Orvieto, Umbria

Picturesque Hill Town with a Stunning Duomo

Orvieto, in central Italy’s Umbria region, is a picturesque medieval hill town with Etruscan roots that sits stop cliffs riddled with underground passageways, caves, and even Etruscan tombs. It’s best known for its magnificent cathedral, or duomo, with an ornate mosaic facade that sparkles in the sunlight. Orvieto is one of the top day trips from Rome but it’s also a great place to spend a few nights, using it as a base to explore other nearby towns.

orvieto duomo photo
Orvieto Duomo Facade by James Martin

Plan Your Visit to Orvieto

Orvieto is on the Florence to Rome rail line and is one of the top places to visit between the two cities. The train station is in the lower town, Orvieto Scalo, connected to the upper town by a funicular. If you take a regional train, be sure to validate your ticket.

If you’re arriving by car, take the Orvieto exit off the A1 autostrada, about 60 miles north of Rome. Park at Campo della Fiera parking lot in the lower town and take the elevators and escalators that transport visitors to the historic center, a restricted traffic zone. There are also some parking areas around the edge of the upper town. A mini-bus runs through the town but the historic center is best explored on foot.

orvieto duomo photo
Side View of Orvieto's Duomo by James Martin

Things to See and Do in Orvieto

  • Orvieto’s top sight is it’s 14th century Duomo, a prime example of Italian late medieval architecture. Decorated with mosaics depicting Biblical scenes, the facade is stunning, while the sides are striped with local travertine. Marble busts frame the elegantly carved rose window and life-size statues can be seen in niches. Panels in the bronze door have scenes from Genesis. Inside are frescoes by Fra Angelico and Signorelli and beautifully carved wooden choir stalls.
  • Built in the early 16th century, the unusual Saint Patrick’s Well, with a depth of over 200 feet, has double spiral staircases that run along the sides of the well without meeting. Each staircase has 248 steps, just wide enough for pack animals to descend and carry water back up.
  • Visit the underground city, a series of passageways dug into the soft tufa stone beneath the city, on a guided tour that can be arranged at the tourist office. These passages have been in use since Etruscan times and were enlarged during the Middle Ages when they were used for water cisterns and dovecotes.
  • For a different view, climb the medieval Torre del Moro to the highest point in the city, about 150 feet above ground. From the top of the tower there are great views over the town and valleys below.
  • A 15th century Spanish castle, Albornz Fortress, sits at one end of the upper town on the site of an Etruscan temple.
  • Visit the Claudio Faina Archeology Museum, in the Civic Museum across from the duomo, with a good collection of Etruscan artifacts. From the windows you’ll also have a good view of the cathedral facade. Other archaeological finds are in the National Archeology Museum, next to the Duomo Museum in Piazza del Duomo. Also by the cathedral is the Modern Art Museum housed in Palazzo Soliano, a former Papal residence.
orvieto shop
Shop on One of Orvieto's Picturesque Lanes
  • Wander through the picturesque lanes and visit some of the shops selling ceramics and majolica pottery, for which Orvieto is known, or other handicrafts including lace, wrought iron work, and wood crafts. Wine, especially white, is made in the vineyards of the hills and you can taste it in a wine bar or buy it in one of the wine shops.
  • Orvieto’s tourist information office is in Piazza del Duomo, the large square in front of the cathedral. You can buy an Orvieto card for admission to major sites and museums as well as transportation on the bus and funicular or sign up for the underground tour.
  • Etruscan sites, mostly outside the historic center, include remnants of the Etruscan town wall, tombs in the cliffs, and a necropolis.
orvieto cathedral photo
Orvieto Cathedral

See more hill towns to visit in Umbria

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Orvieto, Umbria originally appeared on MarthasItaly.com , updated: Jun 19, 2021.