At the end of February, SAI Programs organized a trip to the Umbria and Tuscany regions for all of its students studying in Rome. It was great because this weekend everything was planned and taken care of, and the only thing we had to pay for ourselves was anything extra we wanted.
We left from Piazza Trilussa at 10 am on Friday morning, and had two motor coaches for our group. After a short one and a half hour drive, we arrived in the town of Orvieto. The city is situated at the top of a tufo hill, more than 1000 feet above the valley floor below. Orvieto has been populated since ancient times by the Etruscan people, until Rome annexed the city in the Third Century BC. These ancient people (and everyone whom followed) built vast underground networks of caves in order to provide more room for olive oil and wine making, water collecting, pigeon farming, and storing animals. We had an hour long tour of these caves and storerooms, and it was really interesting. The Etruscans were incredibly resourceful people, and their engineering feats were impressive to behold.
After a quick walk through the city center, we had lunch a group lunch at a local restaurant. Bread, appetizers, pasta all’Arrabiata sauce, and porchetta and roasted potatoes were all on the menu, along with some really good tiramisu. From there, we boarded our buses to head to Terme di Sorano, the resort we would be staying at. I and seven of my friends had an entire villa to ourselves, and it was really nice and modern. Although we had to share beds, the entire resort was really nice, and we had no complaints. There were also some great hot thermal baths that we were able to enjoy, and it was great because they were even open late for us.
For dinner we ate in the dining building of the resort, and had a multi-course Italian meal featuring pasta (obviously) and roasted chicken and potatoes. After dinner, we stuck around for our activity assignments for the day. During our first week in Rome, we signed up to pick one excursion activity: either hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding. Since I have never been on a horse and I wasn’t sure when I would have an opportunity like this again, I signed up for riding.
The next morning we woke up, got ready, and went off on our various activities. I signed up for horseback riding, because I had never been on a horse before. After a brief introduction in horse riding from our guides, we set out in a single file line through the surrounding fields and vineyards. From there, we set off on a trail along a ridge that overlooked a nearby valley. It was incredibly scenic, and exactly what people picture when they think of Tuscany. Riding a horse was certainly challenging, but towards the end of our ride I felt comfortable in the saddle. Although there was one moment on a narrow part of the trail, overlooking a ridge, where I fell back from the group a bit and then out of nowhere my horse started galloping to catch up. Thankfully, there was a guide behind me (I was the last person in our group) and she was able to yell out directions along the way.
Sunday morning we packed up and left our resort, and drove an hour to the incredibly scenic town of Civita di Bagnoregio. Perched on a pinnacle of rock, the only way to reach the historic town is by pedestrian bridge- there are no cars at all in the town. Another Etruscan/Middle Age town, the city’s population never recovered from a 1695 earthquake that made many people move to the nearby town of Bagnoregio. We walked around the town and explored its tiny alleys and scenic vistas, and then headed to lunch overlooking nearby Lake Bolsena.
I want to thank SAI Programs for a great, relaxing weekend trip to Umbria and Tuscany. The weekend served as a nice break from the hustle and bustle of city life and tourism that we have been experiencing and as an opportunity to enjoy some off the beaten path parts of Italy.
Andrew is a current student at the University of Alabama studying at John Cabot University (JCU) in Rome, Italy during the Spring 2015 term.