LET’S start with the middle.
MY 13 year old nephew, my partner john and I couldn’t find a way off the autostrada for the turnoff to Todi, so we ended up in Orvieto. I actually wanted to go to Orvieto, but had decided that the timing wouldn’t work and that we’d go straight to Todi. Well the Italian highway system changed that.
Orvieto is in the province of Umbria and minutes from the Tuscan border. I had heard of it for years, ever since I lived in nearby Florence and Perugia in the 70s, but this was to be the first time. Aaah. This early Sunday afternoon in July was quiet. Tourists were someplace else and locals were preparing the big Sunday pranzo – the meal of the week in Italy. Never mind the stores were closed, the piazza in front of the Duomo had vendors selling miscellaneous flea market type items and the church itself was deserted.
This little place is worth the stop. The piazza is plain and simple and fairly small. Very Italian which gives you the warm and fuzzies. The church is very unique. It’s striped, horizontally, dark green I think, inside and out. I’m also guessing late gothic style. And, like many churches, it just rises from the flatness of the piazza so it’s size, big already, seems immense. The façade though is what’s special and so unique — it’s mosaic. And there’s a lot of it. The only other church coming close is San Marco in Venice, but this one is so simple. And it’s not crowded. On the inside there’s nobody so you can enjoy it all – for a Euro.
WE headed off to Todi but it was already around 2, and we had to get to Perugia. And you can’t park in the center part of the town, so it would have taken some maneuvering to figure it out, and we were hungry. The Italian pranzo god was looking after us, and on a dead-end street, on a 100 degree day, we found an outdoor restaurant adjacent to a community garden, 1 Euro wine and a waitress who didn’t speak a word of English. I was in heaven.
Lunch for 3 of us was about Euro 37, including the wine referenced earlier. The pasta sauce was a reddish-orange that you’d never see in the USA. [Julia Roberts has the same dish I swear in Eat Pray Love.] The flavors are intense, which you so rarely find here either. And the consistency of the pasta, as well, is totally Italian.
Part II, Perugia, will be next.