Exploring Civitá di Bagnoregio
This morning my hosts served me a wonderful breakfast including fresh strawberries, currents, nut butters, granola, and cappuccino. After Pamela and I checked our email, Louigi went down to mow the grass in the garden (not an easy task on a hillside full of olive trees, artichokes, herbs, strawberries, flowers, and a laundry line) while Pam whisked me away to tour Civitá di Bagnoregio.
Civitá was founded by Etruscans more than 2,500 years ago. The town is noted for its striking position atop a plateau of friable volcanic tuff overlooking the Tiber river valley. It is in constant danger of destruction as the edges of the plateau collapse due to erosion, leaving the buildings to crumble as their underlying support falls away. —Wikepedia
Inside the gate, the charms of Civitá are subtle. Those searching for arcade tourism won’t know where to look. There are no lists of attractions, orientation tours, or museum hours. It’s just Italy. Civita is an artist’s dream, a town in the nude. Each lane and footpath holds a surprise. Ivy drapes over arches and scrambles up walls; potted flowers parade across balconies. The warm stone walls glow, and each stairway is dessert to a sketch pad or camera. — Rick Steves
After that HIKE up the hill in the sun, Pamela and I rewarded ourselves with a nice cup of gelato in the shade.
Rick Steves got it right, Civitá di Bagnoregio is an artists’ dream. The flower boxes abounded in windows, doorways, and gardens. The stonework was incredible, if you look closely you can see hidden alcoves where doves used to roost, horse tie ups, and amazing rod iron work.
I took lots of photos of flowers, as their color and fragility truly struck me, juxtaposed against the earth tones of 2500 year old stone work. I hope to make some watercolor sketches from these photos this week.
Lunch at La Badia
Pamela said she had a surprise place for lunch after our morning walking around the Civitá. We drove around some winding roads and soon arrived at the hotel and restaurant La Badia of Orvieto. The Abbey of La Badia was built around the ancient church of San Silestlro. The construction of this complex was presumably begun in the late sixth century. The imposing twelve sided tower, with it’s winding staircase, is 28 meters high and dates to 1103. This tower is a symbol for the entire structure of La Badia, the first of its time.
Lovers of art come to stay at La Badia seeking refuge within it’s fortified walls and the surrounding park. Pamela and I ventured into the 12th century church adjacent to the courtyard after lunch. We were the only people in the building, admiring the floor of the church which is carpeted with a patterned mosaic of white marble, red porphyry and dark-green serpentine. This precious mosaic floor is described as pure Cosmati work.
The Cosmati were a Roman family, seven members of which, for four generations, were skilful architects, sculptors and workers in decorative geometric mosaic, mostly for church floors. Their name is commemorated in the genre of Cosmatesque work, often just called “Cosmati”, a technique of opus sectile (“cut work”) formed of elaborate inlays of small triangles and rectangles of colored stones and glass mosaics set into stone matrices or encrusted upon stone surfaces. Bands, panels and shaped reserves of intricate mosaic alternate with contrasting bands, guilloches and simple geometric shapes of plain white marble. —Wikepedia
In addition to my laying on the floor with the camera, we marveled over the frescoes on the walls, which date back to the 13th and 14th centuries.
A Tempting Palate
The restaurant of La Badia offers traditional Umbrian dishes of long ago. The bread basket was a work of art, offering small rolls and slices seasoned with rosemary, olives, walnuts, and a drizzle of olive oil. Pamela and I enjoyed zucchini soup with mint followed by hand-made pasta seasoned with local olive oil, black truffles, grass peas, ricotta, and pears.
To die for.
How do you Follow up Such a Morning?
We went to the grocery, of course. Back to reality.
I strolled through the isles looking at the packaging as Pamela grabbed peaches that looked like donuts, and bell peppers the size of my head. “We are having shrimp for dinner!” She exclaimed as she headed for the fresh fish counter. I followed her to the fish, only to find that everything in the case had a face on it–eyes and all. Even our shrimp.
Interesting, to say the least. I marveled at the squid, octopus, flounder, and things I did not recognize. I was asking Pamela what every fish on the ice was, as I analyzed long skinny fish with heads and tails in tact. The fish counter attendant looked at me like I was a little kid.
Oh how I wanted to take a photo of the fish! But the fish guy already had furrowed brows under his white paper cap, and his eye on me like I was going to do something strange.
Maybe it was just the purple hair.
Food Shopping Fun!
I was enjoying wandering around and taking fancy iPhone photos up and down the isles. There were odd things in the grocery store, like ladies undergarments and stockings. There were all american products like Gilette razors and blade refills. There were Italian products with American Pop Culture influence, such as images of Minions on ice cream. And then there were purely Italian products and packaging.
Pamela made her way to the check out register, I followed close behind, keeping my eyes peeled for potential collage papers. We cashed out, threw the reusable bags in the trunk, and were on our way home. Louigi was already cooking the green beens and preparing the tomato salad.
Have I mentioned how wonderful my hosts are? Many thanks again to Pam and Lou for inviting me into their home and taking me around town these few days before class starts.
Speaking of Class…
The students arrive tomorrow afternoon and after they are settled, it’s time to get to work! We did run over to the Villa to set up the classroom this afternoon between lunching and grocery shopping.
Pam and I brought all the supplies down from the car. It was so nice to be back, the Villa was just the same way I left it in October. I was warmly welcomed by Andrea, as he got off the lawnmower to come and greet me with a big hug. He told me that this time the pool was open, but the water was ICE! “You’re English is getting better,” I complimented him. Big smiles all around. I cannot wait to visit more with Andrea and Irma (Villa proprietors) this week.
Don’t change the channel, this week is going to be filled with fun adventures, both in art and exploring the regions of Tuscany and Umbria. I can’t wait.