Orvieto is a popular tourist destination, mainly because of the city’s famous cathedral. It also helps that the city can be easily reached by car or train from both Rome and Florence. The historical center of Orvieto is located on a steep volcanic rock, under which the modern part of the city stretches out.
Orvieto city guide
There is a tourist office in the Piazza del Duomo, right in front of the cathedral itself. Like most larger Italian cities, Orvieto has a museum card, which gives access to most the most important museums and other attractions. The card is called Carta Orvieta Unica and costs 20 Euro.
The train station is at the foot of the cliff. You can take a funicular to the center of the city. After this you can take a bus to the top, but it is just as easy and much more beautiful to just walk. By car, follow Autostrada del Sole A1/E35 in northern (from Rome) or southern (from Florence) direction.
The reason Orvieto was built on the top of a cliff was, of course, that it was easily defensible. However, the Romans succeeded in overcoming the Etruscans in 265 B.C. and expelled them to the shore of Lake Bolsena. Fortunately, many remains from Etruscan times can still be seen in the city, both in the museums and at the Tempio del Belvedere and the Crocifisso del Tufo Necropolis at the foot of the cliff.
In the 6th century, the Eastern Gothic general Witiges defended himself here against the Byzantine ruler Belisarius. Belisarius won, but only because the Eastern Goths ran out of food.
Around the 10th century, the city gradually gained more influence and in the 13th century Orvieto became a refuge for popes. The cathedral was built in this period and the popes had several important palaces constructed. There were often conflicts with neighboring cities such as Viterbo, Siena, Perugia and Todi.
After the popes left, Orvieto gradually lost its importance.
The name of the city comes from the Latin Urbs Vetus, which means “Old City”.
The city’s main attraction is its famous cathedral, which is located in the Piazza del Duomo along with a number of palaces built by the Popes. Other important squares are Piazza del Capitano del Popolo and the Piazza della Repubblica. The main street is called Corso Cavour and is flanked by beautiful palaces, some churches and an abundance of shops making a living from tourism. Contrada della Cava is the name of the medieval district in the western part of the historical center. A network of corridors runs underneath this district, flanked by Etruscan monuments can be found. The city has several archaeological museums and at the foot of the cliff there are some Etruscan necropolises.