map, points of interest and things to do
Orvieto has been defined "the high and strange city."
It is easy to understand, observing the city from below you'll see it standing above the cliff of the tuff hill. At night, it seems suspended in the sky while in the daytime it appears resting on the clouds.
It is famous for the Cathedral, wonder of the European Gothic architecture and the Well of St. Patrick, a masterpiece of hydraulic engineering.
Small, neat, pleasant, Orvieto is a can't-miss destination during a vacation in Umbria, but it deserves at least a whole weekend to enjoy the Chapel of St. Brizio, the Museum of the Cathedral, the millennial underground City and the excellent gastronomy.
Today, I'll recommend you top 9 things to do in Orvieto.
But first, the Orvieto map with all the points of interest!
Orvieto, Italy, map
Top 9 things to see in Orvieto
The Orvieto Cathedral
A wonder of the Italian Gothic art, the Cathedral of Orvieto reveals an extraordinary amalgam of twenty different artists that have worked on it for more than three centuries. The construction started in 1290 and continued up to the late '500. The most significant interventions were made by Arnolfo di Cambio, Lorenzo Maitani and L'Orcagna.
Starting from the lower part, you can admire bas-reliefs with stories from the Apocalypse, the Old and New Testament.
In the center of the facade there is the magnificent rose window and all around it the mosaics, that despite their beauty, they aren't the originals.
Inside the Church, there are two significant chapels for the religion and the art: the Chapel del Corporale and the Chapel of St. Brizio (see point 2).
The Corporale chapel refers to the Miracle of Bolsena, blood coming out from a Host in 1263. A significant event for the Catholic church that built the Cathedral to guard the relic and since then, every 11 August, celebrates the Corpus Domini. The Corporale and the Host are preserved in a reliquary made of gold and silver, a masterpiece of the medieval goldsmith.
Chapel of St. Brizio in Orvieto
The Chapel of St. Brizio in the Cathedral of Orvieto (see point 1) is a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. The first to work on it were the Beato Angelico and Benozzo Gozzoli, that did part of the ceilings, but it was Luca Signorelli to complete it.
The subject of the chapel is the Universal Judgment, a world populated by angels, frightful demons, sinners awaiting the salvation. Extraordinary the scenes with the Sermon of the Antichrist, the Resurrezione of the body, the defeat of the Demon by the hand of St. Michael, the Slope toward the Heaven and the Damned of the hell.
Down on the left, you can see the painter represented in a calm expression, while is observing the end of the world.
Well of St. Patrick in Orvieto
First of all, why the Well? Let's clarify the reason for the name: it is called this way for the similarity with the hollow where the Irish saint loved to retire in prayer.
This marvel of engineering was built in 1527 by the Pope Clemente VII that assigned the work to Giuliano da Sangallo il Giovane. The purpose was to assure water to Orvieto in each moment of the year, especially in a forecast of a siege like that of the Sack in Rome from which the Pope had just escaped.
The Well, deep 62 meters, is entirely dug in the tuff and it reaches the water that is located under the cliff on which Orvieto is built. The masterpiece of the Sangallo they were the double helical, ample and independent staircases, one to go down and the other to go up.
The light comes from 72 windows open toward the center of the well. If you want to know what it's like down there, there are 258 stairs to face, round trip!
The underground city of Orvieto
For over 2.500 years the inhabitants of Orvieto have dug in the tuff cliff on which the city is built, creating another one, underground and hidden.
Only in the last years, a group of speleologists has brought to light a complex of labyrinths made by over 1200 caves, tunnels, wells, and cisterns.
Today it is possible to discover Orvieto Underground thanks to the homonym project "Orvieto Underground" that it accompanies the tourists to the discovery of this fascinating itinerary.
Piazza del Popolo in Orvieto
Unfortunately swarmed by cars during the day, Square of the People regain its charm at night when the lights go up and on Thursday and Saturday when the cars go away to make room to the market.
The building Capitano del Popolo now entertains an exposition area and spaces for congresses and demonstrations. If you succeed in entering, enjoy the Salone dei Quattrocento, where the four hundred members that governed the city reunite.
Museum of the Opera of the Cathedral in Orvieto
The Museum of the Opera of the Cathedral is formed by four small spaces, among which the Chapel of St. Brizio, the Church of Sant'Agostino and the Albèri Library.
The papal building deserves a visit because it has few but exceptional artworks in the so-called Rooms of the Wonder.
A small route, from the '200 to the '600 in which you can see the great Madonna in Trono con Bambino by Coppo of Marcovaldo, two works of Simone Martini (Madonna with Child and Angels and Madonna with her Child.)
Finally, a beautiful Luca Signorelli's Maddalena, the same artist of the Chapel of St. Brizio.
Tower of the Moor in Orvieto
Let's start with the name: the Moor was the owner of the building underlying the tower, Roberto di Sante or Walter the Moor. During the centuries the tower belongs to different owners but above all to the Papacy that in 1515 handed over it together with other ecclesiastical buildings.
Today it is a cultural center, a place where to enjoy an extraordinary panorama on the Cathedral and Orvieto's roofs. However, you must face 250 beautiful steep steps.
At the top, while looking at the scenery, it will make you company the sound of two automated bells. The clock started to work in 1885, and it is still there.
The Fortitude of Albornoz
Who has seen Orvieto, also from the highway A1, can see that the cliff on which the city is built is a natural fortitude.
It was not easy for the invaders to climb up through the few available roads. Despite this, beginning from 1359 it started the construction of the Fortitude of Albornoz.
Destroyed and rebuilt more times, it will be definitely reconstructed only in 1450 when Orvieto submit to the papacy. Today it hosts the public gardens and it is the ideal place for a break with a sight on the surrounding valley.
What to eat in Orvieto
The Umbrichelli is a flour pasta with eggs and wine that the Orvietani season with spice, truffles, the mushrooms or according to the creativeness of the local chefs.
For the second course, an excellence of the whole Umbria, the meat of Chianina and the wild boar.
A local specialty is the Pear of Monteleone, also called "the farmer's beefsteak" for its consistency.
Among the wines, the Orvieto DOC.
Pastries: try the Tozzetti with almonds and the wine's doughnut.
Orvieto, Italy, only the top restaurants
Casa Vissani is an elegant restaurant with an exceptional eye to detail as a restaurant in its class has to be. Service is very good, so are the table, china, glasses, napkins (changed in the middle of the meal), everything studied to give you pleasure.
Trattoria del Moro Aronne
Located on a side alley, this restaurant is worth the trip. Food is excellent and the service is very good. I would suggest making reservations (only by phone) as they are often fully booked for 2 seatings.
I Sette Consoli
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience in Orvieto, I Sette Consoli would be your choice. If you want traditional Italian/regional food, probably not as there are many other less expensive options. This one does have an innovative menu, huge wine list and, if weather permits, a lovely garden setting in the shadow of a huge fig tree and the Duomo
Hotels in Orvieto, Italy
Here my list of the best Hotels you can find in Orvieto
Surrounded by countryside at the borders of Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio, Altarocca Wine Resort overlooks the town of Orvieto, which is 7 km away. The estate is an organic farm of 10 hectares, and offers 2 outdoor swimming pools and a spa.
Hotel Duomo is just 15 steps up the stone stairway from Orvieto's majestic Gothic Cathedral. The property also features a shared sun terrace, paid private parking, and a 24-hour reception.
Set within a renovated medieval building in the heart of Orvieto, Palazzo Piccolomini is a 4-star hotel a 5-minute walk from the Cathedral. Rooms successfully mix classical design with modern comforts.