When I talk about “visiting Orvieto”, I mean the enchanting, old Etruscan town with its more than 20,000 inhabitants, which can be seen from far away as it enthrones majestically on a tuff plateau in the South of Umbria. Down in the valley you can find another Orvieto, the “new” one, they call it Orvieto Scalo. It is crossed by two railway lines and by a motorway, and has many shopping centres, petrol stations and DIY stores – not really worth a visit.
You can get to Orvieto by car on the A1 Autostrada del Sole (toll Chiusi – Orvieto: about 5 euros) or by train from Castiglione del Lago (duration 30-45 minutes, ticket costs about 6 euros). Directly behind the railway station you can take the small rack railway (approximately 1,50 Euro) to reach the old town centre without using a car.
There is also a bus connection from the station to the old town. When you feel fit enough, you can even walk down the very steep (!) path to the station after visiting the city, instead of taking the rack railway again to reach the train station.
I recommend the big car park on Piazza Cahen, because my backstage tour starts here and you will not have to struggle through narrow and very narrow one-way streets. During high season and on special holidays it shall not always be possible to park here. Then you can find designated parking areas along the city walls; among them the Parcheggio Campo della Fiera, in Via Belisario 10; a lift will take you from here to the center of the old town.
Or you can park down in the valley, close to the train station.from here you take the above mentioned rack railway up to Piazza Cahen, but there is also a direct bus connection to the Cathedral. Another parking possibility is the Campo Boario car park, halfway between the valley and the old town; it is connected to the city centre by lifts and escalators.
When walking through beautiful Orvieto, there are two highlights not to be missed, which I put both at the end of my tour: The Duomo and the Orvieto Underground Tour. The latter is a guided one hour discovery tour of the millenary underground city. It has to be booked in advance and starts next to the Duomo. (Ticket: approx. 7 euros, at least 4 times a day).
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We start our tour with visiting the Pozzo di S. Patrizio, a 58.5 m deep fountain from the 16th century located right at the car park in Piazza Cahen, next to the tourist information office. Here, at the ticket office you can get an information leaflet.
Anyone who is really interested in this sophisticated construction of a well with its two intertwined spiral staircases should invest the 5 euro (2019) entrance fee and take on the 248 flat steps.
After your visit to the fountain, with all these many steps, you can relax in the shade either at the entrance/exit of the well itself or further up on the right, still facing the parking lot you find the medieval Albatraz Fortress (1364), an old papal fort that now forms the Orvietos Public Park (Giardino Comunale). From here you can enjoy a beautiful view of the valley, the hills surrounding the town and parts of the Orvieto town walls.
Our walk through Orvieto begins and, having rested, we take the gentle climb up Corso Cavour, which begins opposite the city park.
Nice little restaurants and every now and then a small shop or a nice bar line Corso Cavour, one of the main streets to the centre of Orvieto. When arriving in Piazza S. Angelo, where the church of the same name stands (usually closed), I recommend a good cappuccino.
Please continue walking slightly uphill until you reach Piazza Fracassini on the right. Here you turn right into the narrow alley called Via Marabottini Valente, usually you can see a few cars parked with their mirrors folded in. You walk past Via delle Donne, which turns right, until you can turn left into Via del Pozzo Bianco, which leads directly to the charming Piazza del Popolo.
There is a nice, busy weekly market here on Thursdays and Saturdays in the morning. To your right is the 13th century Palazzo del Popolo, with its triforas and Ghibelline battlements, which cannot be overlooked even when the market is near. Today the Palazzo is a modern congress centre. On this piazza you can relax a little bit, there is a lot to see: Priests, children playing football, students making music or discussing, actors, old and young, and in between the market stalls with fruit and vegetables, underwear, fish, meat and cheese.
Then walk back a little from the direction you came from, leaving the Palazzo behind you in its transverse side and taking Via della Costituente back to Corso Cavour, to visit the medieval 47-metre-high Torre del Moro tower at number 87 for an entrance fee of 3 euros (lift or 240 steps). The ticket office and entrance are easy to overlook in the crowds, they are located in front of the Libreria dei Sette bookshop. Opposite you can buy Umbrian specialities and wild boar panini. After the ascent in hopefully good weather, you will be rewarded with a fabulous view of the old town, its cathedral and the Umbrian countryside all around! Of course, you can skip the Torre del Moro when walking through Orvieto.
Back on Corso Cavour, please follow it in the direction of Piazza della Repubblica (south-west), passing the Cashmere Factory Outlet on the right, until you reach Vicolo del Popolo on the right. Now turn left into Via Gualverio Michelangeli. It is named after the wood artist of the same name, born in Orvieto. You will note the small woodworking workshops and bottegas in this quieter alley. When you turn right into Via Cipriano Manente, you will get straight to Piazza della Repubblica.
This spacious square with its shops, ice cream parlours and cafés can be seen as the heart of Orvieto. A small farmers’ market takes place here now and then and attracts many locals and visitors.
Next to the 12th century town hall (Palazzo Comunale) you can find the very simple church of Sant’Andrea from the 12th century which is charcterized by its striking angular bell tower. It was built on the foundations of an Etruscan temple and is one of the most interesting churches in Orvieto. If it is not closed, you should definitely take a look inside and, if possible, take a guided tour of the underground ruins.
Before you reach the highlight of the day, the “Duomo”, I would like to give you a little tip in case you are looking for a pair of handmade shoes: please visit the shoemaker Federico Badia in Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 27 ! If you are looking for a pair of beautiful, Italian, handmade leather shoes, this is the right address.
Let us go back to Piazza della Repubblica, here now you will have to make a decision: either you walk with the stream of tourists along Corso Cavour back to the north-east until Via del Duomo branches off to the right.
Or you can go back to Via Cipriano Manente and at the next T-junction turn left into Via Luca Signorelli, which then turns right and finally leads into Via del Duomo too.
As the name suggests, Via del Duomo leads you to the Cathedral: il Duomo di Orvieto.
Before you get to the cathedral, on the way to Via del Duomo, in Corso Cavour number 3, you find an interesting, small art-design-bike shop hidden in a backyard. You can recognise it by the bicycles parked in front of the entrance. This young Start-up called Ciclo Stile not only rents and sales bicycles but also produces designed greeting cards, batik scarves, special key rings and very beautiful jewellery.
All roads lead to the Duomo and so does Via del Duomo. And…suddenly he stands before you! In all his glory!
Visiting the Cathedral takes about 20 minutes, tickets are available next door in the Museo Emilio Greco, approximately 4 Euro for the cathedral alone, 5 Euro for the museum and the cathedral. The grandiose exterior architecture is considered one of the most spectacular buildings in Italy. Especially in the afternoon you can benefit from great light effects and take pictures of the façade… The inside of the cathedral doesn’t seem so interesting at first sight, but …. please pay attention…connoisseurs of art history should not miss the Capella Brizio with the fabulous frescoes by Luca Signorelli.
The small Museo Emilio Greco next to the Duomo is dedicated to the work of Emilio Greco, a sculptor who created the monumental doors of the Cathedral.
I would say, art and sculptures by this artist are a matter of taste.
In my opinion, the two museums opposite the Cathedral, the Museo Claudio Faino and the Museo Civico, are much more interesting. This elegant, historic palazzo is full of Etruscan artefacts, each with its own unique regional charm, and yet each one is unique in itself. However, once you get to the 3rd floor (there is a lift), you can admire the mosaics of the cathedral façade from the widows’ bench – a very special experience. The ceilings in the museum are also impressive. The exhibition on the ground floor (Museo Civico) consists of antiques, collected by the city of Orvieto in the 19th century, exposed in 3 rooms. (There is only one ticket for both of the museums : approximately 10 euros).
Our walk through beautiful Orvieto actually ends at the Cathedral and the museums. I do hope you are not too exhausted so you can complete your visit by this incredibly interesting underground journey back in time! Don´t miss this fascinating labyrinth of 3000 year old caves! It is worth it and you will not regret it! Starting point opposite the Museo Emilio Greco (see above).
Here are a few tips (please check the opening hours in advance):
♦︎ the Ristorante/ Trattoria La Pergola,Via Magoni 9B
(typical orvietan cuisine, good value for money, friendly staff).
♦︎ La Bottega Roticiani, Piazza Sant’Angelo 1
(Butcher & Streetfood, traditional ancient Umbrian dishes, simple, home cooking).
♦︎ the Ristoria dei Monaldeschi, Piazza Monaldeschi 1
(Family business, GLUTENFREE, also known for its huge, good pizzas).
☛ not recommended: Bistrò Mercanda, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 10
VINO: Your meal tastes even better with a glass of white, semi-dry to dry Orvieto Classico wine, whose grape varieties usually come from two regions: Trebbiano /Tuscany (locally also called “Procanico”) and Grecchetto /Umbria. White wine from Orvieto and also its sweet variety called Abboccato (dessert wine) are among the main sources of income for the Orvieto people.
⋄ Pozzo di S. Patrizio, Piazza Cohen (Parkplatz)
⋄ Albornoz-Festung im Giardino Comunale, Piazza Cohen (Parkplatz)
⋄ Palazzo del Popolo, Piazza del Popolo, 1 (ganztags geöffnet)
⋄ Torre del Moro, Corso Cavour, 87 (tägl. 10.30 – 16.30 h)
⋄ Piazza della Repubblica
⋄ Kirche Sant´Andrea, Piazza Della Repubblica
⋄ Duomo (und Capella Caprizio), Piazza del Duomo, 26
⋄ Museo Emilio Greco, Piazza del Duomo, (täglich 9.30 – 19.00 h)
⋄ Museo Faina & Museo Civico, Piazza del Duomo, (täglich 10.00 – 17.00 h)
⋄ Orvieto Underground, Piazza del Duomo, 23 (tägl. 10.30-12.30 h, 15.30-17.30 h)
⋄ Ciclo Stile, Art-Design-Bike, Corso Cavour, 3
⋄ Federico Badia, Schuhe nach Maß, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 27