieto wine. Don’t underestimate Italians! After this I was still very full… but the final stop was dessert, so of course I made room for it! They had three different dessert samples, a muffin, a lemon/chocolate bar, and something else with chocolate so good I don’t care what it was. And yes, a dessert wine that tasted like apple juice. After finishing up with everything I was about to fall into a food coma… but I resisted the urge.
The two Pastas we were served
Instead, we decided to be good kids and take a walk around the rupe. I have been running it, and every time I do I think to myself, man I need to walk this so I can take pictures of all the beautiful plants blooming. So this is what we did. It was a great walk – just a stroll through beautiful Orvieto… I will miss this place when we’re gone.
Beautiful trails
After our walk we headed back home for a small dinner (obviously we weren’t too hungry after eating all day). And then we got a group together to make cheesecake for Marco. He has made reference to them all semester long so of course being the awesome teacher he is, we had to make him one. We made three of them so our class could enjoy them too – and they turned out a lot better than I anticipated. It was delicious. If you don’t believe me listen to this… They said Marco only took a couple bites of the one they made last year… but this year he ate the whole piece! He loved it, and so did I haha.
I don't have a picture of the cheesecake... so here's another trail :)

So today was our final lecture by Marco – it was a great semester with him. I wish we had more professors as passionate as him back at home. He just loves what he does and it is very obvious. The rest of the day will bring figuring out details of my travels for next week and possibly some packing… I should probably get on that. Haha.
Long enough post for now… I’m sure there will be many other stories coming up the rest of this week. Stay tuned!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cinque Terre... and a million stairs

Bright and early we boarded our train and headed to Cinque Terre. This place is a series of five small towns on the coast of the sea. There are hiking trails that connect all of them so you can hike through every town and get some beautiful views while you’re at it. We stayed in the first town, Riomaggiore. When we finally got there we were so excited… and then soon found out the train was going to be on strike from 9pm that day to 9pm Sunday… We were supposed to go home Sunday afternoon to get back to Orvieto. So we just went with the flow. We extended our stay for an extra day! We got into our room, which was basically an apartment, and changed to go begin our day of hiking starting at about noon.

Our first walk from Riomaggiore to town number two, Manarola, was not a hike. It was just a flat trail right on the coast, but it was beautiful nonetheless. We walked around Manarola for a while because we had to find our way. There had been a flood and mudslide back in October so a lot of trails were closed, including the easy one from Manarola to Corniglia. So we hiked up the town and found the second trail… which consisted of stairs after stairs after stairs. It took about 30 minutes of walking up stairs to get to Velastra, which isn’t the town we needed to end up at, but it has to be a pit stop to get to Corniglia. After we finally made it, we continued on the trail to Corniglia which was more stairs (more down than up this time, but still quite the work out). I was glad to finally get some hiking in, but once we got to Corniglia we needed a little break. We wandered the streets and small shops and then took a load off at the overlook. And by take a load off I mean a short siesta in the sun :)
After a little rest, we needed to head to the next town, Vernazza. This town had been hit the worst by the floods and mudslide, so every trail to it was closed – so train it was. When we got off the train, I was speechless. I knew this place had been devastated by the floods, but I wasn’t expecting what I saw. It was still pretty damaged; they were still working on a lot of repairs and clean up. You could see where the waters reached about 15-20 feet up the buildings. It was a shocking place to walk through. It really was saddening because you could tell that this was one of the most beautiful towns of the five. I hope to go back one day when they have everything back to normal and see how it is different.
We were able to finish the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso. On our way, we ran into this man who had a stand off the side of the path where he sold his own wine and limoncello. He was pretty entertaining so we decided to buy a glass from him. We stayed for a few minutes and chatted with him – it was a nice little break – then we got to Monterosso. This town was also hit by the floods, but not as bad. It had a couple sandy beaches… but sadly it was closed because the waters weren’t very safe – they were angry while we were there! We made it to Monterosso finally at about 7:30pm… Yep, that’s about 7 hours of hiking. Despite the sore legs, this was such an amazing experience. It was so beautiful! I would recommend this to anyone!
We took the train back to Riomaggiore – no way would I walk back! Haha. We took one of the last trains before the strike started and got back to our town around 8:30. We went straight to dinner; we had worked up an appetite! We went to this restaurant recommended by our hostel that was very delicious! They gave us free focaccia first; then I ordered gnocchi stuffed with cheese and tomatoes and also some fried calamari. It was a great dinner! Right before we left they gave us a free drink of limoncello and a biscotti. I love the hospitality of this place!
We went home (which was about another 80 stairs up), and I went straight to bed… it was probably 10pm at the latest… and I didn’t wake up til 9am the next day. It was a glorious sleep! Since the train strike was going on, we had another full day ahead. I didn’t do too much except walk through our town to explore it some, and then soaked up some sun in the small piazza. It was cool to sit there all day because it is where all the kids of the town gather to play. It was very entertaining. After we got a little bored with sitting around all day, we decided to hike back to Manarola since it was a short, easy hike.
We got there and sat and watched the waters for a while. It really is beautiful – I would love to live by the water! The sun started setting so we decided to go buy a bottle of wine (made in Manarola of course) and go find a spot on the path to watch the sunset. It was a very beautiful, relaxing day, and this was going to be a great ending to it. The wine was delicious, and the sunset was great… well, until the clouds covered it up. :( We made our way back to Riomaggiore and had some dinner before calling it a night. We had to get up early again – 4am to catch the first train out to get back to Orvieto for our presentations.
Exploring Vernazza - the waters were angry..
We made it up that early, believe it or not, and began our trek back to Orvieto. 7 ½ hours after waking up, we were home. Whew… We got cleaned up, and made it to school for the presentations. It was a little rough considering we had been up since 4am! Haha. After class Katie and I made spaghetti bake, which was delicious! Then the rest of the night was spent finishing up Marco’s journal, which wasn’t too bad considering I only had the weekend to write about. But I had to finish it up because it was due first thing in the morning.
Sun setting on a wonderful weekend
Now I only have a couple real days of school left, then its a few trips and heading home. Can’t believe my time here is coming to an end so quickly! I’m gonna miss this place, but I’m so excited to see you all again!


Una Citta - Diecisette Contrade

The week was spent working on studio… Project deadline was quickly approaching and if we wanted to go on our trip the next weekend, serious work needed to be done! So all week was studio, studio, studio. My project was on the farmers market here in Orvieto, and since I love the market, I really enjoyed doing the work and getting further into the importance of the social aspects of the market. Thursday night rolled around, and I finished my project! Just in time! I made a book… not a pop-up book, which would have been cool, but just a regular old book with some colored pencil drawings in it. I liked the way it turned out, and I was very relieved it was finally finished and I could enjoy the trip coming up!

Friday we were Siena bound! I determined that this is another one of my favorite cities we’ve visited… right up there with Venice and Assisi. We got there and our first stop was to meet Marco at San Dominica. We had learned that Siena is divided into 17 districts; I didn’t realize how strong these boundaries were until we arrived. This church was the first time we came into contact with this idea. Half the church was clearly claimed by the Goose District and the other half was claimed by the Dragon District. Don’t ask me how this works, but it is all over the city! It really is pretty incredible how serious this district thing is taken. It is most evident twice a year during the Palio (a big horse race in the Campo). 10 of the districts get chosen to participate in the race and everyone really gets into it!
The goose flag and dragon flag splitting the church
We stopped at the Goose district’s church and museum next. The church is where the horse and jockey are blessed before the race. It was pretty surprising because the space is so small; I couldn’t believe they fit the horse and 300+ people inside during the blessing. Marco loves this city; it was so evident when he was telling us these stories. He told us that during the blessing if the horse “makes a poo poo” it is good luck for the Contrada (district) and everyone goes crazy!
Where the horse stands to get blessed
In the museum there were a series of banners from all the races the Goose district had won. There were quite a few, and of course, Marco had a story for one of them. One was painted by a girl who secretly wanted the Tower District to win and favored the banner with their colors (which isn’t supposed to be allowed). The Tower District happens to be the Goose District’s enemy and guess what? The Goose District won it! It was a pretty big deal because the artist then has to present the banner to the winning contrada. Haha.
Banners the district won
After spending time in the Goose District, we made our way through the city, which was beautiful even though it was traffic ridden. We made it to the Campo which is the main square where the Palio is held. It was awesome to see this finally… despite the rain. We made our way into the palace on the square. The inside was beautifully decorated with frescoes and sculptures, and the small chapel within was awesome.
The campo with the palace
After the tour, I was able to go to the Duomo and Baptistery. The Duomo from the outside resembled Orvieto’s, but not quite as beautiful. The inside, however, blew Orvieto’s away! It was absolutely amazing inside! So beautiful! The floors were decorated just as beautifully as the walls and ceiling. This place also had three organs! All 17 flags of the different districts were displayed in the nave which I thought was weird considering churches are used for praising God… but they are displaying their competitiveness within. I don’t know how I felt about that. The Baptistery was very different from any baptistery I have seen. It was a linear space, not octagonal like all the others. Wasn’t what I was expeting yet, it was still very beautiful.
The Duomo
We went back to meet Marco because he wanted to take us to the Ram District’s church because it contained a painting he loved, and it also had an amazing overlook of the whole city. It truly was beautiful. The clouds were breaking right when we got there so the sky looked fake! We went inside and Marco started talking about the painting. He was pointing at it with his umbrella and it crossed the sensor so the alarm went off… we decided we should leave after that haha.
The view from the church
Marco took us around the city some more and pointed out different contradas and things to see in the city. We ended at the center point of the city. It is where the road from Rome, Florence and the coast all meet. Before the day ended, we soaked up some sun in the Campo and people watched and just explored the town. It is such a beautiful place. That night we hung out at the hostel and played cards with an Australian guy we met that was travelling around running marathons. It’s so great to be able to meet new people on these adventures!

We headed to bed – should have gone earlier because we had to get up at 5am the next morning to catch our train to Riomaggiore to begin our hiking! …but we made it.
Random leaf picture in Siena - it was pretty :)
Stay tuned - Cinque Terre up next! Ciao!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

When in Orvieto... eat Pigeon

So Easter break ended and school kinda started back up. The week consisted of a lot of journaling and catching up on posting pictures (in case you hadn’t noticed on facebook yet… haha) Tuesday we took a trip during Italian to the theater to see a multimedia thing on Luca Signorelli which was the guy who did all the frescoes in the Duomo. It was interesting to say the least. I didn’t understand all of it haha. On Wednesday we got to take a trip in Orvieto to see a ceramics shop. It was the cutest thing ever! It was a husband and wife that owned it; he crafted the items and she painted them. They did a bunch of demonstrations like making vases and bowls and painting cups. They told us the story of how they started… he was in insurance and she was in art school. They started dating, and she got into ceramics. They got married, and she convinced him to switch from his insurance job to ceramics too… and he did! Then they opened this little shop in Orvieto and hope to pass it on to their son. It was so cute. :)
 He makes...
...and she paints :)

Thursday was market day! I still love market days… I am going to find some when I get home because the environment is so awesome and friendly and the produce is so much better! I have started learning names and making friends with some of the vendors too. The fruit man we always go to is so awesome – he knows a little bit of English, but he gives us crap about it saying we need to speak Italian haha. I was wearing my jacket with Rome on it, and he made a comment about how his soccer team killed Rome and why was I even wearing that?! Another time I had a Napoli soccer ball and he threatened to pop it! Haha. He’s such a funny guy, and because were friendly he gives us free stuff sometimes. It’s not a bad deal to make friends!
Thursday night we got a group together to go out to dinner… bet you’ll never guess what we had! If you guessed Pigeon you guessed right! Yep – I ate pigeon. Don’t give me that look! It’s a delicacy here in Orvieto. People love it so I wanted to try it before I left. It was surprisingly good too. It was kind of like eating miniature chicken wings! It came with this truffle sauce that was pretty salty; it was good, but I could have done without it. The pigeon was good enough on its own haha.
Pigeon and bread with truffle spread.. mmmm..

Friday marked another day trip with our class; it was a cloudy rainy day, but we didn’t let it stop us! We went to Tivoli where we visited Villa D’Este, Villa Adriana, and then to Rome where we saw Jubilee Church. Villa D’Este was AWESOME! It was like one giant water park. There were fountains everywhere throughout the whole garden… and you know by now that I love fountains! One of my favorites was the avenue of 100 fountains. It was a path that had fountains all along it - I didn’t count them… I just took their word for it. It was pretty awesome though. The fountains drowned out all the surrounding noise and it was so peaceful. There was also a HUGE fountain with three reflecting pools in front of it that was another one of my favorites. This was definitely a beautiful villa – my favorite we have visited so far.
 Avenue of 100 fountains
Huge fountain and reflecting pools
Villa Adriana was our next stop which was down the hill so you could see Tivoli up on the hill in the distance. This villa was so big – we only got to see a little bit of the grounds. It was much different from any of the other villas we’ve visited because it is full of ruins. It is very similar to Pompeii, but like double the size – so incredible! I wish I could have spent more time here, or that it would have been at least sunny, so I could have seen more of it. I just tell myself I’ll put it on my to-do list for when I return to Italy! :)
Villa Adriana
The last stop of the day was a drive to Rome to visit Jubilee Church by Richard Meier. It’s so much different than any other place we’ve visited this trip because it is so modern. I was excited to visit the church because I had seen it in all my books from school. It was a pretty incredible building, but after visiting I came to this conclusion… I don’t like it as a church, and the explanations of some of the aspects of the church are complete B.S. I mean come on Meier… you may be able to fool regular people, but not aspiring architects who have also been through the B.S. phase! Haha. It sounds so good, you want to believe it, but there is no way light will only shine through one small window on a whole fa├žade of glass. It just doesn’t work like that haha. BUT, despite reading through his explanations, I did enjoy the building. It was pretty incredible.
Jubilee Church
And now this weekend… I haven’t done a whole lot besides running, catching up on my picture uploading, journal for Marco’s class and now this blog. It wouldn’t architecture school if there wasn’t procrastinating involved right? Haha. But now I’m all caught up on everything and can put all my focus into studio considering our project is due in a week and a half… :S Wish me luck!
Here's to wishing the rain stops soon! Ciao!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Buona Pasqua - and much more...

Thursday marked our first “official” day of Easter break. I started it off in the most relaxing mode possible. Morning at the market, followed by a day inside catching up on my journal for Marco’s class while listening to a thunderstorm… Yep! A thunderstorm! The first one since we’ve been here! It was pretty nice listening to it; reminded me of home :) The only other thing I did Thursday was run the rupe (have my time down to 29 minutes now!) and go to a concert with Nathan – another one as part of the series for Easter. This one was a duet with a violinist and a cello. It was a very nice concert!

Friday morning I woke up bright and early to go to Marmore Falls with Jessica, Danielle, Britney, Caroline, Sarah and Elise. It was awesome. Marmore Falls, in case you didn’t know, is the largest man-made water fall in the world! There is a park you hike through on a series of trails and it leads you up to the falls. Twice a day they release the waters and the waterfall gets HUGE! We made it up to the top in time to watch them release the water. It was a pretty cool sight to see! After watching it for a little bit we made our way back down the trail and through the park some more. We stopped here and there to admire all the small waterfalls that came off the big guy – and of course take advantage of some good photo opportunities!
 The big part of Marmore Falls
A smaller waterfall
After spending the afternoon hiking there, we made our way back home. Instead of getting off at Orvieto with everyone, however, I continued my travels to Castiglion Fiorentino. This is the city where a bunch of other K-Staters are studying; so I decided to go visit them and watch the big processional that goes on in their city. Matt showed me around the town, and I had dinner at their dining hall. It was a pretty nice little environment, kind of like a big family meal. After dinner we made our way out to watch the processional. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before; it was pretty amazing. Three men led it carrying huge wooden crosses – I don’t know how they managed to do this. Walking along side them and the whole processional were people in robes and hoods carrying torches to light the pathway. Behind the men with the cross were people carrying a coffin-like thing with Jesus laying on top, a group of people carrying a statue of Mary, two little boys carrying a cross, a man carrying a megaphone that repeated prayers, a band and then people from the city fell in behind them to follow the processional all the way around the city. It was so cool. We found a spot to sit up high where we could watch the whole thing; I was pretty amazed. Italians sure know how to do Easter right!
 Overlooking the city
Part of the Easter Processional
Saturday morning came, and I headed back to Orvieto. I decided to make it another relaxing day and spent some of it journaling some more. There was another concert in the Duomo so I decided to go to it – it’s free and I like music so why not?! We had to wait outside in the rain, and when I say rain I mean pouring rain. They finally let us in, and we waited for the concert to begin… late of course because we’re in Italy. We should know this by now! This concert was incredible; I think it was even better than the concert on Tuesday that was supposed to be THE concert. It was an orchestra and a choir together – directed by a 35 year old man from Iowa I might add (wooo Midwest!). I loved this concert – REALLY wish my music friends were here for this one!
Concert time
We made it back home – walked inside just as it started hailing! Yes, hail exists here too! Too much Kansas, too much Kansas! Haha. Luckily we were inside and could avoid it! We fixed a veggie pizza for dinner and ventured out for some gelato. The rain had let up for the most part and the sun was starting to poke out… you know what that means… a rainbow! After I finished my gelato I went rainbow chasing to try to get some pictures. I was taking pictures of one side when I realized it stretched all the way over the Duomo and into the valley behind our school. So I chased it farther and went to the overlook. I could see exactly where the rainbow ended. It was so beautiful! I just had to stand there and look for a while. Just when I thought Italy couldn’t get any more beautiful!
 Rainbow Chasin'
So beautiful after the storm
Sunday morning we woke up early to fix our dish for the Easter brunch we were having – a breakfast casserole recipe courtesy of Katie’s mom. We fixed it up and headed to Easter mass at the Duomo. We were hoping for a Cardinal or someone to lead the mass, but it wasn’t… however the priest was pretty entertaining. He was happy it was Easter, that was evident! Mass lasted a little over an hour, and then we headed over to brunch. This was a great idea. Everyone brought some food or drinks, and we had a huge potluck! There were biscuits and gravy, our casserole, scones, fruit, meat, cheese, veggies, juice and of course jellybeans. After eating all this food, we went straight home and all passed out for an Easter siesta. It was much needed! The rest of the day was spent in pretty much the same position relaxing and working on… yep you guessed it… Marco’s journal. You think I would learn to not procrastinate – but hey, when in Italy… or anywhere else I guess.. haha

Monday morning came and Katie and I decided to take a day trip adventure. We headed off to Cortona; this is another beautiful hill town in Tuscany. On the train ride, we had a small world run in. We sat next to a girl who lived in Overland Park before coming to Rome… crazy right? We talked the whole hour long train ride to Cortona about Kansas, Italy, school and everything else. It was pretty cool.

We got to Cortona, and there was supposed to be a bus to take us up the rather large hill to the city… but the bus didn’t exist. So we walked the 5+ kilometers uphill… one hour later, we made it to the city haha. And that wasn’t the end of our uphill travels – unfortunately the whole city is a hill. It was a really beautiful hill so I guess that made up for it. We walked around and saw a few really pretty churches and made our way up to the fortress that overlooked the city and rolling hills below. It was a very beautiful place to be. We made our way back down the hill and got some lunch (fresh peach juice is awesome by the way) and went to sit in a sunny piazza. It was so relaxing; what a beautiful town.
Climbin' to the top
We walked down the corso and admired the shops – leather and ceramics galore. 4:05 rolled around and we realized we wanted to catch the 4:30 train… so off we went. We started speed walking, but realized we weren’t going to make it if we kept going at that speed – so we started running. There were no sidewalks so we were running on the side of the road. Unfortunately, I wasn’t watching where I was stepping and didn’t see the dip in the ditch – you guessed what happened next… I ate it. Yep… took a little tumble. I had to lay on the ground for a few seconds to catch my breath again, but got back up and started running – gotta catch the train, worry about the hip later! Haha. We made the train with about 5 minutes to spare! That has to be a new record… We made it home and spent the rest of the night relaxing and journaling. We had already gotten our exercise for the day so the rupe wasn’t needed! Haha.

Today was spent in class with Marco, booking flights for after school trips and taking a little trip with our Italian class to the theater in town. We went to watch the showing about the frescoes by Luca Signorelli in the Duomo. It was a series of videos with music to give you a better understanding of what you were looking at. It was in Italian, but for the most part we got the idea! After the show we were able to walk around and tour the theater a little bit before being dismissed from class. I went for a run around the rupe, had a good dinner consisting of fruit and potato pizza and have been working on getting up to date with my journal, blog and pictures. So much to do! This shouldn’t be happening right?? I’m in Italy!
Beautiful Cortona

Long enough post for now… Ciao!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Beautiful Umbria

On Wednesday morning we had yet another field trip. This was a good one. We first went to Bolsena, which is a town similar to Orvieto, only it is on the lake instead of a cliff. It was a very peaceful town. We walked by the lake, and then our tour guide took us to a church – Saint Christina. She told us the story behind the church which I thought was pretty interesting. It’s named after a 12 year old girl who is buried in the catacombs there. She decided when she was that age that she wanted to convert to the Christian religion from the Pagan religion her father insisted. He became very upset with her when she converted so he came up with many ways to torture her to change her mind. After each of these acts of torture she would come out unscathed. He even tied her to a huge rock and threw her in the lake, but the rock floated and she lived. Her father finally died, and the next person in line was even more mean and angry about her. She eventually died from an arrow to the heart at the age of 12. So they buried her here and built a church in her honor. Pretty crazy story huh?
Foggy morning on our way to Bolsena - that's Orvieto from afar btw - see the Duomo outline??
Stone that Christina's dad tied to her

Anyway, after the church we moved on to wander the rest of town. She walked us down the old main road Via Francigena and showed us the fortress that was built on the top of the hill. Unfortunately we weren’t able to go inside, but the walk was nice haha. We made our way back down towards the lake where our bus was and hung out on the shore for a little bit. There was a gelato place right there – so we all had to get some. They had the best fruit flavored gelato I’ve had since I’ve been here! I got orange and strawberry and it was delicious!
Gateway to the street
We loaded up the bus and headed to our next destination Civita di Bagnoregio. This is another small hill town, and it is connected to another hill by a rather large bridge. So to get to the town, you have to cross this big bridge over a huge ravine. The town itself is pretty small, but it was a very peaceful, cool little town. We walked through and were shown where the villa a couple professors back at home own. They are looking to sell it if anyone is interested in having a villa in Italy! Haha. After seeing the house, we wanted some food. There was a place right next to the villa that made its own olive oil and served a little bit of food, so we stopped there. It was really cool because he did all the cooking of the bread over an open fire. He cut up some cheese for us and served us bread with the olive oil made there. It was incredibly delicious! The second round of bread had a truffle sauce on it with the olive oil – equally as delicious. Surprisingly the couple pieces of bread and cheese managed to hold us over – not used to eating that little for lunch.
Bridge leading up to town
We were free to wander for a while before we had to get back on the bus, so that’s exactly what we did. It wasn’t a very big town like I said, so it took all of 20 minutes to walk through the town. To pass some more time we walked through some shops. They make their own soap there by hand with oils in it that are good for the skin. The smelled so good; so I bought a few for souvenirs – don’t know who it will be for though… After we were finished we headed back across the bridge to catch the shuttle to our bus. While we were waiting I spotted a gelateria… and I was craving some chocolate – never a good mix. I wandered in, and the rest of the class followed behind haha. There was one flavor that caught my eye. It was neon green and had chocolate chunks in it – guess what it was… Mint Chocolate Chip! I jumped right on that – it was so good! I told myself it was okay that I got gelato twice in one day because the first time it was fruit flavored… healthy right?
 Handmade soaps
Look how bright the mint gelato is!
After our gelato was gone and we loaded the bus, we made our way to our final destination Madonna del Latte, a newer local, family owned winery that produces four different kinds of wine. They gave us a tour through the vineyards and through their production facilities. We went down into the cellar for the wine tasting, and they showed us something incredibly cool. Back story first: the family bought this piece of land and there was nothing on it. They built the house, planted the vineyards and started the business. It just so happened that there was an Etruscan tomb on the site. They integrated this to become the wine cellar where they store all the wine barrels! They didn’t do anything to it; that’s just how they bought the land. It was awesome!
 Starting to bloom!
The tomb where the barrels are stored
After sharing this secret with us, we moved on to the wine tasting. We had one white wine first, Viognier, then two red wines. The first one, Castelletto di Sucano, is kept in a stainless steel barrel while the second one, also a Sucano, is kept in a wooden barrel. It is crazy because they are made of exactly the same ingredients, portions, everything, but because they are stored differently, they taste dramatically different. The last wine we tasted was a Spumante rose, Rosario Brut - it was probably my favorite… I’m a sucker for sparkling wines. This was a perfect ending to a perfect day. We were sitting outside by the vineyards, sipping on wine, eating bread and cheese and enjoying the company of everyone. What a beautiful day. If there were a day of trips that summed up my “ideal Italy”, today would have been the day. Umbria is absolutely beautiful!
Our wine tasting
When we got back to Orvieto, somehow we were in the mood for dinner. Since our time is quickly coming to an end here, we decided we needed to hit up some of the restaurants we haven’t tried yet. We had heard about this restaurant, Mezza Luna, that is known all over for their Carbonara, so we decided to hit it up. They were right – it tasted amazing. There was so much pasta for what little we paid; I wanted to finish it because it was so good, but it was impossible. I did, however, make room for dessert because they had something there I had never seen before. They have sorbet, either lemon or coconut flavored, and it is served in a “bowl” that is a hollowed out lemon or coconut, which ever flavor you picked. Oh my gosh… it was incredible! I got the lemon flavored one, and it was like frozen lemonade you get at baseball games… only 100 times better of course.
My return pictures turned out a little blurry - but here's Orvieto from afar when it's clear!
Wednesday was just an all-around great day full of great tastes! The food, wine, dessert… Italy tastes so good!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why Slow Down Now??

Returning back to Orvieto was great. Settling back down at home and not having to live out of a suitcase is always a good feeling. The week back was a relaxing one. We didn’t have class on Monday – I guess our professors thought we needed a day as a break between travelling and school haha. We had a somewhat normal class schedule the rest of the week trying to get back in the swing of things. On Wednesday we visited a small wine cellar in town that specializes in a “wine” that’s really a liquor called Svinerre. It is made from grapes and wild cherries. They told us the story behind how it started and what they do, and then they let us do a tasting. It was definitely unlike anything I’ve ever tasted – in a good way. We tried it alone at first and then they gave us biscotti’s, crackers and chocolate to try it with. Not surprisingly, the chocolate was my favorite. It was a cool little visit, and it re-affirmed the fact that these little specialty shops are the reason Orvieto is so unique and beautiful!

Thursday was market day; it was like Christmas because we hadn’t been in over two weeks! Ahhh I love market days. Then later that afternoon in place of Italian class, they took us to the Etruscan Tombs towards the bottom of the cliff. I hadn’t been yet so it was really cool to see all the excavating they had done and all the tombs they’ve discovered. You could even go down inside the tombs – it was a little iffy because you didn’t really know what kind of bugs or animals were living in them, but it was cool to walk around and experience them!
The Etruscan Tombs
Friday marked field trip day – no sense in slowing down the travels now! We loaded up the bus and headed to our first stop of the day, Farnese Palace in the city of Caprarola. This was another one of those places we had studied in history class, and now we were seeing it first-hand. We got to go into a few select rooms, and Marco was able to lead us through to give the tour instead of a random tour guide. This guy knows so much! I will never stop being amazed by the depth of his knowledge. I don’t quite know how to explain the different rooms in the palace that we saw because they were all so grand. They were covered with frescoes of people and in bright colors on the walls and ceilings. There were even some sculpture-like decorations on the ceilings. These people sure had it made! Haha. It was pretty cool walking back to the bus after the tour because we were able to see from afar how the city was built. The palace was at the very top of the hill and all the houses cascaded down from it. Makes sense right? The palace = the people that hold the power and rule over the city – which lies below the palace. Hm… almost like they planned it!
Palace with the cascading houses below
Outside of the palace were their gardens of course. It wasn’t quite as grand as I expected, but it was still pretty nonetheless. Everything is starting to bloom here now so it is beautiful! We walked through the gardens for a while and up a ways to the fountains. It was such a beautiful day out that even though there wasn’t a lot to the gardens, it was awesome to be out enjoying the day!
Flowers :)
We loaded up the bus and headed to our next stop – Bangnia to see Villa Lante. This was another place we had studied in history. Unfortunately the Villa itself was closed, but the gardens were open to enjoy – and enjoy it did I! It was such a beautiful place. It was a terraced garden, and Marco told us the best way to experience it was to climb all the way to the top and start there and work our way down. So that’s what we did. It started with a fountain called the fountain of the floods. It was kind of like three small waterfalls. I love water, so this was awesome. The water led you the rest of the way through the garden – it was so peaceful. Everything was green, the sound of the water was soothing and the sun was shining bright. It was an awesome day.
Fountain of the Floods
After a couple hours here it was time to head home – so back to Orvieto we went. Even the drive through the towns and back home was beautiful. This time of the year in Italy is awesome. We made it back to Orvieto, and I played lazy the rest of the night… and into the next day. I didn’t do much except for hang out at the market for a little bit, lay out in the sun to try to get some color (only accomplished in getting red), and went for a run. It was a very relaxing day and another early night to bed because the next morning we were rising early for Palm Sunday.
We got up at 3:30 am. You think we’re crazy? Well we had tickets to go to Palm Sunday services at the Vatican… so of course we had to get up early! We caught the 5am train and were in Rome by 6. We made our way to the Vatican, and we were close to the front of the line to enter… just had to wait until 8 when they opened the gates. It’s okay though, we are good at the waiting game. We got in and managed to get some good seats. It was pretty exciting! We had another waiting game considering the service didn’t start until 9:30, but we had some entertainment behind us so it was ok. The services began with a long processional with the pope at the end. It was awesome! I got to see THE POPE! He had a cool little car that drove him through the processional and up to the altar – I like to call it the pope-mobile haha. Even though I’m not catholic, I thought it was pretty cool to be in the presence of the pope and the service itself. I think one of the coolest things about the service was that parts of it were said in all different languages, not just Italian. I still couldn’t understand most of it, but the fact that they do that was pretty amazing haha.
 Sun started poking out right as the pope came out... coincidence??
Mr. Pope and his "crew"
After the services we just had one more stop in mind that we didn’t see last time we were there which was the Maxxi Museum. We didn’t really want to see the contents of the museum, just the building mainly – because it was designed by Zaha Hadid. It was a pretty cool little place. There was one exhibit there that caught our attention which was an exhibit catered to architecture and projects that use recycled materials. It was pretty interesting! We walked through the museum – and took pictures of the building even though pictures supposedly weren’t allowed… we took that as pictures of the artwork weren’t allowed, not pictures of the building right?? We were studying! Haha.
Crazy cool stairs inside the museum
After the museum we just headed home. Rome was packed with tourists, and when it is like that, it’s not as fun of an experience like it was back in January when there weren’t very many people around. There are just some rude tourists that can ruin your experience unfortunately! So we decided to get out of there so we could remember Rome as we experienced it back in January. Back at home we grabbed some gelato and called it an evening. Since Sunday the week has been pretty relaxed. Just worked on class projects and journaling and keeping up on my workout/eat healthier kick (but gelato doesn’t count ;) haha)
This week leading up to Easter is an important time for Italy – especially Umbria, the region we are in. Every night this week there is some sort of concert in town, and tonight was the BIG concert. It was held in the Duomo, and it was an orchestra directed by Zubin Mehta. They played a piece by Vivaldi and a couple by Beethoven. It was a very awesome concert, and the acoustics in the Duomo seemed perfect! I really enjoyed it; wish my music major friends could have been here to enjoy it with me!
Duomo at the end of the concert
That's long enough for now... another trip tomorrow followed by a bunch of small day trips during Easter break. Stay tuned!