Europe diary, day 13: Orvieto back to Rome

Thursday 16 November

I had real trouble sleeping during the night, I think because my stomach was a bit too full of all that good, rich food from dinner. We got up about 08:30 to have showers and then go out to grab some breakfast before returning to check out of the room. We found a coffee bar just a few steps from where we were staying. M. had a cappuccino and a cornetto with apricot jam, while I just had a plain cornetto. Then we returned to the room to clean up and pack our bags before checking out. Check out time was 10:30, and at 10:20 a woman came up and knocked loudly on our door and when I opened it she reminded us of the time. I said we were nearly ready. A few minutes later we left.

The plan today was to try to visit a few places I’d looked up last night: the Labarinto di Adriano and the Pozzo della Cava, two more underground attractions in various parts of the town, the Torre del Moro, the main clock tower in the centre of town which you can climb to access views from the roof, and the view from a northern lookout at the cliff edge. But the morning was very foggy, with tendrils of mist flowing along the streets of the town and a cold chill in the air. Any views would be unlikely to be any good, so we decided to go to the Labarinto first.

Walking to the marked spot on the map revealed a restaurant called Labarinto di Adriano, which was a bit confusing until we discovered that the caves were beneath and entered via the restaurant! Although the restaurant itself looked closed, we pushed the for open and a man sold us tickets to the cave system beneath. He pointed us down a staircase for the self-guided tour. This took us through 20 separate rooms dug multiple levels deep below the restaurant (and probably some of the adjoining properties). The cave system was only discovered in the 1970s by the owners. It was very interesting in the caves and showed different sorts of uses to the ones we’d visited last night, with many of them being used for wine cellars. There were racks of hundreds of bottles of wine, covered in dust. It wasn’t clear if these were actual bottles for use by the restaurant above, or some sort of old historical bottles that they’d found down there, or if they were prop bottles filled with coloured water for the look of it.

From here we walked over to the lookout spot to the north. On the way we passed through the Piazza del Popolo for the first time, to find a market in full swing. There were fresh produce stalls, cheese and meat trucks, a fishmonger, and several stalls selling cheap clothing and other random household goods. We paused here to get a snack of biscuits at a coffee bar and M. had a coffee. While she was sitting at a table I walked up the steps of the Palazzo Del Capitano Del Popolo to take some photos overlooking the pizza and the market.

After finishing our refreshment, we walked north to the lookout spot over the plains below, but the fog was thick outside the city and we had no view of anything below the level of the hilltop. Given that one of our other planned activities was climbing the tower for the views, we decided to leave this until later in the day and headed to the Pozzo della Cava, another underground cave open to the public. This one had a huge well dug into the cave system, which had two components: an old Etruscan well, narrow and rectangular like the one we saw in the Orvieto Underground yesterday, and intersecting this was a large cylindrical well dig in medieval times. Much of the construction of these medieval things was ordered by various Popes in the 12th and 13th centuries, as they lived much of the time in Orvieto, instead of Rome, and wanted the place to be self-sufficient in terms of water, and also impenetrable to attackers. One of the things Cristiana had told us last night was that the residents of the town had been in the habit of simply tossing any garbage over the side of the cliff, and it had built up to form a slope that attackers could actually climb up to gain access to the hilltop. So one of the other things the Popes ordered was that every house had to dig a garbage pit for its own use. it was fascinating putting all this history together to get an overall picture of how and why all these caves and wells and pits were dug below the town.

By now it was time for lunch and we decided to go back to the same bakery where we’d had the pizzas yesterday, they were so good. M. had a simple tomato slice this time, while I had one with cheese and porcini mushrooms. we also bought some grissini breadsticks to tale with us. They had five savoury flavours: sesame, olive, rosemary, tomato and onion, and cheese. And they also had three sweet varieties! Pistachio and chocolate, raisin and cinnamon, and fruits of the forest. We got one of each savoury one and one of each of the first two sweet ones. We ate the sweet ones straight away and saved the savoury for the train ride back to Rome.

After lunch, we visited the Torre del Moro. There is a small entry fee and you get to climb the tower. There is a lift that lets you shortcut the first couple of floors, but from there it’s stairs all the way to the top, about another 8 or 9 floors by my estimation. It was worth it for the view though. The fog had finally lifted and we had clear views to the horizon in all directions. Also, we were the only ones up there when we arrived, and only after several minutes of walking around the small square rooftop did two groups of two other people arrive.

By now it was getting close to time to head back to the station for our train to Rome, which was scheduled to depart at 15:27. But M. wanted to have a last look at a leather shop near the Duomo, and we also passed a gelato place where M. decided to have a chocolate fondant gelato to help soothe a slightly sore throat, and I chose to try the whisky cream, and ricotta and cinnamon flavours, which were very nice.

So by this circuitous route we eventually found our way back to the funicular station. We expected that it would still be buses replacing the service, but the funicular was operating! A car was leaving just as we arrived, so it would be a few minutes until the next departure. We bought tickets and were the first in the queue to get on, though it wasn’t very full. The ride lasts about two minutes and was a fun experience, sliding down the hill as the other car came back up, passing each other in a section in the middle where the track splits into two to allow the two moving cars to pass one another.

At the station we found our train departure platform and went over there to wait. Orvieto doesn’t see many trains, so despite waiting 20 minutes there were no other services to get confused with. We boarded and found seats, but the train was partly full and there weren’t any pairs of seats facing forward so we sat across an aisle from each other. Later on the man opposite me moved to look out the open doors at one of the intermediate stops, and M. moved over. He came back in but sat somewhere else.

We arrived at Tiburtina in Rome about 16:50. From here we braved the metro to ride to Termini on a crowded peak hour train, then switched to the other line to Spagna, which was a bit less crowded. We walked back to our apartment, stopping at the supermarket on the way to buy some more muesli and milk for breakfasts for the next few days.

After eating a bit we ventured out for dinner. We had a booking at Da Gino Al Parlamento, a small trattoria near the Parliament building. One of M.’s co-workers had recommended this restaurant, so she said we had to try it, and we made the booking a few days ago. When we arrived there was a queue of people waiting for tables and bustling waiters telling them they only had tables outside, where it was fairly chilly tonight. But when we got to the front and said we had a reservation, they showed us to a table inside. It was against a wall and had another table for two up against it, which they pulled apart by about 3 centimetres, and filled with another couple soon after we sat down. Since they were so close we ended up having a bit of conversation with them. They were an older couple from Manchester in England and said they travelled to Rome twice a year and frequently ate in this restaurant.

After last night’s heavy dinner, we ordered a simple mixed salad to start, followed by ravioli with ricotta and spinach for M. and a spaghetti carbonara for me – a dish I’d wanted to have while here, and today was my last chance, since our meals for the next two nights are planned. The salad came split between two bowls for us, and at first we thought we must have gotten two salads instead of just one to share, but at the end of the meal when we got the bill we saw that we were only charged for one salad, so it must have been a really big one and they just put it in two bowls for us. The pasta was really good. And having learnt our lesson with dessert last night, we stopped there. The bill came to 40 euro, which was possibly the smallest we’ve had since we arrived in Europe, though with the current exchange rate that’s still a lot of Australian dollars.

We adopted the Italian passeggiata (leisurely evening stroll) and walked back via the Pantheon to get some night photos, and grabbed a light dessert at Giolitti. I got a lemon and strawberry gelato, which is basically just water, and M. got a small occhcio di bue biscuit with chocolate. And then we walked back to our apartment. The plan is to sleep in without an alarm tomorrow and just get up when we feel we’ve had enough sleep, and then plan what we’re doing for the day after that. We have two days free now to do anything we think of, without pressure to get any specific sightseeing done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *