Drive Italy: Volterra

Why Volterra?

Perched atop a hill surrounded by farmlands in Tuscany, Volterra is the least touristy among hill towns. Two thousand years ago, it was one of the most important Etruscan cities. It became one of the Roman empire’s independent city states, but later fell to Florence. To get a glimpse of a more authentic experience of Italian hill town life, a visit to Volterra is a must.

Parking in Volterra

Piazza Martiri della Liberta Car Park, an underground garage located before the Piazza Martiri bus roundabout.

Places Visited

1. Teatro Romano (Roman Theater)

An archeological area where a first century AD Roman Theater was discovered. It is considered one of Italy’s best preserved.

2. Duomo Santa Maria Assunta (Cathedral)

Consecrated in 1120, the interior was remodeled in the sixteenth century in Renaissance style.

3. Piazza and Palazzo dei Priori

The piazza was the central square of the medieval town. The palazzo, built between 1208-1254, which is the oldest in Tuscany is now the Town Hall. Visitors may climb the clock tower for a view of Volterra from the top.

4. Baptistery

The structure was built in the thirteenth century. Visitors look at the Romanesque doorway and its green and white marble stripes.

5. Arco Etrusco (Etruscan Arch) and Walls

The Romans redid parts of the arch and walls, but the masonry on each side of the gate, dressed stones and weathered heads on the arch are from the 4th or 3rd century BC.

There are other attractions to see in Volterra. Visiting all of them requires at least one full day.

Drive Italy: Orvieto

Why Orvieto?

I have been wanting to see Orvieto for sometime. It is a hill town in Umbria located close to Rome and sits high on a tuff which is made of volcanic rock. Orvieto goes back to Etruscan times around 8th century BCE to 2nd century BCE. Rome annexed Orvieto in the 3rd century BC and in the process adapted Etruscan culture. This information is enough to peak my and hubby’s interest to visit Orvieto.

Parking in Orvieto

We parked at the parking area for the funicular. Parking there is free. Then we took the funicular up to the city.

Address:

Str. della Direttissima, 05018 Orvieto Scalo TK, Italy

View from Torre del Moro

Places Visited

1. Pozzo di San Patrizio (St. Patrick’s Well)

The well shows impressive 16th century engineering. It is 175 feet deep and 45 feet wide. It is designed so there is a one way traffic flow. There are 496 steps going up and going down. It was built by the order of a pope so there is a water source in case Orvieto is besieged while he resided there.

2. Duomo di Orvieto (Orvieto Cathedral)

Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It is a 14th-century Roman Catholic cathedral. The cathedral’s Gothic facade is known as one of the great masterpieces of the Late Middle Ages. It features a golden frontage glittering with mosaics, a rose window, bas-reliefs, and statues. Inside the duomo, the Chapel of the Madonna di San Brizio are frescoes by Fra Angelico, Benozzo Gozzoli, and Luca Signorelli.

3. Museo Etrusco/Museo Claudio Faina (Etruscan Museum/Claudio Faina Museum e Museo Civico)

One of Italy’s most important collection of Etruscan pottery, bronzes, and jewelry is displayed here. The museum has a collection of over 3,000 Roman coins. A special treat is from the 3rd floor of the museum is an excellent view of the mosaics on the Orvieto Cathedral.

4. Museo Emilio Greco

The museum holds collections donated to the city of Orvieto donated by Emilio Greco, the sculptor of the bronze doors of the Duomo. The collection includes bronze sculptures, drawings, etchings, and prints.

L-R: St. Patrick’s Well, Duomo, Etruscan Museum, Marble Madonna and Child, Clock Tower, View from the tower, Fortress, & Porchetta sandwich

5. Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (MoDo City Museum)

Behind the Duomo is this museum exhibiting Orvieto’s collection of religious artworks. At the upper entrance, visitors are greeted by one of its main pieces, a marble Madonna and the child Jesus under a bronze canopy with angels on either of their side.

6. Torre del Moro (Tower of the Moor)

Located at the center of town, the 40 meters tall tower is decorated with past governors’ coat of arms. It was built in the late 13th century as a lookout for invaders. Visitors are whisked halfway to the top by an elevator and they then climb the remaining steps to the top for a 360-degree view of Orvieto.

7. Fortezza dell’Albornoz (Fortress of the Albornoz)

Today, surrounded by a public park and garden, what remains of the fortress is the main tower and some parts of it. Cardinal Albornoz commissioned the tower to secure the city for the church in the mid-1300’s. The fortress offers beautiful views of the valley beneath.

Snack to Go

Focaccia con Porchetta

Porchetta is popular all over Italy. It is slow roasted pork stuffed with garlic, herbs, and pepper. I have tried panino alla porchetta in Rome and also panino alla porchetta made by a famous sandwich shop from Florence. The porchetta sandwich that tastes the best in my humble opinion comes from Umbria. The pork skin is crispy and I could taste the garlic and fennel the roast pork is stuffed with in every bite. I highly recommend trying a porchetta sandwich in any town in Umbria.

If you’re planning to visit Rome, perhaps you’d like to take a day to visit Orvieto. If driving isn’t what you’d like to do, the city is just a little over an hour’s train ride from Rome.

Pandemic Travel: Returning to the US from Italy

Due to the pandemic, we had to reschedule our trips abroad a few times. Our rescheduled trips are crammed between January to March this year. We had gone to Tuscany in January and Rome in February with one more trip to Italy at the end of this month. Our experiences at the airport on our flights back to the United States were a bit different even though we were flying out from the same country.

View from Aventine Hill, Rome IT

On this post, I’m sharing our experiences hoping that the information may be useful to those who are traveling to Italy this March. Travel requirements change as the pandemic situation changes. Always check the official travel website of the country you are traveling to. The airlines are responsible for checking these requirements.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has set different requirements for US citizens and lawful permanent residents and for non-citizens and non-immigrants.

Requirements for US Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents and Immigrants

On the CDC website, there are only two requirements for this group:

Negative COVID-19 Test Result or a Documentation of COVID-19 Recovery

COVID-19 Test

The test should be taken one day prior to departure for the United States. My husband and I did not encounter any difficulties in obtaining one. Most pharmacies in Italy perform the rapid antigen test for €15 to €20. We got our results in 15 minutes.

Sign at a pharmacy offering a rapid antigen test in Montecatini, Italy.

Documentation of COVID-19 Recovery

Those who had recently recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days need to present their positive viral test result and a signed letter from a healthcare provider stating that one is cleared for travel.

Passenger Attestation

The passenger attestation requires airline passengers to sign a declaration that one is telling the truth regarding the documents provided for travel. It is the airlines’ responsibility to provide and collect the attestation in behalf of the US government.

Additional Requirement for Non-citizens and Non-immigrants

Those who are not US citizens nor lawful permanent residents have to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated with the series of accepted COVID-19 vaccines.

At the Airport

In Milan Malpensa, we only needed to present our COVID-19 Negative Test result with our printed Passenger Attestation upon check-in. While in Rome Fiumicino, we had to show our Vaccination Card, Negative COVID-19 Test Result, and we had to login to the airline website to electronically sign and submit the Passenger Attestation.

How to fulfill the US entry requirements differ by airlines. Check with the airline you are traveling with prior to leaving the US and have everything ready for a smooth flight home.

Buon viaggio!

P.S. KN95 or FFP2 mask is required indoors in Italy. Don’t forget to bring enough for the whole trip and some spare.

Giovedi Gnocchi

Have you heard of “giovedi gnocchi” or gnocchi Thursday? The phrase comes from the saying, “Giovedi gnocchi, venerdi pesce, sabato Trippa”(Thursday dumplings, Friday fish, Saturday tripe). Historically, the less affluent Romans ate the very filling dumplings in preparation for Friday, when people abstained from eating meat. Even today, traditional Roman restaurants only serve gnocchi on Thursdays.

Gnocchi al sugo di stracotto (dumplings in stewed meat sauce) served at BaGhetto Ristorante, Rome IT

Pandemic Travel: What You Need to Enter Italy (Updated)

Flying from the United States to Italy

The United States lists Italy on Travel Advisory Level 4. This means that the US government is telling its citizens, “Do not travel to Italy!” The main reasons listed on the US Embassy and Consulates website in Italy is COVID 19 and terrorism threats. Those who are willing to take the risk of traveling to Italy may find this post helpful.

Image from it.usembassy.gov

My husband and I chanced it, and proceeded with our booked trip to Italy scheduled the last week of January 2022 into the first week of February.

Montecatini Alto, Italy

Italy has measures in place to curb the spread of the Omicron variant until the end of March. Travelers from the US to Italy need proof of complete vaccination, a negative COVID test result, and a Digital Passenger Locator Form. These requirements are presented at the check-in desk of the airline that travelers are flying with.

As of March 1st, travelers may enter Italy by presenting either one’s Vaccination Card or a Negative COVID-19 test result and the Passenger Locator From. If one has recovered from COVID-19, a certificate of recovery within six months can replace the COVID-19 test. However, to eat in restaurants and visit attractions a Super Green Pass remains a requirement. This means having the CDC Vaccination Card on hand while visiting Italy.

Proof of Complete Vaccination

My husband and I presented our CDC vaccination cards during flight check-in. We both have had our 2 inoculation shots and a booster shot. Those who have had 2 vaccination shots are considered to have completed the vaccination cycle, and may enter Italy. However, the proof of vaccination is considered expired 6 months after the last vaccination date. If one received the 2nd injection in August of 2021, the vaccination would be considered expired by February. Most likely, the bearer will be declined to board the flight to Italy. Even if one is allowed to take the flight, one couldn’t do anything in Italy with an “expired” vaccination card. It is required to stay in hotels, rent a car, eat at restaurants, visit museums, and other public places.

The US equivalent to Italy’s Super Green Pass. Image from cdc.gov

Negative COVID Test

Travelers are required to present a negative COVID test result at the airline check-in counter. One may choose to show a negative result of a molecular swab test (PCR) taken 72 hours prior to entry into Italy or a negative result of an antigenic test (Rapid Test) taken within 24 hours prior to entry into Italy. We opted to get a rapid test on the day of our departure which we had to schedule with CVS Pharmacy days before. Unscheduled COVID test for travel is not readily available in the US. It is best to plan well and schedule one’s choice of test days in advance. Our rapid test was covered by our health insurance.

A negative COVID test is needed to enter Italy.

Passenger Locator Form

The EU Digital Passenger Locator Form (dPLF) is completed online and a copy of the document may be downloaded, printed, or saved in a mobile device. It is a tool for health officials for contact tracing just in case travelers are infected with an infectious disease while in Italy. As long as one has all personal and travel information ready, filling up the form online is straightforward and quick.

Travelers need to fill out a Digital Passenger Locator Form to enter Italy.

Airlines are responsible for checking these documents upon check-in. This was the only time our negative COVID Test and the dPLF were asked for. The CDC vaccination card was required in every ticketed attraction we visited and every restaurant we dined in. It is important to carry the vaccination card at all times. When asked for a Green Pass while in Italy, show the CDC card. It is the equivalent of the country’s Super Green Pass. Until Italy’s government lifts its present COVID measures in place, the CDC vaccination card is one’s ticket to enjoying what Italy has to offer.

Traveling to Italy at present is risky and one has to complete requirements that were not in place before COVID hit the planet. Waiting for the result of the COVID test was a stressful experience as our whole trip to Italy depended on the negative test result. Flying back home to the US on time also depended on our negative COVID test result. I will post about the requirements for entry to the United States on my next post.

Be safe and healthy everyone, whether you are traveling domestically or abroad!

Ciao.

Ticking Off My Travel Goals, One Place at a Time