If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.
~ Leo Tolstoy
There. I said it. I’ve made reservations to spend two weeks writing in Orvieto.
It took weeks for me to decide. Part of the problem is that I overthink things. Every. Single. Thing. As I mentioned in my last post, I have been looking and researching towns all over Italy to find a place where I could write for two weeks. For almost two months, I investigated towns and apartments all along the Italian peninsula as well as the best times to go. I didn’t have a long list of needs, but I wanted to find an affordable place that was within walking distance of the trains. And, I needed Wi-Fi. And, a washing machine would be nice.
Orvieto checked all of the boxes.
Orvieto is one of those quintessential Umbrian hill towns. Perched on nearly vertical cliffs made of tufa rock, Orvieto was virtually indestructible and was important stronghold for the Papal States. It was a cultural and educational center, and St. Thomas Aquinas taught there before moving to Rome.
My first visit there was not one I had really planned. I brought a group of friends to the area because they wanted to visit Pitigliano, a small Tuscan hill town. It was cold and rainy when we arrived at the house I’d rented in Chiusi, and because it was May, the house had no heat (Long story, but the Italian government regulates the dates you can heat your homes as well as the number of hours per day.). We ended up leaving the house and moving to a BandB that I found in Orvieto, which was fortuitous as I discovered another town that I liked.
What, in particular, did I like? I can’t tell you exactly. I felt comfortable immediately, not something that happens in every town. I like the food, which I consider close to Abruzzese cuisine. It is cucina povera, or peasant cooking. They use simple ingredients and do not over-spice things. Because Umbria is landlocked (the only Italian region that doesn’t touch the coast), dishes do feature meats—pork, lamb, and game, mostly. Fish from its lakes is popular in those regions, but I won’t be seeking those out.
So, yes, I like Orvieto. That’s not why I chose it, though. My decision came down to three factors.
• I have been to Orvieto and am familiar with it. While I haven’t been there for long periods of time, I’m comfortable enough to know my way around the historic center where my apartment is.
• Speaking of the apartment, it is affordable and has a rating of 4.95 in its reviews. Yes, it is small, but I don’t need a huge place. It includes a full kitchen, washing machine, and, most importantly, Wi-Fi. Every review says the place is very comfortable, so that is important. The one negative is that, from what I can tell, there is not a view from the windows. . . But it has windows. (Believe it or not, some of the places I looked at did not have windows.)
• It has easy access to the train station. Even though the station is down the hill, there’s a funicular that you can take to get there in a few minutes. While I intend to spend the majority of the two weeks on the hill, I like being able to take a day trip to discover other towns in Umbria.
Ever since my first visit to Pettorano sul Gizio, the birthplace of grandparents, I have wanted to stay there. We’ve stayed in Sulmona, the “big” city that’s six miles away, but our visits to Pettorano have been limited to a couple of hours here and there. I’ve been lucky enough not only to meet family but also to make friends (and find the best cappuccino and dolci…. I’m talking about you Cristina!!). The truth of the matter is that my grandfather lived on the hill in the center of Pettorano while my grandmother lived in the valley beneath the town, Vallelarga. No matter. My blood runs through that lovely town.
One of the things I love about Pettorano is that it is not spoiled by zillions of tourists. Most of the people you see there are residents. One of the reasons, I think, is that it is not easy to get there. Pettorano is about 10 miles from the nearest train station, and transportation to-and-from the town is difficult. In addition, the majority of the places available for rent there do not have Wi-Fi available. That is a huge problem for me.
But I have this dream. I want to walk all of the streets of the town…up the hills and down the stairs. I want to sit in the Piazza Zanelli and write…to look over Valle Margherita when I need a breath of air. I want to listen to the chiacchiere (the chatter) as it floats on the air…to inhale the perfume of tomatoes cooking on the stoves of the mamme and nonne. I want to take my grandmother’s spirit back there with me. I did not want to give up on that dream or to wait until next year.
I almost did give up, though.
But, the good news is that I had not arranged anything for the first three days back in Italy, so I kept researching. I had just decided to book something in Cortona when I found a B&B with Wi-Fi in Pettorano. On the same day, a driver I know told me that he would drive me to-and-from the train station.
I am spending three (well, two-and-a-half) days in Pettorano. My heart is about to burst.
I want to make a side comment here regarding a thought or realization I had recently regarding this trip. We all have friends who live close to us and friends who live a distance from us. This is, at times, a conundrum for me and, most likely, for all of us. As much as I would love to visit my friends in Las Vegas or Charlotte or Ohio or even Miami, the thought rarely crosses my mind because I would have to either get in a car and drive wherever or get on a plane.
In Italy, most of my friends are concentrated in Emilia-Romagna and Abruzzo, two regions (similar to states in the US) that are not exactly close to each other. While Italy is a much smaller country than the US, driving or flying between the two would be difficult. I don’t even consider that, though, because of the Italian train system. Jump on a train, sit back, and a few hours later, I can be in either place. Think about this: I can land in Rome, hop the fast train, and be in Bologna (189 miles) in under two hours. A train from Rome to Venice (330 miles) takes just under four hours. Sulmona, which is the closest station to my grandparents’ village, is 74 miles from Rome and takes two-and-a-half to three hours because all of the trains are regional and have many stops.