May 5: Orvieto

Today the rest of group arrives and we will be meeting together in the afternoon for the first time. One has spent a few days of sightseeing in Rome with a friend; two people are just flying in today and will be on one of the afternoon trains; all excited to begin this venture with Dario and Paolo from our Italian tour company, Siciclando. Five women and two men together to "play" for the next week in the hills of Tuscany! The weather is perfect -- 65-70 with a slight breeze.

4:00pm and all are here. To get to know each other as well as see the city, Dario has planned a sightseeing tour of the Duomo -- one of the most beautiful cathedrals built from the 13th to 16th century. The building, according to Wikipidea, was constructed under the orders of Pope Urban IV to commemorate and provide a suitable home for the Corporal of Bolsena, a miracle which is said to have occurred in 1263 in the nearby town of Bolsena, when a traveling priest who had doubts about the truth of transubstantiation found that his Host was bleeding so much that it stained the altar cloth. The cloth is now stored in the Chapel of the Corporal inside the cathedral. Both inside and out the walls are covered in mosaics, frescos, and sculptures depicting the Bible, most specifically the Judgment Day. Two small chapels excel in the work of the artists from that period. The church itself is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.

Following a guided tour through the structure it was a short walk through the city to the grotto on the west side. Unlike the one visited yesterday, this one is more finished in the areas one is allowed to venture. Each grotto is privately owned and depending on the owner's wishes or financial resources will determine how excavated it is. Also, one is only allowed under strict governmental regulations to work in one's own area. Once a wall is reached, the work stops until the neighboring owner either grants approval or begins the work themselves. Thus there are many caves and tunnels that just come to an end with a complete knowledge that just beyond the next rock wall is another series of tunnels.

Wine tasting was the next venture of the afternoon. The area around Orvieto is surrounded with vineyards producing an excellent local wine. At a former monastery a wine registry has been established. The wines housed here must meet strict governmental regulations and be organic using only ingredients native to Italy. A lesson was given in the art of true wine tasting in both the white and red wine categories. What to look for in appearance, in smell and in taste when judging a good wine was demonstrated.

Wine is but a part of Tuscany. Its food are also a true art. Dinner tonight was a sample of what a Tuscan meal should be. Five courses in length, each with its own character. First an antipasto sampling of meats, truffle spread, lentil spread -- then on to two truffle pastas (white and black) as well as main course of pork with baked apples and red potatoes. A small salad toped of the course. Dessert was offered but no one could find the room!!! Throughout the meal the red wine flowed along with the water. Don't want to get dehydrated!!

Off to bed -- tomorrow begins the biking!

Kathleen, Lisa and Jackie Entering the Monastery


Jackie Arriving at the Monastery

Lisa at the Tasting Lesson

Kathleen and Jackie Tasting


Dario and Paulo Trying the Samples

The Wines

A Single Portion of the "Starter" Course!