While the legend of the bishop’s scout serving as a 12th c. advance taster for local wine actually applies to nearby Montefiascone, Orvieto Classico is the area wine that wins the three exclamations. As we did yesterday and today, mix it with the local truffle pasta and life is good.
Today we had the time to really see Orvieto. Years ago, we were here with only an hour for lunch, which hardly does this lovely town justice. But on this trip, we got to see the city from above and below. We took the underground tour of Orvieto, which reveals some of the more than 1200 tunnels, galleries, wells, stairs, quarries, cellars, unexpected passageways, cisterns, and rooms with numerous niches for pigeon roosts, created over centuries. The Etruscans probably started it all by the 7th c. BC. And in the Middle Ages, keeping those pigeons provided an important food source. The volcanic tufo is relatively easy to dig, and many homes had their own tunnels to escape from the city when it was under siege. The tunnels would emerge at a safe exit point some distance away from city walls. Olive oil was pressed underground as the temperature was nicely consistent, and the powder of the walls was quarried for its ability to create cement. Very dramatic.
It was market day, and so we took a look, but got distracted by a former church turned antique store. I have my eye on the gladiator statue.
The rest of our day was spent in museums. We started under the cathedral, which has become a museum of the tools used to maintain the church for centuries, and which has the original doors, which were replaced in 1970 by bronze doors sculpted by a local artist. We prefer the old ones.
The Etruscans had a long run here before the Romans ousted them, so there are many artifacts in several museums that date to their era and even back to Paleolithic times. Combine those with Roman and church treasures, and you have a lot to look at.
Last evening we had the thrill of walking up the stairs of the old clock tower and seeing a panorama of the city and the surrounding countryside. Orvieto is just spectacular.
Don’s Food Corner
Another good day. We made it to the (recommended) restaurant chosen for the day a little before they were opening for lunch at 12:30 and they let us in, even though we didn’t have reservations.
Knowing in advance that the restaurant is noted for serving dishes featuring truffles and for grating them at the table, we ordered spaghetti carbonara with truffles for our first course.
The spaghetti arrived and true to the promise, a young waiter arrived carrying a gigantic lump of black truffle and started grating away with abandon. The stuff was flying all over the place – on top of the spaghetti, around all the edges of the plate, and further onto the top of the tablecloth. I don’t know if we should have said stop when we had enough, but we didn’t say anything. The grated truffle nearly fully coated the top of the spaghetti. While, the carbonara was not as rich and creamy as we would have expected, all that truffle gave the dish a pronounced earthy flavor. Since I have never experienced so much truffle with a single dish, I have nothing to compare it to.
However, after we finished and the plates were taken away, I swept up all the truffle crumbs on the tablecloth into a little pile and ate them. Crude? Low-class? No doubt. But I seized the opportunity. Why leave it for the laundry?
For our second courses we both selected things in season. Namely, veal and lamb. Jo went for her favored veal scallopine. This time it was served with a lemon sauce. She declared it the best of our trip so far. Probably because veal is now truly in season; ditto, my luscious lamb chops. Grilled to perfection with only a lemon wedge on the side for seasoning – although the waiter told me to drizzle olive oil and vinegar on top over the lemon juice. I didn’t think I needed that extra flavor jolt.
A great meal accompanied by a platter of mixed vegetables and a very nice bottle of white Orvieto wine.