April 24, 2016 – Passover

Passover Seder is great this year. Nathan and Sam really take part and we get through the whole Seder and also sing a bunch of songs. John grills a wonderful boneless leg of lamb and Sarah makes her delicious macaroons. The kids do a great job hiding the afikoman under the mat in the laundry room which Jonathan accidentally steps on! Nathan tries to negotiate for more than $20 but sees the error of his ways when we start lowering our bid. We all have a wonderful time.

The table is set and we are ready to start our Seder

The table is set and we are ready to start our Seder

Nathan, Ryan, and Sam

Nathan, Ryan, and Sam

While Nathan reads the four questions, Sam helps himself to another piece of parsley dipped in salt water

While Nathan reads the four questions, Sam helps himself to another piece of parsley dipped in salt water

Yay! The second glass of wine!

Yay! The second glass of wine!

Sarah, Jonathan, and Leigh enjoying the Seder

Sarah, Jonathan, and Leigh enjoying the Seder

Wonderful dinner of grilled boneless leg of lamb, asparagus, and mashed potatoes (not pictured matzoh ball soup)

Wonderful dinner of grilled boneless leg of lamb, asparagus, and mashed potatoes (not pictured matzoh ball soup)

For dessert Sarah's fabulous macaroons

For dessert Sarah’s fabulous macaroons

April 9 and May 12, 2016 – New front landscaping

As soon as we get home from Italy, we get to work on our new front landscaping. This will include driveway shoulder extensions, a new sidewalk and steps, new lighting and all new plants. Our landscaper, Fritz Schummer, has a great team of Carlos and Carlos. Big Carlos knows how to do it all!

Here they are hard at work in April.

Work being done on the driveway shoulder extensions

Work being done on the driveway shoulder extensions

Cement is being poured for the sidewalk and stairs

Cement is being poured for the sidewalk and stairs

We work closely with Fritz on the design and plant selection. About the middle of May it is done! It looks so much better and makes me happy every time I see it!

New extensions and rock wall

New extensions and rock wall

A great finished project!

A great finished project!

 

April 6, 2016 – Montefiascone and home

Leaving Orivieto we decide to make a side trip to Montefiascone on our way to the airport. It turns out to be pretty much a dud with the exception of the church of San Flaviano which was built in the 11th century and has frescoes from the 12th to the 14th centuries. The building is in the Romanesque style.

Mary and Sarah on the porch of San Flaviano

Mary and Sarah on the porch of San Flaviano

St. Catherine being martyred

St. Catherine being martyred

Along with the frescoes is a the grave of a traveler who died of excessive drinking of the local wine known as Est! Est! Est! Apparently his valet went to town ahead of him and wrote the word “est” on the doors of the inns where there was good wine. This wine is still made in the region.

Plaque at the entrance to the tomb of Giovanni Defugger who died from too much wine

Plaque at the entrance to the tomb of Giovanni Defugger who died from too much wine

Tomb of Giovanni Defugger

Tomb of Giovanni Defugger

After a frustrating search for some place for lunch, we decide since we are passing by Viterbo again that we will have lunch at the pizza place where we ate the first night. Happily it is open and has a lunch special of a whole pizza and a drink for 6 Euros.

Delicious pizzas!!

Delicious pizzas!!

Now it is back to Rome Airport with a just a short stop to refill the rental car.  We manage to get ripped off at the gas station where you have to guess how much gas you will need and pay ahead and then there is no change if you over guess your fueling needs. We pay 12 Euros for 8 Euros worth of gasoline.

We are staying at the airport Hilton which has always been not the best accommodation but you can walk from the hotel to your plane which is a real plus. We book on the Executive floor and the experience is much better.  They even let us use the wifi!

The trip home is long but uneventful, Rome to London to Dallas to San Francisco.  At least this time I am not sick! We have had a wonderful trip full of many new sights, a lot of good meals, and wonderful art.

 

 

April 5, 2016 – Pitigliano (Little Jerusalem) & Decugnano dei Barbi Winery

This morning we take a side trip from Orvieto to Pitigliano. Jack, our GPS makes a fairly straight-forward 35 miles into an hour and a half adventure. Since we have an appointment at a winery this afternoon, it is important to be time efficient but Jack has not gotten the message.

Much like Orvieto, Pitigliano is built on a tufa outcropping. Starting with the Etruscans in the 7th century B.C., walls were also built to fortify the town. In the picture below little caves can be seen in the tufa walls. Some of these have Etruscan inscriptions.

This is what Pitigliano looks like as you approach. Photo credit CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80684

This is what Pitigliano looks like as you approach. Photo credit CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80684

Giorgio from the hotel has suggested this town for a visit. Its main claim to fame is that it had a vibrant Jewish community who built a synagogue here in 1598. The town is nicknamed “Little Jerusalem.”

A map of "Little Jerusalem" in Pitigliano

A map of “Little Jerusalem” in Pitigliano

Jews fled from Rome to Pitigliano during the persecutions during the Counterreformation.  In Pitigliano they lived harmoniously with their Christian neighbors and built a synagogue, Kosher butchery, Kosher bakery for matzoh, ritual baths, and a wool dying enterprise.

Much like the rest of Europe there are almost no Jews left in Pitigliano only guards armed with machine guns to protect the site. It is said that the Jews here escaped capture by the Nazis with the help of their neighbors but dispersed after the war.

The tour begins in the rooms below the synagogue –

John stands in the mikveh or ritual bath

John stands in the mikveh or ritual bath

Sarah reads the information about the Kosher winery

Sarah reads the information about the Kosher winery

A display piece on the wall shows the Jewish calendar

A display piece on the wall shows the Jewish calendar

The oven for making matzoh

The oven for making matzoh

A picture of women making matzoh

A picture of women making matzoh

Picture of a woman putting matzoh in the oven beside the actual oven

Picture of a woman putting matzoh in the oven beside the actual oven

Next we head upstairs to the synagogue. The synagogue was built in 1598. However, it collapsed in a landslide in 1960 and was rebuilt and reopened in 1995. There are too few Jews in Pitigliano to have it operating on a regular basis but it is still used occasionally for weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Synagogue interior

Synagogue interior

Women's screened gallery

Women’s screened gallery

Sarah peeking through the screen

Sarah peeking through the screen

John signing the guest book

John signing the guest book

After the visit to the synagogue we spent a little while looking around Pitigliano.

It looks like much of Pitigliano is in danger of sliding off the cliffs

It looks like much of Pitigliano is in danger of sliding off the cliffs

Sarah and John pose with a statue of a man and his donkey. We were not able to find out the significance of this statue.

Sarah and John pose with a statue of a man and his donkey. We were not able to find out the significance of this statue.

Mid-sixteenth century aqueduct

Mid-sixteenth century aqueduct

Our visit in Pitigliano has lasted until lunchtime. We have no time to spare and hurry back to Orvieto by a much faster route unencumbered by listening to Jack.  We stop at Simply Market and buy a few things for a quick lunch in the room.

Our afternoon’s engagement is at the Decugnano dei Barbi, a winery making primarily white wine. Sarah is staying behind as she has to man her computer to try to get a hotel room for ComicCon. (This turned out to be unsuccessful. Boo.)

We travel east of Orivieto into a rural area. The winery Decugnano  dei Barbi was bought by the Barbi family in 1975 and added their name to the old name of the town that they are in, Decugnano, to come up with their label. It is on beautiful rolling hills.  I am somewhat surprised that the grapes have barely broken buds yet since ours in California are much further along.

The vineyard of Decugnano dei Barbi

The vineyard of Decugnano dei Barbi

The vines are not too far along in early April

The vines are not too far along in early April

Marta from Milan is our guide and we do quite a trek around the vineyards along with a family from New Orleans. Of course, John and I have been on many winery tours and are hoping for a quick explanation and then on to the tasting. But we get a thorough explanation on how the winery works.

Marta, our guide, explains how wine is made

Marta, our guide, explains how wine is made

Bottled and ready to be shipped (unfortunately not to the U.S.)

Bottled and ready to be shipped (unfortunately not to the U.S.)

Finally it is time for tasting.  It’s almost all whites which I really like but will leave me wheezy tomorrow. Also there’s quite the spread of meats, cheeses, and bruschetti! The family from New Orleans turns out to be quite nice and have just arrived in Italy for their first trip ever.

Local treats with the wine tasting

Local treats with the wine tasting

But the day is not over! We have booked dinner at a winery close to our hotel. The Altarocca looks like a pretty fancy place as we pull up. We are ready for some haute cuisine!

We have finally learned our lesson – order antipasti and first courses because the second courses tend to be disappointing.

 

 

 

 

April 4, 2016 – Orvieto

Who knew that the Orvieto cathedral would be one of the most beautiful ones we’ve ever seen? This is so especially from our point of view where we are looking for Medieval and early Renaissance fresco decorated churches. It is hard for any church to compete with the shining splendor of the mosaics of St. Mark’s in Venice or Monreale in Sicily. But in the non-mosaic cathedral category Duomo di Orvieto is tops!

John outside our quaint hotel room at the Misia Resort

John outside our quaint hotel room at the Misia Resort before we start our Orvieto day

Sarah walking over to the hotel parking lot next to the enormous rock of Rocca Ripesena

Sarah walking over to the hotel parking lot next to the enormous rock of Rocca Ripesena

There is no driving in Orvieto unless you have a special permit so we park below and take 4 escalators, a moving walkway, and an elevator up to the old city. It is a lovely city – clean, with flowers hanging out of balcony baskets. There are lots of little lanes with small shops selling artisanal wares. Even a non-shopper such as myself stopped in one of the stores.

Charming street in Orvieto

Charming street in Orvieto

We pass by an old looking church so of course we stop in. It is the Church of Sant’Andrea (St. Andrew.) Built in the 12th century on top of an Etruscan house and later an earlier medieval church, it still has some wonderful early frescoes.

Church of St. Andrew, Orvieto

Church of St. Andrew, Orvieto

Two frescoes that we enjoyed are first, a fresco of St. Julian with his poor parents that he stabbed by mistake and second, a fresco of St. Anthony the Abbot with his devil pig nipping at his heels.

St. Florian's oops moment

St. Julian’s oops moment

St. Anthony the Abbot on the right with a tiny pig next to him

St. Anthony the Abbot on the right with a tiny pig next to him

This is one of my favorite pictures of our whole trip. Sarah noticed a stream of light coming in through one of the windows so she sat down an assumed her best Annunciation pose.

Sarah in a ray of light

Sarah in a ray of light

After exploring St. Andrew’s we head off in search of the Duomo. You don’t even see it until the last second. You are in a dark lane and then, wow, you walk out into a sunlit piazza with this magnificent structure in front of you. The front facade is so amazing that you could spend hours just looking at it!

Orvieto Cathedral

Orvieto Cathedral

Detail of one of the carved panels next to the doors - God creates Eve

Detail of one of the carved panels next to the doors – God creates Eve

Carving of the Tree of Life

Carving of the Tree of Jesse

Detail of the Tree of Life - The Annunciation

Detail of the Tree of Jesse – The Annunciation

image

Beautiful rose window

After buying a combo ticket for the Duomo, the Diocesan Museum, and the Archeological museum, we step inside. Again, wow, what a space! There are some frescoes on the side walls and an old baptismal font but the really amazing frescoes are in the side chapels near the front and the whole altar area.

Enormous interior space of Orvieto Cathedral

Enormous interior space of Orvieto Cathedral

Near the back of the church is the large baptismal font which was begun in 1390 by Luca di Giovanni and completed in 1407 by Pietro di Giovanni.

Sarah standing next to Baptismal Font

Sarah standing next to Baptismal Font

Above the baptismal font is a beautiful fresco in International Gothic style of the “Madonna Enthroned with Child” painted by Gentile da Fabriano in 1425. I love his work in the Uffizi of the Adoration of the Magi. So much gold!

Madonna and Child by Gentile da Fabriani

Madonna and Child by Gentile da Fabriani

This cathedral is so old that there are layers of frescoes

This cathedral is so old that there are layers of frescoes

One of the chapels in the cathedral is known as the Cappella del Corporale. It was built between 1350 and 1356 to house the stained linen of the Miracle of Bolsena. (That’s where we had lunch our first full day in Italy on our trip from Viterbo to Siena!) In 1263 a consecrated host allegedly began to bleed onto the cloth which the host and chalice rest on during Mass. The appearance of blood was seen as a miracle to affirm transubstantiation. Moreover it is said the dots of blood outlined the visage of Jesus. This is a miracle that the Roman Catholic Church says you can believe or not but there were plenty of believers here today in Orvieto.

The chapel is decorated with frescoes depicting on the left wall the history of the Eucharist and on the right wall miracles concerning the bleeding host throughout church history. They were painted between 1357 and 1363.

The actual piece of cloth

The actual piece of cloth

Pope St. Gregory with the host

Pope St. Gregory with the host

I took a picture of this fresco because it shows a 14th century kitchen

I took a picture of this fresco because it shows a 14th century kitchen

This is a procession that they still have every year celebrating the Miracle of Bolsena

This is a procession that they still have every year celebrating the Miracle of Bolsena

In this picture you can see the actual cloth here in the 21st century and two depictions of it in the 14th century frescoes!

In this picture you can see the actual cloth here in the 21st century and two depictions of it in the 14th century frescoes!

Moving on from this fabulous side chapel we approach the main altar. Here are decorations, some damaged by age, of the life of Mary on all three sides. These frescoes were painted around 1370.

Main altar with frescoes depicting the life of Mary

Main altar with frescoes depicting the life of Mary

Left wall of main altar

Left wall of main altar

Detail of main altar fresco

Detail of main altar fresco

And if this isn’t enough, there is another chapel, the Cappella Nuova or new chapel. After a number of false starts in the 1400’s the decoration was completed by Luca Signorelli in the early 16th century and is considered some of his greatest work. We are a little taken aback by all the naked people depicted but in the name of religion I guess this was all okay.

The Resurrection of the Flesh by Luca Signorelli - people are emerging from the ground

The Resurrection of the Flesh by Luca Signorelli – people are emerging from the ground

The Damned are Taken to Hell by Luca Signorelli

The Damned are Taken to Hell by Luca Signorelli

After our extensive viewing of the cathedral we stop in the Museum of the Cathedral. Most major churches in Italy have a museum. It is where they put a lot of the old artwork which is no longer fashionable or is not needed in the church. Among other works we see early woodcuts and the iconic figure of Mary Magdalene that is printed on the tickets and seen on posters around Orvieto.

I have no information on this woodcut but I liked it.

I have no information on this woodcut but I liked it.

Luca Signorelli's 1504 painting of Mary Magdalene which used to hang in the Cappella Nuova but was taken down to make way for a choir loft.

Luca Signorelli’s 1504 painting of Mary Magdalene which used to hang in the Cappella Nuova but was taken down to make way for a choir loft.

We have had a very busy morning and early afternoon and it is time for a little sit-down and some lunch. Giorgio from the hotel has recommended a nearby restaurant, La Pergola. He says the food is like home cooking. We enjoy it.

Sarah starts with anchovies with butter and toast while John and I have our usual boring salads

Sarah starts with anchovies with butter and toast while John and I have our usual boring salads

On the left Sarah and I have Ombrenella Amatriciano and John has the plate of gnocchi with spinach, truffles, and bacon

On the left Sarah and I have Ombrenella Amatriciano and John has the plate of gnocchi with spinach, truffles, and bacon

After lunch we spend a little time basking in the sun in the piazza across from the Cathedral. The church is so beautiful and the facade so detailed that you can spend a considerable amount of time just looking at it. So we do.

Our next stop is at the deconsecrated 13th century Sant’Agostino church. It is now part of the museum complex. It houses large scale sculptures of the Apostles, Saints, and an Annunciation group made between the late sixteenth and early eighteenth centuries which used to reside in the duomo. Since this is not in our wheelhouse of interest, no one took pictures.  The one shown here is off the internet.

Saints, Apostles and Annunciation group in Chiesa Sant'Agostino

Saints, Apostles and Annunciation group in Chiesa Sant’Agostino

Our final visit of the day is at Chiesa di San Giovenale or St. Juvenal. He is a saint we haven’t heard of. He was the first bishop of Narni in Umbria during the 4th century. There are conflicting reports of whether he was a martyr or merely a confessor. His legend suggests that he saved Narni from  invaders by calling down a divine thunderstorm. He was removed from the Catholic Calendar in 1969.

Nonetheless he has a pretty wonderful church in Orivieto. We are met at the church by an elderly priest who speaks no English but he is quite eager to show us around and sell John a book about the church. He proudly lifts up the altar cloth so we can see a carved date of 1171 but the church is older than that.  It is said to have been built in 1004 on an Etruscan temple dedicated to Jupiter. There are a lot of great old frescoes in here. It appears that the oldest ones are on the upper columns and detail the life of Christ. The first one on the right from the main door is of the Annunciation and the last one is the Crucifixion.

Interior of St. Juvenal

Interior of St. Juvenal

13th century Annunciation

13th century Annunciation

13th century Crucifixion

13th century Crucifixion

As you can imagine by now we are very tired from our big day of sightseeing so we cap it off by getting lost getting back to the parking lot. Finally John approaches an elderly man and asks for help.  A great conversation of  Italian/English ensues with another guy getting involved. Finally the first one decides that he’ll have to walk us back to where we can see the parking lot and find our way back. This includes a lot of climbing up and down hills but mostly down. What a nice guy to do all this for us!

John and two Italian men discuss how to get down to the parking lot. Finally the white haired man on the left walks us down to it.

John and two Italian men discuss how to get down to the parking lot. Finally the white haired man on the left walks us down to it.

By the time we are on our way back to our hotel no one wants to go out to dinner so we stop at the adverbially oddly named Simply Market and buy salami, cheese, crackers, and wine and have a picnic in our room for dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 3, 2016 – To Orvieto by way of Todi

Looking about for something to do on the way to Orvieto, we find the hill town of Todi. According to legend, Todi was founded by Hercules. Historically,Todi was founded by the ancient Umbrian people, in the 8th-7th century BC and became a Roman town in 217 B.C.

We head up the hill to Todi and when we cannot go any further without getting a ticket for driving in a special zone, we stop and take a look at Santa Maria della Consolazione. But it turns out to be a 16th century church which is a little too modern for us.

Santa Maria della Consolazione, Todi

Santa Maria della Consolazione, Todi

There is a path up to the main part of the old city which is too steep for me to attempt today. I seem to have tweaked something in my bad knee and I am hurting with every step. I am consigned to sit in the car while John and Sarah climb the hill up to the old city. They see the old church of San Fortunatus which is ancient looking on the outside but redone on the inside.

Stairs in Todi

Stairs in Todi

While we were in Assisi Sarah had a great white wine made from the Grecchetto grape. The producer of this wine, the winery Roccafiore, is nearby to Todi. While we can’t go to the tasting room because it is closed on Sunday, we can go to their restaurant for lunch. After only one false start we find it in the rural area east of Todi.

It’s a beautiful setting and the restaurant serves really fine food at a reasonable price. We decide to make lunch our main meal of the day.

 

Happy Sarah and John

Happy Sarah and John

Afterwards we take pictures of Todi from the restaurant’s beautiful setting.

The hill town of Todi in the distance

The hill town of Todi in the distance

We head to our next stop, the resort Misia, just outside Orvieto. I get some ice packs from the innkeeper for my knee which is quite swollen and sore. We decide to skip dinner and have an early night although Sarah does some exploring around the tiny town. After all, there are cats to be petted and a giant bluff behind the hotel complex to be climbed. John and I are climbed out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2, 2016 – Spoleto

We wake up this morning with renewed energy and after a breakfast of I-wish-they-made-eggs-other-than-hard-boiled we head off to the cathedral, Santa Maria dell’Assunta.

We take a circuitous route trying to use the moving walkways as much as possible. As it turns out it probably would have been a lot quicker just to walk there although considerably uphill. The cathedral is a Romanesque building constructed in the second half of the12th century. The portico and bell tower are later additions.

Exterior of Santa Maria dell'Assunta

Exterior of Santa Maria dell’Assunta

Unfortunately, except for the floor most of the interior has been updated to a neo-Classical form. Almost all the frescoes and paintings from the earlier church are gone so it has kind of lost its identity inside.

Interior of Santa Maria dell'Assunta

Interior of Santa Maria dell’Assunta

A couple of holdovers from the interior’s prior life are a wonderful 1187 crucifix and some frescoes in the apse by Fillipo Lippi.

1187 crucifix

1187 crucifix

A beautiful Annunciation fresco by Fillipo Lippi

A beautiful Annunciation fresco by Fillipo Lippi

One place where we might find the treasures lost from the church is the Diocesan Museum which is just uphill of the church.

Looking down the hill towards the church

Looking down the hill towards the church

In the museum we see many great works of art whose pictures I will insert at some point in the future. There is one room that has several very old crucifixes and a detailed explanation about the various poses of Jesus and what it means. The crucifix that we saw in the church (see above) is a triumphant Jesus. This is due to the fact that his feet are not nailed together and his eyes are open. Other types include the dead Jesus with eyes closed and feet nailed together and suffering Jesus. This is something we did not know.

My favorite thing in the museum is the wooden deposition group. Having these statues was very popular in the 11th-13th centuries and there have been groups found in the remote sections of Italy where current church decor was slow in coming.

12th century wooden deposition group. On the left Mary's left hand stretches to touch Jesus's right arm and her right hand points to St. John the Evangelist and St. John reaches toward Jesus making a triangle. The meaning of this is the Church (represented by Mary) looks to the Gospel (represented by St. John) to guide her ( the church) to the Lord.

12th century wooden deposition group. On the left Mary’s left hand stretches to touch Jesus’s right arm and her right hand points to St. John the Evangelist and St. John reaches toward Jesus making a triangle. The meaning of this is the Church (represented by Mary) looks to the Gospel (represented by St. John) to guide her ( the church) to the Lord.

I have suggested a trip to these remote churches tomorrow but a look at the treacherous roads up the mountains have dissuaded me of this plan.

After a quick look at the church of St. Euphemia where there is not much left we head to the Casa Romana. This is a Roman house excavated from under the streets of Spoleto. The house is built on the same plan as ones we have seen in Pompeii and on Sicily. It is conjectured that it belonged to the mother of the emperor.

Influvium for collecting rain water through a hole in the roof and with ducting to move the water to other areas of the house

Influvium for collecting rain water through a hole in the roof and with ducting to move the water to other areas of the house

John in one of the bedrooms

John in one of the bedrooms

Onward! We are doing a great job visiting the Top 10 things to see in Spoleto! Our next stop is the 11th century church of Sts. John and Paul. Here we find a saint we are not familiar with, St. Eligius. His attribute is the leg of a horse.

Fresco of St. Eligius holding a horse leg and farrier's tools

Fresco of St. Eligius holding a horse leg and farrier’s tools

Lunchtime! We pick a place that looks nice, the Restaurant Sabatini, but the service is way slow and the food especially Sarah’s carbonara is not so great. The spaghetti is undercooked and the the sauce is broken. We of course are too timid to say anything.

After a brief respite at the hotel while we await the afternoon opening of the museums around 3 PM (Closed for lunch!), we head to the Museum of Textiles and Costumes. This small museum has clothing and materials from the 18th and 19th centuries. Since Sarah is a costume maker this is of special interest to her.


After this we go to the Archeological Museum where we learn a lot about the history of Spoleto from the ancient Umbrians through the Roman period and have an upclose look at the Roman theater that I posted a picture of yesterday.

The only thing left for today is to eat at the Number 1 Rated Restaurant on Tripadviser, Tiempo del Gusto. Unfortunately we are disappointed. The food is trying hard to be modern and traditional at the same time and it seems that it’s not succeeding at either.


We have really enjoyed Spoleto. It is easy to get around on the moving walkways, the people are friendly, and the art and history are astounding. The small scale of the city makes it doable in two busy days. We could have ordered better at the restaurants but otherwise we are totally happy with our choice to include Spoleto on our itinerary.

April 1, 2016 – Spoleto

We leave our creepy hotel in Assisi on the early side after a horrible breakfast. We seem to be almost the only people in the entire hotel and the food keeps getting recycled. We are off to Spoleto where we are to spend two days. It’s less than an hour away.

Even though it is before 11 AM the hotel gives us our rooms and then we are off to start exploring. We have a Spoleto card which allows entry into 7 museums and unlimited use of public transportation.

Spoleto is a very interesting small city. There are traces of the original Umbrians whom Pliny the Elder said were the oldest people of Italy. Legend has it that they came to this area of Italy after the Great Flood. (Think, Noah) There is also a lot of Roman remains and then the Longobards followed by the Duchy of Spoleto. There are museums, churches, and ruins that put this all in perspective. It is also not crowded with tourists.

Just outside our hotel is the Roman theater. After its beginnings as a fortified town by Umbrian tribes, Spoletium was a Roman city founded around 240 B.C. (John has just pointed out to me, as I am typing this, that after Hannibal was victorious at Lake Trasimeno he went on to attack Spoleto. I will try to work this into my next casual conversation with my friends at home.)

Roman theater in Spoleto constructed in the first century B.C.

Roman theater in Spoleto constructed in the first century B.C.

Just around the corner from the Roman theater is San Ansano’s church consecrated in 1143. It’s made of bits and pieces of an old Roman temple and a Paleo-Christian church. In it lie the remains of St. Isaac perhaps a Syrian hermit who came to the hills around Spoleto and died here in 552. He is buried in the crypt under the church which is decorated with early frescoes (maybe 12th century?)

The crypt of St. Isaac

The crypt of St. Isaac

Piece of an early fresco in the outlined style of the 1200's

Piece of an early fresco in the outlined style of the 1200’s

Fragment of an early Last Supper

Fragment of an early Last Supper

Coming out of the church we pass under the Arch of Drusus. Drusus and his brother Germanicus were adopted sons and the heirs apparent of Emperor Tiberius. They both died in their early 20’s and so an arch was erected here in their honor.

Arch of Drusus

Arch of Drusus

Lunchtime! We stop at an outdoor cafe for sandwiches and salad. Of course things turn out a little differently than we anticipate. We have a giant sandwich and a giant salad. They are only 5 Euros. Who knew?!

Spoleto is very hilly. So hilly that the city has a system of underground walkways, escalators, and elevators. It helps some but you really need to be fit to climb and descend all the hills.

Spoleto underground moving walkway

Spoleto underground moving walkway

Our next tourist spot is the Ponte Delle Torri. It is an aqueduct built in the 13th century on top of an earlier Roman aqueduct. It’s quite something and Sarah and John take a brief walk on it. It’s 80 meters high so no way I am venturing out.

Ponte delle Torri

13th century Ponte delle Torri (You can see the old Roman aqueduct between the arches)

Eek, John

Eek, John

At this, the highest point of Spoleto, is also a fortress called the Rocca Albornoziana which was built in 1359-1370. It is now a museum.

14th century Rocca Albornoziana

14th century Rocca Albornoziana

From this vantage point we can see the whole city and the walls around it.

Spoleto with city walls

Spoleto with city walls

At this point we are pretty zonked out. I suggest a siesta and then meet later for dinner. Everyone agrees.

We stop first at a restaurant which is rated #1 on Tripadviser but they are completely booked. We are able to get a reservation for Saturday night but only if we will eat early, 7:30 PM. Of course! If there is one thing Americans like to do it is to eat early by European standards.

We stop at an Enoteca that also serves food, the Enoteca il mio Vinaio.

We start with a mixed plate of bruschette

We start with a mixed plate of bruschette

It's pasta night! We have strangozzi with pistachio nuts and wild boar(Mary), with wine and pork jowl (John and Sarah)

It’s pasta night! We have strangozzi with pistachio nuts and wild boar (Mary), with wine and pork jowl (John and Sarah)

Sarah is extra hungry tonight and has a whole plate of grilled meat!

Sarah is extra hungry tonight and has a whole plate of grilled meat!

Utterly exhausted we decide to have an early night so that we can awake with renewed vigor to explore the rest of Spoleto tomorrow.