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to Umbria by bike

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  by Allan Nelson & Konrad Orlowski 

Day 7 - Sunday May 16th

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The Duomo - OrvietoOrvieto  ('forced' rest day)

Well, I slept for 15 hours, and I did feel better, but not 100%, so we decided to stay in Orvieto for another night and do some gentle site seeing instead. I made a conscious effort to try eat little and often to see if I could shake off this nauseous feeling.

We had a good day considering, touring the old town.  The Duomo is very impressive.  Unfortunately, the frescos at the altar end were 'under wraps' - literally, while renovation work is carried out on them, so we had to make do with a slide show of them.

Went to the top of a brick bell tower with impressive views of the whole town, and while we were up there, the bell struck one-o-clock.  Konrad jumped about a foot in the air, and I couldn't do anything for laughing.  I think that was the turning point of my 'illness'.

Finally, we went down the Pozzo di San Patrizio, a well, 13 metres wide and 62 metres deep.  It's an incredible feat of engineering.   Two 248 step staircases arranged in a double helix around the side, with windows cut out, lead the way, one for up, the other for down.  The staircases are wide, infact, wide enough to allow a donkey to travel up and down them carrying water from the bottom to the top, which is how they got the water up.  Now all this seemed a bit odd to me.  You have the skill to build a well of this size, with a complex double helix staircase around it, but you don't have the skill to be able to set up a pulley arrangement so that the donkeys could walk around the well at the top, pulling a rope which would wind the buckets up and down?  Very strange.  I'd love to know why it was done that way.  Anyone?  Maybe they had a surfeit of donkeys?   Was there anything left in the buckets by the time they'd sloshed their way to the top?

One thing that struck me about that well.   In England the whole thing would have been ruined by bars on the windows to stop people leaning out and falling in (a 60 metre drop!), but not here.  Not even a sign (apart from one outside warning you of the number of steps and advising you not to enter if you have a heart condition or suffer from asthma). I like this attitude.   Personally I think we've gone far too far in basically pandering to peoples stupidity, and all because of the fear of being sued.  I've never understood this.   Do we really have to have a sign that says "Don't lean out too far through the window?"  Don't we know that? I mean, if you lean out too far, you're going to fall.  If you survive the drop, how can you possibly sue them because the windows didn't have bars on to stop you being stupid.  I found this a nice refreshing change, and it's great for taking pictures! 

By the end of the day I was feeling much better.   On the way down through the old town, a lady approached me to buy a raffle ticket from a jar for some charity.  Being a big softy, I did, and would you believe it, I won.  I was ushered into the shop to collect my prize.  The shop was full of things of all shapes and sizes with tickets stuck to them.  I'd drawn ticket 001 and I hunted around and finally found it.  It was a very ornate ornamental fan, about 4 feet across!  I explained I was on a bike and couldn't possibly carry that around for the next week. I suggested they put the ticket back in the jar.  They seemed very touched by this, and wouldn't let me leave without something.  In the end, a bottle of red wine appeared which I graciously accepted.

My appetite was now back with a vengeance, and we started off in a small pizzeria run by the biggest gang of reprobates you could ever wish to meet.  Very shady looking characters, but, their pizza was sublime.  Why can't we get pizza like that in England?  After the pizza, we went off to a restaurant, where we had Cinghiale and pasta.  We were the only ones in the place.  How do they keep open?  After that, it was back to the Hotel Europa and our sweltering room for another good sleep.  

sunflrbt.gif (1265 bytes) Orvieto is a lovely town, and well worth a days visit.
sunflrbt.gif (1265 bytes) I couldn't stop thinking about those poor donkeys!  How many trips did they make a day?

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