I’ve always loved Orvieto. She had me from the very moment I laid eyes on her some years ago. Perched on the top of a grand hill of tufo stone, Orvieto has been charming visitors for the better part of 3,000 years. In fact, every time I bring guests or clients to Orvieto to see her Etruscan foundations and beautifully preserved, medieval buildings, they fall in love with her too.
Perhaps it’s the allure of the ancient, historic center. Although, virtually all medieval hill towns have historic centers. It could be the endless, winding, cobbled lanes. But, no, most medieval villages have plenty of those. Maybe it’s the irresistible ceramic shops. No again. Because lots of towns in Italy have ceramic shops. Even the spectacular duomo (cathedral) can’t explain Orvieto’s magnetism for nearly 3,000 years, since the first stone wasn’t even placed until the year 1290.
So it must be more than all of that. Perhaps it’s the spirit of Orvieto that draws one in.
On my last visit there, just a few days ago with my husband and my parents, I met an elderly man sitting across from the duomo, admiring the breath-taking facade just as we were. His little dog was super cute and friendly (and I’m a push-over for cute dogs!) so we stuck up a conversation. He told me he was born right in the historic center Orvieto, but lived must of his life outside the walls of the city, in the nearby countryside. After retiring, he came back to the very center of Orvieto to live.
Then he said something to me that stayed with me long afterward, you know what I mean? He said that it’s important that you spend part of your life surrounded by nature, or you’ll never really learn to appreciate life. Because nature, he said to me, is life. (He gave me one of those twinkling-eye smiles when he said it.) He continued to explain that now that he lives back in town, he sees the beauty of Orvieto even more – because of the time he spent with nature.
There’s some wisdom in his words, don’t you think? I’m going to reflect on them often. Particularly when I go to the bank, or wander a cobbled lane, or drink a cappuccino, or sit on the cathedral steps in ancient, magnificent Orvieto.
Pamela Haack is the founder of Off the Beaten Strada where she creates and organizes personalized experiences and specialty retreats in Tuscany and Umbria, Italy, for travelers who wish to be immersed in the history, culture and traditions of the regions.
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