In the center of the Italian peninsula, in what is called the Green Heart of Italy, you’ll find a city perched on a rock. It’s been there in one form or another for several thousand years, called Velzna two thousand years ago and Orvieto today. Who knows what it was called before that, but surely those who decided that it was a good place to live, and easy to defend, must have called it something.
The city on the rock as it is now has been immortalized in countless photos and paintings. But it is so much more than just a view from afar. From where I lived in the country I could see it from a distance, an island rising from the fog. But then when I went down into the valley and up to the city itself, my point of view changed as I looked back over the valley and joined the host of others who once walked these streets – Etruscans, cardinals and popes – as well as the common people who now walk them every day and wouldn’t want to live elsewhere.
Definitions of the city range from the one by the fourteenth-century poet Fazio degli Uberti as a city high and strange to that of Reno Montanucci, owner of the most famous coffee bar in town, as a many-layered city, a teller of tales.
Here, in my journal posts, I can only hint at the reality of this magnet, as it has also been defined. But if you really want to get the feel of my city, you can let me take your hand and lead you through the streets in what I call my memoir/guide to Orvieto. True, Orvieto is its streets and centuries-old buildings but there is also a human factor. In wandering the streets a visitor or resident can conjure up the ghosts of centuries past: Larth the Etruscan, Arnolfo di Cambio, Lorenzo Maitani, Luca Signorelli, Ippolito Scalza, and various and sundry popes, those who made Orvieto what it was and is. My writing on Orvieto is dedicated to those who return, year after year, to renew friendships and for whom Orvieto is a second home, as well as to the first-time visitor.