Are you going to conquer Umbria in 2022, the green heart of Italy? Do not miss a stop in Orvieto, famous for its slow food movement and its cathedral!
Between Rome and Florence, standing on a huge rock, you will find one of Umbria’s nuggets: Orvieto. Between its ocher stone houses, its small winding alleys, and its cobbled squares, it knows how to charm and retain travelers.
Its main attraction is its cathedral, considered one of the most beautiful in Italy. There are also palaces, a curious underground world, and museums retracing the history of the region. Here is our list of the must-do’s in Orvieto!
1. Orvieto Cathedral
The construction of this grandiose cathedral began in 1290 and went through several phases, with a final touch given in 1890. Gothic in style, it reveals to travelers a triptych facade, richly decorated with colored mosaics. Photograph the stunning central rose window, the bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments, and the statues of saints before entering the interior.
Once you have passed the central door, you will discover an alternation of black and white marble and the mastery of the choir. On the right side of the crossing opens the chapel of San Brizio, which contains frescoes by the Italian master Fra Angelico. Definitely, a must-visit in Orvieto!
2. The Saint-Patrice well
Built between 1527 and 1537 by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, at the request of Pope Clement VII, this well was intended to provide water to the city of Orvieto during times of siege. Measuring 53.15 meters deep, the edifice was erected in such a way as to allow mules to carry full and empty water tanks without meeting each other.
A flight of 240 steps descends into the depths of the well. The 70 windows on the stairs allow you to take in the full measure of the building. Another essential to put urgently on your to-do list of things to do in Orvieto!
Visit Orvieto and find a little freshness. It is possible with this unusual tour of the bowels of the city. It is literally another city that awaits you underground, carved out of the tuff rock on which Orvieto has stood for centuries. Some 1,200 caves, cisterns, tunnels, and other wells dig a fascinating network.
The Etruscans were the first to use pickaxes to make water accessible. The nobility and the aristocracy also made tunnels under their palaces to escape in the event of a siege. Book a tour with one of the Orvieto Underground guides to give you an unforgettable experience!
Another thing to do in Orvieto, visit the Etruscan heritage, including two beautiful necropolises. That of the Tuff crucifix extends at the foot of the city walls, and some of its tombs can be visited. Notice the shape: those that look like cylinders are those of women, those that form plugs or onions are those of men.
To the south, the Cannicella necropolis reveals several terraces carved into the rock. A smiling statue of Venus was discovered there, in a remarkable state of preservation.
Now is the time to visit Orvieto from the sky! We continue this discovery of Etruscan splendors with the Belvedere temple. Probably dating from the 5th century BC and in use until the 2nd century BC, it is now in ruins. To contemplate fragments of the temple, you will go to the Museo Faina. The major stake of this site is the breathtaking view it offers over the city and its surroundings.
In French, the “palace of the captain of the people,” this imposing building in blond stones was born in the 14th century. The captain of the people has long occupied an important place in the life of Italians, playing the role of representative of the people. You cannot enter the interior of the monument to discover its three large rooms. Nevertheless, the square on which it stands remains a must-see in Orvieto, as it hosts the town’s market. Take the opportunity to taste some local specialties and do some shopping!
Orvieto remains strongly marked by its Etruscan past. The best way to realize this is to push the doors of the Claudio Faina museum dedicated to this civilization. Located opposite the cathedral, in Piazza del Duomo, it houses an important collection of Etruscan and Hellenistic objects. It’s hard not to succumb to the charm of antique vases, richly decorated pottery, and other statues of raw rusticity …
Another monument to visit in Orvieto, the Torre del Moro, nestled in the heart of the historic center. You can visit it by taking an elevator first, then a staircase for the second half of the route. The spectacular terrace rises about fifty meters above the ground. It reveals sumptuous panoramas over the city and the surrounding hills.
We continue to visit Orvieto with the National Archeological Museum, located in Duomo Square. It is nestled in the Palazzo Papale, which dates from the end of the 13th century. This beautiful museum houses various collections from excavations at archeological sites in Umbria. Bronzes and ceramics tell you the history of the region, and you will discover reconstructions of Etruscan tombs.
Built-in 1359, this imposing fortress has seen many battles. Several times restored, it is today one of the city’s public parks. An ideal spot to rest in the shade between two visits to Orvieto!
Now take Corso Cavour to find another place to visit in Orvieto. This beautiful square is home to the town hall (communal palazzo) and boasts many cafes, restaurants, and luxury chalets for rent. The opportunity to practice your Italian with the locals! It is also home to the oldest church in Orvieto, the Chiesa Sant’Andrea, where you can admire paintings by Nebbia.
Another very old church in Orvieto, San Giovenale, was built in 1004, probably on the ruins of an Etruscan temple dedicated to Jupiter. Combining Romanesque and Gothic styles, it contains medieval frescoes in a stunning state of preservation. Don’t miss the marble altar and the Lombard-style bas-relief!
Last thing to do in Orvieto: Adriano’s Labyrinth, another network of caves and tunnels typical of the city, adorned with works of art and sculptures. It has a restaurant that offers Italian cuisine made with fresh produce and local wines.
Author Bio: Julien Chbib
Julien is the founder of Julius Homes. His interest in hiking, skiing, and adventure holidays made him bring together the choicest accommodations around the globe to make holidays relaxing and comfortable.