Thursday, October 27th
Leaving Rome – we arranged for a taxi to take us to the train station that is kind of on the edge of the city. We would be driving in Italy from this point forward and felt that starting on the edge of town would mean we wouldn’t have to deal with the craziness of Rome driving that much. We were wrong.
I realized while walking from the train station to the rental car garage that it was going to be tricky to get back. The guy who took me to the car was kind of a greaseball who was immediately mad at me because I didn’t have some piece of paperwork the lady at the counter was supposed to have given me. Still, it was a bit portentous when he handed me the keys and gave me a full-on, two-arm hug as a parting goodbye. Unfortunately his directions back to the train station were somewhat dubious, and I got lost. I had to drive around Rome for about 40 minutes in a gigantic Mercedes-Benz Vito, which is a 9-passenger van. We’ll call this thing The Beast from now on.
Heidi opted to request the automatic transmission, a decision with which the lady at the rental car counter seemed to take exception. It was a good choice, though, because I often needed my right hand to wipe the terror sweat off my face. To say this was stressful is an understatement. I’m proud that I kept from panicking at any point and eventually made it back to pick up the family without getting into or causing any accidents. It was a trial-by-fire that I’m sure paid off later in the trip.
There was a bit of a snafu with a chocolate café before we actually headed out of town. Valerie really wanted to go there, so I won’t go into detail about how I thought it was a bad idea. Eventually we got on our way to Orvieto, where we would spend most of this day.
Freeway driving in Italy is a lot like it is in America. You might even say that it’s safer and more relaxed than driving on freeways in, say, Southern California. There wasn’t much traffic, so it wasn’t a bad drive at all. We got to Orvieto early in the afternoon, and the sun was shining bright. It was cold up there on the hill though. This would be the first of several hill towns we visited. It’s windy and chilly on those hills.
First we ate lunch. I had a fantastic polenta with some fine, aged balsamic vinegar that was like syrup. Gabbie took a chance and ordered the roast pigeon dish. She loved it, and it would not be the last pigeon she ate on this trip.
After lunch we walked around the Duomo di Orvieto, or the Orvieto Cathedral. This is where the Corporal of Bolsena is kept so we made sure to check that out. Be sure to read up on that miracle.
I could have used some clouds that day in Orvieto, when I was taking pictures of the town. But, oh well.
After several hours in Orvieto we drove on to our farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside, just outside the town of Buoncovento. It was also way up on a hill, but it was dark by the time we arrived, so we didn’t see much. The accommodations were spacious and lush. It was a beautiful place run by a wonderful and friendly family who still work their olive tree farm. In fact, they were harvesting the olives while we were there. After the phone-booth-sized shower at the apartment in Rome, the larger bathroom at the Tuscan farmhouse was most welcome.
I’ll get this out of the way now – Every bathroom in Italy has a bidet. No matter how small it is, and they are all small, there will always be a bidet right next to the toilet. Even some of the public restrooms had a bidet available. There, now you know that.