Victoria tours the Etruscan and medieval town in Umbria.
Orvieto sits on an impressive outcropping of volcanic tufa stone. Settled by the Etruscans, it has an amazing labyrinth of underground tunnels and wells. However, what gets your attention is definitely above ground! Let’s explore this appealing medieval gem, shall we?
The quintessential medieval town of Orvieto, built on a tufa outcropping–a volcanic “plug”–sits like the a jewel on a crown in the Umbrian countryside. Orvieto, with its panoramic views of the lush green surrounding hillsides and valleys, is the personification of why poet Giosue Carducci called Umbria “the green heart of Italy”.
Virtually impregnable for centuries, today Orvieto can be accessed by car (you need to drive and park outside the historic center or train/park down below and take the Bracci funicular to get to the top of the plateau). Then you can either walk or take a taxi or shuttle to the main square.
It’s not hard to understand why Orvieto is a popular destination. Despite its access challenges you’ll find the foot traffic, especially on holidays and in high season, to be quite heavy. However, that won’t prevent you from enjoying its allure and attractions.
Strolling through Orvieto will certainly consume more than one post! Let’s start with the local and inviting historical center which, thankfully, is a pedestrian zone. Depending on how you get there, when you reach the intersection of Corso Cavour (which leads you to Piazza della Repubblica) and Via Duomo which meanders to Piazza del Duomo, going in either direction offers the visitor an abundance of tempting and attractive shops, eateries, and historical gems (which we will get to in another post!).
If you have an appetite, there are numerous ristorantes, cafès, and enotecas offering renowned local specialties often featuring truffles and cinghale (wild boar). If you head toward Piazza del Duomo, stop in at cozy Cantina Foresi. Not only will you be treated to a view of Orvieto’s spectacular Duomo but your congenial host, Alessandro, will be happy to serve a delicious sampler of local formagi, salumi, and some pasta paired with Orvieto Classico bianco or Rosso Orvietano. If you ask, perhaps he will show you the wine cellar (Orvieto is full of caves, wells, and cellars!) which actually extends under the Piazza and where wine has been made and stored for generations.
More culinary delights present themselves at every turn! Perhaps some truffle dusted pasta at La Paloma or artisanal gelato at Il Gelato di Pasqualetti? Or, stop by Spizzica & Muzzica, un forno & gastronomia Siciliana, and say hello to Davide from Palermo. If you’re lucky you might even be visiting during a local event or festival, perhaps a chocolate fair? If not, there plenty of shops and galleries to explore. You’ll find friendly locals proudly offer their artisanal typici produtti and crafts.
Among them are Morando and his wife, Rosaria, of Casa Parrina where they offer a divine selection of delectable treats including pasta di nocciola (creamy hazelnut butter) and miele vino (honey wine). Everything is sourced from their very own azienda agricola and, yes, samples are enthusiastically offered!
I dare you to visit Maria at her shop, Il Crogiolo on via dei Magoni and not walk away with one of her lovely hand woven scarves (I have mine from several years ago and it’s my favorite!). Also, lavori fatti a mano (hand made) are Walter’s enchanting ceramics at his laboratorio di ceramica, L’Arpia, on Corso Cavour. Well, how can you resist? I didn’t! And this is only a smattering of the profusion of wonderful boutiques in Orvieto!
Be sure to wander into side streets and alleys. Like so many labyrinthine Italian hill towns, it’s virtually impossible to get lost and you’re certain to discover hidden treasures tucked away here and there…
If you’ve only planned a day trip, you’ll quickly realize that you should’ve allowed a few days to linger.