Yesterday I learned a new phrase – “Odio la pioggia.” It means “I hate rain.” I’m told that saying “Sono stufo di pioggia,” which sounds worse but translates to “I’m fed up with rain,” is more polite, but I have more of an odio attitude toward rain right now. This is a new position for me, I’m from Texas, I know that rain is generally a good thing, but the pedestrian lifestyle doesn’t mix well with rain. Sidewalks that were crowded in the sunshine become arenas for a series of umbrella tetris where the main goal is to not lose an eye. Hauling groceries five blocks in the rain means I have to stick my arm out from under my umbrella to drag my shopping caddy, making my coat wet and miserable for the rest of the day. And I’ve also learned the hard way that street puddles have an impressive splash range. Grey street water up the side of your leg and down your boot teaches you a few things:
1) Always hug the wall when you hear a bus coming down a wet street. It’s okay to look scared, you should be.
2) Only a hot shower and wine will set you right again. Shower for the grey water, wine for the thoughts of what was in the grey water.
3) Sometimes you just need to get out of the city before you start yelling at buses like a local.
Which brings me to the purpose of this post – Sutri. Several weeks ago when we decided to stop letting the rain trap us inside a friend told us that the small town of Sutri was a lovely forty five minute drive north of Rome with Etruscan caves, Roman ampitheaters, and a very cute hilltop town. Perfect.
We parked in one of the many free parking spaces located around the city and went in search of food. Our only criteria was warm, we wanted warm food of any kind that was open on a Sunday in a small town during off-season. We lucked out with this little pink restaurant (I think it was Il Buco, but I’m not sure) with a killer terrace that I’m sure is breathtaking when it’s dry and open. We commenced with our customary two hour lunch that included very good house wine and limoncello that was actually made by the house. But this restaurant will always be special because it introduced me to my latest obsession which is Pappardelle al Cinghiale, which is a wide egg noodle in a wild boar ragu. It’s ruined me for all other ragus.
It looks simple but this is Italian comfort food at its best, cooked slow for a hearty yet complex flavor. It’s only available in central and northern Italy between November to January. If you see it on a menu, order it, you can thank me later.
After lunch we strolled the adorable old town in all of its broken tower and faded stucco glory.
Time flew during our aimless tour, we only had a little bit of time left before the ruins were closed and the sun was down, so we descended the hill and sought out the caves and ampitheater.
The first thing one notices about Sutri before entering the town is the caves, which were originally constructed as Etruscan tombs. Today a few of the tombs have been converted into chapels, but most are empty and open, giving the cliffsides a drippy ivy-clad whimsical feel, if not a little creepy in the near deserted atmosphere near twilight.
Immediately next to and around the caves is the ampitheatre. The sign said that it costs 4 euro to enter, but the nice ticket guy just let us in. I knew the ampitheatre was there, but standing by ourselves in the center of an ancient Roman theatre that has maintained its general appearance for nearly two thousand years felt extraordinary. We walked through a few of the tunnels, climbed the new steps that were added at the back and took in the view from the top.
All of this, including the caves, was made possible by a stone in the region called “Tuff”. It’s a porous volcanic rock that is soft to cut at first, but hardens like concrete once it has been fully exposed to air. So all the Romans and Etruscans had to do was dig and carve to achieve the theatre and tombs.
We left the ampitheatre right as the attendant who obviously forgot us was about to close the gates. Then thunder clapped and we got back into the car. Sutri was just as drenched as Rome, but the quiet, the space, and the no-fuss atmosphere made up for the short comings of Mediterranean weather in January. We needed that, and we plan on taking more nearby day trips in the future. I’ll keep you posted.