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The rolling green hills of Umbria speed past the train window as I feel my body and mind start to relax.

Sometimes we need to get off the merry-go-round of our daily routines and say to ourselves, “Selves, it’s time for a little trip somewhere we’ve never been before.”

 

Faraglioni

 

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A granita (crushed ice and fruit juice) and a little serenade.

 

This is how the “other half” lives.

 

The natives must have the strongest hearts and calves in Italy.

 

Church bells and evening cocktails on the Piazzetta.

 

I think he’s giving me the side-eye!

 

Morning dip in the Mediterranean, anyone? Marina Piccola.

 

A light lunch at Pescheria Le Botteghe.

 

Window shopping for the colors of Capri at OROGAMI.

 

Ahhhhh.

 

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Sometimes it’s better to admit defeat—especially when it appears your opponents have the upper hand (and the youth and energy to outlast you.)

I could “go full postal” on these boys, but what would that accomplish, really? If my goal is to live harmoniously with others who share this little alley with me, then it’s time I wave the white flag of surrender and call a truce.

As I sit here on my stoop waiting for the owner of this lovely dirt bike to arrive, I wonder if he’ll be open to easing our hostility and strained relations too. I’m calling for an armistice: The end of our Vicolo Wars.

This is the final chapter in the continuing saga taking place in my little alley. (Read Vicolo Wars, Vicolo Wars: The Sequel and Vicolo World War III.)

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Libreria Antiquaria Baduel

“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.” ― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

We have a total of four bookstores within the walls of Orvieto’s historical center. A disproportionate number for a town of its size—they’re eclipsed only by the number of bars, restaurants, barbershops and underwear stores.

Unfortunately, over the last several decades the world has witnessed the long, slow death of the independent bookshop. Most blame the decline on the advent of superstores and later by the domination of online companies such as Amazon. In today’s digital-based world is there still a place for brick-and-mortar bookstores?

One former Dublin bookseller and regular visitor to Italy thinks there is. “I believe that bookstores will survive in some manner, shape or form; they are already evolving by offering customers comfortable cafes, other gift items and electronics, including access to digital books via their own websites, while remaining cultural hubs. Today I am a frequent traveller in search of independent bookstores wherever I go!”

A book enthusiast

Bookworms who visit Orvieto will be happy to know that there are two such ‘repositories of knowledge’ located not far off the main high street, but far from the maddening crowds.

Libreria Arcimboldo

GianLuca Fioravanti of Libreria Arcimboldo

Libreria Arcimboldo is a second-hand bookshop located on Via Filippeschi (between Piazza della Repubblica and the medieval quarter.) The little shop sells a fascinating mishmosh of art books, first editions, out of print titles, literature, poetry, old bibles, and even vinyl records.

Proprietor GianLuca Fioravanti wasn’t always passionate about books and reading. In high school he’d studied economics, but found the subject so tedious and boring that he almost gave up reading all together. “Then I ran across Kafka and Flaubert—two leading novelist of the last two centuries—I have not stopped reading since.” Changing to the study of philosophy opened him up to the worlds of art, history and poetry, as well.

Finding work in the literary field wasn’t easy so GianLuca took a series of jobs that helped him develop his people and trading skills. During that period he lived in Rome’s Trastevere district where he spent a great deal of time browsing neighborhood bookshops. He literally woke up one day and thought, “EUREKA! I will open a bookstore!” He chose Orvieto because it’s where his ancestors originated and because, “I think the city is gorgeous with many hidden treasures.”

One of those treasures is Libreria Arcimboldo.

Libreria Arcimboldo, Via Filippeschi, 16; Tel: (+39) 380.4757293; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LibreriaArcimboldo/; Email: libreriaarcimboldo@gmail.com. Open Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00am to 1:30pm & 4:00pm to 8:30pm. Closed Mondays.

Libreria Antiquaria Baduel

Owner of Libreria Antiquaria Baduel, Mario Tedeschini

Mario Tedeschini’s love of reading began at age thirteen. Spending afternoons with his nose in a book from his parents’ library, he began cataloging each finished volume by subject and time of printing. In essence he’d drafted his first inventory—unaware that years later it would become his profession.

Mario started his career in 1997 with a bibliographic study in which he published a catalog of ancient books. In 2000, he opened Libreria Antiquaria Baduel on Via Vitozzi and, at about the same time, was certified as an expert authorized to issue opinions about the originality and market value of books, prints and manuscripts.

The oldest book in his possession at the moment was printed in 1561, but Mario points out that books aren’t necessarily deemed rare or valuable because of their age; rather they’re appraised for their historical significance or important subject matter.

Formation of Eve, relief basement of the façade of the Orvieto Cathedral. Engraving made in 1791

“The engine that drives me to continue a job that is “out of step” with a digital world is dictated by the passion to discover rare editions or books virtually unknown,” Mario explains. “I am compelled by an irresistible impulse to study, observe and touch a book—where all the senses are involved. This passion is driven by cultural enjoyment and the desire to preserve history—not as a mere economic interest, since that would end all the magic that surrounds the world of books.”

Libreria Antiquaria Baduel, Via A. Vitozzi, 7/7A; Tel & Fax: (+39) 0763.342046; Email: baduel@baduel.it; Website: https://baduel.it; Winter hours: 9:30am to 1:00pm & 4:30 to 7:00pm. Closed Mondays. Summer Hours: 9:30 to 1:00pm & 5:00pm to 7:30pm. Closed Saturdays.

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Photograph by Toni DeBella

One of the advantages of living in Europe is its proximity to exotic places like…Marrakesh, Morocco. Marrakesh is one of the hippest, cultured, atmospheric, friendly, delicious, and surprising places I’ve ever been.

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Watercolor by Kelly Medford

In preparation for my first journey to Morocco (and the continent of Africa, for that matter), I made a conscious decision not to “Google” the hell out my upcoming trip, but experience it with fresh, unfiltered eyes. I didn’t have low expectations. I had no expectations. Surprise, Marrakesh!

Astonishing Thing #1: Sparkling Streets

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Photograph by Kelly Medford

I had no idea that the city of Marrakesh would be so clean! From the modern and architecturally stunning airport, to the palm tree-lined (and pothole-free) roads, to the un-graffitied walls, to the dusty ancient streets of the Medina…all are absolutely pristine.

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Photograph by Toni DeBella

 Astonishing Thing #2: It’s Organized

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Photograph by Kelly Medford

The people of Marrakesh have rules and they actually follow them (hint, hint Italy)! In the Medina, motorcycles, bikes, and donkey carts travel on the left—pedestrians walk on the right. I didn’t see one collision (or even a close call) while I was visiting. Moroccans do traffic flow really well. I would call it organized chaos.

Astonishing Thing #3: It’s Safe

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Photograph by Kelly Medford

You’ve probably heard stories about how unsafe it is to walk around The Medina without a local guide at your side. Bunk. Yes, a lot of people stop to ask if you need help finding something or they may offer to take you to their uncle’s/cousin’s/father’s spice shop; a simple “No Merci” easily discourages them. I walked all over the city unescorted and, truth be told, I worry more about having my pockets picked in Rome.

Astonishing Thing #4: Everything is Negotiable

 

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Photograph by Christine Cantow Smith

It’s not normal for Americans to haggle over every single purchase we make, but in Morocco negotiating price is a huge part of the culture (and one I didn’t particularly enjoy). If you want to buy stuff in the Souks (outdoor markets), you’re going to have to play the game. After my third transaction, I hung up my shopping boots and went for a coffee (which is great, by the way). I just didn’t have any more fight left in me. 

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Photograph by Christine Cantow Smith

Astonishing Thing #5: A Built-in Wake Up Call

Five times-a-day mosques deliver “a call to prayer” by loudspeaker; the first goes off at dawn. If you’re an early riser, no need to set your alarm clock. If you’re someone who likes to sleep in, I don’t know what to tell you. Nazir, a communications director for three museums who moonlights at Riad Dombaraka, explains that the call isn’t necessarily an obligation to pray, but rather a reminder for those who want to pray. (Watch the Video above).

Our bellhop

Our bellhop

From the first moment I arrived, I fell in love with Marrakesh and its super-cool vibe. I can’t wait to come back and see what other surprises this wonderful city has in store for me. ‘Arak qariba!

A big shout-out and bigger “shukraan” (thank you in Arabic) to my pal and artist Kelly Medford for inviting me to join her group during her watercolor workshop. For more information about upcoming painting workshops with Kelly click here.

 

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Watercolor by Birgit Dreesen

 

Watercolor by Lisa Fedich

Watercolor by Lisa Fedich

 

Joe Painting

Joe Altwer

Photo credits: Toni DeBella, Kelly Medford & Christine Cantow Smith

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hrc-tru

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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The Local (news@thelocal.it)

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