Orvieto, in the southern end of the Umbria region of central Italy, is situated on a tuff cliff with overhanging walls, which dominates the plain below.
A visit to Orvieto can start right from the Cathedral and Museum - the 13th century gothic style Orvieto Cathedral has so much of interest and so many highlights that we have given it a separate article: see Orvieto Cathedral.
On the same square as the Cathedral you can also see the Faina and Soliano Palaces, both now holding prestigious museums. To the right of the cathedral there is a small square, part of the papal and Episcopal palace complex and known as the Papal Palace, home to the National Archaeological Museum.
The north-west area of Orvieto is fascinating to visit, with traditional town houses, medieval towers and ancient Etruscan walls, shady courtyards and palaces with elegant mullioned windows, and a a panoramic view over the valley of the Paglia River.
At the end of Via Malabranca be sure to enter the Church of St Juvenal, with an interior almost completely covered with frescoes by local painters between the 13th and 16th centuries.
The Republic Square stands on the site of the Ancient Roman Forum. On the south side of the square is the Town Hall, built in the early 13th century and enhanced in the 16th century.
On the east side of the square stands the Church of St. Andrew, built between the 11th and 12th centuries on the ruins of a pre-existing paleo-Christian building.
The left side is enriched by a colonnade and the church has three naves marked by granite columns. On the right, note the solemn bell tower decorated with mullioned windows.
In this elegant and lively area of Orvieto, there are many antique shops.
Continuing through Orvieto old town we reach the tree-lined 'Piazza XXIX Marzo' and the Church of San Domenico, with a Gothic portal, and a lunette frescoed in the early fifteenth century. Also on the same square is the former Dominican Convent, famous for being the seat of Tribunal of the Inquisition.
In the eastern part of the city there is the 'Pozzo di San Patrizio', built and designed by Antonio Sangallo the Younger (1484-1546) at the command of Pope Clement VII (1478-1534), in order to avert water shortages in the event of a prolonged siege of the town. It is a cylindrical structure surrounded by two overlapping spiral staircases.
Near the well are the mighty castle, built by Cardinal Albornoz (1310-1367) and the evocative remains of the Etruscan Temple of Belvedere, dating from the 5th century BC and rediscovered in the early 19th century.
Leaving "Porta Romana", just outside the city is the Abbey of St. Severus and Martyrdom, a former Benedictine complex built in the 6th century. The Abbey includes different environments, including the Old Church, preceded by a spectacular arch, dating from the 13th century and with important paving in the Cosmatesque style.
Local Orvieto Cuisine
In the surrounding countryside traditional farms produce one of the best oils in Umbria. Also closely linked to tradition in Orvieto is the simple and authentic cuisine which using the local products of excellent quality.
Among the more unusual dishes is the "Drunk Chicken", so called because its preparation involves plenty of wine!
Among the first courses we recommend the "umbricelli" while among the soups try perhaps the chickpea soup and the 'chickpeas and chestnuts'. Game has a prominent place in local cuisine, especially hares, wild boar and the so-called “palombe” (pigeon), cooked with very special local sauces.
Also linked to ancient tradition are the "sweet macaroni," the "lumachelle" (so called because the dough takes the form of a snail), the “halm-crickets” (fried zucchini flowers), and finally "tortucce" (made with fried dough).
Orvieto is also famous for its wine - the best known is the white wine, but there are also the red and rosé.
See also history of Orvieto
Map of Orvieto and places to visit
Orvieto places to visit
See more places nearby in the Umbria guide