View from Bramante Staircase in the Vatican

This is the second installment in a seven-part series following writer Cynthia Cunniff through her experience of touring Italy with Insight Vacations. Head back to the series home page for the full Italy experience—or jump straight over to Day 1Day 3Day 4, Day 5Day 6 or Day 7 of the tour.


The Vatican
The abbreviated stay in Rome was embellished by my being able to skip the lines at The Vatican a half-hour in advance to the gates being open. We were also given an exclusive tour of the Bramante Staircase, which is not open to the general public. By Roman law, no building is to be taller than than St. Peter’s Cathedral, so as we wound up the marble staircase it was to a view like no other in the city.

Tip: No pictures are allowed in the Sistine Chapel and flash is not allowed anywhere in the Vatican.

Heading north from Rome to Orvieto

Orvieto, Umbria
Shimmering, golden-leaved trees lined the switchback road up to our first hill town of Orvieto, Umbria. The drive is just under 1½ hours to the north of Rome through rolling green vistas that preoccupy your time. (A reoccurring theme on this trip—ignore the free Wi-Fi and look out the window; really, it’s good stuff.) The town has an elevator system at the base of the hill, and that seemed to be the more popular way to get up the steep incline from the public parking area.

In addition to our lead guide, Belinda, our experience was enhanced by Italian natives who were experts in history, art and food. They all had a flair for the dramatic and turned what could have been mundane information into relatable takeaways and fun anecdotes. Local historian Marco Bellanca was one of many lively and charming characters to lead us through our tour and had the group engaged and entertained.

Local historian Marco Bellanca

Insight Vacations arranged for us to participate in a pasta-making lesson with the Etruscan Chef Lorenzo Polegri. His restaurant, Zepplin (yes, named after the band), is a well-known establishment in Orvieto and has recently moved to a bigger space to accommodate the demand. It was a fun lunch getting hands-on experience with the pasta, meeting the chef and eating what we created. Chef Polegri is charismatic, beautifully expressed in English and by his culinary adeptness and fun attitude, seems to have walked right off of the Food Channel. We each left with a gift of his book, The Etruscan Chef—a fun read, not only for the homespun recipes but also for getting the feel of living and growing up in Umbria.

Etruscan Chef Lorenzo Polegri teaching pasta making

The cathedral in Orvieto is a masterpiece in detail. Take the time to get up close and see the precision of the integrated designs that comprise the overall dynamic of the structure. The main plaza in front of it is usually crowded and acts a large rest area for the masses in summer high season. There were tourists, but not nearly the clausterphobic bustle of high season.

Tip: If you are at a produce stand on the streets or an open-air market in Italy, do not touch the fruit or vegetables as it’s considered rude. Simply point to what you want and it will be bagged for you.

Orvieto Cathedral

This is the second installment in a seven-part series following writer Cynthia Cunniff through her experience of touring Italy with Insight Vacations. Head back to the series home page for the full Italy experience—or jump straight over to Day 1Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6 or Day 7 of the tour.

The front of the Vatican
Sarcophagus at the Vatican
View from Bramante staircase at the Vatican
Ancient art at the Vatican
Swiss Guards at the Vatican
Exiting the Vatican
Vatican statue
Orvieto hillside
View from Orvieto
Cobbler in Orvieto
Pasta prep with Chef Lorenzo Polegri
Zepplin Restaurant - Orvieto
Tour Guides Belinda and Marco
Love in Orvieto
Watching the tourists in Orvieto
Friendly local cafe - Orvieto
Orvieto Cathedral detail
Cynthia Cunniff

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2 Comments On "Not Your Grandma's Bus Tour of Italy, Day II"
  1. Anonymous|

    Pasta making…that would be fun! Missed this are when we visited Italy. On my list for next trip.

    1. localpathworld|

      Lorenzo really made the pasta making a fun group project. He has a lot of wonderful energy!

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