Consider Orvieto: This picturesque medieval town is 60 miles north of Rome and you can opt to visit as a day trip or make a morning train stop on your way to Florence.
Orvieto is a hill town in Umbria, located atop huge tuff cliffs that served as fortifications during the Middle Ages. Its narrow historical streets, majestic cathedral and underground caves are amongst the many reasons this town became one of the highpoints of our two weeks in Italy.
Exploring Above Ground and Underground
Arriving in Orvieto by train is very simple since the train station is located just below the walled town. Once you leave the train, head to the funicular and it will take you to Piazza Cahen, located on top of the hill.
Once there, you will find the famous Pozzo di San Patrizio and you can go down its spiraling stairs all the way to the bottom. Nearby, take a moment to relish the spectacular views of the Umbrian countryside from the edge of Piazza Cahen.
From the plaza, take a leisurely stroll on Corso Cavour, a beautiful via that crosses through the heart of town and is lined with local shops and restaurants.
One of the first things we did when we arrived in town was a visit to its underground city (Città Sotterranea).
This city is actually a labyrinth of underground caves dug into the volcanic rock where you can tour its distinct niches while learning about the cave’s impact on Orvieto's history. To enter, you have to book a guided tour in the office of Città Sotterranea and they will take you to the cave's entrance which is off site to regular tourists.
Tip: The Città Sotterranea’s Office is located in Piazza del Duomo and the tour lasts around one hour.
Exploring the Narrow Streets of Orvieto
Piazza del Duomo, as the name suggests, is where Orvieto’s main attraction is located: Il Duomo di Orvieto. The Duomo is the main cathedral of the city and it dominates the town's square soaring high above its historical buildings.
Even though you should certainly enter this 14th century cathedral, make some time to appreciate its gothic façade which is vastly ornate with gold and mosaic panels.
On your way in or out of Piazza del Duomo, you may notice a very tall tower. This is Torre del Moro, a 16th century tower where you can climb all the way to the top and enjoy some of the best views of the area.
The tower’s great elevation, gave us a wonderful overlook of the historical town and a 360 degree view of the vast green fields of the Umbria countryside.
Piazza della Repubblica is located a short walk ahead, along Corso Cavour. From this municipal center of town, I recommend taking Via Loggia dei Mercanti which will eventually lead you to the best part of Orvieto: Its city walls.
Walk Along Walls and More of Underground
To get to the fortifications, we walked along Via Loggia and then through narrow cobblestone streets towards Via Ripa Serancia. After a short walk on this street, a right turn brought us directly to the defensive walls.
We were welcomed to stunning, wide views of the Umbrian countryside as we walked along the prolonged city walls.
Tip: If you still have time, I suggest going to Via della Cava to explore a privately owned underground site open to visitors called Pozzo della Cava. Unlike the much bigger Città Sotterranea, you can tour this smaller set of caves and cistern at your own pace. The site has very well-presented artifacts and a nice overview of the history behind it.
KEEP IN MIND
The Wrap-Up: Part of us wished we could have spent more time in Orvieto, especially to enjoy it at night. However, in five hours we were able to get a good grasp of the city and visit sites that were both on and off our itinerary. If you are looking for a stop on your way to Florence, you may want to consider this small walled town perched atop of a volcanic rock.
From Rome: Since we were traveling from Rome to Florence, we allotted ourselves around 5 hours to explore the town. We took the morning train from Rome, arriving in Orvieto one hour later. Our train to Florence took approximately two hours to arrive.
Store your Luggage: If you are concerned were to leave your bags while touring Orvieto, there is a hotel close to the train station that will hold it for you. After a little research online, we discovered that Hotel Picchio will let you leave your bags for a nominal fee - just make sure you email them first to confirm they still provide the service.
- Want to see the full trip and plan your next? Check out our Italy Two Week Itinerary!