October 19–20, 2019

From Assisi, I wanted us to head to Salerno and explore the coastal towns by boat and bus. It would be a five-hour train ride from there, and our transportation options were limited the next day, and some complications like that. Torrey was not enthusiastic about those plans. I don't recall whether I knew why. Maybe he had been there, or we both thought the kinds of towns might be a lot like the ones we would see on the cruise. I think it was Salerno that my neighbor Giorgio suggested we visit. He and his wife were going to suggest some places to eat and to stay around Florence, which was home territory for him. But I never caught back up with them.

Anyhow, we decided to ditch plans for seeing the Salerno area. We had stayed longer than planned in Florence, which was a great move, but that meant our time before the cruise was running a little short. I had never heard of Orvieto. I don't know how we decided to go there. It might have been as simple as its being the subject of the next chapter in Rick Steves's guidebook after Assisi. Rick recommended a half-day trip to the nearby town of Civita, but that wasn't feasible on Sunday, either, and we decided to enjoy what we could of Orvieto. So we rode a train to Orte and got on one to Orvieto. Like Assisi, the train station is down in the valley, and the old city is up on the hill. We bought a ticket at the newsstand at the station that got us into museums and also included round-trip transportation. The funicular takes you up to an archaeological site, and a shuttle bus takes you from there to the piazza at the Duomo. Given our last-minute decision to go there, the most convenient hotels were booked up. It wasn't bad walk, except for dragging my crippled bag over cobblestone streets to the modern Grand Hotel Italia. Torrey took pity on me and rolled my bag to the hotel while I rolled his. He came up with a clever way of working around the missing wheel, but it still couldn't have been fun for him. We got settled into the hotel and wandered around a bit and found a place to eat supper.

We had considered going to a service at the Duomo, but they didn't have any times posted or much of a clue as to when or where to show up, so we went on to visit our first museum there. There are plans to consolidate the various museums in town, but for now, a villa with a great view of the Duomo has the Civic Museum on the ground floor, and Claudio Faina's collections of pottery, coins, and jewelry on the upper floors. In the former are objects found in the excavation of the so-called Temple of Belvedere, which was really a temple of Tinia, the Etruscans' version of Jupiter, with an area for the worship of Nortia, who was Minerva by way of Athena. I can't find anything about who Belvedere was supposed to have been, other than the guy on a sitcom. The word seems to be the equivalent of Buena Vista, but I haven't found any Disney ties. So, why do they now call it the Temple of Belvedere? As Mimi sings, "Il perchè, non so."

The Etruscans are still mostly mysterious to us. Their language survives only in some inscriptions. Our words "person" and "military" seem to come from Etruscan by way of Latin. Their religion seems to have influenced the Romans, who seemed to borrow gods from all over anyway. Their main home area is called Tuscany even today. They called themselves "Rasenna," and the Romans called them "Tusci" or "Etrusci." Greeks called them something else seemingly unrelated. Their territory also included the western part of modern Umbria, and Orvieto apparently was the Etruscan settlement called Velzna. It was destroyed in 264 BC, and resettled by Goths around 500 AD.

Things found at the site of the "Temple of Belvedere":

The villa has good views of the town and the Duomo from the upper floors

Etruscan pottery developed a black glaze because of some chemical reaction of iron.

There was significant trade with Greece. Greek pottery from different periods had black figures and later red figures.

Etruscans were known for their metal work in bronze.

Duomo views from the top floor of the museum:

A hospice for pilgrims and later a hospital, named for St. James the Greater

Details on the Duomo

Palazzo dell'Opera del Duomo

We toured the interior of the Duomo. Note the plain ceiling, the Romanesque arches, of course the stripes, and the alabaster windows along with the stained glass from the fourteenth century.

Frescoes and an alabaster window

The cathedral was built here to commemorate a miracle that took place twelve miles away in 1263. Peter of Prague became convinced of transubstantiation when the host for Communion began to bleed when he held it aloft. The cathedral was built to house the cloth that the blood dripped on. The cloth is now housed above the altar in this much frescoed side chapel.

By the pillar next to the chapel is the pietà carved by a local artist in 1579 from a single block of marble.
Rick Steves says it was clearly inspired by Michelangelo's famous work.

The Chapel of San Brizio features frescoes by Luca Signorelli that narrates Judgment Day and life after death.

Following the Duomo visit we spent the rest of the day touring museums until they closed. Then Torrey and I went separate ways. He had recommended a view for me to check out and photograph, and so I walked there in time for what Scott Kelby calls "the golden hour" and into the "blue hour." Those pictures follow on the next page.


Orvieto, p. 2->

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