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Orvieto, Tuscania, Tarquinia, Anghiari

Wow, I am way behind on trip reports!

This one will be high (and low) lights from these four cities, only one of which was familiar to me.

When I planned this segment, I violated one of my new rules, that is, don't string together a lot of short stays. I had two nights in Orvieto (an annual destination, so not a problem) then three nights in Tuscania, two in Tarquinia, three in Anghiari. To make matters worse, the trek to Anghiari involved crossing a regional border, which makes travel by public transportation more of a challenge. Read on for gory details.

I arrived in Orvieto, and immediately went to the TI office in Piazza del Duomo. "Immediately" might be too strong a word: I took the "C" bus, which takes the long route, on purpose, there's this one sharp turn and two steep descents that I love. Plus I get to see how my little city is doing. This route has added a new leg, and goes very close to San Giovenale church, whose restoration I was able to watch over the past few years, thanks to the regional superintendent seeing my love for this oldest known church in Orvieto (11th century).

I get lots of info from the TI, including how to get to Tuscania (a few buses a day), and tell her that hers is the best TI office in Italy. True, she and her colleagues have helped me so much over the years. She takes a phone call as I leave the office, and I hear her telling the caller about the compliment she had just received.

Drag my bag across the Piazza to Hotel Virgilio, my favorite of several places I have stayed in Orvieto. I can look out my window at all hours (I find myself waking up during the night in Orvieto more than anywhere else), and look at the side view of the facade. So beautiful in the moonlight. There are two soldiers protecting her during the night. A new team will take over in the morning. The next morning, the breakfast server remembers me from last year. The beautiful young man at reception explains that the TIM network is down, so no wifi. It's okay, I say, I have my phone. He speaks to me in English, I answer in Italian - a little odd, but we both want the practice. I visit the Duomo and then go to San Giovenale, then have a very late lunch at a good but forgettable restaurant (excellent service, good prices, but Orvieto has so many good to great restaurants). Go back to the Duomo and find a message from the day receptionist that wifi is back. The hotel has a little seating area out front, and I pass a couple of hours watching life in the Piazza. The next morning I say goodbye to the breakfast man, saying sorry I am leaving to catch a train, but wanted to say goodbye, and see you next year.

I take the funivia to the bus stop, and the bus comes on time. Off to Tuscania!

Posted by
4059 posts

Zoe, more please!

I also have had the experience of speaking to waitstaff or hotel reception in Italian, and they answer in English. It works.

Posted by
11613 posts

continued

I arrive at the bus stop in Tuscania, and call the B&b owner for directions. He says he will pick me up in ten minutes. A few minutes later a car appears, the owner takes my bag and puts it in the backseat next to his enormous dog, which I find out later goes everywhere with him. He apologizes for the dog, I say he's beautiful, and off we go. The town looks good as we fly through, and he stops in front of a white curtain. It's the B&B entrance. Beyond the curtain is a flight of steps, and then a wrought-iron gate-door at the top. My room is on the other side of the gate. No problem, I've slept in stranger layouts. The dog escorts me into the room, the owner gives me keys and instructions, and they both are gone.

This guy must have some story, I think - a man and his dog. The room is lovely, big, comfortable, plugs everywhere, great wifi. I go for a walk and come upon the public gardens. They are part of an Augustinian complex, with lots of land and great views of the valley. Some houses are built into parts of the walls. A little boy is way up in a tree, quietly contemplating the horizon, as mamma calls him for dinner. Imagine having this as your back yard, I think; he will never be happy in a big city. This is also where some quite portly shirtless men take their constitutional.

After dinner at a very good restaurant up a short flight of steps around the corner from the park, I go back to my room, through the street curtain and the iron gate, and fall asleep.

The next morning at 8am, breakfast is brought to my room by the owner and his dog. The owner is ready to leave, but the big dog lingers ("But she has the food,,," he seems to say). But he gets coaxed away. I literally cover half the town today, saving the other half for tomorrow, I visit many churches, find a bar that I go back to every day, buy bus tickets and check schedules. I have lunch at a big outdoor restaurant just behind the park. There is no menu, everyone knows everyone else, and my B&B host is having lunch with a friend, with his dog sitting patiently under the table. The owner of the restaurant rattles off a number of first courses, I randomly pick one. Then she goes to the main course list, and I randomly pick something from that. Uh-oh, I think, it looks casual but did I just order a €50 meal? But wait, my B&B owner seems to be a frugal type, he charges €35/night for a single with continental breakfast, so it can't be too expensive. But wait, maybe the regulars all get the loyalty discount. Then the food arrives, and it would be worth a splurge. Turns out to cost €13, including a bottle of water.

The next day I investigate the other side of town, find incredible architectural touches and narrow alleyways that spill out into fairly large piazze, I swear I stop for a coffee at each of them. I do a trial walk to the bus stop, decide I can roll my bag there in less than ten minutes. I have a relatively early bus the next day with a strange series of transfers.

The bus pulls into my transfer point, I have to buy a ticket before boarding and the bus leaves in six minutes. I confirm with the driver that I have time to buy the ticket and make the departure, so I hurry off to the ticket office, where a young woman ahead of me is arguing about the price of the ticket, which the agent is holding but will not let go until he has the right amount of hard cash in the other hand. Tick-tock-tick-tock. There is nothing more irksome to me than waiting in line. She gives up, even her youthful beauty doesn't sway the ticket agent, I ask for a ticket to Tarquinia, which is the same price as the one she didn't pay for, and he hands me the now-moist ticket. I will make that bus!

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11613 posts

continued.

Tarquinia has everything - Etruscan tombs, great museums, churches, a beach. So sorry I didn't plan for more time here. But I will come back!

The bus stop is around the corner from the TI office, so I get directions to my B&B (one of the few times that a B&B host doesn't pick me up). No problem, even with my impaired sense of direction - I think of it as The Columbus Gene - I find the B&B in the oldest part of town, the host is gracious, even though still cleaning some of the rooms, for which she apologizes, but mine is ready. She has two properties to manage, so it's a tough job. After instructions and a tutorial on doors and a/c, I am on my own. Aside: why is the bedroom key always the giant 18th-century one, and the entrance key is the smallest?

My first stop is the nearby church of San Francesco. Beautiful, although it borders on a busy, curving, traffic lane just outside the ZTL. Then I just wander - it's too late for the necropolis today, and I may not make it tomorrow. In fact, I don't - the heat of the day is too much for me. I content myself with the Etruscan Museum, which is phenomenal. These Etruscans are getting to me. Not as much as the Samnites and Romans, but still...

I go to the edge of town to visit a church, which is abandoned, except for a man who has set up a card table near the entrance. We talk for a bit, but there is no fee schedule, so I ask if it's okay to walk around and take some photos without flash. He says sure, go ahead, so I do. The baptistery font is damaged, frescoes are in state of decay, but it is a beautisul and spiritual place. A couple of tourists peak in and leave immediately. I am reminded of how much can be missed by not taking the time to look deeply.

The next day, I go to the bus stop and the driver has to make the bus "kneel" so that I can reach the step. We get to the train station in a few minutes, and the train soon pulls into the station. Rather than take the complicated route to Anghiari that involves five changes, I opt to go back to Roma and take the train to Arezzo, then transfer to a frequent bus to Anghiari. When the train pulls in, it has a Pendolino-type tilt AWAY from the boarding door, making the first step a leap of faith for short folk. I can't do it. Suddenly I hear a man's voice behind me: "Permesso." And I feel two hand in the nether regions. I turn to thank him but he apologizes before I can say anything, while his wife supervises. "E stato un piacere, Grazie", I murmur as his wife implodes with laughter.

In Roma Termini, I walk the 300 meters of the split track to the regionale train for Firenze. It's so far that there are signs telling you how many meters are left. Finally, I get to the platform and board the train all by myself, no helping hands needed.

The train is fairly full, it is the cheapie regionale to Firenze in July, for crying out loud. I hate to do it, but I gently awaken the gorgeous young man who is sprawled across four seats. He is immediately gracious, his mother would be so proud. The train stops in Civitavecchia and there are at least fifty cruise ship tourists cramming onto the train, many with sarcophagus-size suitcases. One man actually has a small steamer trunk on wheels. People are sitting on stairs between levels. The crowd eventually thins out, and by the time I get to Arezzo I can get to the door without crawling over bodies or luggage.

In Arezzo, I go across the Piazza to the bus stop to Anghiari. Uneventful ride, but now it's mid-afternoon. I get off the bus after making sure I know where to catch the outgoing bus. Then it's uphill (and a short flight of stairs) to my hotel, Hotel Meridiana.

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continued

Anghiari. I stopped here once on my way to Sansepolcro. Always wanted to return. A beautiful, walled city, whose exterior walls have not been changed, nor have many of the buildings inside them. I am reminded of the Southernism, "too proud to whitewash and too poor to paint": Anghiari (and other hill towns) is what happens when economic revivals pass by.

Amazingly, very few churches are open. The big draw is the legendary drawing of the Battle of Anghiari by Leonardo da Vinci, now lost. There are a few museums, a wall walk, and lots of hilly streets. But it is beautiful. The elderly hotel owner warms to me by the second morning, and brings a frittata, still warm in its pan, to me at breakfast.

On the second day, I decide to go to Sansepolcro to see my favorite painting, the Risen Christ by Piero della Francesca. I take my time getting to the Museo Civico, passing a prosperous little historic center. The Buitoni pasta factory is a few kilometers outside of town, which is good economically. I finally get to the museum, buy a ticket, and go through the other rooms before the room where my painting is housed. I come to a grinding halt - the painting is almost completely obscured by strips of constructed white wall. Next to it, a monitor shows larger-than-life sized parts of the painting. I know something is up, so I find a staff member who tells me that there is a problem with humidity in the wall attached to the painting, and the work will take a long time. My distress is allayed by the knowledge that the painting can be saved. I go to look at a special exhibition on Luca Paolisi, a mathematician and friend of Piero's. any friend of Piero's is a friend of mine, so I take lots of photos of the info panels, to use in my lectures. I also visit Piero's house, which must have been quite comfy during the Renaissance.

Time for lunch at a great restaurant that attracts a business-lunch crowd. The exquisite pasta is served from the cooking pan. The restaurant is just inside the walls, around the corner from the bus station. Sansepolcro is like a miniature Firenze, in terms of architecture style, layout, and far fewer tourists. I can't wait to go back and see the completed restoration of Piero's masterwork.

Posted by
317 posts

Oh, Zoe, than you so much for your beautiful writing. I love traveling vicariously through you!

Posted by
11658 posts

E stato un piacere, Grazie"

Terrible case of the giggles here too (thank you, google translate)!
Another terrific read, Zoe: can't wait for Tuscania.

Posted by
11613 posts

No guidebooks per se (undergrad history major), but Michelin and Lonely Planet might be helpful. A guidebook might have helped me schedule more time there.

Posted by
362 posts

OMG, this is a FABULOUS tour report!!! I know what to visit all of these places, including the B&B with man and large dog.

(I could probably skip the part about needing help to reach the step, but then again, I am also short...)

Posted by
11658 posts

Tuscania is upthread, Kathy.

Doh! Of course it is. By the time I got down to Anghiari, my head was elsewhere.

Posted by
5537 posts

Zoe, all your trip reports are excellent, but this one is just extraordinary -- a very ethereal feel to it, I don't know if I'm making sense but there is a real beauty in how your described these days. Thank you for taking the time to write this!!

Posted by
14003 posts

I almost feel like I'm back in Italy when I read your accounts .. . even about places I've nevr been to. Thank you so much for sharing, Zoe.

Posted by
7736 posts

What a wonderful description! And I loved your remark - yes, thanks to GoogleTranslate!

Hi Zoe! I'm staying in Tuscania at the moment. Where did you catch the bus from? I waited in two spots the other day that my Moovit app said to catch the bus from and twice there was no bus?!

Posted by
11613 posts

Lawrence, the bus to get out of Tuscania leaves from Piazza degli Bersaglieri, just outside the town wall. You can but tickets from the bar up the ramp and across the small street (same side as the bus stop).

Posted by
9447 posts

" Sarcophagus sized suitcases" and "nether regions" gave me a giggle.

We did a day trip to Tarquinia a few years ago on a pleasant fall day. Loved it! Bit of a hike from the station if you miss the bus. Cannot imagine those wonderful tombs during "Lucifer." But now you are cool in the UK I hope.

Posted by
596 posts

Zoe, I loved this report - putting me right back in beautiful Italy. Thank you.

Posted by
4522 posts

Zoe,

I'm finally reading all your trip reports, thanks for sharing!

Thanks for recommending Hotel Virgilio in Orvieto, I loved the location, right next to the beautiful Duomo!

Posted by
11613 posts

Priscilla, I just booked Hotel Virgilio for July 2018.