Orvieto, Umbria

Orvieto is a justifiably lauded small city. It sits, or perches, to be more precise, on the crest of a cliff, holding court over the Umbrian countryside. It's big enough that novelty-seeking travelers will find plenty to occupy their week-long visit, but small enough that it can feel familiar, even home-like in a short time. It's a stone-throw from worthy trips like the dangling town of Civita Bagnoregio, the perennial fave Todi, the ceramics workhorse Deruta, and Lago Trasimeno for a change of pace.

Let the masses flock to nearby Tuscany. We can keep Umbria, and it's crown jewels, like Orvieto to ourselves.

Every time I visit Orvieto I wish we had more time. There's a fascinating tour of the underground city, an astonishing Etruscan well, museums, and the oft-photographed cathedral. So I hear. I end up eating a meal and wandering and calling it a day.

But the meal you see, it alone is worth the trip to Orvieto.

The restaurant I'm sending you to is Trattoria del Moro Aronne. You'll understand my insistence from the moment you walk in the door. It's humble, cozy, a little winding, and it smells fantastic. Everything we've ever gotten there has been a revelation. A revelation with excellent wine.

This is where we had our first taste of goose, in the form of marinated strips across a sort of fennel custard. And on this recent trip we had guanciale in a tomato sauce that was so deep, and so bright, and so layered, I actually felt like I had to ask the passing waitress what the heck is going on in there? She said just guanciale, tomatoes, sage, onions, and vinegar. I'd suspect her of lying but this is a restaurant that actually puts recipes for its most popular dishes on its website, so they don't seem the state-secret type. 

At Trattoria del Moro Arrone, we've stuck to old standards, we've risked new dishes, this last time I thought I ordered one thing and found I'd accidentally requested something I never would've gotten (pasta with roasted vegetables, which my eyes skated right by because boring, only—holy cow!) and everything has been exceptional.

There's a fun bookstore nearby and Pasqualetti, one of Umbria's best gelaterias, around the corner on the way to the cathedral. I'm telling you, there's lots to see and do in Orvieto, but really I'm just trusting other people's say-so on this one because I come for the meal.