Tag Archives: Orvieto


My favorite day in Italy was Pasquetta.  In Italian culture, this is the Monday after Easter, in which families picnic in the countryside.  Friends of our program, Kay & Chubba, live in a villa in the hills across from Orvieto.  They invited all of us students to join them at their home for Pasquetta.  The day after Easter, we all hiked up to their villa, carrying food and books and journals and cameras.  The weather was glorious, food was in abundance, and Kay & Chubba opened the wine made from their vineyard.  We ate and talked and ate and laughed and ate and took naps and ate and explored.  I just remember how incredible the weather was, how breathtaking the view of the city from Kay & Chubba’s villa, and how happy everyone was.  It’s a shame we don’t have such a tradition in the States: a day to simply do nothing but be together, enjoying good food and the beautiful world around us.

Buona Pasquetta!!!

Seriously, this is the view of gorgeous Orvieto from where all of us are sitting in the picture above.  See why we stayed there all day?!

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Wine Time

The production of wine goes back thousands of years, and many believe it actually originated in the Middle East.  Evidence of the earliest European wine production has been uncovered at archaeological sites in Macedonia, dated to 6,500 years ago, which is an incredibly exciting fact for a member of the Macedonian ethnicity who just loves her wine.  However, wine production improved considerably during the Roman Empire, and today, much of the world associates classically great wine with Italy.

I experienced some truly wonderful Italian wines while living in Orvieto.  I had only consumed light white wines before Italy, but my roommate over there came from a family of red wine drinkers, and she got me hooked on the full-bodied Chiantis of Tuscany.  I will now drink a dry red wine at room temperature over anything else I am offered.  Thanks a lot, Amy.  You’ve ruined me.

My time in Italy inspired me with the desire to try wines from other parts of the world, including Argentina, Chile, Hungary, and Australia.  If you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner once in a while, or a glass while you are cooking, I encourage you to try something imported, something new, and not just the cheap table wine that tastes like weird juice.  My favorite sparkling wine, far more than champagne, is Italian Prosecco, or the delightfully crisp Moscato D’Asti.  You get the bubbles and the feeling of something expensive and special, but without the bitter aftertaste champagne often leaves.

My parents and I have sort of adopted a “house red”.  We love the wines from the Kalbarri vineyard in Australia:

We don’t drink too much white wine anymore, but when we do, it’s usually the Orvieto Classico I introduced to my family upon my return to the states.  I haven’t found a vineyard that has reproduced the divine Classico that the Bigi vineyard does, but they don’t export their wine, so I’ve had to settle for another:

Chianti, however, will always have a special place in my heart because it reminds me of all of the meals I ate, the friends I made, the personal growing I did, and the memories I made throughout Italy.  Wine is a huge part of life over there, not a beverage on which one becomes drunk, but one that is enjoyed in company and to celebrate every wonderful thing about life.  When I purchase a Chianti, (which I do only every once in a while because I’m a snob about it actually coming from the vineyards in Tuscany) I splurge a little, because some things in life, as in relationships, are about quality, not quantity.

Here is where I will sound like a huge wine snob:  do not buy boxed wine.  It’s never as good as bottled, and it tells anyone who looks in your refrigerator that either you are incredibly cheap or you drink so much that you need a giant straw to go into your liquored up juice box.  In conclusion, enjoying wine and being a wine snob does not make you an alcoholic or a bad person.  It’s always about moderation, friends, just like with junk food, children, and romantic comedies.

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Wednesday of Ashes

First entrance into ancient duomo

of breath-taking enormity

Black and white pillars reach to heaven

Fog settles

from familiar incense

Massive crowd of sinners and saints

steeped in tradition

Priests chant

a sermon in lyrical tongue

Repentance, forgiveness

long line for Lent

Kneeling before a priest

receiving my blessing

and a dusting of ashes

In this new place,

this medieval town,

I am part of something greater

A new life

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Martedi Grasso

Known as Mardi Gras to most Americans, Fat Tuesday was the first holiday I experienced upon my arrival in Italy.  We had barely settled in when the entire country, some places more than others, celebrated Carnivale with great zeal.  I remember early that Tuesday morning, visiting a local bakery, tucked away on a side street.  I purchased a paper cone filled with delectable zeppole, the Italian equivalent of donut holes, and roamed the quiet streets, watching the shops and cafes open and the small grocers and florists receive their early morning shipments.

The night was a different experience.  Little children ran all over the place dressed in costumes.  Confetti and glitter of violets, reds, and golds filtered through the air and fell into the cracks between the cobblestones.  Silly string was sprayed all over buildings and unsuspecting walkers.  There were people everywhere until quite late; it was the only night I remember returning to my humble abode before the rest of the town had closed its shutters.

This piece, oils and acrylic on masonite, was inspired by my memories of Martedi Grasso in Orvieto, and the taste of Carnivale I received in Venice.  I’m not sure what else to do with it, or if I should do anything else.

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Tousle the wisteria blossoms…

The convent I lived in hugged the cliff of Orvieto.  The courtyard was filled with wisteria trees.  One of my clearest memories involves me hanging out of my window over the courtyard, breathing deeply as the fragrant Italian wind swept up from the valley to tousle the wisteria blossoms.

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Fortress of Albornoz

I was growing weary.  After three days with the flu, this walk that had become so familiar to me was now exhausting.  We had finally reached the park and, knowing the return would be all uphill, I was in desperate need of a break.

It was strange to think that this place was once the great fortress of the city, the watchtower home to sentries who scanned the ancient horizons for danger.  Now it was mere ruins, children kicking around soccer balls and old couples methodically sauntering the perimeter.

I saw the steps to the watchtower, the one place in the city that reached beyond its walls, hovering over the tufa cliff.  We began to climb the steps.  I was a bit shaky now, remnants of the flu reminding me to take things slowly.  We neared the top of the watchtower, and no one was there.  I could see the rim of the observation wall and beyond, clear blue sky.

Suddenly I was alone.  I turned back to look at Lori.

“I can’t go any further.”

“What?  Are you serious?  It’s only another eight or nine feet.”

“I know, but it’s so high!  It’s too high.”  She was paralyzed and would come no further.  “I’ll just go down and sit on a bench and wait for you, okay?”


Having a paralyzing fear of heights myself, I was amazed that I had not only made it this far, but felt strongly compelled to continue to the edge.  I leaned against the watchtower’s wall and beheld a glorious reward for my trouble.  The garden paradise of Umbria seemed to stretch forever in every direction.  I could not believe this view was real, that I was gazing upon earth that actually existed.  The cliff stretched down into a massive valley, through which a once great river ran through.  The valley climbed up into the hills that separate these small cities and villages from one another.  Sunlight bathed the vineyards and olive trees and the river in a soft golden hue and there was a beautiful silence and a delicious breeze.  I have never felt so small and yet so much a part of my surroundings.

In that moment, a part of me changed.  That view from the watchtower is the one thing I did not photograph during my time in Italy.  It is the one thing I wanted to keep all to myself.

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Cardinal Virtues

“Okay, next question:  Jenna, what are the four cardinal virtues?”

“I don’t know!”  Jenna giggled hysterically, like she giggles every time anyone says or does anything.  I’ve never known another human being who giggles so often.

“Jenna, you do too.”

“We’ve been studying for three hours!”

“So you should know the four cardinal virtues!”

Sweet Olga brought us more cappuccinos; the Italian kind, serve in palm-sized, white mugs.  They have a perfect consistency at Montanucci’s:  the espresso is just at the right bitterness, hot and never burned, the milky foam is light and airy.  Drinking such a concoction is a spiritual experience.


Anna was laughing now, amused at my mock irritation and Jenna’s innate inability to focus on anything but Orvietani cappuccino and pastries.  And Italian men.

“Oh, okay, fine, just…let me think………the four cardinal virtues are……prudence, justice……temperance, and……oh, crap, the fourth one starts with an “f”!  Just a minute, it’s “for-“……”for-“………fornication!”

She was so excited to have answered the question given to her!  Anna was long gone, her beautiful laugh just bubbling up out of her.  I stared at Jenna with delighted wide eyes, and before laughing, I told her:

“Fornication is definitely not a virtue.”

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“We’re in Italy”

Amy plopped down into the chair next to me.  It had been one of those excruciating finals – 100 images, and we had to give the name of the piece, the artist, the medium, the year it was created, and where it was currently located.  Ten of us crammed around a table at our favorite celebratory tavern, but my roommate was looking a bit worse for the wear.

“Are you okay?”

“I just need a drink.”

The waitress came.  Amy weakly mumbled, “Margarita, per favore.”  She looked grouchy, and I had learned better than to push her.  If she wanted to talk, she’d talk.

A pizza finally arrived.  It was a beautiful pizza margherita: golden brown crust, fresh, zesty tomato sauce, bubbling fresh mozzarella.  My stomach growled.

“Who’s pizza is this?” Amy asked as our waitress set it down in front of her.  I suddenly felt dread.  Amy was already moody, so how should I break the news?

“Um…I think it’s yours.”

“I ordered a drink.  A margarita.”

“I know you did, but……we’re in Italy.”

Her eyes showed signs of life as realization hit her.

“Oh.  My.  God.”

At least now she was laughing.

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