There are many ways to wait out a layover: eating overpriced greasy food, drinking overpriced alcoholic beverages, browsing Facebook on overpriced wifi connections (really, how are we in the 21st century and corporations can still charge $5/hour for Internet access?). I had been sitting in Chicago O’Hare for a couple of hours while thinking about this. After passing Reggie Watts right after I got off the plane, I wandered the airport for a little while.
I ended up sitting on the cold faux-granite floor that seems to be the current style for all US airports these days and charged up my iPod. I realized that this is the first time I’ve been without a cell phone since my junior year of high school. I feel strangely liberated by the prospect that no one can get in contact with me. It’s an interesting feeling being partially off-the-grid. However, without a phone you are unable to distract yourself from the fact that your plane is almost 45 minutes late.
My flight to Rome was long but not too bad considering it took about 10 hours to get there. I listened to my iPod most of the way. I was unable to sleep during the flight, which is strange for me since I’m usually able to sleep pretty much anywhere. The only time I was annoyed was when we were sitting on the runway at Chicago for a little over an hour because airspace was restricted due to the NATO summit. They had all of the heavy jets taking off and landing on the same runway.
I arrived in Rome at 10am but it felt like 1am to my body. At this point, I was awake for 21 hours and I still had traveling to do. I got out of the plane and through customs surprisingly easy. There was a fairly long line for non-EU passport holders but the customs officers were quite efficient. I made my way downstairs to the baggage claim and was greeting by a dead pigeon halfway underneath the last stair. Only the lower half of its body was visible and I quickly sidestepped in order to avoid stepping on the poor creature. With its stiff little feet sticking up in the air and its wings splayed to the side, it reminded me of a cartoon or a suicide jumper.
I retrieved my backpack rather quickly and thanked the travel gods that it arrived safely. The school in Orvieto had arranged for a shuttle to drive 30-40 students but I opted to take the train. I ended up making the right choice. The trains saved me about €2, but more importantly it saved me about an hour and a half of waiting for the shuttle to arrive.
One train took me to Roma Termini which is one of Rome’s main train stations. From there, I took a second train bound for Milan but got off in two stops at Orvieto. I got my first taste of Italy while looking out the windows of the train. The first thing I saw were enormous aqueducts, which are pieces of architecture I’ve always loved. As we exited Rome, I tried to enjoy the countryside but was so tired that I couldn’t give it much of my attention.
The train station at Orvieto is located at their scalo. This is a word Italians use (from what I gathered) to mean a train station/shops located at the base of an elevated city. Orvieto is an ancient settlement located on top of almost vertical cliffs. Founded by the Etruscans prior to 400 BCE, the city of Velzna was one of the most powerful cities of Etruria. The Romans, after conquering the city, razed it to the ground. At some point after the Roman Empire, the city was referred to as urbs ventus (or, ancient city). Over time, this Latin name morphed into the modern pronunciation of Orvieto.
I exited the train station and was greeting by Claudio, one of the directors of the school who gave me a lift up to Orvieto. The views as we were driving up the hill were amazing; contrasts of beautiful vineyards and panoramic countryside on one side and ancient fortifications mixed with old and new buildings on the other side. He pointed out the funicular railway which is the main transportation method of getting from the city to the scalo.
After waiting for the now late shuttle to make it to Orvieto, Claudio took me to the apartment I would be staying at. My building is located on Corso Cavour, the main artery that runs east/west through the entire city. I requested a single room since I have all my filmmaking equipment taking up so much space. My room was far bigger than I had expected. My two house-mates hadn’t arrived yet either, so the place seemed pretty large. I have a window that opens up looking out over the countryside and a queen sized bed.
After unpacking, I went out to explore the city. I decided to walk west on the Corso Cavour toward the clock tower, an excellent landmark to assist you in finding which direction you’re going. All the streets in this city are narrow and everyone walks.I was surprised by how quiet it was due to the lack of vehicle traffic. It’s a startling but wonderful thing to experience, especially as an American. The sound of traffic or jets is a constant backdrop in Tucson, even when you aren’t consciously aware of it. If a car did come down the street everyone simply moved to the side.
I turned at the Via Duomo and walked to the piece of architecture that Orvieto is known for. The Duomo erupts out of the three-story sea of the city. A piazza creates a no-man’s land as you approach the enormous cathedral. Most of the tourists are sitting on the opposite side of the piazza in order to take in the view. The facade is incredibly ornate with frescoes and reliefs covering every inch of the front of the building.
I took some pictures and walked back to the apartment, enjoying the weather while a gaggle of primary school students were eating gelato and rough housing in the street. My house-mates had still not arrived so I took a shower and collapsed into bed. Although it was only around 6:30pm, I was approaching hour 30 of being awake and I couldn’t keep myself conscious any longer. I slowly drifted to sleep with the sounds of chirping birds and church bells gently cascading through my window.
research / travel / musings
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