I’ve been in Orvieto now for just over a week, and I promised many people that I would keep a blog, so I figured it was about time I get started. I can’t promise that this will be the most entertaining blog you’ve ever read, but I hope it is somewhat enjoyable.
We arrived in Orvieto after some crazy plane trouble (I can’t remember the last time I flew without plane trouble). They overbooked our flight to Rome from D.C. and only about half the group actually had seats on the plane. I was included in the group that did NOT have a seat. Luckily, they were able to find seats for all but two people, so Anna and Garrett graciously volunteered to fly to Frankfurt and then on to Rome. It was definitely one of those moments where you know you should volunteer to take the other flight, but no one really wanted to. Needless to say, we all made it safe and sound.
The town of Orvieto is located on top of a hill in the region of Umbria, Italy, and has a pretty interesting history. Orvieto actually served as the Vatican for several years before moving to the center of Rome. What was once the Pope’s quarters (next to the Duomo) now serves as a museum. Also, the relic altar cloth from the Miracle of Bolsena is located in the side chapel of the Duomo. Basically, after the Pope declared that the Catholic Church believed that Communion was more than just a symbol, and actually became the body and blood of Christ, Peter of Prague went on a pilgrimage to decide if he also believed in the transubstantiation. When he reached Lake Bolsena, just outside of Orvieto, he performed the Eucharist, and blood spilled from the bread onto the altar cloth as he broke it. I have yet to see it, but apparently you can actually still see the blood stains that fell on it. There are also many Etruscan tombs in caves under the town, as the Etruscans occupied Orvieto for many years. I’m hoping to take the guided tour through the caves some time soon!
So the first few days we were here, we spent a lot of time in Orientation meetings and getting acquainted with the town. On Thursday night, our program director hosted a party for us, along with several families from the town, and some of the nuns from the monastery we are living in. It was very entertaining trying to communicate with all of the Italians, when most of us don’t speak any Italian. Friday night was even more entertaining, as we were split into groups and sent to dinner at the homes of different families. My group ate with Luca and Elisa, and their wonderful children Chiara and Francesco. Their home was beautiful, the meal was delicious, and there was a lot of laughter as we gestured and stumbled our way through the different languages.
Then Saturday, our whole group went to Rome. We started out in a museum (a small one, I can’t remember the name), and then took a bus over to the Pantheon. After that, three of us weren’t feeling well, so we went off with our Resident Advisor, Christine, for lunch and then to a bookstore, where we sat and talked for a few hours. It was actually much more enjoyable than power walking across Rome in the heat with the crowds of tourists. :)
Sunday was more relaxed, so a group of us went to Mass at the Duomo, which was absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t understand much, as it was all in Italian, but it was great to experience my first Mass in the home country of Catholicism. Tomorrow, several of us are planning to attend San Giovenale, another Catholic church in town that allows American students to join the choir. It’ll be nice to get involved in a choir and get to know some of the locals, while improving my Italian!
On Monday we went to Assisi, which was the most beautiful city I have ever been to in my life! It was absolutely gorgeous, overlooking olive groves, with the majority of the buildings made of white stone. The town had two large cathedrals, one dedicated to Saint Claire, and one to Saint Francis. I’ve decided that if I ever actually get up the courage to move to Italy, I’m moving to Assisi.
Tuesday was the beginning of classes, and I have to say, the Italian way of study is quite enjoyable. We have class every morning from 9-12, Monday through Thursday. We take the same class for three weeks, and while a three hour lecture can be exceedingly boring, we are given a 13-minute cappuccino break in the middle of class! Our professor, Dr. Skillen, discovered that it takes exactly 13 minutes to leave San Paolo, walk to the nearest café, order and drink a cappuccino, and walk back to class, so he introduced us to the wonderful ritual of cappuccino breaks.
Thursday night, there was a big town event, with bands lining the streets and shops open late. We all stayed out and walked the streets, listening to bands, and enjoying the night life of Orvieto. It was the first time the town had been packed with people, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor karaoke. :)
Yesterday, we all went to Siena with Dr. Skillen. He took us to the town hall, the Duomo, and the Opera dell Duomo (a museum with pieces that once resided in the Duomo). My favorite thing we saw all week was in the museum – Duccio’s Maesta, Passion Narrative, and Life of Mary Narrative in tempera and gold leaf altarpiece. The paintings and gold leaf detailing were incredible. Pictures can’t do it justice.
Today was also pretty relaxing. Danielle, Annie, and I went to the market early this morning and then walked around town until lunch. Then we came back and did some studying and relaxed until dinner, and tonight we’re going out for Hannah’s birthday! And now I will go, because this post has been way to long, and if you actually read the whole thing, I thank you. I promise that the rest of my posts will not be nearly as long as this one and they will be much more frequent. So until next time, arrivederci!