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Overview

Less than two hours’ drive from Rome on the Autostrada del Sole, Orvieto is a beautiful small hilltop town not very far from Lake Bolsena in the heart of Umbria. The city traces its history as far back as the 9th century BCE by early Etruscans. They, and later settlers, carved caves into the the tufa rock of the mountain, a practice that continued for centuries. Rome conquered it in 254 BCE and it was taken by Alaric and the Longobards in the 6th century. As was true of most of this region, Orvieto was the scene of armed conflict for centuries during the Middle Ages' battles between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, changing hands several ...

Less than two hours’ drive from Rome on the Autostrada del Sole, Orvieto is a beautiful small hilltop town not very far from Lake Bolsena in the heart of Umbria. The city traces its history as far back as the 9th century BCE by early Etruscans. They, and later settlers, carved caves into the the tufa rock of the mountain, a practice that continued for centuries. Rome conquered it in 254 BCE and it was taken by Alaric and the Longobards in the 6th century. As was true of most of this region, Orvieto was the scene of armed conflict for centuries during the Middle Ages' battles between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, changing hands several times. At the end of the 13th century, a Papal Seat was established at Orvieto and it remained a part of the Papal States until Italian Unification in 1860. The fascinating underground city of caves dug by the Etruscans and later settlers (Viaggi nella Citta' Sotterranea) can be toured via daily guided tours. Visitors can also see two deep wells (Pozzo di San Patrizio and Pozzo della Cava) dug into the mountain. The Duomo is the major attraction of the town. Started in the later 13th century it took more than two centuries to complete. Inside, the Capela de San Brizio bears murals based on the Divine Comedy painted by Luca Signorelli, a contemporary of Fra Angelico. A trio of Museums, the Claudio Faina, Emilio Greco and Museo Archeologico are important for their ancient artifacts. The city is popular with day-trippers and can be crowded daytime during the high season. Visitors who stay overnight in Orvieto experience a different town when the daytrippers leave.

Stillman Rogers
About the Expert

Stillman Rogers has written more than two dozen guidebooks, including Adventure Guide to Canada's Atlantic Provinces, Guide to Eastern Canada, and Adventure Guide to the Chesapeake.

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring and fall are somewhat less crowded and with more pleasant temperatures than mid-summer. Slow Food Sundays are in October,November and December.