Thursday, March 31, 2011

10 Pictures of Florence

We were lucky enough to be back in Florence for a day and a night recently (a rare night away from the dogs—thanks to Doris our German neighbor, house caretaker, and dog-sitter), and though I’ve blogged up about our love for Florence a few times already, with pics and such, I wanted to do another post, since this time we stopped at a few different spots. In the interest of any readers sanity, I’ll try to keep my typing to a minimum and let the pictures do most of the talking (especially since there are ten pics). We first checked into our hotel (more on this later), and then instantly walked across the Ponte Vecchio (we were staying Oltrarno style), past the Uffizi, through the Piazza della Signoria, and down the way a bit to a side turn to stop for a sandwich at the renowned I Due Fratellini. A true hole in the wall, I Due Fratellini has been around since 1875, with brothers making sandwiches and pouring wine out of a tiny space. You actually just eat standing next to it, resting your wine glass between sips on shelves to the side of the take out window. In this pic, you can see our two glasses to the right (and see the line that’s almost always in place at the window). Mine is the one almost emptied of its Lambrusco:
We both went for the #23, which is a slightly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside roll topped with cheese, arugula, olive oil, and a hint of truffles and pepper:
After finishing out street side wine and sandwiches (and wondering why, why can’t Seattle have a place like this? Besides the whole “drinking wine in the street” issue) we walked past the Duomo and around back to visit the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (which I’d never been too). At around the 15th century, this building in the back of the Duomo started to be where the maintenance decisions about the Duomo were made, and for almost as long it’s also held this museum, where many (if not all) of the original art from the Duomo and the Baptistery have been keep. This means it’s packed with artistic hits, including Michealangelo’s famous Pieta, and a host of sculpture by Pisano, Cambio, and Donatello, all of which was in the Duomo (or on the walls outside) at one time. I tend to be a Donatello sculpture guy, loving his facial expression such as this:
The dell’Opera also has painting from the Duomo, the original doors to heaven from the Baptistry, loads of relics, and lots of architectural drawing and models from the Duomo’s restoration and façade creation. However, my other favorite room was full of bas-reliefs, showing a variety of humans in honor of the arts, work, and other scenes, including this jolly vintner who seems to have enjoyed the fruits of his labors quite a bit:
From the dell’Opera del Duomo, we wandered over to Santa Croce, which we hadn’t yet seen on any trips to Florence since moving over for our-pretirement. Which is a shame, because of the three bigger Florence churches (the Duomo, Santa Croce, and Santa Maria Novella—with no disrespect to the many other Florence churches large and small), Santa Croce is in some ways my favorite. The Duomo is more massively mind-blowing, and Santa Maria Novella is better for buying drugs (no, no, it’s lovely, but being so close to the train station is the sketchiest) , but Santa Croce has a more approachable feel, as well as more work inside still in place (and Brunelleschi’s Renaissance-perfect Capella dei Pazzi). The piazza around it is large and open, perfect for festivals, and the church itself looks amazing on a sunny day:
Inside, you can see pictures of the massive flood of 1966, with water up to the church’s middle (you can also still see how high it got on the buildings outside the church), but the picture that made me catch my breath was the “after” photo, with the debris in place around the statue of Dante (which has now been moved to the side):
Inside the church there is a host of famous frescos (by Giotto, among others), tombstones (many worn by years of visitors) covering the floors, and a number of more famous monuments are along the walls, and it's where Machiavelli, Galileo, and others (not Dante, however, though he does have a monument there—he’s in Ravenna of course) and buried, most notably Michelangelo:
After wandering through and around Santa Croce, we headed back to the hotel, stopping for a Negroni along the way. We splurged a bit on our hotel, and stayed at my favorite hotel (in the world? Perhaps), the Lungarno on Borgo san Iacopo. It sits right on the Arno, so has fantastic views (as well as a fantastic staff, fantastic bathrooms, and fantastic little slippers) of Santa Trinita one way:
and Ponte Vecchio the other:
We reveled in our sunny Florence afternoon for a while, then had visitors: our pals Angela and Bobby, who are living in Florence currently (sadly, for Italy, moving back to the states next week). We had a drink on the balcony, looking at the Palazzo Vecchio’s tower as the sun went down:
then went to dinner (at QuattroLeoni, which I’ll describe in detail tomorrow), and had a couple drinks, a few while wearing blinking bunny ears:
A perfect end to another perfect day in Florence.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fat Cats in Florence

We were back in Florence the other day and night (more pics from that and from dinner in the next day or two), walking through Santa Croce and took a peek through a window into a side garden and saw two cats that looked like they enjoyed the Italian cuisine as much as we do (and yeah, I’m putting these up in some ways to just torture the puppies, who would like to chase these kittens until they slimmed down):

Monday, March 28, 2011

Who Knew Jeremy’s Cousin Played Accordion?

Okay, Ivano Pescari may not, as far as any records show, be traditionally related to Jeremy Holt (pal of ours who also co-authored Double Take). But he’s the only Italian I’ve seen (and by “seen” I mean saw on a poster as I was driving through Verna) who has a ‘stache that can rival Jeremy’s March mustache marvelousness, or even approach it. Sadly (oh, so sadly) we missed out on Ivano’s performance that this flyer was advertising (as we were exchanging cars in Rome), but we are certainly watching for upcoming gigs. As a sidenote, Ivano has not been the only accordion player gigging lately—there have been like three fellas advertising upcoming shows where they're tickling the portable ivories, as well as a couple groups. It’s accordion season in Italy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

D.S.D.I.: Dr. Strange Raises a Negroni for Neilalien

* All D.S.D.I. (Dr. Strange Does Italy) posts

* The first post and the explanation behind D.S.D.I. posts

A Note: If you’re not sure who Neilalien is, well, go here. He was the first (I think) comics-related blogger (and a heaping helping better than the host of ones out there now), and has recently gone into semi-blogger-tirement. If you read the first D.S.D.I. post, you can learn a little more. Neilalien also has been known to have a good cocktail or two, and hence the Negroni toast (if you look closely, you can see the Dr. is having his Negroni at the spot where the drink was invented, Giacosa--the bar was called a different name back then--in Florence. And yeah, the Negroni was tasty. Well, I couldn’t let Doc drink alone).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Carnivore Special

The fact that this truck we passed on the ol’ E45 has English on it doesn’t reduce the fact that it made me think of the serious carnivores (or, omnivores with meat-tendancies, who may dig the veggies, but luv their meats) we know and eat and drink with on occasion, folks like Shane, Jeremy, Skoog, and Markie B in Seattle, Joel-y M in Chicago, and Italian-British aunt and uncle Andrew and Marianne. This truck’s for you:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Citta di Castello’s Retro Market

I believe (though hey, my memory isn’t 100% sieve-less, so if I’m mistaken, take it up with the court of universal blog authorities, or CUBA) I’ve mentioned the regular Citta di Castello (or, in AJ-speak, CDC) market (basic clothes, stuff, and veggies) somewhere on the blog, and know I’ve mentioned the small city itself, one of the closest small cities to us (where the truffle festival is). CDC also has another market, on the third Sunday of the month, called the Retro Market. It’s very different than the regular market (which is every Thursday and Saturday), sometimes smaller in scope, with a focus on, well, antique-y kinds of things: furniture, books, knick-knacks, jewelry, records, and more. Not as massive, or as massively expensive as the Arezzo antique market, the CDC Retro market sprawls in the old city square and some surrounding buildings and overhangs:
We went last weekend (only the second time we’d been this trip—sadly) and found tables holding everything that could possible fit under the designation “retro” and a lot that fit “flea market” just as well:
I think it’s a kick to amble around the aisles of stuff, sometimes day-dreaming about what furniture I might pick up if I had a little Italian hill house. The trunkish, table-ish, number in the front here was especially nice:
Perhaps the cutest thing at the market I found under one of the tables, though, when I was browsing some Italian books:
Here and there when walking around you come across a tableau (yeah, I talk fancy) that is almost like an art installation all on its own (makes you wonder if the seller is sad when a piece in the middle of an artistic grouping like the below is sold):
Usually, we’re okay just browsing, or picking up something small (okay, honestly, I should say I’m usually okay with browsing—Nat’s a buyer). This Retro market stop, however, we came across a couple art pieces we couldn’t turn down (the prices tend to be reasonable in the CDC), even if it might mean stretching our suitcases to get them back:
Aren’t those wonderful? We especially were drawn in by the frames, which have a metal layering on them that blends into the picture and adds to overall effect:
We also (okay, honestly, this one was my extra pick) found a sweet six-piece set of Ramazzotti coasters. Ramazotti is an amaro (or Italian slightly bitter, usually digestif-y, drink) both of us have been known to sip, and these coasters called to me (buy us, buy us):
My fav was probably this one, which has a lady carrying a ginormous bottle of Ramazzotti while riding an ostrich:
Now, that’s the kind of Retro market find I can get behind.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tartufo Bianca Affogato al Brandy—My Kind of Dolce

Admittedly, I’ll eat up the dolce (or dessert, or pudding, depending on your original locale). However, I don’t set my cap on sweets, and if I have to choose between the sugar or the savory, I’ll choose the savory. But, but (there’s always a but, right? And in my “I’ll eat savory and sweet often” case, it tends to be a big ol' but), I don’t usually turn down the dolce, and if it’s a dolce in the style of the Tartufo Bianca Affogato al Brandy I had at the fantastic Bar Fizz the other night, then sign me up:
The Tartufo Bianca was a big baseball-sized mound of vanilla ice-cream, stuffed with a chocolate-y ice cream dreaming of coffee, and that’s all good and well, but it was floating in like an inch of brandy. Good brandy. That’s the kind of dolce I can really get behind—one floating in liquid loveliness.

*See all Bar Fizz related posts

PS: “Wait,” you say (I can hear you—at least in my head. But I’m not crazy, just attuned cuisinistically), “but, but, what did you have for dinner?” Well, I don’t want to rub any noses, but it was lasagna night at Fizz, and once again those crazy kids were kind enough to make us tartufo lasagna (the “tartufo” here being truffles), which I detailed here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cielo Chiara Special: "Chicken" and Artichoke Po’ Boy

Don’t get up in my Italian grill --but no recipe with this Cielo Chiara special. I figured (and hopefully don’t figure wrong) that you could make this meal yourself, but wanted to show the pretty picture as a way to thank my friendly mom, who recently sent us a care package of non-Italian food. Not that I’ll ever get completely sick of the pasta, pizza, risotto, and more that we have served to us (and made by us) here in such scrumptious fashion, but a little balance isn’t a bad thing. Which is why the care package was so appreciated, as it had things like black beans, miso soup, and veggie sloppy joe mix. The black beans spiced up with rice made the ideal accompaniment to our Po’ Boys, which were topped with tartar sauce (I made mine with pickles, onion, mayo, parsley, pepper, salt, and lemon), lettuce, faux chicken, and artichokes (made in the Calagrana style depicted here). If I’m going to shy away from the local cuisine for a meal, this is the way I wanna do it:

*See more specials: Penne e Noce, Zuppa di Pomodoro e’ Fagioli,Torta Vegetariana, Lasagna Vegetariana con Tartufo Crema, Homemade Tagliatelle e Gorgonzola, Orzo Vegetale con Crema, Four Italian Drinks, Capellini Aglio e’ Olio con Porro, Ginger Ice Liqueur, Artichoke Piadina

*See all Cielo Chiaro Specials

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dogs in Springtime

It’s still a mix of days here in the Niccone Valley (the most beautiful valley in the world, some say), with some sunshine, some days where the rain beats the earth as if it were angry, some with wind whipping around the olive trees, and some with only a handful of big clouds hinting at blustery evenings. The sun is starting to win out more often than not, though, which leads to the dogs spending more time outside, sometimes running wild, and sometimes just smelling the newly blooming flowers on the breeze (as well as the deer droppings on the breeze):
Of course, all these smells also lead to a hunting mentality, because who knows what critter might be sunning itself, just outside of the world’s flimsiest fence:
All that spring can make a dog tired though. Luckily, recently Sookie had an awfully friendly pillow to sleep on—Jon Sholly’s lap. Sadly, the changing of the seasons also means that visiting friends have to hit the road, back to homes and stateside habitats, which means Sookie can’t have such a comfy spot all the time:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lunch at Camino Vecchio

We were in Assisi again (not the pejorative “again” though, which would make it sound like going to Assisi is a chore, which it definitely is not, as it’s not only chunk-a-luck with art and artistic churches but a lovely little hill town in its own right, if a bit overly touristed and pilgrimaged here and there and then, all of which is to say it’s never a chore to visit) and thinking of lunch. It was Nat and I and pals Jon and Nicole and Christy (and yeah, I’ve blogged about them some, and am still blogging about them, though they’ve been gone for over a week, but blogging about them almost makes it seem like are still here, just outside the door about to walk in, which would be sweet), and our first thought was Il Frantoio, but once more they were out on vacation (which is nutty—that’s like months of vacation. More power to ‘em, but we probably won’t try them in the future, cause its down numerous stairs, and what if they’re on a permanent vacation). After walking up and down the streets of Assisi, we wandered into the very friendly and well-named Al Camino Vecchio (the name’s so close to “Camaro” that it called to the 70s-KS-boy in me). Now, it was a bustling, family run spot, packed with a host of folks from different nations, and we were a party of five talking it up as if we were getting paid by the spoken word (which is how it is with old friends that don’t see each other enough), and what is leading up to? Poorly taken photos. Which is a salivating shame, cause the food was delish. We started with a round of wine (notice the two carafes in the above photo—one red, one white) and a round of salads, then I moved on to an intriguing gnocchi variant (I believe it was called “gnocchite” or some such—again, too much talking and laughing to have time for writing things down). It was actually a gnocchi ravioli:
it had gnocchi dough around a spinach ricotta filling, topped with a zippy tomato sauce, with an end result that was different and scrumptious. The gnocchi dough is so different, more pillowy and pliant than pasta dough. I dug it indeed. Nat went for the straight gnocci, topped with cheese and truffle and cream and it was also quite good, gooey and flavorful (so much so it threw off my aim I suppose):
The other dish that was a super standout was Nicole’s pisi (I believe—it was a pasta I hadn’t seen the name of before) with ceci, or pasta with chickpeas in a light tomato sauce. The pasta was done just right, and played well with the also al dente chickpeas (their bright flavor against the more tangy tomato sauce would have made St. Francis himself dance around and do the happy robot). Of course, again, my aim was off in the photos:
Even though it’s a hike up a high-arching street, Al Camino Vecchio is work the workout—and remember, the walking means you can have another course. 

*See more Italian restaurants: Capponi, Nestor's,Nonna Gelsa, Le Capannine di Sommavilla, Calagrana, Trattoria Il Saraceno, L Enoteca Wine Club, Mastro Dante, Bar Fizz, Da Cesari, al Frantoio, La Balestra, Lo Strattoio, Mencuccio, La Fortezza. La Tufa, Kentia Pizzeria, Il Feudo del Vicari, Buca di Bacco

*See all Italian restaurants

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Now This Is an Italian Party

Check out this cask—wouldn’t you love to have everyone you know over some Saturday afternoon in late June and start pouring? Provided the wine was delish (and you have to imagine it would be), and provided you had some thirsty friends, it would be a memorable evening, cause that cask holds 40,000 liters:
It’s actually the Botte dei Canoncini, residing in Gu-Gu-Gubbio, and dates back to the 16th century. So, you’d have some stories to tell around it while having said party in June. Vino grande!

Friday, March 18, 2011

More Pals of the Mastro (Dante, That Is)

I’ve talked lots about the trucker restaurant Mastro Dante, about the lengthy and awesome veggie-packed antipasti buffet, the no frills but Midwestern homey décor, the big plates of pasta (and meat, if you’re inclined), the flowing wine and beer, the wildly affordability, and the dandy service. Go read more about the grub if you haven’t, but here I just wanted to show a few more pics, this time of some recent converts to the Maestro’s winning way of lunching, starting with a cuddly pic of recent visitor Jon Sholly and our waiter:
and following that up with a pic of Jon, Nicole (wife of said Jon), and pal Christy, under the sign that drew them like moths to a giant buffet of lights (or food, as you will), a sign you should watch for if ever driving the highway E45, as you can see it somewhat from the hungry highway:

*See all Italian restaurants

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Raise a Garibaldi in Honor of Garibaldi

Today’s the 150 anniversary of the unification of Italy! If you want to read what Barak (Obama, that is) proclaimed in his proclamation, then go here. But if you want to celebrate while you read it, then you should be making yourself a Garibaldi, named after Giuseppe Garibadli, the man whose “red-shirt army” (the drink reflects the colors of the shirt) unified the country I’m lucky enough to be living in currently. Here’s the recipe (straight outta Good Spirits) so you can get you Italian unification day on in style.

Ice cubes
2 ounces Campari
5 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice

1. Fill a highball or comparable glass with ice cubes. Add the Campari. Salute.

2. Add the orange juice. Stir. Drink, Italian style.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Birthday Cake at Calagrana

Now, we’ve detailed the Calagrana eating experience (and how delicious it is), and the Calagrana cooking class experience (and how much we learned and had fun), but I wanted to drop up a quick post to mention the Calagrana, well, personal experience I suppose—and how sweet it is. By the personal experience, I mean how well the folks at Calagrana (Albie and Ely, their kids, and occasional staff) treat all the guests. Like family, if you have a welcoming, friendly, family. For my example de jour, let me take you to a recent visit we had there, when we brought Jon and Nicole Sholly (who, if you’ve been reading the blog at all, you know were recently here in the Upper Tiber visiting us) there for dinner. It was Nicole’s 40th birthday, and not only did Calagrana have some off-menu veggie food for us (as always), but they also made Nicole a special cake. Look how excited she is:
And look at how amazing the cake is (all personalized and pretty):
After she blew out the candle, Ely took the cake back and cut us off slices, and then the slices came out with plates that had personalized Nicole b-day messages as well (and the messages were written in chocolate. Really):
The cake was more than a normal cake, too, as it had layers of chocolate cake, cream, filo dough, deliciousness, and strawberries. It was so wonderful of them to go to such lengths for Nicole’s b-day—but this just points out what I mean by how the Calagrana posse goes to extraordinary lengths to treat guests at the restaurant in a memorable manner. I realize I’ve skipped over the mains but this is intentional, cause I wanted to focus on the cake. But let me just say these words: warm bean and asparagus en salata, veggie risotto, tagliatelle porcini, and incredible roasted veggies with the finest mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. Oh, what the heck, here’s a pic of Jon getting ready to plough into his scrumptious veggies and mash:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lunch at La Buca di Bacco

After our big Orvieto exploration (detailed below, if you missed it, in five—or so—pictures) we’d picked up quite a hunger. After walking the Orvieto streets for a bit (making that hunger even more keen), checking out a few places and walking away from their menu turisticas, we stopped in at La Buca di Bacco. And it was a fortuitous stop, because our lunch was the perfect complement to a morning of site-seeing. I started with delicious warm porcini salad, topped with freshly shaved cheese and radicchio:
The foresty warm porcini provided a happy balance with the tang of the cheese and crunch of the bitter red radicchio. Nat (and Nicole, who was also in Orvieto with us, along with Jon) started with a creamy, smooth, asparagus soup, topping with a swirl of the local olive oil. The oil’s brisk personality played well with the delicately smooth soup:
Jon had a lovely ensalate mista (more than the basic lettuce and onion, it had a host of veggies), but I forgot to snap a snapshot, but I did get a pic of his ricotta ravioli topped with a hint of cream and walnuts (which I also had). The pasta was homemade and finely dente’d, and the persuasive ricotta went well with it and the crunchy walnuts:
Nat and Nicole both went for radicchio risotto with gorgonzola. The double shot of strong personalities (bitter leaf and pungent cheese) might scare off some, but the ladies weren’t scared at all, and you know what (well, of course you don’t, but let me be rhetoric risottoly)? The two tastes came together like Sunday mornings and sleeping it late—they seemed made for each other:
After a quick walk through the restaurant’s Etruscan basement seating room (ideal if you ever need a party space in Orvieto by the way), and a moment or two to finish up the clear, crisp, friendly, reknowned-for-a-reason Orvieto white wine we accompanied the meal with, we walked back into town full and happy.

*See more Italian restaurants: Capponi, Nestor's,Nonna Gelsa, Le Capannine di Sommavilla, Calagrana, Trattoria Il Saraceno, L Enoteca Wine Club, Mastro Dante, Bar Fizz, Da Cesari, al Frantoio, La Balestra, Lo Strattoio, Mencuccio, La Fortezza. La Tufa, Kentia Pizzeria, Il Feudo del Vicari

*See all Italian restaurants

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Five Pictures of Orvieto*

I can admit it—I have a fair share of what I like to call “punk-rock-poopy-pants-ness.” By this, I mean I often rebel against things (songs, places, books, movies, foods, shoes) that seem giantly mainstreamily popular. Usually, once I do get around to the thing, or at least 50% of the time, I’m sad about my previous poopy-pants-ness. But hey, as Popeye says, I yam what I yam. Orvieto falls into the “thing” category above, as we’d never visited it in all our trips to central Italy, until a couple weeks ago, even though it’s one of Umbria’s top tourist stops (in the top three with Perugia and Assisi I suppose, with maybe Spoleto a trailing fourth), and its Duomo one of the top two (with the Basilica of St. Francis) un-miss-able spots in Umbria for those interested in art. So, basically, I was kicking myself in the pants by my poopy-pants-ness. However, when pals Jon and Nicole said they were coming to visit we wanted to go somewhere new and so I got over myself and suggested Orvieto. The Orvieto experience starts (if you’re smart) by parking at the bottom of the tufa (or 325-meter-tall volcanic mountain) that Orvieto proper is built on (and which a town of some sort has been on due to its tall and fortuitous position since the Bronze Age) and taking the funicular up the mountain, through the forest, and then into Orvieto’s Rocca. Provided that you don’t head-butt the funicular heading down:
Next to where the funicular stops once you’re up up up the hill (around the corner more-or-less) was our first stop: the Pozzo di San Patrizio (or well of St. Patrick)—a good first stop especially if you’re going towards it when the large student groups are walking away from it. Named after the Irish saint who died in a cave, the well was built for Pope Clement the seventh, who fled Rome (dressed as a grocery store manager—I see him in a Safeway smock) and settled into Orvieto, worried about running out of water in an attack he felt was imminent. The well’s size is a marvel, especially considering the date it was made: 62 meters deep and 12 wide. But the real marvel is the double helix design, created to provide people and their donkeys with a path to walk both up and down without having to worry about meeting anyone going the opposite direction. Throughout the walk down, large, deep windows are cut, allowing natural light to filter to the 248 steps:
From the well, we wandered to the main event, the Duomo. It was built (well, the more entertaining story is what I’m going to tell--there might be a separate, more political story, but it’s not as much fun) after the same old story: boy becomes priest, priest starts to question his faith, specifically his faith having to do with the host (or, for non-church-oriented folks, the wafer and wine given with communion) being the actual body of Christ every time (through the miracle of transubstantiation), until, during a service, the host starts to bleed, getting on him and his liturgical table linen (or corporale), with each stain of blood assuming the face of Christ. You know, that old story. So, the Duomo in Orvieto was built (after this miracle was okay’d by the pope naturally) to house the corporale relic, starting in 1290 and finishing some 300 years later. The site was originally an Etruscan temple, then the first duomo, and it sits high in the center of town. And it is a masterpiece, almost too difficult to even take in without a few gasps of breath. It’s even hard to photograph (the massive façade, that is), but I suggest going to track down a few wide angle photos (or just getting away from the computer and going to see it), since this one only catches the top half, which is covered with mosaics:
Farther down, the four pillars are covered in intricate carvings, Biblical scenes, saints, stories, and local folks. Some of the carvings are frightening, too, with a ferocious Cain braining Able once again, Adam and Eve cowering as God drives them out of the Garden, and a whole pillar whose bottom details (after passing through Paradise) a chilling and creepy hell and purgatory where people are being pulled by devils:
and look at the detail—amazing:
One more friendly (or at least balancing) aspect is that wine vines wind around all the sculptures (on this pillar, at least) in all the levels. This is probably more of a shout out to Orvieto’s famous white wines (that volcanic soil isn’t just good cause it’s called “tufa” and fun to say—it also provides a perfect breeding and cultivating ground for white wine grapes), but I found it nice that the sculptures were providing the sinners with a little wine while they were being tormented. The Duomo is built out of the same dramatic black and white marble as many other large churches in central Italy, and hosts a number of intriguing statues on the outside even away from the façade. With this said, don’t think the inside isn’t magnificent though—I just don’t have any photos, cause they ask you not to take them (though there was one particularly jack-ass-y American in there who thought he should have the right to take photos wherever he wanted). Inside there are a number of fine pieces spread around the church, though it seems a bit sparse at first glace. The hits come especially in the Capella di Corporale (where the above-mentioned relic is held) and the carvings around the massive organ (okay, get those chuckles out, I just said “massive organ”), and even more especially (is that proper? I’m still chuckling) in the frescos by Luca Signorelli in the Capella di San Brizio. This chapel is, well, fantasmagorically outstanding. And I’m not the first to say it (big man Michelangelo himself studied it well before he painted a little thing called the Sistine Chapel. So there). The subject of the Frescos is the Last Judgement, and they take a lot of their vigor and fantastic temperament  from Dante’s work (there is one fresco of Dante, along with Ovid and others, and specific scenes from the Divine comedy done on the lower level as well). Specific panels include the preaching of the Antichrist (picture a devious-eyed Christ preaching as atrocities happen), the rising of the dead, end of the world, Purgatorio, Paradiso, and the calling of the saved. In all the pictures, the figures are muscular, often contorted, often in great pain (being ridden around by devils, or rising whole from the ground), and always hard to look away from. Okay, that was heavy, but it is quite amazing, as is the whole Duomo, including this dog who looks a bit hungry from his perch high above the ground:
There is much more to see in Orvieto, but like the dog above, we were hungry enough, and had seen so much after the Duomo’s vast treasures that we headed off in search of a good, long, Italian lunch, and some of the much-talked-about Orvieto wine. Cause you can’t make it through a day on history and art alone (at least you can’t if you’re traveling with me, that is).

*Okay, there are six pics. But one's a close up. That shouldn't count against me.