The triangle between Umbria and Lazio, earns the fateful phrase: “it deserves a trip”, it deserves, it should be said, to stay in Italy to discover the nature, the works of art, the genuine cuisine and the medieval villages that this area encloses and preserves with extreme care and pride.
You have never heard, or never pronounced the fateful sentence yourself:
Why go abroad when we have in our country wonderful places?
In our tour between Umbria and Lazio, Orvieto, from the motorway, appears as a distant destination that is slowly approaching. At first you notice a cliff, a flat and long hill that rises above the plain like a large transatlantic liner in the middle of the sea. We are in an area where the ground is tuff and you can immediately understand why the town was built up there: perched to better defend itself from unwelcome visitors, the access roads are few and bristling, from above you dominate the territory as far as the eye can see.
Approaching us you can see the houses, the towers, the bell towers and overhanging everything else, magnificent, imposing, exaggerated and beautiful the facade of the Duomo.
But wait, I don’t want to peek at it anymore, I don’t want to discover its details even those few that can be noticed from a distance, I want to keep waiting, I want to discover it by slowly approaching it like opening a gift, like taking off a wrapping at a time.
We park the car and go up to the city with the help of escalators and lifts. There is also a funicular, but we discovered this later.
You go uphill and the view of the surrounding countryside is ever more magnificent. With the last escalator we find ourselves in the village. We get lost in the alleys, we taste the stones of the houses.
The well of Saint Patrick
We head towards the well of St. Patrick. This is a masterpiece of engineering designed and created for the city’s water supply. Two spiral staircases, one going up and one going down, which never meet, make this place unique. If you want to go down there are 248 steps, but it is worth it.
After a landslide, the tuff is strongly at risk, an underground Orvieto made up of labyrinths, caves, tunnels, wells and cisterns was discovered by chance. But today is a beautiful day and we decide to stay in the sunlight.
We return to wander around the streets full of people, shops, restaurants. At each intersection we peek at the street that cuts us off, the little square that opens in front of us. I look for the cathedral, its spires, its immense rose window.
The Duomo of Orvieto
A few more hundred metres, a few turns and then there it is, it opens up in front of me suddenly and leaves me breathless.
It is the absurd proportion of the structure in comparison to the place where it stands that leaves you banned, you would expect to find such a cathedral in Paris, or in any other large and important city and not crushed between these humble houses, without any imposing avenue or immense square to give it comfort and breath.
You find it in front of you and it makes you feel all its weight, it makes you feel small, powerless. The respect and magnificence of the work is amplified, the taste and daring of these genius builders, creators, artists.
It is said that in nearby Bolsena blood was spilled from a consecrated host. This cathedral was erected to preserve its relics. I don’t know if this is true or not, I don’t know whether to believe it or not, but I don’t care. The church is so beautiful that everything else doesn’t matter.
Of course we cannot visit it inside, it is closed. We take it very seriously, it may happen, all the more reason to come back.
Civita di Bagnoregio
Civita di Bagnoregio is only 25 kilometres from Orvieto. If the cliff that hosts Orvieto is large and long, the one that hosts Civita di Bagnoregio and a cuckoo, a small panettone surrounded by a large canyon.
The village is small and seems to be suspended in thin air. It is a magical, enchanted, almost ethereal place. It gives the idea of something fragile, something precious. It makes you instinctively think of defending those clinging houses, embracing them so that they don’t crumble away. Nature here claims her state of possession, the landslides are seriously damaging the tufa rock. Today there are only ten inhabitants living in Civita. It is called the country that is dying, the country that is disappearing…
The landscape all around the cliff of Civita di Bagnoreggio is characterised by tuff ridges that rise ruggedly, like cockscombs.
Visit Civita di Bagnoregio
The only access route is the long concrete footbridge. Cars cannot physically enter.
Just inside, among its stone houses, above the pebbles consumed by time, life reigns. It is a tiny village that gives the impression of being full of hope. Its people hold the reins firmly, the shops tell the story, the people who guard the activities do so with tenacity, respect and love.
The tourist here is not simply a tourist, he is called to witness something to be handed down over time, he becomes an accomplice and, despite what tomorrow this place will be, the today that is repeated every day and that will go on again and again, the visitor participates in the pride of those who do not want to give up.
We choose a small restaurant at random. We have lunch next to an oil millstone, we place dishes and crockery on an olive tree table, hot and strong, juicy dishes, red wine warms up, sitting on wobbly wooden benches, the strength of the union on this hovering place is strengthened among us, fellow travellers.
After visiting Civita, we continue on to our last stop: Lake Bolsena, which is just 17 km away.
It is a beautiful day in December. The waters of the volcanic lake sacred to the Etruscans are calm. There is a clear correlation between the cliff of Orvieto and the depths of the lake. It is as if the territory had risen on one side and sank on the other. It is an explanation a little homely but it gives the idea.
We reach the town of Marta, from where we can see the islands of Martana and Bisentina. We proceed to Capodimonte, with its Rocca Farnese. In the meantime the sun goes down on the horizon, in a little while it’s time to go back home.
We sit on a little wall and enjoy the show, not far away a small group of old people are talking in Romanesque style among themselves. They laugh at something and we laugh with them.