Its almost 2000 and we are walking the streets of Orvieto after a wonderful afternoon in Civita. Just three blocks off from the Duomo we come upon this delightful street of shops with heavy foliage. Lights above indicate that is Il Magodlo which of course has no meaning to us. Later we find out that there is no Italian to English translation either. The street however is a delight to walk in with a combination of apparel stores, curios and restaurants. Lit up brightly at night it looks absolutely delightful..
Try The Local Wine: Orvieto Classico
Aside from a great place to visit the area around Orvieto produces some good inexpensive wines. We found white wines to be more common and popular but there is a small amount of red wine also being produced. We visited no wineries in the Orvieto area and with my somewhat limited speaking of Italy I had some trouble at first figuring out the type of grapes that went into the wines.
What I learned is that a large percentage of the white wine produced in the area comes from a combination of Trebbiano and Grechetto grapes.I had trouble figuring out how the what Orvieto is an Italian wine region located in Umbria and Lazio, centered on the comune of Orvieto. They are sold in the area as Orvieto Classico or Orvieto DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata).
A very drinkable Cardeto Rupestro Orvieto Classico can be had for as little as 5 euros for a 750 ml bottle. The wine had a very dry but fruity taste. Something like a peach taste. Sold in stores throughout Orvieto a great way to spend a night on a balcony watching the sun setting and enjoying a little of the local vintage.
Watch the Sunsets Over the Umbria Hills
Staying at the Villa degli Ulivi and sitting out on a balcony facing the west there were two great evenings of sunsets. Both nights we witnessed some beautiful displays of light at sunset.
Be sure and find a place where you can sit out and get a good unobstructed view of the west. The rooms at this bed and breakfast were ideally suited for watching the sunset. Sit back have a drink, maybe a snack and enjoy the beauty of the sun setting over the hills of Umbria.
If Orvieto doesn't have enough to see above ground then try stepping underneath for an hour or two.
With much of Orvieto being located above a 1000 foot bed of volcanic tuff it is only natural that someone would have created a system of caves, tunnels and passage ways.
The Orvieto Underground tour was a great way of seeing all of the underground activity that has taken place over the last 2500 years. A guide takes you on a fascinating tour of just some of the passageways that have been created hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Tour guides review the geologic history of Orvieto and go over how folks were able to bore tunnels through the rock. Some of the caves pre-date the Etruscans who were one of the first inhabitants of the area. The Etruscans used the caves to escape from and hold off Roman occupation. Wealthy families developed passageways into the rocks to escape assualts on the town. The caves were even used during World War 2. The lighting of the passageways is excellent. Still from what the guide indicated archaeological activity continues on the caves today,
Tours of the caves leave from Piazza Duomo 23. Tours are conducted every day at 11.00; 12.15, 16.00; 17.15 (during periods of greater tourist attendance, every 15 minutes). Tours normally are in Italian or English but special tours in other languages can also be arranged.
The cost of the tour is 6 Euros for adults and 5.5 Euros for seniors and students.
What a gorgeous theater! Classically beautiful. There are stunning frescos on the wall as well. It was not clear when it was first built however it still functions today as a theater and concert hall. The theater supports a wide range of music
The theater was named after Luigi Mancinelli who was well known Italian orchestral conductor in the late 19th and early 20th century. Mancinelli was born in Orvieto and the local theater was renamed to honor him after his death. Mancinelli wrote many pieces of music including several operas. He was also a respected cello player.
Today the theater hosts a wide range of venues. According to Lonely Planet that includes Umbrian jazz, folk music, ballets, and operas.
The theater is opening for viewing from 10am-1pm & 4-7pm Mon-Sat, 4-8pm Sun. Admission if I recall was 3 euros, but check that please.
Chiesa de San Andrea
While the Orvieto Duomo is spectacular, there are many other churches in Orvieto that show off its colorful past through great design and vibrant colors.
I found the Chiesa de San Andrea to be unusually interesting. I must admit I was first attracted to the unique belltower. According to Lonely Planet it is decadonal. Anyone want to guess how many sides that is?
The church was originally constructed in the 12th century. A major reconstruction and remodeling of the church occurred in 1926 by Gustavo Giovannoni.
The interior of the church has a unique dark floor. There are paintings that date back to the 3rd century and a unique pulpit. I was asked not to take pictures of the interior so I am submitting the interior photo from Wiki.
Is it worth visiting? A defiinte yes only to experience the diversity of beauty that lies in Orvieto.
Anello del Rupe
Orvieto is blessed in many ways. A gorgeous setting, wonderful restaurants and site, the beautiful Duomo and a very nice trail. Called by many things, the, "Anello del Rupe," or simply, "the Rupe," the trail winds for about 5 km around the bottom of the rock of Orvieto.
I first became aware of the trail while standing on the top of the Fortress at Plazza Cahen. It turns out that the Plazza is one of five ingresses to the Rupe if you folliow down the rock towards another trail called Le Paige. The easiest access to the trail however is from the parking lot with the elevator. This access point is called Foro Boario and is ideal for both someone who stayed in the old city overnight as well as folks like us who stayed at the b & b down the road.
The trail is full of life of all forms at most every hour. Hikers, runners and occasional small wildlife darts out on the trail. There are switchbacks and areas that you are certain you are in a forest they are so serene. There are a few steep ascents but nothing really compared to what you experience walking in Orvieto.
The most amazing site on the walk is coming upon the Cheisa del Croco Fisso del Tuffo. A gorgeous 16th century chapel carved into the rock. There are benches in the area to rest and contemplate this great work of art and love.
We didn't go on the entire length of the trail. Maybe next time. I would estimate that taking the entire trail would run around 90 minutes if you stopped and took pictures.
MORE PICS TO COME
Abbey of Saints Servus and Martyrus: La Badia
Visible from the Albonoz Fortress and the belltower, the Abbey of Saints also known as, "La Badia," is a strikingly beautiful site. It was most clearly visible from the Albonoz Fortress. Once I saw it I had to go back to our bed and breakfast and find out what this building was.
According to what I learned on the internet the monastic part of the abbey dates back as far as the 7th or 8th century. It remained in the hands of the Benedictine until the 12th century. The church on the site is from the 13th century.
While we did not take a trip to the abbey it is a short drive from Orvieto. It can be reached by walking down through the town of Porta Romana in as little as an hour.
The fairybook looking abbey will have to wait for another trip.
In our lengthy trip through Italy we saw many churches. The Orvieto Duomo in my opinion along with the ones in Firenze, Sienna and Pisa are the most visually stunning. With Orvieto's twisting labryrnth of streets getting a distant view of the cathedral is impossible from the old town. Instead the cathedral suddenly appeared as we walked down a short cobble stoned street.
Many other VTers have given the history of the Duomo including the story of the Miracle of Bolsena and how the church came to be built. I did find it interesting how many popes had visited Orvieto including many who escaped from Rome to avoid oncoming armies.
The exterior of the Duomo I found stunning. The church elders have done an excellent job keeping the exterior clean and fresh looking. As a planner with strong urban design training I felt that this is one of the most impressive Gothic structures I have seen anywhere in Europe. I was amazed to learn that 33 architects worked on the church which took 300 years to complete. Particularly impressive to me was the big rose with the twelve apostles high on the front of the church. In addition, the four marble pillars partially tell the story of the Bible as you move from left to right. The large carved doors I also found very impressive.
With such a stunning exterior I was somewhat disappointed by the interior. It is a far simpler design than what I would have imagined. Apparently many of the statues and other Baroque influences were removed from the church in the late 19th century. The Chapel of San Brizio with its brilliant frescoes by Luca Signorelli. Particularly impressive is the Sermon of the Antichirst.
The Chapel of the Corporal is not as impressive. However the fresco entitled the Miracle of Bolsena is worth a look even if it requires a separate admission fee.
Admission to the Duomo is 3 euros or 4 if you include the Chapel of San Brizio.
The cathedral is open from 730 to 1930 April through September but only to 1830 the rest of the year.
Museo Civico or Faina Museum
The building that houses the Museum Civico is actually two museums. A rich and well preserved history of Orvieto, particularly in the 19th century, is presented on the ground floor of the building. There is also a popular collection of Roman and other ancient coins and other exhibits on the floor. The collection was largely provided by the Faina family, a rich Orvietan family, who were interested in preserving the history of the town. The second floor contains prehistoric and protohistoric materials from Orvieto. This includes several rooms devoted to Etruscan pottery, vases, sharply colored Etruscan bronze, sarcophagi, and an ancient marble torso. Both floors have terraces and balconies with great views of the Duomo.
The museum's web site, which unfortunately in Italian only, contains a great virtual tour of pieces that are available for viewing. While photos are not forbidden in the entire museum from the looks received I clearly got the hint that they were discouraged. Thus, for those of you who may be contemplating a trip here look at this site first.
Admission is 8 euros for adults, not sure what it is for kids.
Hours of operation are 9:30 to 1800 April through September and 10:00 to 15:00, Tuesdays through Sundays October through March,
The Plaza Cahen is where the Funicular drops you off at. It is also the transportation hub for buses to Chivita and surrounding towns. It is at the northeast corner of old Orvieto. Just as importantly it is a place adjacent to the Fortress, St. Patrick's Well and the Etruscan ruins. There are benches to relax and some absolutely gorgeous chestnut trees to take in.
Funicular to Old City
If you arrive by train to Orvieto and exit the station you will find immediately across the street the Orvieto Funicular. The Funicular offers passengers a means of reaching the Plaza Cahen from the Piazzale Gramso (rail station) quickly and efficiently. Trains run daily every ten minutes along a 580 meter track from 0720 to 2130. Cost of the journey which rises some 157 meters is 1 euro each way. Up to 75 passengers can ride the funicular at one time.
Some form of funicular scaling this distance has been operating in Orvieto since 1888. In that year Giuseppe Bracci developed a water powered funicular that made the short trip. For nearly a century the so called Bracci funicular operated unitl in 1970 the system was replaced with a new mechanical one.
Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo
This striking beautiful small palace in the historic section of Orvieto is a place to observe more than a place to visit. It's significance rests from the fact that it was one of the first public building constructed in Orvieto but its style was subsequently copied in other buildings.
Work on construction of the palazzo is said to have commenced in the 13th century. It was originally a single story structure that was used both as a marketplace and space for the town magistrate to conduct business. Within ten years a second floor and the bell tower was constructed. Over the next several hundred years the palace was used as a private residence, school for conducting classes in law and other subjects, a theater, and a government building. In the 1980's the palazzo was converted to a conference center and a place for concerts which appear to be its primary current uses.
I got obtain entrance into the palazzo at the time of my visit.
Torre del Morro
Torre del Morro, Orvieto's clocktower which stands at about 45 meters high is centrally located at the crossroads of Corso Cavour. Via del Duomo, and Via della Constituente. From an appearance standpoint it definitely does not have muich to offer compared to other more stately towers in other Italian cities. While the tower was named Torre del Morro by one of the popes it is unclear which named the tower when it was constructed in the mid 13th century. The tower's original purpose was to serve as a vantage point for town security. In the 19th century the tower was used as a cistern for the city's water supply. It was later converted into a time piece for the community.
The tower is open internally and one climbs to a terrace which has commanding views of the City. Stairs, numbering around 250 or so, are easy to climb and there appears to never be a long line to climb the tower. I wouldn't recommend climbing it during a heavy afternoon rain however.
Cost of climbing the tower is 2.80 euros and the tower is open from 10 am to 8 pm daily between May and August and shortened hours the rest of the year.
Pozzo di san Patrizio: A Well of A Good Idea
Nestled just below the Albonoz Fortress, the Posso de san Patrizio was an important piece of engineering to provide the Pope with additional safety during the Sack of Rome in the early 16th century. The well was designed by Antonio da Sangalla in 1527 who was also responsible for much of the construction at the adjacent fortress. The well was intended to provide a long term water supply for Pope and other residents in the event of a long term siege.
Inside the well there are two unique spiral staircases that descend almost 60 feet and require 200 steps. The staircases never meet and were intended to provide separate means of getting in and out of the well. Today it stands as a tourist attraction as well as a popular field trip for Italian school children.
Cost to enter the well is 3.5 euros for adults.