GOLDEN DAY THIRTY-FOUR: Enjoy Orvieto with advice from Gourmet Getaways
Marlene Iaciofano and I share the fact that our grandparents both immigrated to America about the same time (early 20th century) from around the same place–mountain villages near Campobasso, in the region of Molise. Who knows…maybe her nonno made eyes at my nonna at a festa when they were youngsters? Or maybe when they landed in America and settled in North Jersey they celebrated together at one of the picnics the Molisani regularly put on in the parks up there in the summertime…
I’m grateful to have met the lovely Marlene during my book tour this past springtime. She’s turned her passion for Italy into the creation of Gourmet Getaways, a company which offers customized culinary tours of Italy and small group trips that showcase the exquisite food and sights of a particular region—the next one up is to the Amalfi Coast in Spring 2011.
Marlene is passionate about Orvieto, a jewel of a town set on a hill of tufa rock in Umbria. I’ve been there and found the approach to it glorious. If you take the train from Rome (about an hour and 15 minutes), you then hop on a funicular which carries you up to the impressive historic center. There you’ll find the magnificent Romanesque/Gothic Duomo, which took 300 years to complete. Inside are amazing frescoes by the master Signorelli—dramatic Last Judgement scenes.
Outside I remember seeing oldster signoras making lace in the alleys. And there are beautiful displays in ceramic stores of Orvieto’s signature verde ramina (resembling green oxide of copper church bells). Check out these shops near the Duomo: Mastro Paolo (36 Piazza Duomo) and Ceramiche Giacomini (34 Piazza Duomo).
Marlene has arranged group tours that begin in Orvieto, and was kind enough to share her advice:
Start at the Duomo—it’s magnificent. And right there in the piazza is a great wine bar and the Gelateria Pasqualetti , a branch of which you can also find at Corso Cavour.
For shopping, check out Laboratorio Artigiano (Via Loggia dei Mercanti, 21), where you can pick up a pretty sketch of Orvieto, have it framed and packaged so it will easily fit into your suitcase and be easy to carry home. And there is an exquisite shop for gold jewelry: Orogami (Via del Duomo 14/16) .
Right behind the Duomo, you must stop in at the elegant Champagneria Orvieto (Piazza Marconi, 2, 0763 344102, open 6 to midnight). Here’s where my friend, Velia DeAngelis, serves delicious appetizers, or incredible fruit tarts that pair beautifully with their champagnes.
For dinner, I love the Lasagna Bolognese and pastas at Il Zeppelin, (Via Garibaldi 28, 0763 341 447).
Or there is the casual Antica Trattoria dell’ Orso (Via della Miserocordia 18, 0763 341 642). The food here is delicious and the chef is a talented, kind gentleman.
My groups have loved staying at The Palazzo Piccolomini . It’s a 4 star in a quiet spot, originally built for the wealthy Piccolomni family in 16th century. The people who run it could not be nicer, and the place is loaded with character. Every room is unique and tastefully designed. There’s a charming bar off the lobby where you can relax in the afternoons and have tea or an apertivo. The morning buffet, with freshly baked pastries and cappuccino, is delightful.
Grazie for the inspiration Marlene!