Orvieto, a charming Medieval town in Umbria
Orvieto is a very ancient city, located in the province of Terni in Umbria, 120 kilometers north of Rome, and 160 kilometers south of Florence. The city lies on an impressive tuff cliff, 50 meters high and overlooking the valley of Paglia river (pic n°1). This location gives Orvieto a fascinating character and an amazing view of the surrounding countryside.
The origin of this city dates back to the eleventh century B. C. when the Etruscan people began to settle down in the ancient tuff caves where the city now located. Orvieto is rich in charm, and it features a lot of buildings and attractions, many of which are from the thirteenth century.
The main attraction in Orvieto is its Cathedral (pic n°2), dedicated to St. Mary of the Assumption. It is a masterpiece of the Italian Gothic style, and one of the most famous cathedrals in Italy, especially thanks to its amazing façade with bas-reliefs by Lorenzo Maitani, and its mosaics depicting some scenes of the Virgin Mary's life. The interiors are finely decorated and filled with works of art. Some small chapels and niches have to be visited: above all, take a look at Cappella del Corporale, built by Andrea Pisano, Cappella Nuova with its colored frescos, and Cappella di San Brizio (St. Brixio Chapel) (pic n°3), with breathtaking frescos dedicated to the last Judgement.
When your visit to the Cathedral is over, take some time and visit Palazzi dei Papi (Palaces of the Popes), the thirteenth-century buildings that also host the 'Museo dell'Opera del Duomo' (Cathedral's Museum). Other beautiful churches to be visited are the eleventh-century Church of San Giovenale and Church of Sant'Andrea overlooking the beautiful Piazza della Repubblica (pic n°6), the heart of the city, or Church of San Domenico with a remarkable mausoleum by Arnolfo di Cambio.
Then let's visit Fortezza Albornoz, an amazing square-shaped fortification in Piazza Cahen with a lovely public garden. It is a must-see, especially for its Pozzo di San Patrizio (pic n°4) (St. Patrick's Well), built in the sixteenth century to supply water to the fortification. The 62 meters deep well represents a perfect example of that time's civil engineering. Another famous well in the city is the 36 meters deep Pozzo della Cava.
Furthermore, a unique experience you should not miss in Orvieto is visiting Orvieto Underground (pic n°5), a maze of caves, wells, tunnels, workshops, halls, and olive mills that has been built during the course of 2500 years in the ancient tuff rock on which the city lies. Visiting this underground city is a really exciting experience, and it is a real must for architecture, archeology, and history lovers!
Orvieto offers several other attractions: in the enchanting Piazza del Capitano, you can admire Palazzo del Capitano, a plain but beautiful thirteenth-century palace with charming loggias.
Other civil buildings to admire are Palazzo Soliano, Palazzo del Vescovado, Palazzo Papale with the National Archeological Museum, and Palazzo Sette with Torre del Moro, currently serving as a cultural center. Also, pay a visit to Teatro Mancinelli, a neo-classical nineteenth-century theater located close to the Cathedral.
Then, get lost in the picturesque streets of the historic center, and enjoy the delicious food and wine of the area.
Some pictures of Orvieto:
View of Orvieto that lies on an impressive tuff cliff (pic n°1); The beautiful Cathedral (pic n°2); Frescos in St. Brixio Chapel (pic n°3); Inside St. Patrick's Well (pic n°4); Orvieto Underground (pic n°5); Repubblica Square with Church of Sant'Andrea and the twelve-sided tower (pic n°6)