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Italy - Orvieto and Tuscany Countryside


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I am starting this thread so I can do a few posts on our next trip. This was a hastily arranged trip - I booked everything the day before we left for France, and we are home for just under two weeks before leaving again.

In May Nico from Sant'Antonio Country Resort posted on Facebook that he had a cancellation and was offering a big discount for the two weeks in June. We have been planning to go to Tuscany, and to stay at Sant'Antonio, but had not booked anything yet, so we took this opportunity. We have spent many weeks in Tuscany in the past, usually in June or September. I went through my photos and realized that the last time we spent a week in Tuscany was 2002 when we spent two weeks in Cetona. The next year we spent a few nights in Tuscany and that was our last visit. We have been other places in Italy, but have not been back to Tuscany.

Our first trip to Italy was 1988 to Florence and then a week in Porto Santo Stephano on the Tuscan coast. We did not return to Italy or Tuscany until 1996 when we spent three weeks in near Siena. After that trip we returned many times. I guess by 2002 we figured we had spent enough time there. It will be interesting to see what it is like after 12 years away. Reading my old SlowTrav notes, looking at maps and reading guidebooks brings old trip memories flooding back and I am looking forward to the trip.


I have a box of Tuscany guidebooks and maps in my garage in Santa Fe, but nothing here with us in England, so I had to buy them again. The beautifully written and well researched Cadogan guide by Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls made me a Cadogan devotee all those years ago, and it is lovely to read it again (thank you Dana!!). The Cicerone Walking guide is the best one for Tuscany, and we have done several of the walks over the years, but hope to do a few more (or redo some) on this trip. And the TCI road map was always my favorite.

The Trip Plan

On Thursday we fly EasyJet from Bristol Airport to Rome and pick up a rental car. This time I bought full insurance with zero excess for the rental car, since we have had damage to the rental car on two recent trips. I have just submitted our claim, to our car rental excess insurance provider, for the scratch we got in France. Enterprise/Citer charged us 850 Euro!! (For a scratch!!) They would cover us again on this trip, but AutoEurope was offering the extra insurance for very little, so I took it.

Thursday afternoon, with temps predicted for the mid-90s, we drive up to Orvieto where we are spending two nights in a hotel. Luckily, because I never thought of checking this when booking, it has AC! Hotel Duomo in the town center. Everything else was booked and this seemed like an okay hotel.

Friday we will probably spend in Orvieto exploring the town. We have only been here once on a day trip years ago. I still remember those frescoes in the church and I want to see them again (maybe a couple of times). If it is unbearably hot, maybe we will drive to Lake Bolsena - or have an afternoon nap in the hotel.

Saturday we plan to drive to Pitigliano and hunt out those Etruscan Pathways that we found in 2002. I have better information now and I hope we find a few more and do a walk in the area. We can check in at Sant'Antonio between 3pm and 5pm.

It looks like the weather is dropping down into the 70s with rain for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but then back to sunshine and 80s on Wednesday. We plan to have a fun week in the Tuscan countryside, visiting Montepulciano and Pienza, Sant'Antimo, Monte Oliveto, a day in Siena.

We fly back from Rome on Saturday afternoon, leaving us enough time for a couple of hours at Ostia Antica before the flight.

I have my notes organized, restaurant lists and suggestions printed out, and am ready to go. After all those years of flying from the US to Italy for long trips, it is strange to be doing a 2 1/2 hour flight and spending only 9 nights there. This really is the magic part of living in England. Fingers crossed that EasyJet and that annoying Bristol Airport work out well for the trip.

Buddy (the cat) is off to the cattery tomorrow, but I don't have the suitcases out yet, so he doesn't know.
Can't wait to hear about your time in Tuscany especially since you haven't been there for a while.
Thanks Jonathan! Great information! I hope we see fireflies. I remember seeing them when we stayed on an estate in Chianti years ago. Looks like a good time of year for vegetables (my favorite food).

Suitcases are packed. I have my Painswick Book Club "go for a walk and then have dinner at the local hotel" tonight (we do this once a year). I found a good vacation rental in Lenk from Interhome, for the September trip, and am booking it today.
The long range weather forecast changes by the hour. Now it looks like really hot Thursday and Friday, then much cooler (down to mid 70s) and rain for the week. Opening up the suitcases and changing a few things ...
We are here at hotel duomo in Orvieto where we can see the corner of the duomo from our balcony. What an exhausting travel day! My plan was to leave the airport around 5pm and we did, but I had us in Orvieto before 7pm and we arrived at 9pm. An extra hour on the GRA around Rome because of an accident. Then slow going on the A1 because of a long torrential downpour - lightening and thunder too.

One wrong turn into Orvieto because the GPS lost its signal and there we were going in circles on the very narrow roads in the historic center. In the rain. I thought we would be sleeping in the car. We pulled over and I found a restaurant where three people conferred, found a map and figured out where we had to go. They spent a lot of time figuring it out and we were able to drive right to the parking lot behind the duomo that we were aiming for. Still raining and I am dripping wet now. Rolled our suitcases to the hotel, checked in (lovely hotel, lovely room), dried off and then walked back to the restaurant where they had helped us.

I figured such nice people would make good food and they did. We had pizza and beer, thanked them again and then walked around town a bit. No longer raining.

Sfizio on Via Garibaldi.

Why did we send the non Italian speaker out to ask for directions? Because I have the best sense of direction which is not saying much considering how lost I got us.

I am knackered!!

Photo from my hotel room just now.


First Autogrill, coffee and a new type of pocket coffee.

I love these frescoes in the Orvieto duomo. We visited this morning before people started arriving and again in early evening when everyone had left. We stood in the room and I read out Dana's comments from the Cadogan guide. Great descriptions.


I love Orvieto!

It was hot again today. Bright and sunny until about 2pm when it clouded over and rained for a bit. Then cloudy and humid for the rest of the day.

I like this hotel - Hotel Duomo. Well priced, great location, nice simple rooms, friendly owners. Not much fragrance on the sheets and towels. They even turned the AC on when we were out so the room was cool when we returned after lunch.

We visited the duomo in the morning. The 15th century frescoes by Signorelli are the reason we came to Orvieto. We saw them once years ago and wanted to see them again. We got there at 9:30 and there were only a few people. By 10:30 more were arriving.

Then we walked all around the town. Lots of shops and tourists on the two main streets but quiet everywhere else. Had a caffe freddo!

Had a simple lunch then met Linda from the Beehive (a hotel in Rome that everyone loves). I knew of her thru SlowTrav but had never met her. She is American but she and her husband have been living in Italy for years. It was fun to meet her and thank you Barb for arranging it.

Afternoon nap!

Made it to the archaeological museum 30 minutes before closing, so just had a quick look. Fabulous coin collection - Etruscan and roman.

Back to the church. Steve got them to write a note for us that morning so we didn't have to pay again when we went back. I love those frescoes.

More walking. Bought a book about the frescoes.

Out for dinner to a Taverna dell Etrusco, recommended by Cheryl. Football on TV in every room. Casual restaurant with very good food. We checked out the other places people had recommended but the Etrusco had better vegetarian selections. We even had wine with dinner (we hardly drink these days).

We had a lovely day in Orvieto. I had forgotten how beautiful everything is in this area. I think we overdosed on Italy with all our earlier travel, and with running SlowTrav, but enough time has gone by. I am very happy to be back. There is so much to love about Italy.

Tomorrow we hope to walk some of the Etruscan pathways (via cave) near Pitigliano. And then checkin at Sant'Antonio, near Montepulciano.
Pauline, you are making me seriously homesick for Umbria... Orvieto was one of our old haunts. We lived about an hour away, just beyond the Cascata delle Marmore.

But as a former Pocket Coffee addict, I am most intrigued that they've come up with a new kind. Are they even more intense? Oh, be still my caffeine deprived heart!
Love that you are "re-engaged" with the area again, Pauline. Isn't it a treat to see the frescos all cleaned up? They only finished a few years ago and the difference in the pigment colors is so dramatic. Did you get to visit the tomb and see the Etruscan frescos there? I know you mentioned having only 30 minutes before closing…Also glad you liked the recommended restaurant. There were no tv's when I was there last….too bad about that. Have fun on the leg of your adventure.

Apparently this is the "summer version" of Pocket Coffee - Ferrero make both. More details on the Ms. Aventures in Italy blog. It looks as if there's no chocolate coating (melts in the summer), but just the interior liquid, which you drink through a little straw.

I think you need to satisfy your curious and loyal readership with a full tasting report, together with photographic evidence...
I had forgotten how slow and winding the roads are in southern Tuscany.

We spent the morning in Orvieto. Cheryl reminded me to see the frescoes from Etruscan tombs in the National Archaelogical Museum. We had missed that one because it is hidden behind scaffolding and because there are 3 different archaeological museums. We found Marlena De Blasi's house (author of 1000 Days in Venice, etc). I met her in Santa Fe in 2008 and found this old blog post when searching for her address (Via del Duomo in the center of town). Thanks Valerie for reminding me that she lives in Orvieto.

We left Orvieto at 11:30, just as they were gearing up for some religious festival.

It was a slow and confusing drive to Pitigliano. We drove through Bolsena, but shouldn't have, and along the lake. Beautiful drive. We did not stop in Pitigliano but drove to one of the Etrscan pathways outside the town. We walked this one in 2002 but this time we walked further. It was about an hour gently uphill, through several paths cut into the rock hillside to a natural spring and stone fountain. These were made in the 7th century BC. Really incredible.

By now it was 2:30 and we headed to Montepulciano. We had some interesting breads, focaccia and some other type, from Orvieto to eat while driving (how American).

It was sunny and hot in the morning, clouding over as we reached Pitigliano but the rain started as we approached Sant'Antonio. We drove by La Foce. Missed a turn so got to drive through Chianciamo Terme, and got to Sant'Antonio where Nico was waiting to check us in.

The estate is beautiful. The apartment is beautiful (and fragrance-free, next time I won't need to pack our travel bedding). The area is beautiful.

We drove to a frutta e verdura recommended by Nico (he has a map with everything you need to know marked) and got lovely things - asparagus, fennel, radicchio, zucchini, cherries, watermelons, etc. They also have a at deli (tavola calda) so we got a few vegetarian things for dinner.

We walked into Montepulciano a bit, but then got supplies at the Conad and headed back. The rain started up again so we did not get out to explore the estate. Instead I looked at our view of Lake Trasimeno and beyond.

In the "old days" Steve and I always sang Lake Trasimeno to the tune of "Guantanamera". Now we are singing it again. I always hated Lake Trasimeno - more like Marsh Trasimeno - but it sure is pretty from a distance.

Maybe we will visit Panicale where we spent 2 weeks in 1999 and see if Gallo still runs the bar.

Very happy to be here. Hoping for sun again tomorrow. I think Steve is getting a cold (that is usually my job).

Photo of the Etruscan Pathways.


Photo Marlena De Blasi's doorway in Orvieto. She must have an apartment in this building.

Today's entry will be short. It rained all day, starting with drizzle and moving to heavy rain. I got ready to go out and explore the grounds several times, but stopped thinking it might get better later in the day. It is now later in the day and raining harder.

Steve has a cold. Good timing because he could sleep all day. Bad because I am going to drag him around Tuscany tomorrow.

I read the self published memoir "An Acre in the Dordogne" which I sort of enjoyed until you got to know the author well, and now I am disgusted at wasting my time. I bought it by mistake - clicked something without realizing it.

We did have an interesting visitor.


View of Lake Trasimeno from my window - not!


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