Just beyond the jagged northern border of Lazio, Orvieto is one of the most interesting and most visited towns of central Italy and one of the principal sights of the region of Umbria.

From the first moment it comes into view it shows all its magnificent beauty. The city sits high on a tuffaceous cliff in a strategic location, gently surrounded by green rolling green covered with cypress trees, olive groves and vineyards.

Duomo di Orvieto
Duomo di Orvieto

This town has a long and rich history. Archeological finds here date back to the Iron Age. But the economy started to flourish under the Etruscan empire as the city position was ideal for all cultural and commercial exchanges in Etruria.

The city then reached its full splendour in the High Middle Ages when it was populated by noble families.

The cliff on which Orvieto is located is itself riddled with tunnels and wells lying below the medieval buildings; an under­ground complex of three levels of grottos created at various periods, starting from the Etruscan era. Parts of them are open to tourists and should definitely be on your list.

Although there are always tourists there, the town has an extremely peaceful atmosphere especially when you wander down the narrow alleyways of its historic centre.

One of the most important sights is definitely the Duomo (shown in the photo above), one of the very few examples of Gothic art in Italy with its outstanding façade beautifully decorated with mosaics. Entering one of the huge bronze doors, you will find yourself into a nave where the alternative rows of alabaster and travertine create the typically Tuscan black and white motif. In the apse a series of frescoes cover the walls around the large stained-​​glass quadrifore window made in the XIV century by a famous artist of Assisi.

Another place to visit is for sure the Pozzo di San Patrizio, inspired by the medieval legend of St Patrick’s Purgatory and requested by Pope Clement the VII, in order to give the city a new well that would ensure an abundant supply in case of military attack. The structure, designed by Antonio Sangallo the younger, has a central well surrounded by two spiral ramps in a double helix that allowed mules to carry empty and full water vessels separately in downward and upward directions.

Orvieto norcineria

On top of all its beautiful and elegant buildings the historic centre is also dotted with nice little restaurants, wine bars and norcinerie – the amazing shops selling local charcuterie and cheeses, so you can just wander around and choose the best spot for your lunch.

Article contributed by Alessandra Andreani