Autumn in Italy: Every Day a Slow Day

April in Paris, sure, I’ll go.  But autumn is the best time to see Italy.

No crowds, no sweltering heat, and no mosquitoes!  My sister Constance and I rented a little Fiat at Fiumicino in Rome…

…and drove straight to Orvieto, one of the ancient hilltop towns they call “Cittaslow,” or a ‘Slow City.’   Cittaslow status is open only to towns with a population under 50,ooo.  These towns are committed to restricting modernization.  They resist homogenization and globalization in Italy (and around the world), and promote cultural diversity and the uniqueness of individual cities.  The pace of every day urban life is slowed by restricting traffic flow and saving open space for local markets, not parking lots.

Slow Cities fiercely protect their environment.  They market local produce…

…and maintain their own traditions.

Orvieto is situated dramatically on a 300 foot high volcanic plateau.

Originally Etruscan, it was conquered by Rome in the 3rd century B.C.   (Fun fact: the word ‘Tuscany’ is a derivative of ‘Etruscan.’)  Like the ancient Egyptians, the Etruscans believed in a life after death, and were obsessed with death and burial.  Vast cemeteries–cities for the dead–were often carved into cliffs at the foot of Etruscan cities.  Orvieto looked down upon this one.

On top of the plateau, at the heart of Orvieto, stands a cathedral begun in the year 1290.  The facade is impressive.  It has all the extras…

…and even comes with black and white sidewalls.

In neighboring Todi, also a Slow City…

…they tell a story demonstrating the intense rivalry between Italian city-states.  In 1291, a year after Orvieto’s cathedral was begun, Todi broke ground for San Fortunato, a cathedral they claimed would be even more impressive than Orvieto’s.  Todi hired the same sculptor, Lorenzo Maitani, to create a new cathedral with as beautiful a facade as he had created for the cathedral in Orvieto.  Not to be bested by their rival, Orvieto authorities prevented this by having Lorenzo murdered.  Italy is a land of many stories, with such a colorful and passionate history!

My sister Constance is an artist, and was there to paint…


…but  I went to research a novel set in Italy.  Even for autumn, it was unseasonably cold…

and wet…

But we didn’t mind.

We made day trips to surrounding villages.  We drove past beautiful scenery, including Lake Bolsena.

…and were lucky enough to stumble upon Pitigliano, my favorite little village in Italy.

The surrounding landscape is dramatic, with a network of ancient ‘sunken roads’ carved by the Etruscans into the soft volcanic rock.

Some extend for half a mile, with walls as high as thirty meters on both sides.  Their purpose is a mystery.  Perhaps for defense, but more likely a pathway for funeral processions leading to the necropolis where tombs were carved into the tunnel walls.

What I loved about Pitigliano had nothing to do with funerals and death, and everything to do with survival.

We also visited Civita di Bagnoregio, built 2,500 years ago by the Etruscans.

Civita di Bagnoregio is accessible only by this narrow bridge–no motor traffic allowed.  In bygone days, goods were packed in by donkey, but now they are delivered by motorized vehicles small enough to cross the bridge.  If you go in autumn, beware of strong sidewinds!

Today, the population varies from 12 in winter to 100 in summer.  It was incredibly charming.  We passed a middle-aged man in knee britches and vest.  Con said, “Is he for real?”  I said, “Only if his name is Geppetto.”  We saw more quaintly dressed people, and wondered if we’d walked through a gateway into the past.  I asked a woman in an old-fashioned dress, who kindly told me, “Chee-nee-mah! Pee-noh-chee-o!”  They were filming Pinocchio, and we might really have seen Geppetto!  I pointed to her costume and said, “Bella!  May I photograph you?”  “Si!” she said.  After posing for a picture, she led me back to where the film crew and cast were preparing to film the next scene.  “It’s okay to be here?” I asked.  “Si, si!” she said, obviously proud of her role in the production.  When we parted, I said, “Molte grazie!”  She lifted my hand  and pressed it to her cheek, then released it to blow me a little kiss.  I found the gesture very moving, and I know exactly where in my novel I will use it.  It’s the sort of souvenir you don’t find in a tourist trap.   And it’s the kind of research you just can’t look up in a book.

All images and words copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Italy.



  1. Elyse says:

    Brilliant photographs of a perfect country. The food, the people, the architecture and art, the history. Italy lacks nothing. Except for my presence. It has been way too long since I’ve been there.

    1. Dear Elyse,
      There really is nowhere else like it. Your comment made me smile. I love Italy for all the reasons you just stated. I hope that you will soon get to go back, and make the country whole!

      1. Elyse says:

        Thanks, Naomi. I hope so too!

  2. scillagrace says:

    Sono molto geloso! The wine we drank at my first child’s Christening was Orvieto Classico…I’m guessing it’s made there, right? Wonderful photographs!

    1. Oh, yes! You drank wine made from the grapes grown and made into wine in Orvieto. Thanks for stopping by, and for your very kind comments, Scilla.

  3. pattisj says:

    It looks like a whole ‘nother world. Amazing. Thanks for taking us along. 🙂

    1. Hi Patti,
      Thanks for coming by, and for sharing a comment.

  4. elisaruland says:

    Ha, well you sold me! The brilliant colors in your photographs tell a convincing story as well. I envision two sisters buzzing around the Italian countryside in their sporty Fiat, laughing and chatting, embracing the moment. I love it!

    1. Hi Elisa,
      Italy was so the ultimate, but with my sister Constance, a trip to the grocery store would be an adventure. Thanks so much for stopping by, and sharing your comment–really made me smile.

  5. What a fabulous trip, I feel like I just took a tour of Italy. Thank you for sharing your experiences through beautiful words and pictures.

    1. Dear Beth,
      Thank you so much for coming along. It is always great to hear from you.

  6. newsofthetimes says:

    Stunning!!! I’ll meet you there! 😉

    1. I’m ready to go back!

  7. Naomi says:

    Thanks for filling my travel well again. I can just close my eyes and picture myself there. 🙂

    1. Dear Naomi,
      You are so kind! Thank you for sharing in the adventure.

  8. Naomi, These images are stunning and your trip sounded fantastic! Thank you for taking this gal, who has never been anywhere exciting (can’t count Africa, because I was only there from newborn to three years old).
    I would love to read your book when you get it done, I’ve done book reviews for years. I can’t wait to see where the part with the hand pressed to the cheek will be!

    1. Dear Darla,
      Thank you for your kind words. It sounds exciting, to have been born in Africa. Do you remember it at all?

      I will send you a copy when I am done with the book!

  9. Wow! Italy is indeed beautiful in Autumn. I really admired how Italy created this slow cities, preserving its uniqueness, culture and heritage . Orvieto is breathtaking as it sits above a volcanic plateau. The colors of the leaves from red to lemon yellow to orange just created a magical imagery that invites the reader to hopeful see these places. What an adventure! It’s a joy to meet you sister through this post. Have a wonderful day…Thanks for sharing such an enchanting place.

    1. Dear Island Traveler,
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I’m so glad you could come along on this trip. I really appreciate your visit, and your thoughtful comments. It is always so good to hear from you.

  10. i mayfly says:

    I think I am in love. Nikki

    1. Italy does that to you! That’s Amore! So good to hear from you, Nikki. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. adinparadise says:

    Such beautiful photos of this wondrous place. How lovely that you were able to see the people dressed in their old fashioned costumes for the Pinocchio filming. It must have seemed even more magical. 🙂

    1. Hi ad! It was like time travel. I feel really lucky to have stumbled upon one of those chance moments. Thanks so much for your visit, and your lovely comments.

  12. Kavi says:

    Great post Naomi & love Bella at the end 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kavi! Meeting her was the icing on the cake!

  13. niasunset says:

    Beautiful photographs and post dear Naomi, I enjoyed. Thank you, love, nia

    1. Thank you, Nia! You are so kind! With love, Naomi

  14. Jamie Dedes says:

    Absolutely beautiful, Naomi. I loved “even for August it was unnecessarily cold.” Too cute.

    You’ve such a good eye for photographs.

    1. Thank you, Jamie. I really love my camera, because it allows me to keep and share those moments that touch me.

  15. katkasia says:

    Beautiful pictures! Looks like a terrific time. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kasia. It was a good trip that stretched us both in a lot of ways. We’d been to England, but Con was very nervous about going to a country where she didn’t understand the language–I had to talk her into it. Now she is in Norway for three months, all by herself, being an artist-in-residence in a little town outside of Bergen. She has a pretty good command of Norwegian, and has made some good friends. I am so impressed!

  16. Spectacular. The gesture you refer to is one of respect, care and good wishes. She likely gave you a blessing. How charmed I was by this trip!

    1. Thank you, Lesley! It was a very touching moment. We were met with such kindness there. Thank you for your visit, and for taking the time to comment.

  17. There is nothing better than getting off the beaten path while on vacation 🙂
    Italy is one of my favorite places!

    1. Hi Maggie,
      Mine too! Oh, my gosh! Italy is so packed with history–so much of it entirely unique to its location. Pick an era, any era!
      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  18. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this ‘photo tour’. Including so many photos throughout your post made this the best walkabout Italy I shall ever have. One day I shall go as I’ve always planned but this was the next best thing for now. Thanks, Naomi. Have a wonderful time.

    1. Dear Tess,
      You are so kind! Your words mean a lot to me. I look forward to one day reading about your trip! Thanks so much for coming along on this one.

  19. Beautiful tour….thanks so much, Naomi….♥

  20. interstitial_squirrel says:

    How beautiful is Italy! I feel like I’ve been there thanks to this post. Thank you, Naomi.

  21. Hi Katie, thanks for coming along!

  22. I am SO jealous! I LOVE porchetta, but only in Italy. How exciting–and good luck on the novel. You go girl!

    1. Thank you, Suzanne. So nice to hear from you! Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Ciao!

  23. Pat Bailey says:

    I like your writing, Naomi. You make a good story to go along with the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the follow, Pat. I really enjoy your blog–I always seem to find my way back there–and so I might as well make it official. I look forward to following you too.

      1. Pat Bailey says:

        Great! I think we have the beginning of a friendship. Let’s nurture it.

      2. I am looking forward to it, Pat. I have been reading your blog, and I like your voice a lot. I think you do a really great job pairing ideas with pictures that make us think.

      3. Pat Bailey says:

        Wow, thanks. I have always enjoyed thinking and enjoy the company of other thinkers. Thanks for joining me.

  24. Carol says:

    Beautiful and so much fun! It is so great that you and your sister are able to enjoy times like these together, and so great that you have shared that time with us! Thank you.

    1. Thanks for coming along for the ride, Carol. I appreciate your visit, and taking the time to comment.

    1. Thank you, Connie! I appreciate your visit.

  25. Amy says:

    All are so beautiful, Naomi! I’ll always love Italy. 🙂

    1. There’s nowhere else quite like it, is there? Thanks so much for your visit, and your follow. I look forward to following you as well.

      1. Amy says:

        For a while, I thought I followed you… See you soon, Naomi. 🙂

  26. This sounds like a really magical trip. I’ve never been to Italy and this makes me feel that I should do something to change that.

    1. It’s really a wonderful place to go. I hope you do go one day. Thanks for stopping by!

  27. 4amWriter says:

    What a lovely post. I visited Italy ages ago, spent most of my time in Venice. I have not been to the places you beautifully describe. Your pictures and words make me want to go back.

    1. Me too! I love Venice. It is a very unique place.

  28. such an inspiring post … i have but a glimpse of such a great country. yet, i thank you that your shared experience of another beautiful facet of Italy makes me pray more ardently for that privilege to visit it again.

    1. I appreciate your visit, and your story. I really hope that you get to go back soon!

  29. Julie says:

    Naomi, you brought back some wonderful memories. Orvietto was my favorite place when I visited Italy and for all the reasons you gave. All the other places we saw were overwhelming, Orvietto was lovely!

    1. Hi Julie,
      I’d love to hear about your travels! Orvietto was a lovely place to stay, and conveniently located for some really cool day trips. We had a tendency to get lost–at least once a day–and sometimes more! But we always got where we were going…………………..eventually! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story.

  30. Kourtney Heintz says:

    What an amazing journey! I wish you had planned my trip to Italy. I love the off the beaten path experiences! 🙂

    1. Where did you go, Kourtney?

  31. I loved reading about your trip and seeing your photos!
    They all are beautiful and interesting, you put so much attention to capture even simple things, like the reflection on the car.
    Beautiful post Naomi!! Thanks for sharing it with us!

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Pablo, and for your very kind words!

  32. taniamend says:

    Autumn + Italy = dream come true! Thanks for sharing! Lovely pictures and wonderful stories ❤

    1. Your visit+ your really nice comments=good night! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  33. TBM says:

    Wonderful photos. Italy is a must see for me and I love autumn, so you may have convinced me 😉

    1. Yes, yes, yes! I hope you go. If you do, I want to hear all about it! We went in November, and it was unusually cold. October or November would be the best time. I have been there in the summer, and would always opt to travel in autumn.

  34. gkm2011 says:

    Beautiful! I was privileged to go to Florence in December many years ago and felt the same way – though I don’t have your beautiful pictures to remember it by! Gorgeous.

    1. Hi Georgia,
      I loved Florence. (It is one of the settings for the novel I am working on). What was the weather like there in December? Were you there for fun, or studying abroad, or perhaps working there?

      Thank you for stopping by, and sharing your thoughts.

      1. gkm2011 says:

        When I was there it was crisp and sunny – and not full of tourists. I was in college then and was there a week before Christmas and soaked it all in – trying to understand the Italian culture over my long holidays from studying in Spain. – Greta

      2. Hi Greta,
        That sounds really lovely. I’m sure it was interesting to be there during their winter holiday. Studying in Spain sounds like quite an adventure too.

  35. t2van says:

    Oh Naomi – what a wonderful blog full of beautiful pictures and information….I want to have a travelling companion like your sister! To be creative together…and travel creatively together…what a gift.

    And now you’ve prompted me to look through my collection of photos from my mother/daughter/sister trip to Italy during the record setting July heat several years ago…oh how I yearn to go back…


    1. Dear Terri,

      My sister and I always have so much fun together. I would love to see your mother/sister/daughter trip to Italy! Oh, that would be a really great post, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to tag along on that trip!

      Thanks so much for sharing ours, and for your thoughtful comments. I really really hope you share more of that trip with us, because I’m ready to go back!


      1. t2van says:

        This weekend might be just the time to sit with a pot of tea and my hundreds of photos and revisit Italy….Thank you for the prodding!

  36. diannegray says:

    These are fantastic photos, Naomi!

    I want to live in a Cittaslow 😀

    1. Hi Dianne,

      It is a growing movement. The organization began in Italy, mostly as a protest against fast food. They have Slow Cities all over the globe now, and I read that they recently gave Slow City status to a town in British Columbia, which is very cool.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  37. The photos and your words really make me want to go back…and stay a while.

    1. Me too! Thanks for dropping by, and sharing a comment.

  38. Such wonderfully rich autumn colours. The Italian woman in the last picture looks such a strong character.

    Out of interest, in your first photo of the building, is the centre of it a folly, as it gives the impression of having no rooms behind the windows? I love follies. There’s one in my children’s novel, with the moon shining through the windows, so they look like lit up rooms from the distance.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      I honestly don’t know. It was kind of strange–difficult to tell which buildings were completely abandoned, which were occupied, and which were only occupied during the summer.

      I knew you were a talented poet and a musician, but I didn’t realize you were a children’s author. I would love to know more about that! What are your titles? Would they be available in print on Amazon? ( I am probably the only one in the world who hasn’t made the leap to e-books yet.)

      1. I’ve written four novels – 1 children’s fantasy, and 3 adult novels (1 sword & sorcery fantasy/1 science fantasy/1 time travel romance). I’ve had loads of calls for full manuscripts from publishers, positive comments and feedback, but not yet made it at the last hurdle. One agent told me she really liked my science fantasy novel but it was too original with its mix of fantasy, science fiction, horror and comedy to know how to market it. I guess I just break the rules with my tendency to cross-genre.

        That being said, I’ve just decided to give it a go with epublishing my Sword and Sorcery Fantasy under a pen name, and have just started a blog all about it. If you’re interested in following me on this quest, you can read all about it at

      2. That’s really interesting, Sarah. It is so hard to get published in today’s world. I know so many people who are going this route with great success. I wish you the best of luck, and look forward to following your blog!

  39. bluebrightly says:

    Wonderful, thank you – wish we had slow cities in th US.

    1. Wouldn’t that be great? Every once in a while I think about creating my own slow city–like an artist compound/ B&B, but I think I like the idea more than the reality. More and more you go to a brand new city, and even on Hawaii you are seeing the exact same malls with the same stores and restaurants you see in your own city and state. It is kind of sad.

  40. Ok, now I remember why I don’t stop by your blog as often as I should…

    …because it makes me INSANELY jealous!!!

    You and all your travels in Europe! Argh! 😉

    Seriously, I have a friend who was just in Italy a month ago, I saw his photos recently, and now these.

    I want to go to there!

    Great post, as usual, Naomi!

    1. You should, you can, you will!

  41. eof737 says:

    Welcome back Naomi! Love the photos and Italy is beautiful in the fall. 😉

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. Putting this post together made me really wish to be back in Italy! And thanks, it’s good to be back–catching up little by little.

  42. Grace says:

    Very beautiful place, very beautiful photos! Reading this piece made me feel like I’m also there with you. 🙂

    1. HI Grace,
      Thanks for coming along for the ride. I feel the same way when you take us touring in the Czech Republic!

  43. Matilda says:

    I love reading you and I love to travel with your words. It is a pleasure, thanks for sharing with us Naomi.

  44. Hi Matilda,
    Thank you so much! It is really fun for me too. When I think about what I’d like to share with you, and spend that time preparing it and going through my archives, it is almost like getting to go all over again.

  45. Madhu says:

    Aah, that was wonderful Naomi!
    I have been to Italy in summer…now I shall have to return in autumn. I would need several more layers than you have on though 🙂

  46. Lynne Ayers says:

    I have never heard of these slow cities – it’s fabulous that these cities have seen the value of maintaining their specific cultures and customs and not opting for complete modernization – if I get back to Italy I will have to seek out some of these cities. Another great travel post, Naomi.

  47. What a wonderful opportunity you had. I’m envious, so thank you for sharing the story and pictures of your trip.

    1. Thank you, Shirley, for your visit!

  48. PragueByKaty says:

    Beautiful shots, thanks

  49. Those leaves are just beautiful, the palettes of the top two pictures are definitely favorites of mine. So glad you asked about the costumes, I was starting to wonder. 😉

    1. Thank you so much for the visit, and for your thoughtful comments!

  50. Ooo, so many lovely moments in this post! But most of all I’m curious – have you written the novel? I have never heard of the slow cities before, what a great concept. And I haven’t been to Bagnoregio – I’ll put it on my list right now. What great timing to catch the film crew! I was to Lake Bolsena and found it very zen. And you were to Vie Cave, great to see. I’d read your novel most gladly. 🙂

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