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Orvieto – Destination of the Heart

By May 10, 2016November 18th, 2019Art and Faith, Italy
photo library - 1974

View from San Paolo, Fog over the Po Valley. ©Michelle Arnold Paine 2009


Orvieto: In my dreams I walk your streets and speak your language, walking the halls of ancient convents and eating at the table of dear friends.

Orvieto: You are always my destination, though sometimes, like last night, the bus misses the turn to cross the river and ascend and we end up in a field of mud. No way to get there and we never arrive.

In another dream a dead Christ, arms crossed, is carved in relief into the side of your cliff – the entire length of the city, head at one end, feet at the other. I thought it was Mantegna’s Dead Christ, but upon waking the image came from another chapter… though death, love, and hope for redemption ARE bedrock here.

There are some experiences in life that stay with us far, far deeper and longer than measurable space and time would warrant. In my early 20s I spent three years working for the Gordon-in-Orvieto program in Orvieto, Italy. When I realize that I returned to the US from living in Orvieto thirteen years ago, I am shocked. The experiences and the people continue to live so vividly within me that the distance of time and space does not seem possible. I continue to write about the importance of that time in my work here on my blog.

Orvieto Duomo Interior, ©Michelle Arnold Paine 2009, Ink on Matboard

Orvieto Duomo Interior, ©Michelle Arnold Paine 2009, Ink on Matboard

Those two-and-a-half years changed the course of my life – I would not be Roman Catholic were it not for my time there, I wouldn’t be a practicing artist, and it’s even possible I might not be the happily married mother of two that I now am. If you have followed my artistic journey at all you can see the influence – the medieval architecture, the narratives (particularly the Virgin Mary) which inspired the Renaissance artists, and also a love for the human figure.

The experiences and the people from my time in Orvieto continue to live so vividly within me that the distance of time and space does not seem possible.

arch way oil painting of italy

Through the Light: Orvieto. Oil on Canvas 20″ x 16″ Click to Purchase.


And so, when my friend Elisa Lardani Marchi passed away suddenly on Feb. 28, 2015 at the age of 37, it was  not the sadness of finding about someone from my distant past who I had not seen in six years, but the sorrow felt for a true friend, whose entire family (husband, mother, brother) remains close to my heart, though I have never met two of her four children. In the year since her death, her family has shared beautiful stories of redemption and love , and I felt a strong desire to be able to share that with my/our English-speaking friends as well.

I want to share that story with you, too. Please click here to read my article about Elisa and her family on