Sant’Andrea and its 12-sided belltower
When I arrived in Orvieto after having parked the car at Campo della Fiera and took the escalators up to the city I started wandering around the backstreets and suddenly found myself on Piazza della Repubblica. And there was another fascinating twelve-sided belltower (I have seen the one of La Badia earlier, see further on in the to-do section). This one belongs to chiesa Sant’Andrea, which was once an important gathering place for Orvieto’s religious powers. Even earlier, during Etruscan times, a central temple stood here, but one needs to check with the church’s curator first (Via Cipriano Mariente no. 17, behind the church), because excavations are still ongoing. The belltower is decorated with beautiful stone carved coats of arms and I also liked the style of the openings at the top. Sorry, no close-up photos, because the sun was “in the way”… The left wall of chiesa Sant’Andrea has a loggia where flower stalls are established and add a beautiful touch of colour to the piazza. (sorry for my strange main photo… this was taken with my wide angle lens…)
Abbazia La Badia, more than only a hotel
Already on my first day after I drove along the road south of Orvieto in search of a place to stay, I noticed this abbey. The belltower is something hardly to miss. I saw the sign, leading to the hotel, but this was out of reach for my pocket. I liked the romantic and picturesque setting – the hotel advertises as An isle of stone in a sea of green – and decided to have a look one of these days if it would be open to the public. And yes, it is and it is indeed well worth to drive or walk up to the premises. The monastery is rather old, it was built around the primitive church of San Silvestro (6th century) by Benedictine monks in 12th century and became a residence for nobles and priests later. But after 16th century it fell into decay. The huge chapter hall for example collapsed and now only an arch is left, which gives a very nice “frame” for photos of Orvieto. But consider the sun and come in early mornings or late afternoons, my noon photo (photo 2) isn’t that good in the background. Sice more than 100 years the abbey and premises belong to the counts Fiumi di Sterpeto and they have carefully restored the buildings and have opened the hotel since some years. I loved the twelve-sided belltower which is said to have inspired building the one of Sant’Andrea in Orvieto. It is possible to go on top, but on weekdays only (I was here on a Sunday). Next to the tower is the church and this is a real gem! It is small but has beautiful frescoes and a cosmanti pavement! I couldn’t take photos of the chapel because they were preparing it for a wedding but at least I could take photos of the frescoes in the small entrance hall (photo 4). But on their website, if you click on “services” you can look at more photos of the chapel. Overall, I liked the concept of La Badia, because everything outside is open to visitors, no one will give you looks when you are not a hotel guest. And it is all very beautifully decorated and restored with flower pots everywhere. I would have had a caffè at the terrace, but due to the wedding this was not possible.
The full name of the abbey is Abbazia dei Santi Severo e Martirio.
I have more photos in a travelogue below, for those who are interested.
The Abbey of Saints Severus and Martyrius
(La Badia dei SS. Severo e Martirio)
As you take in the view from the walls, especially the Rocca, one thing continually catches your eye. It's one of those enticing things that begs more knowledge.
Located 3 km from Orvieto in beautiful surroundings, it is now a hotel but retains its architectural features which fall into three periods: the Romanesque-Longobard period of the 12 C (church and tower). The Countess Matilde di Canossa built the church's dodecagon crenelated tower in 1103.); Premonstratensian (Augustinian) period of around 1240 (Abbot's Palace and atrium of the church); Cistercian period from 1260.
It was built around the primitive church of San Silvestro (6th century) by Benedictine monks in 12th century and became a residence for nobles and priests later.
In 1226 Pope Honorius III passed it to the French Premonstratensian monks of the order of Saint Norbert because the Benedictines were banished in 1221 for not obeying the bishop of Orvieto.
In the 15th century it was the summer residence of nobles and priests of the curia.
After 16th century it fell into decay and, amongst other things, the chapter hall collapsed and now only an arch is left.
For more than 100 years the abbey and premises belonged to the counts Fiumi di Sterpeto and they have carefully restored the buildings and have opened the hotel.
The twelve-sided belltower which is said to have inspired Sant’Andrea in Orvieto.
Ascent is possible, but on weekdays only. Besides the tower is the church that has small but has beautiful frescoes and a cosmanti pavement.
Orvieto – tuffa and a magnificent cathedral
Oh and now Orvieto. Despite that it was full of tourists when I was there I really liked the town. Maybe it was the location high on a tuffa plateau, maybe it was the very much contorted maze of streets or maybe it was the “underground”, as the whole town is hollowed out (or was by Etruscans and later continued by the locals).
I would set Orvieto very high on the list of a tour through Umbria but looking back it was good that I have visited it at the end of my travel. Somehow it gave me the chance to arrive in reality, in a beautiful reality, just before I had to go back to catch my flight back home. The small villages of Umbria’s centre and its eastern part have so much of a spiritual atmosphere that it would have been hard to come back into my daily world. It is difficult to describe (would be even in my native language) but anyone who has been here in Umbria will understand what I mean.
But back to Orvieto. It is old, very old and nearby once was one of the most important Etruscan settlements Fanum Voltumnae. Almost at the bottom of the northwestern part of the city, Necropoli Etrusca di Crocifisso is a magnificent witness of their burying habits, 3 € entrance fee (in April 2008), and should not be missed! There is a small room with excellent explanations of the tombs at its entrance.
But the most famous sight and why tourists come to Orvieto in herds is the magnificent Duomo. Ever since I saw a photo of its so beautiful façade I knew I must see it, as I adore mosaic work. And this one is a feast for the eyes indeed! Make sure you don’s only look at it but take minimum 30 minutes time to take in every little detail of it, from the magnificent mosaic pictures to the wonderfully pillars around the main and side entrance portals (photo 1 and 2; the main one is actually closed). Inside it is covered with wonderful frescoes, among them the very famous Last Judgement by Luca Signorelli. Breathtaking!!
And then the caves! The soft tuffa stone was ideal to be carved and almost the whole town has little and bigger caves beneath the houses, many of them connected and msot of them still in use. Two caves can actaully be visited, the one via a guided tour “Orvieto Underground” (ticket office is near the Duomo, entrance fee 5,50 €) and the other one is Pozzo della Cava in the western part of Orvieto, which I actually liked more, as it is filled with life and many explanations of the history of the caves. Entrance fee is 3 €.
The surrounding is also worth a visit, minimum one day. Civita di Bagnoregio is only 20 minutes to the south, and just south of Orvieto is a beautiful old Abbazia di La Badia, now a hotel, but possible to visit with most marvellous old frescoes.
And last but not least, Orvieto’s wine – the famous white Orvieto Classico. Very much delicious!!
Beautiful setting at La Badia
La Badia's twelve sided belltower
La Badia's former chapter hall
Old frescoes in the church of La Badia