If you are looking for an Italian hilltop town that checks all of the boxes for picture-perfect charm, unique sites, interesting history and delicious food, or if you just need a quick break from the chaos that is Rome, visit Orvieto, a charming hilltop jewel in Italy.
Located in the Umbria region, Orvieto sits atop a volcanic pedestal with impregnable cliff walls, making it a haven of security throughout the ages. Inhabited from early Etruscan times, throughout the Middle Ages and into today. This jewel-box city has been a favorite of kings, popes, and war-time generals. So dig in and discover the best that Orvieto has to offer.
Here’s a short video ‘moment’ to help you get inspired to visit this lovely town.
HOW TO GET THERE
Orvieto is an easy 1 hour and ten-minute train ride from Rome’s Termini station. Download the Trenitalia app to check the schedules. Tickets can easily be purchased the day of your travel. Simply use the self-service kiosks in the train station, and remember to validate your ticket prior to boarding. The ride takes you past the outskirts of Rome, through a number of long tunnels and into the picturesque Italian countryside.
Upon arrival in Orvieto, cross the street from the train station to catch the funicular which leaves every 15 minutes and will to take you a vertical distance of 173 meters up the hill to the city’s historic center. Once in the city center, you can easily walk around to all of the sites.
WHAT TO SEE
Orvieto is filled with such amazing geology which is an integral part of its history. Prepare to climb up and down the city to capture it all.
St. Patrick’s Well
Upon exiting the funicular station, turn right and head down a slight incline there you will find St. Patricks Wells. This well was commissioned by Pope Clement VII in 1527 while he was staying in Orvieto. Taking 10 years to build this well has a beautiful and unique spiral staircases, one going up and the other going down, each 248 steps and totally independent of one another. These were used by the donkeys who carried the water 53 meters up to the surface. Both the view from the top and the bottom are spectacular, and all those steps mean you will be stopping along the way to admire the view. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater as it can get chilly once you reach the bottom.
Enjoy the Park Views
To the left of the funicular station, you will find the entrance to a city park which offers not only a quite spot for a picnic, but also breathtaking views of the valley below. Take your time to climb to each of the vantage points to be able to capture the vineyards, monastery and spectacular fortress walls.
Il Duomo (Cathedral of Orvieto)
Dominating the city, the imposingly beautiful Cathedral with it white travertine and green basalt stripes was built in 1290 to house The Corporal of Bolsena. This cloth is said to have been stained during a Mass when the Eucharistic host sitting upon it began to bleed.
The Cathedral contains 5 bells, all tuned to E flat that can be heard throughout the city. The facade contains intricate carvings, graphic mosaics, and glittering column details. Prepare to spend time exploring the outside and watching how the changing sunlight plays upon its face.
After admiring the Duomo, you can easily stop by the Orvieto Underground tour office that is conveniently located across the Piazza Duomo. Above ground, Orvieto is a charming and picture-perfect city, which makes the underground tour all the more interesting. The one-hour tour provides a history lesson on the ingenuity of the city residence from Etruscan times to present day.
Be prepared to wind through tunnels and tight stairways to reach the underground caverns, workshops, and storerooms. Over 3000 years ago, the local residents began carving over 1200 tunnels into the soft volcanic rock underneath the city. What started out as excavation for cisterns and quarries for the material used in mortar, soon turned into workshops, where olive pressing and leather tanning occurred. A highlight is the ingenious pigeon roosts, complete with individual niches carved for each nesting bird. Even today, many residences still use the tunnels underneath their homes for storage or as special entertaining space.
Torre del Moro
For a sweeping 360-degree view of the city and surrounding countryside, climb the 255 steps to the top of the Tower. This 47-meter tower is oriented perfect to the four cardinal points and serves as a central point to the city from which its four historic boroughs stretch out across the hilltop. The clock face and thunderous bells were added in 1866 and still work today, often startling those who have ventured to the top to enjoy the view.
A trip to Orvieto would not be completed without spending time wandering through its back alleys. Off the main streets, you will find quiet neighborhoods filled with the daily activities of the locals, laundry hanging from above, flowers tumbling out of window boxes, cats sitting in doorways and children riding their bikes.
Orvieto is the perfect place to spend the day and a great antidote to the chaos of life. Slow down, enjoy on gelato, snap a few photos and get lost in a charming village vibe.