Today…I ate pizza for lunch AND dinner! But the one at dinner had to be eaten with a fork, so that doesn’t really count.
I actually set an alarm this morning, determined not to sleep in until 10am again. I easily caught the 9:15 train to Orvieto, a small hill town about a 100 miles from Rome. After an hour and 15 minutes on the train and a quick zip up the funicular, I was on top of the world! Actually, I should say that I was on top of the world after climbing the clock tower – – incredible! (Not to mention the good workout…oh wait…I’m training for a half marathon…and I haven’t run in…A WEEK!).
Orvieto had a distinctly different feel from Rome, one of the main differences being that English is not spoken at all. In Rome, it is easy to find somebody who knows at least a little bit of English, but in Orvieto, I seemed to receive blank stares when I asked "Parla Inglese?" So I muddled through the bit of Italian that I’ve picked up, and I’m happy to say that I even understood a museum guide’s description of two Etruscan tombs, mainly because he spoke with his hands so colorfully.
When I took the bus into the center of town, I did not know quite where I was going. So I asked the bus driver (in Italian!) if the stop we were at was Piazza Del Duomo. He laughed and said no…and a few minutes later, I laughed out loud as the Duomo came into view — now THIS is Piazza Del Duomo. The facade of this church was quite ornate, with sculptures and gold accents everywhere – – and quite a commanding sight. While inside the Duomo, I visited the Chapel of San Brizio – – a series of Frescoes depicting the apocalypse. The beauty of this chapel, as opposed to the Sistine Chapel, is that it was small, you are able to see the detail of each painting, and the chapel is limited to 25 people at a time although there were only 5 or so other tourists in there with me. So despite the beautiful vistas from the top of this little hill town, and the narrow cobblestone streets complete with ivy filled window baskets, the Chapel of San Brizio was the highlight of my day.
Oh…the other highlight was finding a great little pottery shop, at which I almost bought every last piece of one particular pattern. Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas!
And yes. I got lost. Several times.
After a long, cold and windy day on top of that big hunk of volcanic rock, I headed back to Roma on the train. Half way through the trip, I got up and moved two cars back to find two Americans that I had seen earlier in the day. I heard them speaking, so I knew they were American…and quite honestly, I hadn’t spoken a complete English sentence in a good 8 hours, so I plopped myself down and started chatting. They were both students studying in Rome for the semester, and the one…he even had the opportunity to serve with the Pope! So no…I have not seen the Pope, but I chatted with somebody who held the candles next to him during a private mass several weeks ago! That’s *almost* as good, right?!?
After a quick siesta at the hotel, I headed out for a late dinner. I did not have a reservation, but they were able to get me a table in an hour. I agreed, and walked over to Trevi Fountain to wait, getting a hazlenut gelatto on the way (my appetizer!). Trevi Fountain is beautiful…and touristy. So I enjoyed sitting on the steps photographing the fountain…but mostly, I enjoyed people watching. And every time a couple asked me to photograph them with their camera, I couldn’t help but think "Oh my..I am so glad I don’t have a camera like this!" And I almost gave some unsolicited advice to some young girls on how to take better pictures, but I bit my tongue and just let them go…they were having fun, and that’s what they’ll remember.
A few things I realized today:
#1 – – my strongest skill in photography is connecting with my subjects. So…photographing buildings, landscapes and still life does not come easy to me. And while I enjoy a photojournalistic approach, it is not something that I am comfortable doing in public places with people that do not know me.
#2 – – Many Italian eateries close for several hours in the middle of the afternoon. So don’t plan to get hungry at that time. And for that matter, don’t plan to shop at that time either. Because shops are also closed.
#3 – – Italians must have nerves of steel to be able to drive in the chaos of Rome OR in the narrow streets of towns like Orvieto
#4 – – When you walk briskly with your head held high in a bustling city like Rome, people will assume that you know where you are and that you know what you are doing. And they might even ask you for directions. Despite your blonde hair and your floral Vera Bradley backpack.
So tomorrow, I don’t know yet what I will do. Each day has started out that way, without a real plan (though I did have a plan this morning, but only to get on the train). I might go to Florence…or Assisi…or I might just stay in Rome. We’ll see what the day brings…