About Me

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Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I took very early retirement from teaching in '06 and did some traveling in Europe and the UK before settling down to do some private tutoring. As a voracious reader, I have many books waiting in line for me to read. Tell me I shouldn't read something, and I will. I'm a happy, optimistic person and I love to travel and through that believe that life can be a continuous learning experience. I'm looking forward to traveling more some day. I enjoy walking, cycling, water aerobics & and sports like tennis, volleyball, and fastpitch/baseball. I'm just getting into photography as a hobby and I'm enjoying learning all the bits and bobs of my digital camera. My family is everything to me and I'm delighted to be the mother of two girls and the Gramma of a boy and a girl. I may be a Gramma, but I'm at heart just a girl who wants to have fun.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

O is for Orvieto Caves

One of the most fascinating places I visited while in Italy was the ancient Etruscan city of Orvieto. I wrote a bit about it for another ABCW when I did H is for Hieroglyphics. This week I'd like to show you some photos from when we toured deep inside the mountain on which the city sits to see the myriad of caves. Orvieto is an ancient city suspended halfway between heaven and earth and has long kept secret the labyrinth of caves and tunnels hidden in the silent darkness of the cliff. Those who lived on the top of this high plateau dug this hidden labyrinth and left it unaltered for over 2500 years until it was finally unearthed in 1984. Here is a bit of history about the caves along with some of my own photos. I thought it'd be appropriate to show them during Halloween week since it was an extremely eerie place to visit. Be sure to click on the photos to see them larger as you'll then get the full effect. First of all, though, here is a small part of the outside cliff wall of the city, seen one day as we walked down to the necropolis below.

At the heart of the Medieval quarter of Orvieto there is a fascinating underground labyrinth of passages, with caves and archaeological finds, all brought to light relatively recently after centuries of neglect.









Thousands of pigeon roosts were cut in any place with access to the outside world. In some parts today, you can see wine stored here.

The most important structure in this network is certainly the Pozzo della Cava, a vast well, 36 metres deep, hewn out of the tufa rock by order of Pope Clement VII in 1527 to ensure that Orvieto had a constant supply of water in the event of a siege. The Pozzo della Cava was dug between 1528 and 1530 by enlarging a previously existing Etruscan well whose traces are still visible today. In 1646 the well was closed up during the Castro war. With the exception of some mentions in documents that told of bodies being thrown down the well, nothing more was ever heard about it until its rediscovery in 1984. In 1996 the well was emptied of all the debris that had accumulated inside over the centuries and the water supply was once more unblocked.

In 1999 the Orvieto-born researcher Lucio Riccetti found a signed letter by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger proving that the well commissioned by Pope Clement VII was in fact the Pozzo della Cava. The tufa rock extracted during the digging of the cave was partly used to build Palazzo Pucci, which Sangallo was supervising at the time.

In the caves next to the well there are the remains of two ceramic kilns. One is Medieval and includes rooms where the potters worked as well as a number of discarded pots and some interesting tools. The other is a classic Renaissance ‘muffola’ shaped kiln that was used in the 16th century for the so-called ‘third fire’, to obtain the precious lustre of Renaissance ceramic, famous for its golden and ruby-red iridescence. The two kilns were discovered in 1985 and shed a new light on the production of majolica in Orvieto during the 15th and 16th century. This period had in fact previously been considered the dark ages of majolica production in the city.

Some remains of Etruscan tombs have also been unearthed. In one of these, the place where the body was laid to rest is clearly visible. It was adapted during the Middle Ages to house a fulling machine to work and soften wool.Another extremely interesting Etruscan element of the excavations is the cistern, dug out of the rock to house rainwater channelled down from the rooftops above. Its particular form of whitewash is known as cocciopesto and is typical of the last stages of the Etruscan occupation of the city. This cistern also underwent modifications during the Middle Ages when it was incorporated into a passageway leading to a second underground floor used as a cellar to produce and store the much-appreciated Orvieto wine. The two flat surfaces that flank the steps downwards were used to roll the barrels down to the rooms below.Work is still continuing to empty, clean and render safe a series of other caves that will certainly make the visit even richer and more complete. (from here)


I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of a spooky underground ancient world and I highly recommend if you're in the area, go on down and take a look around. You won't be disappointed.

26 comments:

crete said...

Lovely post and very educational. Thanks,

Ray

Aileni said...

I shall have to come back to this Leslie - my eyes can't cope at this end of the day. The old blogger is flagging.
Thanks for commenting.

Reader Wil said...

I did enjoy your tour and the somewhat mysterious spooky atmosphere! Thanks for the piece of history too. Thanks for visiting.

Dina said...

Fascinating indeed! And discovered only a few decades ago. Who knows what else is under the surface of our world!

david mcmahon said...

That is definitely my kind of place, Leslie.

foodiejenn said...

That place is very interesting! Wonderful pictures and info to come with it.

My "O" photos are now posted here and here. Hope you can pass by, too! Thanks!

photowannabe said...

This was truly fascinating. Thanks for all the information and wonderful pictures.

ellen b said...

Very cool Leslie! So interesting...

babooshka said...

Wow! Love the images nad the narrative really leads your through the post. Very informative.

D Herrod said...

Interesting tour.

Rinkly Rimes said...

I think blogging should be an essential part of education. Even at my advanced age I can learn so much. Your caves reminded me of the houses at Coober Pedy, here in Australia. Less history here, though.

jmb said...

Interesting post Leslie. I did not do the caves when I was there but it has a wonderful Cathedral.

antigoni said...

Excellent post!

Dragonstar said...

Another fascinating and informative post Leslie - thank you. It's wonderful to have rediscovered all this in relatively recent years.
Thanks for your visit and comment last night.

RuneE said...

You have taught me quite a lot about a subject where my knowledge was full of holes. I did of course know about the Etruscans and their relationship with Rome and so forth, but nothing like this!

Very interesting for a history buff!

Bear Naked said...

What a fascinating place.
Thank you for sharing that information and your photos with us.

Bear((( )))

AphotoAday said...

That's a place I'm sure I would really enjoy exploring...

Adventure girl wanna be said...

Wow! What an "O" post. Neat!

Rose said...

Leslie, you certainly have visited some fascinating places! I love places with a rich history; this had to be a thrilling experience to see ruins this ancient.

DeeJay said...

Thank you for sharing these photos and the comprehensive history lesson

Granny Smith said...

I really enjoyed this excursion into the past. The photos - especially that first one of the wall with human figures to give it scale - are outstanding.

Jay said...

Something else new that I have learned through ABC Wednesday! Thank you for a very informative post with great pictures!

Petrus said...

If these ancient people had had TV would the caves have been built I wonder ??

Joking apart it's amazing what people of old have produced just with the simplest of hand tools .

Ruth D~ said...

You are still a teacher and I learn so much. also enjoyed the political post. I play my cards close to the vest, but this one ain't easy.

Gemma said...

This is really interesting!
Wonder what else is waiting to be discovered.

CherryPie said...

They look lovely, I especially like the one with the sun shining!