orvieto, italy

The town of Orvieto, Italy was our second stop. We only spent part of the day here, just a quick stop on the way from Florence to Rome. Orvieto is at the top of what is essentially a cliff, so you have to take a gondola/cable car type vehicle to get to the town. Like Florence, it was very walkable and filled with shops, but smaller and more rustic feeling.

The centerpiece of the town is the magical church that is absolutely covered in details, like carvings and mosaics. Across from the church was a street lined with small shops selling handmade pottery and olive wood creations. My cousin and I stopped in to Mastro Paolo and were told the whole story of the business, which had been featured in American news a few years ago. The woman in the store was the daughter of Paolo, who makes the pottery, and she was so proud. We each bought a piece from the store—an olive oil container and a teacup and saucer.

Orvieto is like a fortress, with walls around the perimeter and old watchtowers to protect against invaders. You can explore the walls and towers on the edges of the town, from where you can see the remarkable view of the Italian countryside. Though not the most common destination in Italy for tourists, this was one of my favorite days in the country.

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florence, italy

I’ll be working as a counselor at a summer camp for six weeks where I will be (mostly) tech-free, so as to not go on hiatus, I’m doing a series about my travels in Europe last summer. Each week will feature a different city I visited during my two weeks in Italy and Greece.

Our first stop was Florence, Italy. I loved this city. It’s so full of history and beauty, and you can walk its entirety. Narrow cobblestone streets maze through, leading to plazas with huge cathedrals, leather markets, and gelato shops. The Duomo centers the city, towering over the streets with the most intricate detail. You could spend hours looking at the exterior and continue to find more to see. It’s the original site of Michelangelo’s David, which was actually carved with the perspective viewers would have looking up at the statue outside of the dome (where the scaffolding is in second photo), which is why David‘s hands look larger than would be anatomically correct. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the real David, though the museum was only a few minutes from our hostel, because we ran out of time in our three day visit. The imitations are still incredible, but I hope to go back one day and see the real thing. Another thing I missed out on this trip was going to the Uffizi, which houses art from all the Renaissance greats. Again, I hope to go back soon to see what I missed.

What I did get to see, however, was Dante’s home, the Santa Croce church, and Ponte Vecchio, the bridge with brightly colored jewelry shops hanging over the water. Painters were lined up on the street along the water, capturing the colors on canvas. I hit every gelato shop recommended, by tour guides and Google (which means I had way too much gelato) and one of my favorites was Vivoli, where I got a scoop of dark chocolate. My cousin and I went on a mini scavenger hunt for street art by the famous “Blub” who paints figures like Shakespeare with scuba goggles (eighth picture). Florence is truly an artist’s paradise, with the architecture, sculptures, paintings, and street art scattered everywhere in the city.

One of our nights in Florence, we went up to a vineyard in Tuscany for a wine-tasting and home-cooked Italian meal. We were served bottomless wine and pasta, all with a spectacular view of the hills. On the way back, we stopped at the Piazzale Michelangelo for the sunset over the city.

I hope to return to this beautiful place someday for more.

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