Step outside the apartment through tufo walls dating from the 12th century and you are transported to this historic medieval town settled by the Etruscans and later annexed by the Romans. Casa Passeggiata is in a fabulous location in the pedestrian only section of the town steps away from all the cafes, shops, and historic sites including Orvieto’s world famous Duomo.
Museums, Underground, Duomo
Orvieto’s three biggest tourist attractions are its Duomo (Cathedral); the underground caves built by the Etruscans; and the National Archaeological Museum.
If you visit the Duomo, be sure to see the side altar on the back far right side of Signorelli’s disturbing depiction of the end of the world.
If you’ve been to Rome, the Museum won’t overwhelm you, but it is home to one of Italy’s largest collections of Etruscan artifacts.
The underground Etruscan caves thrill the kids. Make time to visit the Etruscan Necropolis to see the ancient tombs.
Tickets and tours can be purchased at the Tourist Office located on the Duomo Square opposite the Duomo.
Some tips: The Tourist Office tends to concentrate totally on selling tickets for these attractions, but they have tons of other useful information that they don’t volunteer. Check out the handouts on their shelves and don’t be afraid to ask for a map of the town or if they know about any schedules of events or festivals, etc.
Shopping and Shops
Orvieto is a shopper’s delight. From the dazzling ceramics by local artisans to the current Italian fashions, Orvieto’s shops have something for everybody.
The tantalizing aroma of leather beckons the creation of a custom purse or wallet or belt by a local craftsman’s shop, as do the displays of fine jewelry shops.
But if you happen to be in Orvieto on a Thursday or Saturday morning, one of Orvieto’s best hidden secrets is the farmer’s market that is held twice a week in the Piazza del Poppolo.
The produce, cheese, meats and other goodies are to die for — but the dozens of vendors selling everything from local leather products and clothing and gift items are also a must to see.
Piazza Poppolo is just a couple of blocks from our apartment but you have to look for it.
Ask the cheese vendor to give you a taste of the local Pecorino – be prepared to fall in love.
Festivals, Parades & Theatre
As anyone who has ever traveled to Italy knows, the Italians love their festivals — and they have them at the drop of a hat.
We’re not talking about the national holidays like Corpus Domini in June where the events are well published — we’re talking about parades and bands and impromptu performances that seem to spring up from nowhere.
The most maddening thing is tying to find out where they are and when they’re happening.
So here’s a tip. Since our apartment is located virtually in the center of Orvieto, you will frequently hear the sound of an approaching band wafting in from a window. If you hear this, put on your shoes and head out to the street. Follow the sound and more likely than not, you’ll end up joining a parade of excited people following a band to a piazza somewhere where there will be a performance.
The other advice is to do take a passeggiata every evening along the main streets and through the three major Orvieto piazzas of Duomo, Poppolo, and Repubblica. You’ll be amazed. You could also see a gelato festival or an unbelievable trio of musicians or a wine festival or ….
Strolls and the Passeggiata
Orvieto is a walled hilltop town, so no matter where you go, you eventually come to a spot on the wall. There’s an unbelievable feeling of safety walking in Orvieto, even at two in the morning.
So for a real experience, take a stroll off the beaten path through the old parts of Orvieto. Just walk and let your imagination be your guide as you’re transported to what it must have been like to have lived here centuries ago.
You’ll see ancient churches, private villas, and magnificent views of the countryside below.
But every evening, you’ll be taking part in the ritual of the “Passeggiata” — the “evening stroll” that is so much a part of the Italian life, and the namesake of our apartment.
The shops will have closed up tight at noon, and re-opened around 4 or 5 p.m., then the families and locals gradually emerge to enjoy the evening stroll through the shops and an evening meal at a favorite restaurant. Make sure you don’t show up at a restaurant at 7 p.m. or they’ll know you’re a tourist!
Bars and Restaurants
There are dozens of terrific bars in Orvieto, but you’ll probably eventually be attracted to one or two that will become your favorites.
For the young adults, it’s Clandestino. Lots of loud music and animated conversation. For soccer fans, it’s got to be Bar Duomo. For world class people watching, it’s a table at Cantina Forese on the Duomo Square. For a quiet vino and munchies – just cross the street outside our apartment to Bar Tortuga on Piazza Fraccasini.
As far as restaurants are concerned, Orvieto is your dream town. Some of our favorites are Cocco just through the tunnel off Piazza Republica; the diavolo pizza at Il Dialogo on Via Duomo can’t be beat; and for that romantic dinner in an underground cave, it’s Il Fornaio.
Last but not least, did someone say “gelato”? Stop at Tomas’ Il Gelato on Corso Cavour for some of the best you’ll ever have!
Gems of Orvieto Scalo
Like most Italian hilltop towns, there is a sprawling industrial and bedroom community town at the valley below that is dubbed as “Scalo”.
There’s usually no history in these towns in the traditional tourist sense, but it can be fun and worth going “down the hill” at least once to Orvieto Scalo while you’re in Orvieto.
If you like walking, there’s a well marked trail down that starts at the Fort immediately next to the funiculare, but if not, just take the 7 minute funiculare ride down to the train station.
Now – there’s a million things you can do there, but here’s two of our favorites.
One – Take the number 8 bus from the funiculare entrance. Tell the driver you want to go to the Sopra Sotto store. This is one of those unbelievable “if you can’t find it there” stores operated by the Chinese.
Two – Take the number 8 bus from the funiculare entrance. Tell the driver you want to go to the CO-OP. There you will find many shops including a major electronics store and a supermarket.
Saint Patrick's Well
St Patrick’s Well, or Il Pozzo di S. Patrizio, is one of the highlights of the charming cathedral city of Orvieto in south-west Umbria, located about an hour north of Rome.
Plunging to a depth of 54 metres, this murky marvel of engineering was commissioned by Pope Clement VII following his refuge in Orvieto during the sack of Rome in 1527.
The Medici pope entrusted fellow Florentine Antonio da Sangallo the Younger with designing the well, to ensure a reliable water supply for this potentially-regular papal retreat.
The structure’s two concentric spiral staircases operate independently of each other, one for descending and the other for ascending, and are illuminated by 70 windows carved into the central shaft.
Modern-day visitors can still traverse the well’s 248 steps, cut large enough to accommodate the pack donkeys once used to carry water to the surface. However it is worth noting – particularly for those with children – that the majority of the windows are knee-high and bereft of barriers.
The well is located in Piazza Cahen, to the right of the exit of the funicular cable railway, as you arrive from the train station below.
The Torre Del Moro
Only steps away from our apartment, the Torre (tower) Del Moro was initially named by the Pope, and later renamed Moro probably in relation to that of Raffaele di Sante called “the Moor”(which gave its name to the district and the building beside the tower).
The tower stands in the heart of the city in the crossroads between Corso Cavour, Via del Duomo and Via della Costituente as a majestic center piece of these streets.
The tower is open internally and has stairs leading to a spectacular terrace, where you can enjoy a beautiful 360 degree panoramic view of the city. Adjacent to the tower is also the beautiful Palazzo dei Sette, named in medieval times because it housed the seven judges who represented the major corporations and trades of Orvieto.
This is one of things that you absolutely have to do once or you’ll look back with regret. It’s over 400 steps, but with plenty of landings to pause on on the way up.
Your reward is the stunning 360 degree views of the tom and the spectacular valley below.
The Mancinelli Theatre
The Mancinelli Theatre in Orvieto Italy is said to be one of the most beautiful theaters in Italy. The neoclassical building was completed in 1862 and has an elegant ambiance.
Visitors to Orvieto can either enjoy a musical performance at Mancinelli Theatre or pay a couple of euro to tour the complex.
Keep an eye open for statues of statues of the Vespignani and the painter Fracassini when visiting the building.
In 1922 the theater was renamed in memory of Luigi Mancinelli, the esteemed composer and musical director.
The Mancinelli Theatre is located on Corso Cavour immediately next door to our apartment building.
Tip: Even if you don’t speak Italian, you will enjoy seeing a classic in this beautiful theatre. Pick up the schedule of upcoming performances at the theater box office.