Porto Santo Stefano, Italy
Wednesday 14th July
The morning again promised another scorching day so we set off early. Our plan was to head west to the two towns of Pitigliano (1 hr) and Orvieto (2hr). These towns are well know for their Etruscan history and sights. The Etruscans are the pre-Roman civilisation that inhabited much of this region and date back to about 700 BC.
It was a most beautiful drive with rolling hills, fields of wheat, olive groves and vineyards and no trucks! I had read that Pitigliano ‘rises out of the cliffs’ but I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for the amazing vista as you approach this town. It is nothing short of spectacular. The town is built on sheer cliffs, made of the light and volcanic tuff stone, over looking the valleys below. The area has been inhabited since Etruscan time, some 700 years BC, and bears the remnants of ancient Etruscan caves and tombs carved into the brittle, tuff stone beneath the town. We wandered around for an hour or so and remarked on how ‘up market’ and sophisticated this area was compared to Porto Santo Stefano. There were many impressive tiny cafes, shops, gourmet food outlets and restaurants that we were missing in Porto Santo Stefano. This was a place that we would like to come back to and we wished that we had more time to explore here.
Our next stop was another hour away; Orvieto. It is also an elevated town, formed on Tuff, with a strong Etruscan history as well. We soon discovered that this was another sophisticated town that we wished we had more time for. We started by having a delicious lunch. Mark tried the Orvietto sausage which was very good. This made us wish that our BBQ was in a better state as we would have bought some to take back to the apartment to cook for dinner. BTW: The cost of our sumptuous meal came in at the same price as the ordinary fare we had at Porto Ercole two days earlier!
From lunch we headed up to the Cathedral. The façade of the Orvieto Cathedral is a much written about a strong rivalto that of the Siena Duomo. It was mesmerizing, to say the least. It was yeat another example for the Collingwood folk. They love their black and white marble across the whole of Tuscany! We then took a guided tour of the underground caves and saw remnants of Etruscan water wells, caves and tombs that were later used in the Middle Ages for the pressing of olive oil, storing wine and the breeding pigeons! Today, many of the caves fall under private ownership due to their placement below private properties and home.
The drive home took about 2 hours but was just as pretty, especially as we approached Porto Santo Stefano and saw the fishing harbour in the light of long shadows and fading sunlight. It had been a great day and we headed home for our last night here with local wine and a home cooked meal.
Mark mused later over dinner that Porto Santo Stefano reminded him of a ‘bad Bateman’s Bay’. I laughed but could see what he meant, although I thought it was a little bit harsh. The harbour and surrounds were very pretty. It was just that our apartment was so awful. This area was pitched as an ‘up market holiday area for the wealthy Italians’ but the local shops didn’t support this notion. The small towns today had much more style and class to them than this area though.
What were my musings? I couldn’t get my head around the fact that these guys were pegged to the elevated status of the Euro. Granted, they have olives, wine and a fair bit of history, but, that’s about it. It seems to me that Australia, and Australians, generally try so much harder but look at our Aussie dollar. It’s got me a little stumped.