We had spent three nights in Rome and were anxious to arrive at our next destination: Florence. Our tour guide was very excited about making a quick stop in Orvieto – a quaint city on top of a mountain that she described as the quintessential Italian town. She swore we would fall in love with it and she tried to get us excited by telling us that we were going to ride a funicular. The entire bus started murmuring what the hell is a funicular?
Totally puzzled, we followed her off of the bus, up a few flights of stairs, and hurried through a turnstile – making it with only a few minutes to spare – we packed ourselves into the funicular before it left up the mountain. It was (basically) a cable car on a set of tracks.
We hiked up into the city of Orvieto after our funicular ride, pointing down every tiny side street, gasping at and admiring every last detail of Orvieto’s beauty. Suddenly and unexpectedly we came upon the massive gothic Duomo di Orvieto. Usually, we were noisy, talkative, and always laughing, but our group of 40 fell into a stunned silence in its presence.
Next, we toured a few lookout points to take pictures. Photos couldn’t ever do the Italian countryside justice. I visited vineyards in Tuscany, fell in love with rolling hills from the perches of San Gimignano, and watched clouds drift over the land below from Orvieto’s heights. They were views that I never got tired of. I always hoped that from every new place we visited, there would be landscapes as romantic and panoramic as the ones in Italy.
Once we stopped gawking, a few friends and I browsed shops stocked full of wooden kitchen tools, postcards, handmade chocolates, and bags of pasta before we settled on a cheap place for lunch. It had yellow umbrellas, a friendly cat, and great outdoor seating. My lunches in Italy alternated between salami pizzas and salami paninis. For lunch in Orvieto, I ordered a salami and mozzarella panini, water (still surprised that you have to pay for water in Europe), and a cappuccino as dessert. Coffee was always a must-have. My stomach was never disappointed.
We had some free time to explore after lunch before continuing on to Florence so we found ourselves ordering gelato. I usually ordered lemon gelato paired with another fruity flavor. This time I tried grapefruit – a little bitter, but not bad. (And if we’re being honest, there’s no such thing as bad gelato in Italy). Then we snuck away into an overgrown alleyway, up a flight of stairs, and sat among someone’s garden to enjoy our refreshing snack and hide from the sun.
We gathered in the cathedral’s plaza and headed back towards the funicular. As we squeezed back onto it and chugged down the mountain, we discovered that we all had the same thought. No one wanted to leave just yet. We wanted a few more days to take in the beauty, explore the cobblestone streets, and discover all of the wonderful little corners of Orvieto.