When my boyfriend visited me in Italy over Thanksgiving, we spent most of our time traipsing around Rome. It was so special to show him all my ‘places’– especially my new favorite restaurants! (Nothing better than delicious, fresh Italian pasta. It’s a taste-the-difference type of thing. You’ll never want to return to De Cecco again…Although you will, because no reasonable human being can live without pasta.) Garrett and I tried our best to cram in everything we possibly could, but at a certain point, I felt like we both needed an education in what the ideal Italian hill town was like. If I think about Italy, I imagine three distinct locales: First, a bustling, active city. Second, a small, seaside village. And third, a romantic, Romeo and Juliet-style hill town.
Together, Garrett and I trained from Rome to Orvieto, a beautiful town located on the top of a volcanic tuff. We stayed with our friends the Pasqualonis at their Bed and Breakfast Ripa Medici. With an ancient wall lining the perimeter, a beautiful view of the surrounding hills and a romantic outdoor seating area, Garrett and I were in absolute heaven. The ‘White Apartment’, as our home was known, had beautiful exposed ceiling beams, a kitchen and incredible hard wood floors. We felt so lucky to have found such a cozy spot and such generous hosts! In the mornings, Sabrina made us yummy, complimentary breakfasts, with all the traditional Italian fixings.
During the day, we roamed the cobblestone streets, popping in to workshops to watch craftsmen make ceramic goods, leather shoes and clay objets. My favorite shop for an unforgettable, memory-making souvenir experience was Alberto Bellini’s La Corte dei Miracoli. Bellini is a skilled artist, working with local clay and fallen tree limbs to create gorgeous statues– both miniature and life sized. The shop smelled so distinctly of Bellini’s clay, that sometimes Garrett and I still sniff our statue to remember the night we bought it!
I also insist that you visit Il Mago di Oz, the aptly named toy store where every single item comes to life at the flip of a switch. It was like visiting Willy Wonka, or Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Complete magic and awe. The store is filled to the brim with restored, vintage toys and fashion prints. If you’ve ever been to “21” in Manhattan, the ceiling is highly reminiscent of Il Mago di Oz’s.
Perhaps most importantly, it is imperative that you visit The Duomo of Orvieto. I have gasped in awe twice in my life: First, when I saw the inside of Paris’ Sainte-Chapelle, and second, when I approached the Duomo. The Duomo of Orvieto’s exterior is unlike any church I have ever scene. So much gold plating, intricate design and beautiful colors. It was magnificent. I tried to take a picture, but it certainly did not do the Duomo justice. I would like to return to this church in my life time, and I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy it as well!
Some other great stops include: the Etruscan Ruins, Petrella Jewelry, Il Torre del Moro, the Orvieto Underground and the local food markets. Buona fortuna!