Saturday, October 21st, 2000 Orvieto
Fire Alarm went off at 5:30 am! False alarm but we were up, dressed and very awake before we knew for sure! Paid the bill and left before 6:30 am. Weather was very clear and we could see the stars but the fog started showing up intermittently shortly after we got on the autostrassa. But, only short stretches and you could always see at least two car lengths in front of you. Headed north towards Rome and Ostia Antica; Rome’s ancient sea port town that slowly died and was buried in silt which preserved many of the buildings and their beautiful mosaic tile floors. Jim said that he was glad that we saw this one last as it is definitely the best and we would not have appreciated the others (Pompeii, Paestum and Herculaneum) as much. I told him that he owed a debt of thanks to me for making that possible (tongue in cheek comment). I'd nixed the idea of coming down here on two previous trips. It is actually only a short drive from Rome after you get to the exit on the GRA, which is the autostrassa ring around Rome.
Stopped at a McDonald’s on the autostrassa for some breakfast rolls, packed with people and it was very dirty looking. McDonalds wasn’t open only the Italian coffee bar. But it was food in the tummy! And a potty break. Bathroom was full of women putting on makeup, washing their faces and brushing their teeth! Such a mess. Arrived at Ostia Antica at 8:30 and it didn’t open until 9 am. Opportunity to clean up the car a bit. Would love a vacuum cleaner…we eat so much bread in the car it is full of crumbs!
After two hours of exploration we left and headed for the Vatican. Made it in and found parking by noon. Believe it or not on the very same street as yesterday! The Papal Audience was just about over and people were starting to leave. We’d about given up on our street when a man had keys in his hands as he crossed the street….we got his spot. They charge 2,000 Lire (about $1.00) per hour to park near the Vatican on the street. But, we were less than a five minute walk! Saw the last of the Audience, the pope was giving his final blessing and then he got into his black car with an open roof and rode off! Different from the white jeep that we’ve seen him use before.
Then we joined the thousands as we made our way towards the famous door that is opened every twenty-five years. [Each of the four patriarchal basilicas in Rome has a Holy door (Porta santa in Italian and porta sancta in Latin). The doors are normally sealed shut from the inside so that they cannot be opened. They are opened during Jubilee years, when pilgrims enter through those doors to gain the plenary indulgence connected with the Jubilee.] It took us about forty-five minutes of shoulder to shoulder, inch by inch movements to reach the door! But we did it! Looked around, said a prayer for friends and family and took some photos and went to the post office. There we mailed the six cards from yesterday and purchased eight more. Seven of these we mailed to the kids. Had done one for Jenny and Kelly; so sent the other one to their children Brian and Alyssa as we felt since they are both altar servers they’d enjoy the card.
Heading out we passed the rows of porta potties for the throngs of people that have been at the Vatican this year for the special events for the Jubilee. We’ve been to Rome many times but had never seen these before! Tried to do the confessional part of the plenary indulgence, but they were closed for lunch. Heading back to the car, we stopped for a photo session with me between two very good looking Vatican Guards. They were very good about photos with people in between checking the autos going in and out of their post area. I made a comment about the fact that I could see Jim’s wallet in his pocket during the mad crush going to the door. He took it wrong, probably because I've been hounding him about the wallet in the pocket since we entered Italy. A few words later everything was mended and we were off to find the big McDonalds on the way to the GRA. Took some doing, and we stopped at the ATM again, but we found it. Located under the Holiday Inn just before the access to the Ring. Martha enjoyed a Big Mac and strawberry shake and Jim had two Crispy Bacon Burgers and a coke. All this for the terrific price of 15,900 Lire which is about $8.00. The exchange rate is really good for the dollar right now. McDonalds is celebrating fifteen years in Italy this year. It’s amazing how the food taste the same as at home!
We were back on the autostrassa and out of Rome before we knew it! No traffic like last night. We were less than three hours from start to finish! Jim got sleepy and so I drove most of the way to Orvieto. My first driving experience on this trip! Arrived in Orvieto about 4:00 pm. Orvieto is a hill top town that is several centuries old! Definitely one we’d like to come back to in the future. Checked into the Hotel Corso, a three star, and went to find a church. First went to the Duomo. It is definitely the most beautiful church we’ve seen. Front has wonderful mosaic works of art all over the front. Found out no Mass there; at the Information they told us that three of the other churches had 6 pm Mass on Saturday. We took off as it was now five minutes to Six. First church was having a Rosary Service. Finally found the third church and the priest was giving his sermon as we arrived. It is a very small, round chapel on the edge of town and was named San Giovenale Envanglist.
After Mass we found a pizzera called Bar Velzna and had dinner. The pizza was a vegetable one with corn, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and tomato and cheese. The salad was huge with corn, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, cucumbers, lettuce…all very yummy! These we split as they were so big and had a half liter of Blanca (white) wine! Realized during the meal that we had the wrong passports. Jim took them back to the hotel and they still had ours. So glad we realized it soon enough. Almost put them into the purse without looking until we saw a paper clip on one of them and then realized they weren’t our passports. That could have really been a problem! During dinner I told Jim that I’d figured out why Italians use their hands so much when they talk…it’s because of the number of flies…that way they don’t have to open their mouths as often!!! Bad joke! But we do have an inordinate number of flies it seems; throughout Europe! No window screens and the Europeans seem to just ignore them.
Walked around town afterwards, purchased some wine, some cokes and got ice cream for dessert. Shops were pretty well closed by 8 pm. Lots of restaurants in town. Also lots of young people. Do hope it doesn’t get noisy later at night! Time to say good night