Tivoli and B&B Il Gardino
B&B Il Gardino’s Entrance, Tivoli
Common Area, B&B Il Gardino, Tivoli
We awoke early for us, enjoyed a leisurely shower, and went down for breakfast. The buffet breakfast was quite varied. “Would you like coffee?” “Due cappuccino, per favore.” though we could have spoken English. I really appreciated the fresh fruit that greeted us at table. The cappuccinos were great.
As we often do we walked the town of Tivoli in the morning. There were a few people out for a morning stroll or coffee. The town felt deserted. We left for Civita Bagnoregio around 10am.
Bagnoregio on an Italian National Holiday
Bagnoregio is Perched on a Small Hilltop
Traffic on the autostrada was unusually heavy today and moving as congested traffic does. We came to a near stop or a full stop innumerable times. Sometimes traffic would zoom at the speed limit and two kilometers come to a complete halt for minutes at a time. I’d expect to come upon an accident, but there would be no indication that anything was wrong aside from the traffic.
Our GPS piped up with “take slick road on right in 2 kilometers toward…” I pulled to the right lane saw that traffic was queuing in the break down lane for the exit and pulled in line just in time. Traffic moved at a snail’s pace. After an hour we were approaching the turnoff and one of the holdups became apparent. For every car in line that exited the autostrada, here were two cars who cut the very head of the line. That was infuriating.
The second bottleneck was traffic merging from the left accessing the toll booths. There were two lines of traffic darting in, around, and through each other.
Third up? The toll gates themselves. Two were closed and two were open; one open for cash, the other for telepass. Cars accessing the cash lane were blocking the telepass lane and telepass holders were blocking the cash lane. Madness.
Finally my turn after cutting of a guy trying to cut in front of me. That’s not going to happen after waiting 90 minutes. Up to the booth attendant with my ticket. He’s on the phone. He takes my ticket and 3,40 shows on the display. Great I hand him a 5 and fish for 40 cents. He takes the five, still talking on the phone and does nothing. I found the 40 cents to get an even 2 euros back a tried to hand it over. He’s still talking on the phone. “Sigonore, per favore” nothing, this guy is “busy”. “Signore, please take this 40 cents” nothing.. I’m sure traffic behind me is convince I’m a total idiot by now. “Allora, Signore, please take this 40 cents too” It wasn’t a shout, but I did raise my voice. He moved the phone away from his ear, glowered at me, and released a stream of Italian the gist of which was I’m on the phone talking about this traffic backup. You could wait. He did take the 40 cents and give me 2 euros. I was free…
The back roads to Bagnoregio were traffic free! I had this haunting feeling that something was happening that I was not aware of. Why so much traffic on the autostrada? We we approached Bagnoregio, I could not believe what I saw. Driving toward the lower parking area, the streets were lined with parked cars. In the lower part of the new town, there were people milling about every where. Car parking areas were full. We eventually found a parking yard with an opening and grabbed it.
The pay kiosk was broken another dilemma. Do we park elsewhere and not get ticketed for sure, or do we simply walk on hoping for the best? We walked on, joining a stream of people headed to Bagnoregio. Now Civita Bagnoregio is a very small town that sits on a precipice. Access to the town is across a long picturesque pedestrian bridge. To access that bridge, you first park, walk up steps to the upper town, walk through the town eventually to access to that pedestrian bridge. The crowds were staggering. Walking through the town we joined a throbbing throng of people moving toward the pedestrian bridge; with another stream of people returning. It’s about a 1 kilometer walk through the town. This was like being at a world fair, it was so crowded. Everyone was speaking Italian.
Bagnoregio is Quite Dramatic
Crowded? Pieno, Pieno, Pieno!
Look closely at the crowd crossing the footbridge to the city in the photo above. It turned out that today, the day after Easter, is a national holiday. Half of Rome had come to visit Bagnoregio. We eventually reached access to the pedestrian bridge, but seeing the crowd crossing the bridge it became apparent that a relaxed lunch in Bagnoregio admiring the town and its views was not going happen. There was no way we could stand the crowds. We left having taken a few photos of the town and the crowds.
The Foreground Appears Uncrowded, a Bus had just Gone Past!
Upper “Bagnoregio” men’s & women’s Line
We both needed to use a Toilette. The line near the Bagnoregio foot bridge was excessively long. We moved quickly back through the new town and down the stairs to find a men’s and woman’s line. Predictably the men’s line was four deep, the woman’s nearly twelve. Ellen, “is there a door in the men’s room?” After checking, “yes” and she waited in the men’s line with me to the shock of one fellow in particular.
The Lower Women’s Line
Ellen used the Men’s Room, One Guy was Not Amused!
Back at the alfa, we had no parking ticket. There was traffic! There were people looking for parking and those leaving. We left and dialed in Orvieto as our destination. We were off. Ellen asked if I was ok leaving Bagnoregio without actually seeing the city. Of Course, the mass of people was a complete disaster. No way would I have wanted to continue.
We stopped at a service center on the autostrada to get gas and maybe a bite to eat. I drove past the entrance for the food court and drove through the exit to park. No harm done, nobody was coming out. The food selection at the food court was extensive, from pizza by the slice to made to order pasta dishes. A fellow overheard us talking about the pizza and he said, “the pizza is good”. We opted for a slice of pizza. Crust makes a pizza. My pepperoni/salami pizza slice was good, but the crust was not crunchy. Ellen’s was crunchy and much better. Full up, we filled the car up too.
Orvieto, Prominent in the City is the Duomo
The drive to orvieto went very smoothly until we reached Orvieto. Rick Steves had recommended parking at the funicular and taking it up to the city. Parking in the city is limited and expensive. Right. So we drove up a winding road looking for the funicular. I stopped and asked an attractive woman police woman (comment about Italian Woman discreetly left out) where we would find the Funicular. She was very helpful and precise.”a sinistra, allora diretto e a destra” motioning in the general direction of left. Off we went following her directions and surprisingly we did not find the funicular, but we found a parking garage. We parked, dragged our luggage out of the car, and headed out in search of the Funicular.
The policemen directing traffic either did not understand English or couldn’t be bothered. Ellen approached a group on a corner and asked were we would find the fu NIK u lar. They looked at each other, clearly not understanding what Ellen was asking. I have no idea where this sprang from but I blurted out, “FU nick u LA re” Instant recognition sprang upon one gal’s face. She pointed down the hill, “e la”, she said proudly. In Italian accent is everything. The difference between so prah SEt to and so pra SAH to is the difference between getting a blank stare or a great sausage.
Down we trundled over cobblestone, Ellen dragging her suitcase, me with my duffle bag over my shoulder. We found an expansive parking lot, the entrance to the Funicular, and a ticket office. “due biglietti, per favore” and we stepped into a crowded car with standing room only. Ellen and I were separated in the car. Eventually there was a beep, the doors closed, and the Funicular lurched downward. DOWN? We are going DOWN? It occurred to me that we probably drove up to parking in the city. There was no need to take the Funicular. None. I didn’t want to look at Ellen; didn’t want to know what she was thinking!
When the Funicular hit bottom, we stayed aboard as others boarded. A bit later the doors closed and we were headed back to Orvieto.
We took no photos of the Funicular. We were disgusted with it/us.
We dragged our bags up past our parking area, up and up. Eventually Ellen approached a good looking Italian fellow and asked where the Grand Hotel Italy was. He said, in very good English, this street takes you to a square. The hotel is just past the square on this street I believe. We had arrived, almost. Those last 200 meters were torture.
Orvieto and Grand Hotel Italia
We Found Orvieto’s Duomo
The hotel is well located in Orvieto’s centro storico. It is a comfortable if modest hotel situated just off Piazza del Popolo. We had a standard room of moderate size with a nicely appointed bathroom. Lunch was a vague memory, we were hungry again. We asked at the desk where we could get an authentic local meal. “On Piazza del Popolo, just nearby, is Mamma Angela’s. That is the best.”
It Was Too Cold to Sit Outside
We walked had walked past that piazza on our way to the hotel. Finding the restaurant was no problem, but it did not look open. Approaching a fellow setting up outside seating, I asked, “E aperto?” to which I heard “No, aperto alle sette quindici. Vuoi una prenotazione allora?” “Si, alle otto?” and the waiter made a gesture saying I’ll remember you while saying, “recordo”. We had forty minutes time to walk some of Orvieto. The church on the square is interesting, though we had seen a clock tower nearby. Off we went in search of something. That something was the Orvieto’s duomo. It is an impressive structure in white and gray stone similar to Firenze’s duomo. It was closed. We returned to Osteria da Mamma Angela at 7:15 sharp, hoping to be seated early. “Buongiorno, interno all’esterno?” “La, per favore” I said pointing inside while avoiding the whole interno issue. We were seated and given menus in Italian. Ellen asked his name. “Luca” Ellen asked “Luca, with two ‘c’s’?” “no, one c, Luca”. Luca is one of the owners.
Mamma Angela’s Italian Menu
Cool, We were well into translating the menu with my “Italian phone” when a waitress came over and asked if we would like an English menu. Sure, let’s do that. Apparently, I had spoken enough Italian convincingly that the first fellow thought I spoke Italian. Cool, if counter productive!”
Mamma Angela’s Ravioli
Mamma Angela’s Osso Bucco
The English menu was so much easier to decipher, though we still had questions about ingredients. Included on the menu was Osso Bucco. I love osso bucco. Ellen even commented that it was on the menu. Ellen ordered Mamma Angela’s Ravioli. We had house wine which was exceedingly good. My osso bucco was not nearly as tender I had expected. Like the pasta, the beef was al denti. It was perfectly seasoned with just the right touch of finely chopped carrots. I assume celery and onion as well, though they mostly dissolved in the sauce. I have since learned that chianina is the local breed of Tuscan cattle. It is a tougher meat than angus. The Italians prefer a chewy beef to the tender beef we eat in the U.S. My osso bucco was no doubt from Chiania beef. It was very tasty and very resilient! The osso bucco was good. Ellen’s really enjoyed here ravioli.
Cheese Cake, and the Topping? Excellente!
Our waitress tempted us with a desert list. We settled on cheese cake. The cake was wonderful, but the fruit topping was amazing.
Inside Mamma Angela’s
Italy and Wines
A word about Italy and wines. Italy has more acreage cultivated for grapes than any country in the world. It produces more wine than any other country. Surprisingly, most of Italy’s wine is produced by small family wineries producing wine for local consumption, akin to Germany’s local breweries. Most of these do not produce wine in sufficient quantities for a large export market. The wine is consumed locally. Therefore Italian wines are virtually unknown in the U.S. Only people who travel to Italy and sample the wines from the various regions come to appreciate both the quality and variety of these wines. I have had some extremely good glasses of house wine produced locally in small volume I’m sure. No doubt I will have a mixed case of wine (or two) shipped back home.
Typical for us, we left Mamma Angela’s happy, tired, and sated. Unusual for us, our walk back to the hotel was short, flat, and with no stairs.