Once you get past the facade, there is some exceptional work to see inside as well, particularly in the famous San Brizio Chapel, located on your right as you walk down the aisle.
As with most things worth seeing in Italy, it costs and you can't take photos. Started by Fra Angelica and Gozzoli, then finally completed by Luca Signorelli in 1504. The work is considered to be the latter's masterpiece and I have to say it certainly impressed me as being more than your standard church fresco.
The frescos by Luca Signorelli are absolutely fabulous. Even if you're not artisticly minded you must be impressed by these. This artist worked with Michelangelo before the Sistine Chapel - you can see the similarities in colour and style- a big influence.
The Preaching of the Antichrist lunette, located on your left as you face the chapel, is a stunner. Some of the notable people included in the painting include the artist himself with Fra Angelica on the left, then, in the crowd in the middle you might find the young Raphael, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Cesare Borgia and possibly Christopher Columbus.
Beneath you can see Dante seated, obviously in study mode with opened books.
Fondest memory: The End of the World and The Resurrection of the Flesh are the themes of the other two walls.
On the other side of the church is the Chapel of the Blessed Corporal, set into one of Maitani's fllying butresses. It was specifically built to house the bloodstained or corporal from Bolsena, still on show on the altar.
The reliquary (1338) is a real eyecatcher. Originally made for the corporal and fragments of host, long since turned to dust. Made of silver, gilded silver and translucent polished enamel it is Matteo di Ugolino da Bologna's finest work, inspired no doubt by the front of the church.
Another piece is the pieta Ippola Scalza and dated 1579. Possibly inspired by Michaelangelo, some have judged it overly theatrical and thus not as powerful as the more famous one at St. Peters but, he with no art education whatsoever liked it and thought it a splendid work. (pic 3)
Museo Civico Archeologico and the Museo Claudia Faina are housed in the same building adjacent to the fabulous doumo.
The name Faina is synonymous because the rich family donated its extensive collection of thousands of artifacts to the city in 1954.
The museum contains the materials formerly part of the Cathedral Vestry Board, along with more recent finds.
The paintings from the Golini I and Golini II tombs, named after their discoverer, are on display in the museum.
Fondest memory: I loved the opening piece, it's a funery cippus dating back to the 6th century B.C. but it certainly isn't the oldest item on show.
Vases are certainly numerous, as evidenced by the black Attic style one in pic 4; it dates back to 4th century BC.
The famous Temple of Belvedere, an Etruscan monument (just off Viale Crispi), supplied many of the items on display. The terra cotta antefix in pic 2 is a fine example; in my humble opinion, the best of that type on display.
You can find all of these on the right of the Duomo as you face it.
Extensive research prior to our trip to Italy uncovered the following list of recommended restaurants we hoped to try during our holiday. We ended up dining at the San Lodovico Institute, so I cannot share personal experiences but thought it might provide an entry point for those hoping to find an outstanding dining experience in Orvieto:
Ristorante Enoteca I' Sette Consoli
Trattoria La Grotta
Ristorante Del Cocco
Tipica Trattoria Etrusca
Al San Giovenale di Orvieto
In the 14th century, Cardinal Egidio Albornoz had these fortifications built. He was in the service of Rome at the time. A century later they were rebuilt, but they slowly fell into ruin as their use became superflous.
The Albornoz fortress stands on an area that was once occupied by a temple, known to archaeologists as the Augurale, in Etruscan times. Originally known as the Rocca di San Martino, construction on this massive fortress started either in 1359 or 1353 near the town’s cemetery, over an area that had been occupied by a number of important buildings. The idea was to make the city a secure hold for the Church, thereby enabling the Cardinal and his captains to consolidate their recent military victories.
The square plan of the fortress was flanked by a small building near the main entrance, surrounded by a moat and accessible only via a drawbridge. But the Rocca was almost completely razed to the ground in 1395 and successive attempts by Pope Boniface IX and Pope Martin V to rebuild proved unsuccessful, until the mid-15th century when the fortress was rebuilt on the original plans and given added protection by a circular line of fortifications.
After the Sack of Rome at the end of 1527 Pope Clement VII took refuge in Orvieto when the well was built (see other tip). The pope also ordered that a second well be dug to supply the fortress alone, adding to the cistern built initially for the fortress in the 13th century.
Antonio da Sangallo the Younger was commissioned to dig the main well and establish which underground springs would supply it. The restoration works carried out on the Pozzo di San Patrizio in 1712 by the Camera Apostolica are commemorated in an inscription over the southern entrance of the well.
The fortress was finally completed by Popes Paul II and Urban VIII (1620), and later restored by Alexander VII.
Fondest memory: Most of the building was destroyed in 1831, however, and in 1888 the exterior moat was filled in to make way for the funicular. Arranged as a public park with an open-air amphitheatre for performances, on June 19th 1882 this was the spot where the funeral of Giuseppe Garibaldi was held.
Today the Rocca is used as the town’s public gardens with splendid overviews of the Umbrian landscape and some sculpture and a fountain or two.
Built on the remains of an earlier Etruscan temple and two churches that had to be pulled down it was commenced in 1290.
Fra Bevignate da Gubbio, together with Giovanni and Nicola Pisano, were the first in charge of the construction, most likely designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, responsible also for much of the Florence cathedral (though not the dome!).
Started as Romanesque, it ended up in Gothic style and the Sienese sculptor Maitani came on the scene around 1308 with his exquisite detail. The tallest spire, on the right, wasn't started until 1508 by Michele Sanmicheli and finished by Antonio da Sangello the Younger but it was struck by lightning in 1795 and restored by Giuseppe Valadier.
Fondest memory: Succeeding architects all reverted to Maitani's plans and there's a harmony between the bas reliefs, mosaics, painting and the rose window, attributed to Orcagna.
Little wonder the facade of this place gets accolades. There are so many aspects to it. Lorenzo Maitani was called in when several faults occured in the structure of the external walls. He added strong flying buttresses in which the chapels were later set and set out the facade.
Fondest memory: I'll do this in stages. The first is what impressed me most, Maitani's bas reliefs. They are a moving expression of the stonemason's art.
Allied to the fact that they're centuries old and that only makes them more impressive.
I've illustrated here the Resurrection of the Flesh and the Damned (pics 1 & 4) which is on the right hand side and the second pier with stories of the Old Testament (pic 3). Also, on the second pier, is the Creation of the Animals and the Creation of Adam and, on the fourth (pic 5), Scenes from the New Testament.
If you ever get over the facade, there are other aspects of this famous duomo that are worth considering.
Fondest memory: The alternating basalt and travertine stone is not unique to this church, in fact, it's not even unique in Orvieto, as shown in other pages, but it's certainly the most outstanding.
The south entrance shown in the opening picture has a history of its own. It's called the Porta Posterla and, according to legend, the bronze architrave is the work of Maestro Rubeus and belongs to the 14th century. It's of Christ and the Apostles, a theme you might have come across in other churches in Italy!
You can see the detail in pic 5.
Piazza del Popolo every Thursday and Saturday. Yes, this city has two markets every week. No excuse not to have fresh food on the table.
Fondest memory: We stumbled upon the Saturday one. There's something I just like about markets. Is it the constant change of scenery, the colour, the people watching? I know not, perhaps a combination of all three.
Then there was the abandoned church. I loved it. Nothing like that in Australia. Fading mediaeval frescoes and pilasters painted in stripes the same manner as the more famous cathedral further out.
Frankly, I found the goods on display here (antiques, bric-a-brac) hard to concentrate on, so entranced was I with the historic nature of the building.
In addition to theatre, one if its main functions is weddings and special occasions.
The entrance of the Theatre Mancinelli is composed by an elegant portico with seven openings and a wonderful hall which is completely adorned with paintings of the XIX century.
This is the fascinating setting that welcomes the spouses and guests at the moment of their arrival.
Increasingly sought by theatre companies because its functional features, the Mancinelli was reopened to the public in December 1993 after a careful restoration that respected its original beauty.
Since then the theatre hosts high level performances planned and managed successfully by the Associazione Te.Ma., in cooperation with the municipality of the city.
From year to year the programming proposals have been supported by a large and diverse audience not only from Orvieto but also from different cities of Umbria and central Italy.
The activity concerns the organization of the theatre season, the realization of theatre productions, the promotion of a “School of theatre Crafts”, the promotion of a tourist project labelled "visit to the theatre".
Fondest memory: We were simply walking past, saw a picture of the insides and thought, "How wonderful it would be to see a show here". As my brother was wont to say, "It all sounds good in theory".
Alas, there was no show to be seen while we were there but the oh-so-obliging lady who was there kindly let us in, turned the lights on and showed us around.
Of course, being from Australia, this was a treat. We simply don't have opera houses of this ilk and simply being inside was a bit special.
We admired the paintings, mostly of females, and the one of the four seasons (pic 4) caught our eye.
There are, apparently, guided tours as well but we had to be satisfied with our small viewing and it will remain a fond memory for us always.
Located at Corso Cavour 122
Wine making has a very old tradition in the region around Orvieto. Already the Etruscans made wine, because they realised that tuffa and volcanic soil are excellent nutrition medium and also the porous tuffa rock saves water or humidity. Wine lovers will know Orvieto even if they might not have been there yet: Orvieto (white) wine is famous throughout the world. Some of the exported one is or was quite cheap, a result of a brief period of money making rather than staying with quality, but most of the wine producers are back to high quality wines. I was lucky to taste some really excellent white wines at Locanda Rosati during our evening meals. Giampiero, the owner, brought us several bottles of white a friend produces. It tasted delicious and several of the guests brought cartons.
Check in the entoecas of the city, it is possible to sample Orvieto wine. The best option though is to stay at an agriturismo where you might be even able to watch wine making processes in addition to wine tasting.
Fondest memory: Orvieto wine
I want to encourage you to wander around Orvieto, enjoy the view of the valley below from each direction from the wall. In other words, don't be afraid to get lost......you will find lots of gems to photo and things to see.
This is a good way to find a good trattoria where the locals go.
Pictured below are a few things that you might discover.
Fondest memory: Painting Watercolors on the South side.
Favorite thing: Pozzo San Patrizio, well built on the orders of the pope. During the Sack of Rome in 1527 the Pope took refuge at Orvieto, and fearing that in the event of siege by Charles' troops the city's water might prove insufficient, he had this spectacular well constructed by the architect-engineer Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1527‑37) with double helical ramps for one-way traffic, so that mules laden with water-jars might pass down then up again unobstructed. Its inscription boasts QUOD NATURA MUNIMENTO INVIDERAT INDUSTRIA ADIECIT ("what nature stinted for provision, let application supply") Mules carried water up the spiral staircase around the well.