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This post isn’t about the results of today’s US election. It’s not about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It’s not about conservatism vs. liberalism, right vs. left, republican vs. democrat.

It’s about how I’ve come to the shocking realization that I’ve just spent the last year of my life lulled in a Facebook cradle. I let a social media vacuum swaddle me in a gigantic ‘preaching to the choir’ sense of security. I believed everyone was exactly like me, when actually I’d just surrounded myself with like-minded people. You can “unfriend” someone, but that doesn’t make them disappear.

I wasn’t paying enough attention to the other side of the aisle. I didn’t engage in any meaningful discussions with people who saw things differently than I did. That’s how I got blindsided.

I was living in a blue bubble.

The wake up call is quite jarring, but I accept the results of the election and I continue to believe in our system of democracy. I don’t particularly like it right now, but I still believe in it.

Some soul searching is now in order.

 

toni with drinks

I made it over the hump into middle age with most of my sanity intact and my self-confidence shored up by the passage of time and the fact that my acne had finally cleared up. Attending my high school reunion could mean the destruction of all that hard-won progress.

I began to wonder if stepping back in time might thrust me into an emotional downward spiral. I imagined a banquet hall filled with unrequited loves, former beauty queens and my adolescent nemesis, all of whom possessed the super powers to return me (an otherwise reasonably happy, healthy adult) into a sniveling, blubbering masses of teenage angst in less than 20 minutes.

I couldn’t chance it (plus I wasn’t able to make it back to the States that fall…or so I thought).

My friend and I hatched a plan and with the help of modern technology—a blown up selfie, a wooden stick and some Elmer’s glue—I was able to attend the reunion by proxy.

 

group insta

Me, backrow second from the left

 

chris&donna insta

After party girls

Apparently, I got more action that night than I ever did in the backseat of a ‘71 Camero.

TOM PENDER & ME

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coffee sf

There’s an audible gasp when the price of my morning coffee is announced ($5.00) and the bill arrives for two martinis ($35, nuts included). Doing the grocery shopping causes small aneurysms – a 12oz container of strawberries and blueberries comes in at $7.99. I’m experiencing sticker shock on steroids.

Downtown office buildings have hi-tech elevators that run based on algorithmes. Tap a computerized keypad and it scientifically figures out which car you should take to get to your floor most efficiently.

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At commuter train platforms people form queues behind black squares that indicate where doors will line up. Folks wait for others to get off before boarding. I guess these people have never met a Signora at the Saturday morning market.

I’ve been seen standing dumbfounded in front of new-fangled ATMs, bus ticket machines and parking meters. I ask way too many questions and require loads of explanation. Suddenly I’m a stranger in my native country.

After nearly four years living in Italy, I’ve adapted to its culture and grown accustomed to its ketchup (less sugar), pastries (less sugar) and mayonnaise (less salt).

The other day a barista asked me if I wanted my cappuccino “wet or dry?”

Ten days and counting…Orvieto or bust.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m all about promoting my hometown of Orvieto, so I’m absolutely thrilled to repost the following article published today in the The Local Italy! A Rome-based, independent daily reporting/news service, The Local Italy offers English speakers a window on life in the bel paese. The Local is one of the largest English-language news networks in Europe with more than four million readers every month. 

If you’d like to be part of the Local Italy’s community and received daily updates, sign up for their newsletter – you can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to the Editor and staff of the Local for passing the word about our little slice of heaven on a hill!  – Toni

An Italian hilltop gem: why you must visit magical Orvieto

The hilltop town of Orvieto, Umbria. Photo: Stefano Constantini

An Italian hilltop gem: why you must visit magical Orvieto

Published: 08 Jun 2016 07:00 GMT+02:00

With its rich history – it was an Etruscan stronghold – narrow streets, inspiring views, abundance of places to eat and drink, and friendly locals, Orvieto is definitely one to add to your Italy travel list.

DeBella, a freelance writer, gives us the inside take on what to do, where to stay and, most importantly, where to eat and drink:

Because I live in Orvieto and write a blog named after my obsession with this town, people often ask me to recommend things to do and see on their visits here. In an effort to avoid duplicating my efforts, I began compiling a list – a sort of “The Best of Orvieto” – that I could easily pass along to others.

Photo: Stephen Bugno

It’s not a complete and comprehensive list, but rather a collection of my own personal favourites: Things to see, do, places to stay, where to eat, drink and how to explore.

The beauty of all this information is you’re able to tailor your itinerary to match your time constraints and interests. For instance, if you find yourself only in town for the afternoon, I suggest you go straight to the “must sees”, stopping for a quick bite at a bar, café or gelateria.

If you’re staying for the entire weekend, you’ll have a lot more time to enjoy the region’s famous wines and cuisine. Languishing for a week or more? Take a morning hike around the Anello della Rupe or sign up for an Italian language course. No matter the duration of your stay, I’ve designed this guide in the hope that it will help you to get the most out of your time in Orvieto.

Photo: The Local Italy

Getting here…

Orvieto is located almost smack-bang in the centre of Italy, in the region of Umbria. It sits alongside the Autostrada A-1 (the spinal cord of the country’s highway system connecting Milan and Naples), so it’s easily accessible by car or train (it’s on the regional train line between Rome Termini station and Florence’s Santa Maria Novella).

If arriving by train…

From outside Orvieto’s train station take the funicolare (funicular rail car) that runs every 10 minutes up to town. From Piazza Cahen take the picturesque 15-minute stroll up the Corso Cavour to the historical center or hop on the bus that drops visitors off at the Duomo or Piazza della Repubblica.

If arriving by car…

There are several parking lots in town, but the easiest to access is the Forum Boario, a carpark on the western end of the town, accessible from the Strada della Stazione to Via delle Conce. The covered garage charges a fee of € 1.50 per hour and has an escalator (scala mobile) or elevator (ascensore) up to town.

Must-sees…

Photo: Gerdy Ling

Duomo di Orvieto: This 14th century Roman Catholic cathedral is one of the most spectacular and important in Italy. Its Capello di Madonna di San Brizio contains Luca Signorelli’s (c. 1445 –1523) Last Judgment, considered by many to be his masterpiece.

Orvieto Underground: This tour leads you through an utterly fascinating subterranean network of medieval caves, tunnels and Etruscan wells.

Torre del Moro

Photo: Toni DeBella

 The 13th century clock tower chimes on the hour, half and quarter hours, so you’ll never need a wristwatch. Climb the 270 stairs to the top for a bird’s eye view of Orvieto’s terracotta rooftops and surrounding countryside.

Pozzo di San Patrizio (St. Patrick’s Well)

Photo: Emilio Pocaro

Dating back to 1537, the largest of the town’s subterranean wells measures 62-metres-deep and has two spiral staircases, one for descending and one for ascending, that provided residents essential access to the water source at its base.

Crocifisso del Tufo Etruscan Necropolis (Etruscan Tombs): One of only two Etruscan necropolises in Umbria, it dates back to the mid-sixth century B.C. and is an enlightening example of the engineering superiority of this ancient but highly advanced civilization.

Where to stay…

****Hotel Piccolomini, Piazza Ranieri, 36; Email: info@palazzopiccolomini.it; Tel: (+39) 0763 341743; Website: http://www.palazzopiccolomini.it/en/

***Albergo Filippeschi, Via Filippeschi, 19; Email: info@albergofilippeschi.it; Tel: (+39) 0763.343275; Website: http://www.albergofilippeschi.it

B&B Ripa Medici, Vicolo Ripa Medici, 14; Email: ripamedici@libero.it; Tel: (+39) 0763 341343; Website: http://www.ripamedici.it/IndexEng.html

B&B Sant’Angelo, Via Sant’Angelo, 42; Email: info@bborvieto.com; Tel: (+39) 0763 341959; Website: http://www.bborvieto.com/

B&B La Piazzetta, Via Angelo da Orvieto, 10; Email: lapiazzettaorvieto@gmail.com; Website: http://www.lapiazzettaorvieto.it/indexeng.html

B&B Casa Vera, Vicolo Albani, 8; Email: info@casaveraorvieto.it; Tel: (+39) 349.430.0167 – (+39) 347. 811.9725; Website: http://www.casaveraorvieto.it/en/

B&B Magnolia, Via del Duomo, 29; Email: info@bblamagnolia.it; Tel: (+39) 0763.342808 – (+39) 349.462.0733; Website: http://www.bblamagnolia.it/?lang=en

Where to eat…

Photo: Mike Cross

Trattoria La Palomba. La Palomba is a typical Umbrian trattoria with a strong local following that never disappoints. Mention “Silvia” recommended it (an inside joke). Via Cipriano Menente, 16; Tel: 0763 343395 (Closed Wednesdays)

Trattoria Del Moro Aronne. Christian and his family serve food and wine that are out-of-this-world without sending your wallet into orbit. Via San Leonardo, 7; Tel: 0763 342763 (Closed Tuesdays)

Ristorante Capitano del Popolo. Located on the famous square of Piazza del Popolo – once the hotbed of Medieval Orvieto’s civic government (and now the setting for the town’s biweekly, open-air market) – Chef Valentina Santanicchio proudly sources her produce, literally, at her doorstep. When it comes to ‘eating well’ in Orvieto, Capitano del Popolo keeps both your taste buds and your good health in mind. Ristorante Capitano del Popolo, Piazza del Popolo 7/8/9; Tel 320 9287474; Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/capitanodelpopolo/?fref=ts

Bistrotters. Opened in the winter of 2015, this trendy, not-your-average-trattoria-style restaurant has become one of my favorite haunts for dining or enjoying cocktails on their expansive outdoor covered patio (they have heaters in the wintertime). Located on the piazza opposite the Church of San Giuseppe, halfway between the Torre del Moro and the Duomo, it’s close to everything, but also a world away.

Piazza Gualterio, 2, Orvieto; Email: info@bistrotters.it Tel: (+39) 0763.343978; Website:http://www.bistrotters.it/en/bistrotters-orvieto/(Open everday for lunch and dinner)

Pizzeria Charlie. The Poggi family is passionate about pizza and beer. Their beautiful outdoor courtyard is an excellent spot for dining in warmer weather. Via Loggia dei Mercanti, 14; Email: info@pizzeriacharlieorvieto.it; Tel: 0763.344766; Website:http://www.pizzeriacharlieorvieto.it (Closed Tuesdays)

Gelateria Pasqualetti. Made with only the freshest ingredients and natural flavours, it’s considered one of the top gelaterie in the country. Note: Their coffee-flavoured gelato recently won an award in an International ice cream competition. Corso Cavour, 56; Tel: (+39) 329 837 6959

 Where to drink…

Il Vincaffe. A wonderful enoteca with an outstanding selection of regional wines, it’s a great place to meet friends for an aperitif or to enjoy a light dinner. Via Filippeschi, 39; Email: info@ilvincaffe.it; Tel: (+39) 0763 340099; Website:http://www.ilvincaffe.it (Closed Mondays)

FEBO – Officina del Gusto.

Coffee at FEBO. Photo: The Local Italy

This cute and cozy spot has a café upstairs that serves lunch and dinner. I go there so often in the mornings that I no longer need to bother ordering. I just sit down and my caffe latte arrives at my table – perfect as always! Ah, to be a local. Via G. Michelangeli 7; Email: febobistrot@gmail.com; Tel: 0763 341057; Website:http://www.officinafebo.it/

Blue Bar. During the winter of 2008/2009, this was my living room. Owners Romina and Anthony’s little bar is a favourite of the ‘young crowd’ (and those of us who want to sit in their quiet salon and work on their computers without being glared at). The most recent addition to the Blue Bar family…their son, Leonardo! Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 23 (Closed Sundays)

Caffe Cavour. To say this bar is ‘family-owned and operated’ would be an understatement. Roberto, his wife Luigia and their sons Simone and Giacomo work this brightly lit, warm-welcoming bar like it was part of their home. Offering outdoor seating on “The Corso” in warmer months (located just down from the intersection of Corso Cavour and Via del Duomo) and in a back room all-year-round, they not only serve coffee drinks and cocktails, but light meals and a great aperitivo as well! Corso Cavour 74; Tel 340 644 9360; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Caffè-Cavour-1475679886059292/?fref=ts

Caffe ClanDestino. Right on the main street, you can sit at bistro tables underneath umbrellas for prime people watching. Corso Cavour 40; Email: caffe.clandestino@facebook.com; Tel: 0763 340868

Festivals and special events

Natale in Orvieto. Holiday time is my favourite season in Orvieto. There are free pop-up concerts galore and white lights strung on practically every street and lane. Magical.

Umbria Jazz Winter. One of the most important jazz festivals in the world, it takes place annually in late December to early January.

Corpus Domini. The Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena in 1263 prompted the construction ofOrvieto’s Duomo and established the Feast of Corpus Domini. Each summer the city commemorates the feast with a procession of over 400 costumes representing the municipal courts of the time, coats of arms, colored flags, armor, weapons, and helmets signifying Orvieto‘s military strength of that era.

Slowing it down

Orvieto has such a rich history – once Etruscan, then Medieval and now a vibrant, modern small city always buzzing with excitement, art, culture, music, food and wine. But it also offers a slower, peaceful pace that makes visitors feel as though they’ve stepped back in time…if only for a little while.

Toni DeBella is a freelance writer living in Orvieto. Her blog, Orvieto or Bust, is a collection of stories of a life in Italy.

For more news from Italy, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.it)

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Pasticceria Nando Orvieto

Instead of an oversize bunny rabbit leaving a basket of candied eggs, citizens of Orvieto wake up on Easter morning to a breakfast of Pizza di Pasqua (it’s not really a pizza, but it’s not exactly a cake either).

Pizza di Pasqua is a yeast-filled bread (similar to Christmas pannettone) that’s served during the holy days of Pasqua (Easter Sunday) and Pasquetta (Easter Monday).

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Bar & Pasticceria Montanucci Orvieto

A cherished tradition typical of central Italy (Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche), Pizza di Pasqua comes in both dolci (sweet) and al formaggio (cheese) versions.

Folks in Orvieto take great pride in their Pizza di Pasqua, so you can imagine there’s lots of fighting discussion about who has the best recipe (there are as many as there are cooks). For the past 14 years, Palazzo del Gusto Orvieto has sponsored a bake-off to decide whose is the yummiest. Both professionals and amateurs are invited to compete for the coveted culinary distinction of “Best Pizza di Pasqua di Orvieto”.

 

IMG_1795Exuberant baker Gaetana Olini has been preparing the Easter specialty for decades and let’s us in on her secret for making a great one.

“You must have patience and allow the pizza to rise in a warm spot for at least 18 hours”, she warns. “It’s in this way that you can be sure it will turn out very soft and airy.”

Gaetana P di pasqua

Pizza di Pasqua: It isn’t Easter in Umbria without it.

 

IMG_1792A RECIPE FOR PIZZA DI PASQUA…

INGREDIENTS

4 yeast cubes (from the refrigerated section, not the powdered kind!)

1 kg of flour 00

250 grams of sugar

1 cup olive oil

6 eggs

300 ml of water

300 ml of milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or one package)

1 lemon zest

1 small glass of anisette liqueur and ‘rosolio di cannella’ (cinnamon liqueur)

IMG_1793

PREPARATION

Dissolve 2 cubes of yeast in 250 ml of warm water.

Meanwhile, in a large plastic bowl put 300 grams of flour.

Add the yeast mixture into the flour and mix with a fork until all the water is absorbed into the dough (be careful not to let it get hard). Add flour gradually making sure the dough remains soft!

Cover with a cloth and put in a warm space (inside a shut-off oven is best) and let the dough rise (about 1 hour).

Melt the remaining 2 cubes of yeast in 300 ml of warm milk. Remove the bowl from the oven and add the eggs, sugar, olive oil, lemon zest and milk with yeast. Blend with an electric mixer, adding more flour gradually, by hand.

Pour in two glasses of the liqueur and the vanilla.

At some point, if you did everything right, you will see that you will be forced to stop mixing because the dough will stick to the whips and it won’t be possible to continue. At this point use your hands to knead the dough, still continuing to add flour until you find that the dough comes off easily from your hands. But beware, it must not become a nice smooth ball! It must always remain soft and wet!

Grease two baking pans (large and tall) and put a quantity of dough that must not exceed one quarter of the height of the container to allow the dough to rise more than twice its size. It’s ready when the dough reaches the edge of the container.

Put in a preheated oven at 100C, then increase the temperature to 180C. The pan should be placed on a lower rack but not resting on the bottom of the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Pasticceria Nando, Via dei Sette Martiri, 68, Orvieto Scalo

Bar Montanucci, Corso Cavour, 23, Orvieto

Palazzo del Gusto Orvieto, Via Ripa Serancia I, 16, Orvieto TR

DickseeRomeoandJuliet

Romeo and Juliet

Chosy, an American woman living in Rome decided to dip back into the dating pool after a long hiatus from romance. She was curious to know if being a single woman in Italy was any less disappointing than in the U.S.

For her first foray back in the game, Chosy picked OKCupid’s free mobile App as the platform for finding an Italian mate online. Not knowing what to expect, she was pleasantly surprised by the number of responses she’d received. Within minutes of posting her profile, she had more than a half-dozen emails in her inbox from men who thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

“The girl of their dreams”, many declared. “It was totally amazing!”

The first man to write Chosy was an engineer from Milan – a widower whose wife had died in a tragic car accident. He had a teenage daughter named Cinzia. “He wrote with such emotion and passion of his love for me.”

They were lining up for Chosy.

“Another gentleman from Trieste was super keen on me. He was also a widower and an engineer, but his wife had died of cancer, not in a car crash, and his daughter’s name was Giulia, not Cinzia.”

Chosy gushes, “I’ve learned that the Latin Lover is still alive and well in Italy!”

373px-Casanova_ritratto

Casanova

SWIPE RIGHT

Taking a different tack, pretty brunette and yoga enthusiast Cuteyogi uses Tinder as a networking tool to find dates/employment opportunities in the Italian capital. She’s figured out a way to zero in on professionals in her field and then segue the hook-ups into spontaneous job interviews.

When Mark, an executive for an international organization in Rome was asked his opinion on Cuteyogi’s unique approach to finding a job and love at the same time, he had nothing but good things to say. “In this competitive job market”, Mark explains, “you’ve got to think outside the box. It’s really just taking Linkedin one step further.”

Paolo and Francesca - Dante's Divine Comedy

Paolo and Francesca – Dante’s Divine Comedy

MEETING YOUR MATCH

Mswrite, a slinky, blond editor and self-described cynic on sabbatical in the Eternal City hasn’t had much luck on Match.com. Paying a whopping 45£ ($68) for a month’s subscription, she’s highly skeptical that she’ll ever receive a return on her investment.

“Italian men these days don’t seem to want to put in the time and effort it takes to form a love connection.” She blames social media. “If someone can’t be bothered to use more than 140 characters (the average Tweet) to introduce themselves, I figure they don’t have the attention span to be in a long-term relationship.”

Rudolf Valentino

Rudolf Valentino

After several weeks of vetting potential suitors, Mswrite admits to being discouraged and befuddled. “Why in the world, in this day and age, are people still taking selfies in the mirror?” It makes her worry that these guys don’t have any friends to take the photo for them, or worse, that they’re not smart enough to know there’s a feature on their phone that turns the camera towards them.

As opinionated as Mswrite is, she resists the urge to offer advice. “Look, I don’t want to be a know-it-all and start dishing out dating advice or anything, but frankly, what some of these guys are presenting online is counterproductive – bordering on the repulsive.”

EnglishRose007, an exasperated Brit in her late 30s, totally agrees.

She too has come across some pretty shocking behavior on dating sites. “Do you know how many men will openingly and unapologetically admit to being married? One guy even posted a photo of himself with his arm around his wife – her face fuzzed-out, thankfully.” 

On the other hand, EnglishRose007 tries very hard to be forthright, representing herself accurately in her profile. “Of course, I post photos that are flattering, but not photoshopped to the point where I can be accused of a bait-and-switch.”

“Another thing”, she goes on to say, “I’m not a prude, but I don’t especially care for guys who pose full-frontal in a Speedo. Sure, I want to see what I’m getting, but some things are better left to the imagination.”

Mswrite confesses that she’s finally had enough and is cancelling her subscripton to Match.com. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back, I asked?

“A guy holding a dead shark over his bathtub. At that moment, I realized that being single was not so bad after all.”

Rupe and clouds

I can’t believe it’s been 31 days already! Time flies when you’re having fun! What a wonderful experience it’s been to sit down everyday and write about the people, places and things that make this city so special and unique. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who inspired, participated or supported me in sharing a little bit of Orvieto with the world, day-by-day. In 2013, I wrote an article for BrowsingItaly entitled, “Insiders Guide to Orvieto”, and I thought it might be a good way to wrap things up. Remember, August may be over, but you know me….I’ll never, ever stop shouting it from the terracotta rooftops…Orvieto, Italy Rocks! Like! Share! Visit!

http://www.browsingitaly.com/umbria/orvieto-insiders-guide/972/

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