I have a trait, which, depending upon the situation, can be taken either as a character flaw or a character strength: I am incredibly easy to read.
If I like you, it’s pretty obvious. If I don’t, well, uh, let’s just say I’m not that good at faking it. This applies to my writing as well; it doesn’t take but a few minutes to figure out what my favourite places in Umbria are. I love the Valnerina so much I want to draw it a hot bath and bake it cupcakes. I also love the wine country (Bevagna, Montefalco, and environs) and have a soft spot for sporting Narni. If I were the one driving the bus, I would spend all my time exploring and writing about these areas and call it a job well done.
Luckily, I’m not the only one at the wheel. We have an editorial process—almost always involving munchies and a lot of gossip–to ensure that we are fair to the entire region and careful to highlight each area equally in our blogging coverage. I say luckily because I’ve been forced to scratch at places that have never been on my favorites list, and–once getting below the surface–discover the stories they have to tell. And often it marks the beginning of a delightful love affair (see: Narni).
Orvieto is one of these places. For years, it seemed that every time I made it to this stone town perched on the top of its tufa cliff it was a cold, drizzly day…Orvieto called to mind empty, dour streets, grey skies, and a general air of ennui. Then two things happened recently: 1) two of my dearest friends moved to Orvieto with their three daughters, so I started visiting more often and 2) I had to start writing about Orvieto, so I started visiting more often.
I quickly had an epiphany about this town: Orvieto (like Spoleto, which for years occupied a similar pigeonhole in my mind) is best seen during a festival. I ended up staying in Orvieto for a few days two summers ago during their Folk Festival, and discovered a whole different city. Bustling streets packed with festive people, music spilling out of caffès, blue skies and bright lights…I was quickly taken in.
On subsequent visits I found the second strong draw to Orvieto: it has a fabulous food and wine scene. The Enoteca Regionale is a wonderland for wine aficionados and organizes a number of eno-events during the year, and the town is packed with a surprising number of genuinely excellent restaurants and enotecas.
This upcoming weekend Orvieto is combining its two biggest draws and hosting the Orvieto Food Festival, a three day food-and-festa-palooza. If you’re not an Italian speaker, you can enjoy the universal language of music (funky-bluesy-jazzy concerts are scheduled in the Palazzo del Popolo Thurs, Fri, and Sat nights) or food (a number of restaurants in the center of town are offering fixed menus highlighting local dishes).
Wine lovers should check out the moveable feast of a wine + culture evening on Saturday, which combines visits to four of Orvieto’s principal underground sites (this town is known for its vast network of dugout caverns and caves which meander under the contemporary houses and streets above) with samples of four Orvietano wines paired with local foods. Or, stick around on Sunday and Monday for the organic wine (and food) fair.
Those with a working knowledge of Italian shouldn’t miss the lumachelle workshop, with a discussion and demonstration of these snail-shaped breads, one of Orvieto’s most traditional dishes.
If you do think you’ll be stopping by, please drop me a line so we can meet up for a glass of wine. I’m sure I’ll like you. And if I don’t, I’ll try to fake it…
A special thanks to Orvieto Food Festival for use of their photos. For more information and to reserve an event, use the contact info here.Rebecca