In the Middle Ages, it was known as the "tall and strange city", but what does this particular name owe to? Leaning on a high tuff cliff, during the day Orvieto seems to lie on the clouds, at night it appears as a bright vision suspended in the dark sky. In short, already from the highway, when you see the city, you understand that this is not just any place. And the visitor who will have the pleasure of stopping, will discover a number of architectural and artistic treasures that make this place a jewel not only of Umbria, but of the whole world. After an unhurried visit, however, it is worth going further, because Orvieto is located in one of the most beautiful areas of Italy: in its surroundings we can find numerous ancient villages, pristine lakes, "monstrous" parks and other wonders.
So let's find out what to see in Orvieto and its surroundings.
Orvieto, a masterpiece city in one of the most beautiful places in Italy
It is one of the most visited cities in Tuscia, a territory in the balance between three regions - Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany - and which was originally inhabited by "Tusci", ie the Etruscans, and also called Etruria. Orvieto therefore has an ancient history, which is reflected in the wealth of works of art that make it an unmissable stop: visiting it means making a journey through time, from the Etruscans to the Romans, up to the Renaissance.
And our tour can only start from the masterpiece of Romanesque and Gothic art, symbol of the city: the Duomo, that is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Begun in 1290, its construction took three centuries and the work of over twenty artists. It is worth entering and visiting the Chapel of San Brizio in the Cathedral of Orvieto, a jewel of the Italian Renaissance to admire the decorations and frescoes themed in the Last Judgment.
Another unmissable attraction is undoubtedly the famous “Pozzo di San Patrizio" which takes its name from the similarity with the cavity - apparently without a bottom - in which the saint came to retreat in prayer: according to legend, from that place you could access Purgatory and, sometimes, even glimpse the entrance of Paradise. We do not guarantee this, but you cannot leave Orvieto without discovering this marvel of engineering and architecture 58 meters deep, whose peculiarity are the double independent helical staircases, one for the descent and the other for the ascent: 248 steps to "touch" the bottom, cross a bridge to get to the other staircase and from there another 248 steps. When you get back up, you can relax in the gardens of the Albornoz Fortress, right next to the entrance to the Pozzo di San Patrizio, which are the ideal place to admire the view over the Orvieto Valley.
While we have ventured underground, let's stay there for a while. Because there is an unprecedented and hidden Orvieto, the underground one. For over two thousand years the inhabitants have dug into the tuff cliff on which the city rests, building another, underground, formed by a complex labyrinth of caves, tunnels, wells and cisterns that can be visited today.
Finally, still speaking of steps, the Torre del Moro also deserves a visit: today it has become a cultural center, from its top you can admire the breathtaking view of the Duomo and the roofs of Orvieto. After 250 beautiful steep steps.
Orvieto and surroundings: what to see near the "tall and strange city"
There is no shortage of places of interest in Orvieto, as we have seen. Yet, not everyone knows that this city - thanks to its strategic position - is the ideal destination to discover some of the greatest wealth of our Country.
The park of the monsters of Bomarzo
Take the car and go south of Orvieto, to discover a unicum in the art of Italian Renaissance gardens: the “Sacro Bosco di Bomarzo" in Viterbo, also known as “Villa delle Meraviglie" or “Parco dei Mostri". Three hectares of park designed in 1552 by the architect Pirro Ligorio and the prince Vicino Orsini, in which, in the middle of a wood, there is a path that will lead you to the discovery of dozens of enormous statues, cryptic inscriptions, boulders carved with the appearance of monsters, dragons, mythological subjects and exotic animals, but also fountains, obelisks, hanging houses that made even the famous painter Salvador Dalì fall in love. While you are there, also stop in Viterbo, the "city of the Popes" and walk through its medieval quarters, the house of Santa Rosa and the Papal Palace, up to the thermal area just outside the city
Natural beauty: Lake Bolsena and the Marmore Falls
For those who love nature, they can take advantage of Orvieto's proximity to the magnificent Bolsena Lake, the largest body of water in Lazio but not only that, because it is also the largest lake of volcanic origin in Europe. A place of high environmental value, as well as tourism, whose coasts alternate olive groves, vineyards, cultivated fields and villages of great value.
Another essential stop for those visiting Orvieto are the nearby Marmore Falls, considered - rightly - one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in Umbria. Located near the city of Terni, they are the highest artificial cascades in Europe: built starting from 271 BC, they are a formidable work of Roman engineering that still today allows the Velino river to spectacularly flow into the Nera with a total height difference of 165 m divided into three jumps. In short, a destination that leaves adults and children ecstatic.
Villages, villages and more villages
If Orvieto is beautiful, so are the countless nearby villages, considered to be among the most beautiful in Italy. Starting from Ficulle, a very small medieval village just twenty minutes from Orvieto, which has become famous for the production of artistic ceramics. In fact, it is also known as the "town of the cocciari", that is of those who work the clay to build the shards.
Also very famous is Civita di Bagnoregio, a sort of miniature Orvieto as it also stands on a spur of tuff in precarious balance. Not surprisingly, it is nicknamed the "dying city", due to the fragile ground on which it stands and the depopulation suffered in past years. Today, in fact, it has barely a handful of inhabitants, and can be reached by crossing a suggestive suspension bridge: arriving in the village, the tourist will have the impression of being in another time. The advice is to get lost in the ravines and alleys of the village, and be enchanted by the spectacular view over the entire “Valle dei Calanchi".
A visit to Todi is also a must, which is about forty kilometers from Orvieto and is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Umbria, full of places of historical and artistic interest. Starting with the Duomo, an outstanding example of late Romanesque and Gothic sacred architecture, built between the 11th and 14th centuries, and the Bishop's Palace, the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo and the Palazzo del Popolo, among the oldest public buildings in Italy
Or again, not too far from Orvieto, Montefalco is certainly worth a stop, overlooking the plain of the Topino and Clitunno rivers from the top of a hill and land of the prestigious Montefalco Sagrantino. Here stands the Tenuta di Còlpetrone, one of the most important productive realities of the Montefalco DOCG area. This is the ideal place to stop and reach Orvieto, Spoleto and also Perugia, discovering all the richness that the Umbrian territory can offer and also living one of the experiences proposed by the Estate, such as the guided tasting of local wines.
Did we make you want to leave?