1 Approaching Rome's Fiumicino airport after nearly eight hours of air travel from New York City. It was around 10AM in Rome.
2 Another view from the air
3 After landing, we piled into our rental car, which was upgraded when the rental agent saw our four large bags, which would never have fit in the small car we were to have. Despite the upgrade, it was still a tight fit.
4 Our two-hour ride to the Umbria region, located in the lush heart of Italy, revealed a gentle expanse of pastoral countryside with higher mountain elevations in the distance.
5 The light color of the soil is due to the area's history of volcanic activity. The soil is very fertile, especially for crops, such as grapes and olives.
6 After having two weeks of rain in the NYC region, we were concerned about the showers we were met with, however, they did not last long.
7 When we arrived at our destination, Tripoli, the showers passed and we were greeted with the azure Umbrian sky.
8 This lovely Umbrian villa was constructed in 1914 and was purchased by our host, six years ago.
9 The guest cottage, like the main house, was a shambles, and has been lovingly restored to a functional beauty.
10 Do you have any idea what this fruit is?
11 If you guessed an olive, you are right! Olive trees are everywhere and the olive harvest season is approaching.
12 That olive tree is growing next to this wonderful pool at Tripoli, however, it's a little too chilly to enjoy a swim.
13 Another view of the villa
14 Our host collects many fine art, artifacts, and arts and crafts from all over the world. This is an amazing trough from India.
15 A close up of the mossy carving in the granite.
16 A close up of the legs that hold up the trough
17 Later that day, we went to the nearby Medieval hilltop town of Orvieto. It dates back to the Etruscans before 256BC, when they were conquered by the Romans, who took control of the area.
18 Orvieto rises 600 feet on all sides, providing amazing views.
19 The lava rock walls are practically vertical from top to bottom.
20 This church, Sant' Andrea, stands on the site of an Etruscan temple. The tower dates back to the 12th century.
21 This is the Palazzo de Capitano del Popolo - a simple, but severe structure dating from the 13th century. Today it is used as a meeting hall.
22 The many streets of Orvieto are quite narrow and are shared by cars and pedestrians, alike.
23 The streets are paved with ancient cobblestones.
24 A residential area
25 Approaching the Duomo with it's majestic spires
26 The architecture of Orvieto is fascinating at every turn.
27 The Piazza Duomo is lined with many Umbrian pottery shops.
28 This cheerful pottery is prized by Italians and tourists.
29 The Duomo was ordered in 1290 by Pope Urban IV.
30 The facade is striking with it's gold and brightly-colored mosaics.
31 A good view of the upper mosaic
32 A detail of some of the many carved sculptures, each one different and exciting.
33 Another view including the extraordinary rose stained glass window.
34 The Gothic facade is a great masterpiece of the Late Middle Ages.
35 The fabulous mosaics, the originals having been replaced and redesigned over the centuries, depict important scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary.
36 In contrast to the ornate facade of the Duomo, the sides of the building are quite simple with alternating layers of local white travertine marble and blue/gray basalt.
37 One of several spiral columns
38 Mosaic detail
39 Large bas-relief sculptures depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Here, Eve is offering Adam the fated apple, while the serpent looks on. The detail is exquisite on all carvings.
40 Orvieto has an underground museum of Etruscan tunnels and caves which were carved into the soft volcanic rock. This pit, part of a private residence, was used to dispose of bodies.
41 In the same residence, another cave was used for the pressing of the precious commodity of olive oil.