Thursday. GT2 Day Nineteen. Orvieto, Umbria, Italy.
The girls were tired this morning. So Dominica and I got up ourselves and went out for breakfast in Orvieto on the main shopping street. We looked around a little, but found that the place that we got sandwiches from last night seemed to have a nice breakfast. So we went there. We both ended up getting omelettes. Dominica got just cheese and I got veggie. These were some of the best omelettes that I have ever had. It was so good. Breakfast was out on a back garden, too, which was so beautiful. A great setting for a relaxing breakfast. It was already getting pretty warm, though, even at breakfast.
After breakfast we returned to the house and got the girls and brought them out for breakfast as they both need to eat first thing in the morning, more or less. Because everything was done with breakfast by then, except for the place that we were, we returned there for the third time in the last two meals. The girls got breakfast, but the garden was full or bathed in sunlight, so we sat at a table inside while they ate.
After breakfast, they decided to go straight to do St. Patrick’s Well (or properly Pozzo di S. Patrizio) which is probably the top thing for tourists to see when in town. This is a five hundred year old well that goes down nearly sixty meters (yes meters, not feet) with a double helix stairwell so that you have a continuous flow of “traffic” going down, crossing the well at depth, and climbing back up, all in one directly. It is huge, deep, incredibly historic, and an engineering marvel of its age.
On our way to the well we stopped at a little automat along the main road to get bottled water. It is so hot out already. Dominica grabbed me an aloe vera drink as well as my bottle of water. I drank the aloe vera quickly so that I would not have to carry it, along with the water and the camera, down into the well.
It was rather a long walk down the hill to get to the top of the well. A really long, hot walk. We did a little shopping on the way. Souvenirs and such.
When we got to the top of the well I suddenly got a really bad stomach cramp. But it was so far away form anything and it was time to go into the well.
St. Patrick’s Well was really amazing. First of all, it got nice and cool almost instantly. That was great. The whole thing is a continuous, slanted stairwell meant for donkeys to climb down which was pretty hard to walk down without stopping a bit. It was super neat. I highly recommend doing the well.
At the bottom of the well I was starting to feel sicker and Dominica recommended that I just head back on my own and not wait for them. I hesitated, but thankfully decided that she was smart and decided to do that.
It is worth noting here what we learned later. First that desalinization is one of the two forms of heat exhaustion. Second that aloe vera is a natural laxative. Over the past week or more it has been incredibly hot and I have been sweating non-stop all day, every day and intaking an incredible amount of water, but not really all that much salt.
It was a long climb sixty meters up out of the well. But that was not so bad. Much, much longer was the long hike up through town, which was all steeply uphill, not just to the top of the shopping district, but higher still to our apartment which is near the very top of town! I walked so fast that first I was drenched in sweat, but second I beat Dominica and the girls back to the apartment by a full forty minutes!
It took a few hours back in the air conditioning, and several cold showers, to get me feeling better. From what we can tell, I am experiencing heat exhaustion triggered by too much water and too little salt, exacerbated by the heavy hiking and the aloe vera. I felt quite sick for about four hours.
Once I was feeling better we decided to set out to go see the Orvieto Underground, as today is out day for seeing Orvieto and that is the next big ticket item to see. The girls announced that they were starved and needed to eat lunch before we got there. But there wasn’t any time to feed them, it was already pretty much a rush to make it to the last tour while we were in town. We rushed them out the door and down to the street of food as quickly as we could. We’ve been warning them days in advance about how all food decisions have to be made within the Italian eating schedule or else food won’t be available, and remind them at each meal about the next meal.
We really struggled to find any food for them and the only thing that they wanted were French fries, which requires going to a sit down restaurant and having the food cooked for them. Europe in general, and Italy more than anywhere, is not a “fast food” culture and in a leisurely tourist zone like this, just getting French fries is likely to take forty five minutes, when all we have is five.
They just couldn’t find anything to eat. Dominica finally found them some sandwiches and got them things that she thought that they would eat and fed them on the way to the piazza di duomo where we had to get to buy our tour tickets.
We got to the ticket office as they were issuing the last tour tickets of the day. We were technically three people beyond tour capacity, but we looked exhausted and they were nice and sold us four tickets, even though only one slot was left for the tour. We really did make it at the very last possible second. One minute later and we could have missed the tour and technically we did miss it and they just took care of us.
Once we had our tickets, we had about twenty five minutes to kill before the actual tour started. There was a little bar on the piazza that was convenient and had a view of both the duomo, which is awesome and we have not really gotten to see but I know it well from Rick Steves, and of where the tour would start. I got an Aperol spritz, which was very good. Dominica tried it and loved it. It is now one of the drinks in her drink rotation.
The tour got started at five thirty and was all walking. We walked down into three or four caves under Orvieto. It was really interesting and fun. A great tour and well worth it. It was not very long and you only saw a little bit, but it was very educational and cool. Something that you rarely get to see anywhere. Altogether there are like twelve hundred known caves under the city! We got to see real, underground dovecotes, too.
After our underground tour it was time for dinner. There is plenty of time since the tour was done a bit before it was really time to eat. So we used our available time to walk pretty much all of the streets of Orvieto where there are restaurants so that the girls could go over each of the menus. We did the entire town, then some again, before they settled on a little homey place with almost no one in it.
We got a table inside under a fan and were able to stay cool. This ended up being the first really authentic Italian meal that the girls have had of the trip. Madeline got a sort of spaghetti in meat sauce. Emily got lasagna. Dominica and I split a variety of bruschette. Dominica got gnocchi. And I got ravioli spinachi. Then Dominica and I split a pear salad. It was a great dinner. But we shut down the restaurant.
After dinner we wandered a little and then took the girls out for drinks to a neat little bar that we had found on a back street. There Madeline got some wine, Emily got some kind of fruity cocktail, Dominica got an Aperol spritz, and I got biscotti with wine to dunk it in.
We were all very tired by the time that that was done and walked back to the apartment to go to bed. Tomorrow we have to check out of our apartment here and drive up to Tuscany where we are going to be for several day.