Orvieto is one of the most ancient cities in Italy, with Etruscans being the first recorded inhabitants in the 9th century BC! It is located on top of a massif in Umbria, in central Italy, and its area has some of the most important vineyards in the country. Nonetheless, Orvieto’s beauty doesn’t simply reside in its products, but also in its cultural heritage. Here are five things every tourist should have on thier list while in town.
As is often the case for Italian cities, the Duomo – the main Cathedral – is definitely something to keep an eye out for, and Orvieto is no exception to the rule. With a stunning, beautifully decorated façade that is hard to forget, this Duomo has convinced many a tourist that this rather small city in Umbria is not simply a stop-over, but should be a destination proper. The polychromatic marbles and the mosaics which compose the façade are just wonderful, while the interior brims with beautiful paintings and is the result of centuries of workings and re-constructions.
This hour-long journey through underground Orvieto will leave an indelible mark on any tourist’s holiday. A series of grottoes open up where none would expect, and lots of interesting rock formations present themselves. The silence and the dimness of the subterranean passages are fascinating from the get go and reveal a world of civilisation that has existed below the city for more than 2,500 years!
The so-called “St Patrick’s Well” has little to do with St Patrick and is more to do with engineering and hydrogeology. It is a huge perforation in the ground which goes 54 metres underground, boasts a 13-metre diameter and was conceived and carried out in order to draw water from the earth in case the city was besieged – as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention! Today, St Patrick’s Well is something which any tourist can visit, entering through the two helicoidal sets of steps which run around the well but never intersect.
Sat just down from the hilltop old town of Orvieto, this pretty little park is a fine place to go to escape the blazing Umbrian heat during a day of sightseeing here. Once a castle, this green conglomeration of babbling fountains and vine-clad bulwarks was first built in the mid-14th century, under orders from the Pope no less. Don’t miss the sweeping views of the Orvieto valley from the walls!
Decugnano dei Barbi, one of the most important (and oldest) vineyards in the region, can be found sitting just outside the center of Orvieto. With a history going back to 1973, this accomplished winery is famed for its attention to terrior-specific reds and whites. Of particular note are the Villa Barbi Bianco and Villa Barbi Rosso, packed with hints of clove and curious combinations of spice.