Orvieto and Pienza

Day 15 – Orvieto and Pienza

Daily Wrap-Up

One Word
  • Barb: Views
  • Mike: Backroads
  • Jen: Green
Two Words
  • Barb: Stripey church
  • Mike: Clever well
  • Jen: Rolling hills
Three or Four Words
  • Barb: Out in the country
  • Mike: Ornate front, stripey sides
  • Jen: Olive groves and vineyards
One Sentence
  • Barb: I do love these lofty, soaring cathedrals (though they’re a bit chilly in March).
  • Mike: Driving through the green Umbrian-Tuscan countryside on a sunny spring day. Note: Jen does not approve of this sentence fragment.
  • Jen: I found a five-euro bill!

We had a lovely drive in the country today. I love a country drive. Rolling green hills. Cultivated quilt blocks separated by wild woods. Olive groves and vineyards. Deer in the light of day. And a delightful pig of substantial size roaming a field.

First stop: Orvieto, a town (you guessed it) built into and on a hill.

The outer wall of Orvieto where bricks meet rock.

Orvieto, meet Rock. Rock, meet Orvieto.

In addition to being a charming hill town with interesting paths, medieval stone structures, walls, cliffs, towers, domes, tiny homes and shops, and multiple churches, Orvieto has a splendidly ornate church: Duomo of Orvieto, 300 years in the making.

The ornate facade of the Duomo of Orvieto.

The Duomo of Orvieto, a top-shelf cathedral in my book. So many wonderful colors and details.

The black-and-white striped exterior walls of the Duomo of Orvieto.

While the facade of the Duomo of Orvieto is colorful, the rest of the exterior is striped with alternating rows of travertine and green-black basalt blocks.

I love the contrast of the colorful, ornate facade with the striped sides. Beautiful! As always, I could spend hours just sitting and looking at all the details. The images tell the story of Christianity, from Creation to the Last Judgment, but what I liked best were the fillings: the detailed carvings and colorful mosaic patterns.

Creation carving on the Duomo of Orvieto

God pulls Eve from Adam’s rib. I especially like the twisted tree and leaves that separate the ten or so images depicting Creation. So many details!

A colorful mosaic pattern from the Duomo of Orvieto facade.

Just one of the countless humble mosaic patterns that combine to create the delightfully overwhelming facade.

Yet another thing I especially like about the Duomo of Orvieto is the pamphlet they provide with details about who designed/built/painted what when. Very handy and interesting. And entertaining—for instance, “modernization of the Chapel began in 1622.” I’m unclear as to whether that’s been finished yet or not.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so I can’t recall specifics, but it was pretty spectacular, too.

On the other side of town is the Pozzo di San Patrizio, a well built in the early 1500s to ensure the town had water in the event of an attack. The 203-foot well took ten years to build. It was cleverly designed to have two spiral staircases arranged in a double helix so, as in Brunelleschi’s Duomo, people going up would not have to contend with people coming down.

Looking down the well in Orvieto

Pozzo di San Patrizio: The well in Orvieto with two 248-step staircases.

Jen, Mike, and Barb at the bottom of the well.

Pozzo di San Patrizio. Of course we went down into the well.

Then it was off to Pienza where we visited the pretty duomo that is literally falling off the edge of the hill (the guide book says “suffers from severe settling”). Inside, the floor slopes, and outside, there’s a big crack down the exterior wall where the apse end is slowly breaking away. Though the outside of the church is comparatively unspectacular, the inside was beautiful, especially the ceiling, and unlike the Duomo of Orvieto, we were allowed to take pictures here.

Ceiling detail from the duomo in Pienza.

Ceiling detail from the duomo in Pienza.

From a walkway along the edge of the town, we had a wonderful view of the countryside, which I think gives you a sense of the day’s beautiful drive.

Rolling green hills outside Pienza

The countryside beyond Pienza.

Categories: Italy, Travel

4 replies »

  1. Me, too. We’re actually home now, unpacking, cleaning up, and repacking because we’re heading to the lodge in a few days for some spring caretaking. I plan to continue posting about the trip, though. In fact, I expect I’ll post more regularly now that we’re back.