gettin’ all medieval on your ass

Jul 13 2010

We’re back from Italy. We decided to do a whirlwind tour of central Italy in one of the worst heat waves in years. Yay us! Someone said it reached 103 degrees in Rome while we were there. I am pretty sure I drank 700 gallons of acqua (some con some sansa gas) during the trip. And much to my suprise, I actually drank more beer than wine. Imagine that.

So about the trip.

We were lucky enough to be able to get a taste of four differnet slices of La Dolce Vita:

City Life in Rome
la dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) in Tuscany
Beach Life of Sardinia
Medieval Hill Town in Umbria

Rome

Rome

Ah Roma! I have never been to a city that is so purely ALIVE than Rome. Step off the train and I swear you can hear the city’s heart beating. Our first afternoon and evening was spent getting settled, and then walking from our hotel near Termini, thru Piazza della Repubblica, and down to the Colosseum and up the Capitoline Hill. Dinner at a little pizzeria, and of course some gelato before meeting up with Mark and Gwen as they checked in. The following day was our only full day in Rome, and I had put together a Walking Tour that covered the Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon, Trevi, Spanish Steps, Capuchine Monks, and Piazza del Popolo. We got most of the way thru it before we melted into the fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps, poured ourselves onto the metro, and went home to take cold showers. Back to Piazza di Spagna to dine under the steps at Alla Rampa – where the food is only ok (read made for tourists), but the Tiramisu is incredible. By the way – we stayed at a hotel called Una Hotel Roma – which was nice, clean, modern, and had what was probably the best breakfast in Europe. And it was cheap too.

Sunday we headed out to Leonardo Da Vinci Aeroporto to collect the rental cars. If you have ever rented a car at the airport in Rome, you are already laughing. A perfect combination of chaos and disinterest. We waited for about an hour – but it turned out that ours was the only car that was actually ready, waiting, and available. Hopped in and drove up the “Ah Uno” (A1) to Tuscany. As we were headed up to the Winery on roads with more curves than Sofia Loren, we got behind some very slow moving vehicles. This is REALLY unusual in Italy as only the occasional Brit drives slowly (and only because they feel dyslexic). It turned out to be a wedding party for a wedding that was taking place at the winery – exactly at the time of our arrival. I have not seen more sequin clad, 7 inch high heel wearin’, big haired, chain smoking women since high school! Holy shit! And all of them panicing because the bride hadn’t shown up. We actually witnessed the bride pulling out of the convoy so as to make her fashionably late panic inducing entrance. And so did most of them. But every wedding could use a little drama.

Badia a Coltibuono

The monastery turned into winery with gardens that give even the English a chubby (it’s not easy to do, as I understand) was simply beautiful. The grounds and building itself were breathtaking – and appear unchanged in over 500 years. The sleeping quarters were a bit creepy though. Brady said it looked like something out of The Grudge – Kelly and I agree that it’s more like The Shining. Long, dark (900 year old) hallway with a million doors and one window on each end. BOO! I’m not trying to turn you off from this place though. Badia a Coltibuono is a top end, high class, fully functioning winery in the hills of Tuscany – complete with a cooking school, and a maze of hedges out back (“Here’s Johnny!”). The rooms were spacious and breezy and comfortable – and the place is simply beautiful. We toured Siena (after stopping to let one of our traveling companions throw up her breakfast due to the windy roads (or maybe due to my driving – whichever the case may be)). Siena was hot and crowded, but pretty damn cool.

After that, we headed down the coast and got on a Ferry that was themed to the gills with Looney Tunes (seriously – I couldn’t make it up if I tried). After the first fender bender of the week (not me!), we ended up at the hotel and sweated thru the nite. Next day was spent on a beach with some of the clearest water and saggiest breasts I have ever seen. Great view of the Island of Tavarola, cold beer at the beachside cabana, and a game of soccer-volley-ball that would impress your socks off – but ended in a fist-fight. (also not me!).  Drove back to hotel to clean up and sweat some more, but not before another fender bender (once more: not me!)

Dinner that night was at an Agriturismo owned by the owner of our hotel – up a crazy winding dirt road where I swear I heard banjos. It was one of those places where there is no menu – they just bring you food. And LOTS of it. At least 6 antipasti, 2 primi (both pastas), and then piglet roasted over an open fire and some sweet honey dipped things for dolce. There’s no better way to eat – I promise. I went outside and “talked” to the dude turning the piglet on the spit. My Italiain is good enough (thank you Gabrielle) that I can actually hold a “converastion” of sorts. We “discussed” where I was from, and the current Calcio (soccer) situation – as well as the poor but yummy souls crackiling nearby. Baffo di Ferro (the owner, who’s nickname appropriately translates to Iron Wiskers) came outside and offered me the local “digestive” Mirto – made from the Myrtle Flower – but not until I got back to the hotel because I was driving.

Have I mentioned that not una solo oscillazione cazzo in Sardinia speaks English??? Not one that I met anyway. So yeah – conversations were fun. That’s not sarcasm – they really were fun. It’s so rewarding to be able to communicate with people who do not speak your language. Sure, mistakes are made – such as the last nite when I accidentally ordered 10 servings of salami instead of 1 to share – but it is still fun and rewarding (and we ate the fucking salami like it was our last meal) – but overall I was up to the challenge and like I said – FUN!

Sardinia's Emerald Coast

The following day was spent driving here and there, looking for, but not really finding, that perfect Italian town. We saw two extremes actually. Up the Emerald Coast, we drooled over 20 million dollar yachts, and small boutiques we probably wouldn’t be allowed into. South of the main port town of Olbia, we witnessed a town that I swear was bombed in 1947 and never seen since.

After traveling by boat with Daffy and Bugs again (accident free this time), we listend to Julie Tom-Tom (she’s a dirty dirty whore, by the way) and went thru 10 too many hill towns to get to Orvieto – the hill town to end all hill towns. Checked into the Hotel Corso – a really great little place right in the heart of town. If you’ve never been to Orvieto – and you probably have not – you need to know that it is completely 100 percent cobble stone roads and buildings built in the 1200′s to 1500′s. If a knight rode by on his horse with his jousting pole you wouldn’t look twice. The first word that comes to mind when I think of Orvieto is grey. The buildings and roads are primarly charcoal grey. That does not sound beautiful, I know. But it is. It’s SOOOO damn medieval that it transports you back in time. Except that there’s a Benneton and 5 perfume shops, and really nice jewelers. However, these are next door to the butcher with the side-o-wild-boar (head intact) hanging in the window, or the Deruta Porcelain shop that’s been there since the plague. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw that dude with the dead people in the cart yelling “bring out your dead”.

Kidding aside, I love Orvieto. LOVE. It is truly one of my favorite places on earth. The other favorite is about 40 clicks away on a hill that has been the home to civilzation for over 4000 years – but we didnt’ make it to Todi this time. We will soon though.

So the last day in Italy, I woke up early (as usual) and hit the streets of Orvieto, camera in hand. The bells of the various churches marked the time as I strolled thru streets I’d never seen before, and stumbled upon streets I remembered from last time. Wishing buon giorno to street sweepers, nuns, and other tourists as I made my way to my favorite little hole in the wall cafe, and orded my “caffe” (espresso to the uneducated). I found myself on a bench up a little side street/alley – maybe two blocks from the Duomo. I sat there for about 20 minutes, listening to the pigeons and the occasional car shifting gears up the hill and around the tight corners. I daydreamed about how quickly I could get back there – because I really am starting to feel that my soul needs to be there. I looked up at the windows of the apartments surrounding me – curtains still drawn – and tried to figure out how to make one of them mine. Right there. On that very block. Waking up early (as usual) to walk downstairs and down to that hole in the wall for my caffe. Having dinner once or twice (or 5 times) a week at the restaurant below my window. Becoming such a part of this town that the restaruant owner gives me the local menu and a wink everytime I walk in – that I know without looking at my watch that the Duomo bells are about to toll – and that I notice when a cobble stone is becoming loose because I see it every day.

Someday Umbria. Someday you are going to be mine, and I am going to be yours.

Orvieto Duomo

Orvieto Duomo

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9 responses so far

  1. I skipped to the part where you talked about Orvieto. I long for that place, I really do. I dreamt about buying a place in Collelunga (the good one), but I know that I would go to Orvieto every day. How does it manage to be so beautifully slow paced and yet bustling… I mean, it isn’t a dying town.

    I got a book about a lady who bought a place there, and realize that moving there would be tough. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to.

    *envious of you*

  2. That all sounds so fucking wonderful. Some day I’ll get to Italy. I think I will likely never want to leave either.

  3. Saw this at work today and actually thought of you. Maybe it will help your dreams come true.
    http://www.amazon.com/How-Retire-Overseas-Everything-Abroad/dp/1594630658/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279155725&sr=8-1

  4. Glad to hear that you all had a fun time.

    You know, you should really do more writing. You have a knack for it.

    It brought back a lot of memories from my own time In Italy.

  5. All I could relate to was Rome. When we were stationed in Gaeta we went to there a couple times. We loved Gaeta…tiny little beach town. Sounded like the incredible journey I knew it would be.
    SO…who was the victim of upset tummy after b’fast and a drive? :)

  6. Our Auntie Nora – her b-fast just did not agree with her. Milk that probably left the cow yesterday, plus orange juice and twisty roads. not good.

  7. Ha! or was it the race car driving?! :) Only kidding, you were superb! Enjoyable entry!

  8. Seriously, Italy was HOT this month! Weren’t we lucky?? Pretty much every day ended up with going back to the hotel early for some AC and showers, especially in Rome! Glad that you got to eat at an agriturismo! Isn’t it the best? When I lived in Sardegna we would do that most Sundays. I am so glad that I ended up going to Orvieto unexpectedly. It was magical! Did you see the guy there who was always running around speaking in Italian and English on the phone and trying to look important. Seemed like quite the local character and he was EVERYWHERE. Either that or he was following me and my friend :)

  9. Your writing is so beautiful you took me there in my minds eye.

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