Perhaps it was the exceptionally heavy rain of the Spring of 2013 or maybe it was an annual occurrence. However taking a bus and driving around Orvieto in May gave us some magnificent glimpses of hills covered with wildflowers. Beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges spotted between lush and thick green grass provided for some great photos. It also provided for some real color to the pictures of the Umbria landscape. The area with the greatest amount of wildflowers was on the bus route between Orvieto and Civita/Bagnoregio. So definitely keep your camera handy or just enjoy these late spring wildflowers.
While Civita gets all the attention because of its perched location, the town of Bagnoregio is also worthy of a quick look on its own merits. At one time Civita was larger than its adjacent neighbor but that has also changed and while Civita has very few people living there Bagnoregio is now a bustling thriving city. Bagnoregio is the birthplace of the famous philosopher St. Bonaventure. A church bearing his name can be found there. The town was built during the Renaissance era and there are a number of lovely buildings to be looked at along the Via Garibaldi on your way to Civita and downtown. Up until World War 2 there was an old donkey path that connected Orvieto and Bagnoregio directly. Bagnoregio is also where the bus from Orvieto lets you off for your visits to the area.
The town of Todi is a short approximate thirty minute car ride and on the way to Tuscany. Unfortunately I do not believe there is any direct bus or train service from Orvieto.
While it lacks the major more spectacular sites of Orvieto it is a smaller and much more relaxed city. There is a great central plazza called the Plazza del Poppolo and a unusual geometric shaped church the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Consolazione. Almost all of the City's main monuments front on the central square which one again is one of the prettiest in Italy. The town is much easier walkable than Orvieto and with a lot of charm.
Todi is worthy of a quick side trip from Orvieto or as an addition to any extended visit of Tuscany and Umbrian hill towns.
When you think of lakes in Italy you immediately think of Lake Como and the area north of Milan. However just a few miles northeast of Orvieto lies the beautiful Lake Bolsena. It is a great place for swimming, fishing or just laying out in the sun. Suprisingly it is the fifth largest lake in Italy and has crystal blue waters similar to some of the glacial lakes in Canada. The lake is the remnant of an ancient volcano. The volcano was responsible for the formations that give the form to some of the nearby towns such as Orvieto.
In the picture you will see the pleasant resort town of Bolsena. We did not have time to stop in the town but according to the owner of our bed and breakfast it is very popular during the spring and summer with Italians. It is especially popular with residents of Rome.
Detached from the rest of the world on a hill and connected only by a narrow pedestrian bridge Civita di Bagnoregio was our favorite day trip from Orvieto. Our fascination with Civita was enhanced both by what had happened to the town and what is happening again there which makes its story so compelling.
Many residents left Civita after a major earthquake in the area damaged the area heavily. Many residents fearful that they may lose their houses completely left the town for other areas. Over the years the population of Civita dwindled to nearly zero. However today many of the older homes have begun to be redeveloped and there is ample signs of new life going into the city. While some tourists may complain there is little to do or places to eat in Civita, I would counter that is what makes the place so unique!
We really enjoyed our time walking the lonely streets of Civita. There were relatively few people in the town but an awful lot of cats who seemed to be running the town at the moment.
Getting to Civita was relatively easy. We took a bus from Plaza Cahen to a bus stop in the town of Bagnoregio. The ride was about an hour each way because it stopped at every single possible place including picking up at least 25 children from school. Cost of the trip to Civita di Bagnoregio is 4.40 euros round trip. Be careful because there are only three buses leaving and departing the area a day. Last bus is at 1730 back to Orvieto.
Just about 28 km south of Orvieto lies the town of Bomarzo. However, the town of Bomarzo was not our destination it was the Bosco Sacro (Sacred grove) or, locally, Bosco dei Mostri ("Monsters' Grove"), which consists of 24 sculptures, some sculpted in bedrock in a parklike garden setting.
The park was the brain child of Pirro Ligorio (he completed the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Rome after the death of Michelangelo). The sculpted figures laid in neglect for many years until in 1954 when the area was purchased by Giovanni Bettini.
According to promotional materials the park was not intended to scare but to astonish people. Many of the figures are larger than life and some such as Proteus- Glocus are a little frightening.
The park is open all year long from 8.00 a.m. until sunset . The entrance fees are for Adults 10,00 Euro and for children from 4 to 13 years 8,00 Euro. Group rates are also available.
Is the park worth the cost? Probably not unless you have kids or have time to spend also in the town of Bomarzo. While an interesting park it is very difficult to get to and some of the figures have substantially deteriorated.
To reach the park from Orvieto you can either drive or take the train to Attigliano/Bomarzo. From there you can either take a cab or wait for a bus that is suppose to come two to four times a day.
Another option is to drive to Viterbo and then take the bus to Bomarzo. A short walk from the bus station to the park from what I could tell.
Lago Bolsena is only a 30 minutes drive away from Orvieto (southwest). I didn’t spent much time here (which I regret), but while I was looking for accommodation, I thought I could at least drive to the lake and get an idea if I want to come back. And oh yes, I will definitely come back! Already the little road which winds downhill (exit SS 71 from Orvieto) gives a rough idea of how this lake was formed: it once was a volcanic crater which then filled with water. All has a very peaceful atmosphere.
I can’t write much at the moment, as I wasn’t here long enough to explore. But I’ve read a bit on their website (see website section below) and I am sure I will come back for a longer stay here. Please make sure to open the website link. I am amazed how extensive and informative this site is. It explains much about the lake and the Etruscan origins (they even write “welcome in our 4th millennium), how the lake was formed, much information about the villages and islands (including links to the respective websites and photo albums), actual waether forecast, restaurants and accommodation and extensive information about the sports possibilities.
Big kudos to the makers of this website!!
We had the great pleasure of staying with our cousins on a thirteen acre farm just outside of Orvieto. One of the highlights of our trip was making homemade pizza in the wood fired oven off their back patio. Take a look at the video from our pizza making experience by going to the web link below/
This is Santa Anna in Camprena. It was built in 1324-34 as a fortified hermitage and then rebuilt in the 16th Century. This is where they filmed The English Patient which has caused some interest among tourists though I have to confess that I wasn't aware of that fact when I visited.
Before that it was loved for its frescoes by Giovanni Antonio Bazzi and many great artists came here to study the works.
The Renaissance built monastery is about 16 kms out of Pienza and there are signposts.
Pilgrims and the infirm were the other visitors. They used to rest here on their way to Rome and you can still arrange to stay here if you're needing a bit of the kind of TLC the beauty and traditional monastic cures afford. The monks of Sant’ Anna had reputations as great healers.
We did but see it passing by. So, naturally enough, I wanted to go and have a look. The signpost said "Palazzo" but it bore little resemblence to any palace I had ever seen save for the tower and that, along with the rest of it, appeared to be in a less-than-good state of repair.
Still, it made for a nice 15 minutes and a couple of photographs. You'll pass it by when you go to Sant' Anna in Camprena
To the east of Orvieto, only a couple of kilometres away is one of the lesser known Italian natural parks: Parco Naturale Regionale Tevere (Tevere = Tiber). There is Lago di Corbara, a manmade lake, which is a very serene and quiet part of the park. I have read that swimming is difficult because of a strong underwater current but hiking and biking in the northwestern part is a perfect option for some relaxed time. The route southeast of the river/lake is the quick but still scenic road in case you come by car from Todi. Here is also the little village of Civitella del Lago with the said-to-be most famous and best restaurants in Italy: Ristorante Trippini. But that’s also a quite dear one. The most scenic and picturesque road however is the one north of the lake (SS79), which leads through pretty and tiny villages like Prato, Capretta and San Giórgio.
The website below gives some hiking and birdwatching options for the park.
I took a cooking class at Castello della Sala, which is the medieval castle where the wine of the same name is produced. The egg yolks have a deep rich colour, because they feed the chickens with goat milk. Also, the castle is rumoured to be haunted. One of the men in our party reported his camera taking pictures on its own in the middle of the night. Very strange.
Here is the Pozzo di San Patrizio (S.Patrick's well) built between 1527 and 1537 for the water supply of the city. It's 62 m. deep and it has 248 steps to reach the bottom.
It is possible to visit the well (L. 6000).
"La città che muore" ... the dying town is sited on top of a steep hill and reachable only by a bridge (walking).
An incredibly beautiful square in this town of Umbria, Piazza del Popolo, with many medieval buildings (XIII cent.):
Palazzo dei Priori
Palazzo del Popolo
Palazzo del Capitano
...and the Cathedral