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Orvieto - Spectacular - and a Long Climb
Into Umbria proper. Our destination today is Orvieto. At the risk of over-using superlatives, Orvieto is spectacular, built on top of a volcanic plug rising more than 300 metres above the surrounding plain. The bad news is that at the end of the day we have to cycle up there.
We leave Sorano on small roads several miles to the north of Lago di Balseno. Sadly, when you're a few miles away from lake in Umbria, chances are you're in the hills, and today that's certainly true. We've tried to find a balance between finding a pleasant flat route, but avoiding the traffic on the main roads. I remember someone saying to me "No hills means no views". Well, we get some great views today! Nothing too frightening, but we'll have earned our dinner tonight.
Passing through Onano and Acquapendente, we travel cross-country through Castel Viscardo before we get our first view of Orvieto. The view of the Duomo rising from the top of this volcanic plateau is beautiful. We've a 3- kilometre climb to the top of Orvieto, where we stay right in the centre at the 3*** Hotel Duomo. Close-up, the Duomo is even more impressive, described by Jacob Burckhardt as 'the greatest and richest polychrome monument in the world'. It dominates the piazza with it's wonderful black and white stripes. It is an amazing building, a real joy. The whole piazza and the area around it has a lovely atmosphere, perfect to enjoy a well-earned beer.
Almost rivalling the Duomo is fascinating underground Orvieto. More than 1200 caves have been discovered so far, many dating back to the Etruscans. There's also St Patrick's Well, a 60-metre deep well built on the orders of Pope Clement VII following the fall of Rome. The well is 13 metres wide, wide enough to accommodate a double-helix staircase much like Leonardo DaVinci's staircase at Chambord in the Loire Valley. Water was carried up these staircases by teams of mules. More than seventy windows provide light and ventilation, and just above water level a bridge crosses from one side to the other. We'll find the time to visit either on Monday afternoon or on Tuesday morning. 27 miles / 44 Km