The historic and beautiful Tuscan city of Orvieto is a must see if you come to Italy. The quaint town is full of handmade ceramic shops, delicious food, and ancient man made caves. Although there are many small, quintessential towns to explore in Italy, Orvieto is one that you should definitely experience once in your lifetime!
History of Orvieto
The city of Orvieto was originally covered by the sea, but eventually a volcano erupted and the rock from it created the foundation of the city. Originally an Etruscan civilization in the beginning of the 9th century B.C., it was eventually conquered by Julius Caesar and became part of the Roman Empire. From then on, it has been one of the most known Tuscan towns. Although it may seem small at first, it holds so many hidden treasures.
Today in Orvieto
Today, Oriveto is a quiet but beautiful town with a population of about 7,000 people. It is divided into four little sub towns: Corsica, Serancia, Olmo, and Santa Maria del Stella.
Orvieto also has two main piazzas, Piazza Cahen and Piazza della Republica which are connected by Corso Cavour (the main street in town!) Both piazzas are beautiful and the walk between them is well worth it! When we visited, we ate at Bistrotters Food and Drink. It was unbelievable! If you go, definitely try out the spaghetti alla carbonara, it was delicious!
This is a list of must see places when you go to Orvieto:
- Torre del Moro
- Belvedere and Pozzo di San Patrizio
- Piazza and Palazzo del Popolo
- The Opera del Duomo
- San Giovenale Church
- San Franscesco Church
- Sant’Andrea Church
- Orvieto Underground
- The many shops and stores
One of the first things you notice when you are walking through town is a beautiful clock tower, the Torre del Moro that is located on Corso Cavour. The Torre del Moro is the tallest building in all of Orvieto, standing at 47 meters high! I highly suggest going into the tower and going all the way up to the top. You can see every part of the city from there!
If you’re interested in amazing, ancient architecture, then you have to check out Orvieto. For example, Pozzo di San Patrizio, or St. Patrick’s Well. It was commissioned by the Pope in the 16th century and was engineered by Antonio da Sangallo. This well is so amazing because it has two elliptical staircases that never meet! If you are interested, you can climb down the well shaft to get a look at it yourself- its only 248 steps, no biggie!
Another must see in Orvieto is the Opera del Duomo di Orvieto. Commissioned by the Pope in 1290, the Duomo is a beautiful church made up of Romanesque and Gothic aspects. It took almost 700 years after the project began to be finished! The front of the church is decorated in mosaic and fresco depictions of Old and New Testament stories. The pictures don’t go the duomo any justice. The fresco paintings on the facade of the church are exquisite and a must see when you visit!
When you enter the church, you will see two important cathedrals: Corporal of Bolsena and San Brizio.
There are a few other churches in town (see list above!) that I highly recommend you stop by too! Everyone is so different and beautiful in there own way and really add to the history of Orvieto!
The Underground World
If you’re going to Orvieto, you must must must take a guided tour of the underground caves from the Etruscan era. You can take a tour any day of the week- just stop by the office in the Piazza del Duomo 23 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm! No reservation is required for the tours; you just pay ten euros per person.
You depart from the piazza for your tour at 1:15 pm, so don’t be late! The walk from the piazza to the caves is really easy and extremely beautiful! When you are walking to the caves, there are a few little outlooks were you can see all the surrounding farmland around the city. You can even see a few different castles from the Roman ages.
When Orvieto first became a thriving city, they needed a way to get water. Because Orvieto is placed on a hill formed by the volcanic rock, they were starting to run out of water supplies. So the people started to dig out these caves and create narrow wells that went on for meters. Once these grottos were dug and successful, the tunnels became useful to produce other items such as oil and wine.
The caves themselves are absolutely amazing. When you first walk in, instantly cools you right off. Your tour guide will take you few some different tunnels and you can see the tools where they used donkeys and grindstone to make oil!
After you see the first cave, the guide will take you to another tunnel where you climb 52 stairs in a very narrow stair way (warning: if you are very claustrophobic, be careful! But its a great way to help you conquer a fear). The stairway leads you to a few other caves that overlook extremely beautiful views.
The last but not least thing that you have to do when you go to Orvieto is shopping! There are a bunch of teeny tiny shops that sell all types of hand painted items. Every shop has a different style, and the paintings are all unbelievable. There is also a little chocolate shop were you can get everything from chocolate wine to chocolate beer! I would suggest doing this last because the streets will lead you right back to the funicular on your way out!
How Do You Get There?
Because Orvieto is on its own little hill, it is kind of interesting to get to! For us, Orvieto was about an hour train ride away. After the train, you get off and get into a funicular (tram). The view from the tram was absolutely amazing! It wasn’t too fast or steep-it was relaxing and peaceful!
Orvieto was one of the best trips we have taken since we have been in Italy. If you are even considering going, I would definitely recommend it! It has something for everything and it will steal a little piece of your heart!
If you have visited Orvieto and are looking for a similar town to adventure around, I would recommend Cortona or Sienna. Both are other little Tuscan towns that are just as breathtaking and worth the travel!