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!


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