Friday, June 6, 2008

Let the Crazy European Train Adventure Begin

Day 86

I had gone to sleep early the night before and was up and ready to go before they even had breakfast out at the hostel.

The Termini (Rome's main train station) is just a few minutes walk from where my hostel is. It wasn't long before I had my three month Eurail pass validated and ready to go. From here on out I am going to use the train as much as I can to get my moneys worth.

After an hours trip I got off in Orvieto. I had just sort of randomly picked this town out of my guidebook and did not realize that not only was it a hill town in Umbria, but also that I had seen it on a Rick Steves show.

Soon I had taken the funicular up to the town and had a ticket for tour of the Ovieto Underground. I had some time to kill before the tour and I was glad. The train had made me a bit nauseous and I wanted to let my stomach calm down before I started traipsing around caves. A diet coke and some pringles later I was good as new and headed to the Duomo.

The Duomo here wasn't that interesting from the inside. The outside is really the only part worth looking at. However, they do claim to have a piece of cloth that was dipped in Christs blood. They charge 5 euro to see it and I wasn't about to pay that so I skipped it.

When it was finally time for the tour I followed local Sofie with and a large group of tourists to the end of the town. Essentially the Etruscans began making the caves, at first for wells, and then later to store things. There is some evidence that the older caves might have had religious purposes. In 264 the Romans pretty much destroyed the entire Etruscan population and moved in. They began mining the caves for rock and concrete. In the middle ages these caves were repurposed for lots of different things. A lot of work, such as olive oil making, was moved below ground. They would even have their animals down here. Pigeons were also raised in the caves that faced the cliffs. This way they could fly out and eat during the day and have niches, or pigeon holes, to rest in at night. In 1632 the pope declared it illegal to use the caves. People were smuggling in good and not paying him taxes on them.

Today pretty much every house in Orvieto has a cellar that was dug out hundreds of years ago. Digging was completely stopped in 1900. In the 1970's one of the caves beneath an intersection fell in. Due to this the caves are inspected regularly and are often reinforced. It was a pretty good tour, I would recommend it.

There were a few more hours to go before I had to catch my train back. I headed to the Pozzo Della Cave system. This was much like the previous ones. Most of the structure was used as a kiln by medieval people. They had several trash pits and lots of pottery was found there. Modern versions of the broken pottery were created here. It was kinda cool to see what they would have looked like if they were all new again.

Some of the sections had been carved out by the Etruscans. As these sections had all been repurposed it was hard to tell what they originally were. One, however, did look like a cistern, and another was most likely a burial chamber.

After some pizza I walked the short way to St. Dominic's Church. There is no real reason to go here. The reason I went is because one of the wooden crosses was said to have spoken to St. Thomas d'Aquino. There were two crosses and I didn't know which was the chatty one so I just took a picture of both of them and left.

My last stop was St. Patrick's Well. This is what I had seen on Rick Steves. This massive well was built with two spiral staircases. One was for going up, the other for going down. It was a really amazing structure and I'm glad that I stumbled upon it.

I took the funicular back down and got on my train back to Rome. I was sitting in first class and before the conductor even looked at my ticket he told me to go to second class. I shook my head no and handed him my Eurail. If you are over 26 you are forced to buy the more expensive and first class version. No only would I be riding the rails, I would be doing it in style!

Back at the hostel I made a quick phone call and made some plans for that night. I had plans to meet with Katherine and Kaori from Naples. We were headed to a Belgium beer bar. This didn't work out though and we just went to a random pub type bar instead.

Three Italian guys basically hijacked not just our table, but the conversation. They didn't even ask if they could sit. They introduced themselves and told us that they were all cops. They were really rude. One of them tried to take a picture of Kaori without asking and she rightfully got upset. The same guy asked if I was a natural blond, when I said yes he didn't believe me. Eventually he told me that I must be a lot of fun. They didn't speak much English and Katherine was our only Italian speaker, so she ended up doing most of the talking. Kaori and I went to use the ladies and just didn't come back. Eventually they left and we were able to rescue Katherine.

At this point we were tired and decided to just call it a night. The three of us walked back across Rome admiring the city at night. Before parting we made plans to meet up the next evening.

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