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Italy Tour day 4

I hope you will forgive me if my brain is mush; I just had the treat of a massage and It was rather a good one. Today was a very special day and relaxing in many ways, which I will get to in a minute. But first, Orvieto! Yesterday was my first visit to that lovely hill town and while it was far more full of tourists than I love in a town, the duomo was beyond worth the stop, not to mention the views, charming shops, a tower to climb and more. Fabio first drove us to the estate winery Altarocca. Emilio gave us a tour of the vineyards, showed us the winemaking process and even let us taste some of the wine out of the barrel. This was a rare treat to be able to experience, as we would then get to compare the flavors with the fully aged wine at lunch. The family has converted this property into a premier resort, with a fine-dining restaurant, spa, wedding facilities and more. After the tour we shared an elegant 3-course lunch in the luxurious dining room, and we got to taste all 6 of their very delicious wines. Every wine we taste on this tour is unique and the wines of Altarocca are no exception. Learning about the entire process makes it taste all the better, of course, and helps us to really appreciate the nuances of each one. Getting to know the families and the stories behind them make each one exra special and this group seems to especially appreciate that fact.

After lunch we headed to the hill town and expectations were high based on the views of it on the way up. We parked in a lot at the base of the hill and Elisabeta, our tour guide for the afternoon, took us to the funicular, which was like a little train car on a track, that got us about half way up the hill. From there a bus got us the rest of the way to the Cathedral, which for me was an absolute highlight of the trip. This Gothic church was built in the 14th century and my favorite part, the Signorelli Chapel, was added 100 years later. Fra Angelico and Benozzo Gazzoli started the frescoes that adorn every inch of the interior, and Lucca Signorelli (A father of the Renaissance and influencer of Michelangelo) finished this masterpiece. I held my breath in anticipation as we entered and was not disappointed on any level. My eyes welled up with tears as I was overwhelmed by the realization of where I was and what I was seeing. I have loved Signorelli’s work for nearly 30 years and this is the finest example of it that I have ever seen. And it took my breath away. Elisabeta did a fantastic job of explaining what we were looking at and helping us to make sense of the immense panels of pigment over our heads. We made our way over to a Pieta by Ippolito Scalza and I was again overwhelmed with emotion. This phenomenal work was carved out of a single block of Carrera marble in 1570-1580 and you can walk right up to it! My favorite Pieta is Michelangelo’s final work that is actually unfinished, in the Museo del’Duomo in Florence, which I stumbled upon a few years ago. This one is my 2nd favorite, it is so detailed that the carved marble seems to move as fabric. It is more proportionally correct than many of the others and the emotion carved into the faces is palpable. And you can walk right up to it and touch it! I am still in awe of this entire experience. The facade of the Cathedral is beyond beautiful and I could have spent an hour just studying that.

Mark and I walked the town a little and he walked up the tower, while I got lost and had to run back up the hill after taking a wrong turn and getting distracted by the architecture of the area. We made our way back down to Fabio and the drive back was rather quiet as several of the group fell asleep. We had dinner out at CantaNapoli, a wonderful restaurant that Mark and I enjoy visiting each time we come, and the whole group had a great time at a casual and fun dinner. The restaurant is lively, has great pizza and seafood because the owners are from Naples. Doumina surprised me by bringing our friend Corina to dinner and it was really fun catching up wiht her, too. When finally got back to the B&B and my head hit the pillow, I was very much asleep!