Orvieto

A scenic thirty minute drive from Montepozzo, the Etruscan hilltop town of Orvieto was the perfect destination for a day trip. Vertical tufa cliffs support the ancient buildings in spectacular fashion and the remains of original defensive walls are still standing.

1.Orvieto

After parking the car in Piazza Marconi, we walked a short distance to Piazza del Duomo, a huge square dominated by the magnificent Orvieto Cathedral. Not surprisingly, the construction lasted three centuries from the laying of the flagstone in November 1290.

2.Duomo di Orvieto

The design and style evolved from Romanesque to Gothic as it progressed, the side walls are a striking contrast of white travertine and grey basalt stone.

3.Duomo di Orvieto

The golden façade is stunning with intricate designs and detail and four bronze statues of the Angel, the Lion, the Eagle and the Ox symbolise the Evangelists. The three bronze doors, depicting mercies from the life of Christ, replaced the original wooden doors in 1970. Above the middle door, the sculpture of the Madonna and Child was created in 1347.

4.Duomo di Orvieto

13.Duomo di Orvieto12.Duomo di Orvieto

We didn’t go inside the cathedral, we had tickets for a tour underground instead but that’s another story. Orvieto has a strong papal history with five popes taking refuge there during the 13th century. Palazzo Soliano was built in 1297 and once a papal residence, is now home to the Museo Emilio Greco, dedicated to the artist who designed the cathedral doors and showing 100 of his works.

14.Palazzo Soliano

The small Church of San Giacomo all’Ospedale is now used as a venue for exhibitions. The building behind the church was a hospice for poor people and pilgrims established in 1187.

15.Chiesa di San Giacomo Maggiore

On the opposite side of the piazza are a row of houses where priests used to reside

16.Piazza del Duomo

and a fascinating clock tower. Built as a time clock for the cathedral construction site, it was originally a sundial in 1347 because there was no mechanical clock available. The bronze automaton on top, the earliest documented clock in Europe, was added two years later. The figure swings its body and strikes the bell with its hammer on the hour to let the workers know when it is time to knock off. The medieval word for a construction site was muriccio, hence it is now known as Maurizio Tower.

17.Maurizio Tower

We left the piazza and wandered along Via del Duomo past vibrant shops and intriguing alleys.

23.vicolo

27.vicolo31.Via del Duomo

After quenching our thirst

we ventured on. Torre del Moro stands 47 metres high exactly in the city centre. Built by the Della Terza family at the end of the 13th century, we would certainly have climbed the 250 steps for a 360° view had we known.

35.Torre del Moro

The Church of Sant’Andrea on the Piazza della Repubblica dates back to the 12th century and has a unique dodecagonal bell tower.

Adjacent to the church, the Town Hall is from the same era but has been enlarged and restored up until 1600.

38.Palazzo Comunale

We walked through the central arch onto Via Garibaldi, it seems no road is too narrow for the local buses.

On the other side of the arch

42.rear of Palazzo Comunale

we couldn’t resist lunch at Ristorante Il Cocco and the opportunity to sample one of Orvieto’s specialties, pigeon.

43.Ristorante Il Cocco

Deliciously sated, we continued along Via Garibaldi

47.Via Garibaldi

and wended our way down narrow, stone streets

48.Orvieto

to the ancient church of San Giovanni and the piazza of the same name.

49.Chiesa di San Giovanni50.Piazza San Giovanni

Just past the church, we followed the Vicolo Malcorini,

51.Vicolo Malcorini

rewarded with stunning vistas to the left

57.Orvieto58.Orvieto

and a tumble of homes to the right.

59.Medieval Quarter

The Medieval Quarter is a maze of steep, narrow streets and houses seem to defy gravity atop rocky cliffs.

61.Medieval Quarter

65.Medieval Quarter

We explored further with the feeling we had stepped back in time, having both fallen in love with Orvieto.

Palazzo Davanzati

While staying at Villa Boccella our lovely friend, Deb (not the same lovely Deb that lives in Launceston), escorted us on a day trip to Florence to share the wonders of a city she knows well. Without her, we never would have discovered Palazzo Davanzati. Built by the wealthy merchant Davizzi family in the 14th century, the palace was purchased by the Davanzati family in 1578, their coat of arms is proudly displayed on the façade.

1.Palazzo Davanzati

They retained possession until 1838 after which the residence was divided into flats. In 1904, antique dealer Elia Volpi rescued, restored and furnished the property before opening it to the public as a museum in 1910. Ownership changed hands again in the 1920s and eventually the Italian state took over in 1951. The museum has undergone major restoration in recent years, the result is nothing short of spectacular. We entered into an internal courtyard, instantly boggled by the grandeur.

2.looking up from courtyard

The rooms on the upper floors are arranged around the central courtyard, gazing upward the architecture resembles a labyrinthine puzzle.

6.looking up from courtyard

We climbed the worn stone steps to the first floor

7.steps

and entered the Great Hall, a room that would have been used for conducting business. The trapdoors in the floor in front of the windows open up to the loggia below so visitors can be identified before granting entry.

8.Great Hall9.Great Hall

The intricate ceiling detail is stunning, though I wondered about the comfort of the furniture.

Water can be hauled to all floors from the private well in the courtyard via pitchers on a pulley system.

On the same floor, the walls of the Parrot Room are decorated with a geometric patchwork design, motifs of the birds are painted in the lattice separating the blocks.

14.Parrot Room

The huge fireplace is adorned with the red and white Davizzi coat of arms with emblems on either side representing the Ridolfo and Alberti families who married into the Davizzi family.

15.Parrot Room fireplace

The frescoed wall of the adjacent bedroom incorporates coats of arms of families allied with the Davizzi. The beautiful bed cover is a copy of the Guicciardini Quilt, the only known surviving example of medieval quilts. The original, made in Sicily in the second half of the 14th century, resides in The Bargello less than a kilometre down the road.

16.Peacock Room

Even though it would have been a luxury at the time, the ensuite bathroom is small and not conducive to a good long soak.

19.ensuite

There is a room displaying sewing and spinning implements as well as exquisite examples of lacework.

Another room exhibits furniture from the 14th to 19th century: delicate porcelain, timber cabinets, chairs and storage boxes fill the space.

24.cassone

30.chest

26.armour cabinet, Audience Room

A small water closet hides behind a very substantial timber door.

31.water closet

Obviously, there is indoor plumbing, these appear to be breather vents

32.breather pipes

and the drainage pipe snakes its way down the internal courtyard wall.

On the second floor, the frescoes in the most sumptuous bedroom are inspired by the tale of the Chatelaine de Vergi (I love this version, I was enthralled), a tragic medieval story of friendship, love, loyalty, betrayal and the consequences of all the aforementioned. An unusual choice for a marital bedchamber or perhaps a constant reminder of the benefits of fidelity?

35.bedroom of the landlady

38.bedroom of the landlady

The addition of the ensuite bathroom was again unexpected.

39.bathroom

There is another bedroom on the third floor, as well as the kitchen, I don’t know why I haven’t got any photos of them. Interestingly, the kitchen is on the top floor to avoid cooking smells in the lower living areas and contain damage in case of a fire. Just when I thought we’d seen everything, a circular painting caught my eye. The timber platter is a birthing salver, circa 1450, originally used in Florence to bring food to pregnant women and then became symbolic gifts for a successful birth. The cherubs are engaging in a game of civettino where the players have to maintain a certain distance, the right foot of one touching the left of the other. The aim is to avoid being slapped by your opponent, although ‘slapping’ is probably not the most appropriate term to explain this depiction.

40.birth salver

Cosmeston

After wrenching ourselves away from Cornwall, we continued on our travels to Wales. Staying in Penarth, we were able to explore the surrounding Vale of Glamorgan. We discovered Cosmeston Medieval Village.

13.Cosmeston

The remains of 14th century stone buildings were unearthed during the development of Cosmeston Lakes Country Park in 1978.

1.Cosmeston

A unique archaeological project restored the medieval village of Cosmeston on its original site and foundations. We were greeted by a man dressed for the year 1350, then left to roam at will.

2.Cosmeston4.Cosmeston

5.Cosmeston

The pigs had a very cosy house.

There was plenty happening in 1350 – Britain was in its twelfth year of the Hundred Years War with France

9.Cosmeston10.Cosmeston

and was slowly recovering from the Black Death of 1348, which killed almost half the population.

13.Cosmeston

Some of the pigs were shy

17.Pig

but the sheep seemed contented.

18.sheep

We wandered around Cosmeston Lakes, with 12 hectares of open water

19.Cosmeston

there was plenty of birdlife.

The park was beautiful

24.Cosmeston

and the autumn colours quite spectacular.

We had worked up a bit of a thirst and luckily, stumbled across the Traherne Arms. Situated on a hill called the Tumble, overlooking Cardiff, it was actually a very busy restaurant. The gentleman behind the bar was initially not very happy but took pity on us and served us a pint. He took the time out for a chat and then gave us a souvenir ‘Brains’ bar towel!

27.Traherne Arms

I like this story. Until the 19th Century it was known as the Tumbledown Dick Inn. Named after Richard, the son of Oliver Cromwell, following an ample lunch in the company of the Jones’ of Fonmon Castle, fell off his horse while descending the hill, giving him the alias of Tumbledown Dick.