Do you want to discover the Umbria region? We have been living there for 21 years now and we love to share our tips with you. After all, we got to know the region quite well over the years. And because we have been receiving guests in our authentic Umbrian farm Polmone for 31 years, we have of course also received a lot of tips from them.
In this first part of a series of episodes of Polmone's Gazzetta 'Discovering Umbria - our tips'I'll take you to the sights of Orvieto which are also fun to visit with children. Orvieto is so atmospheric and you can visit surprising sights. Orvieto is also very attractive to just stroll around and taste the atmosphere. In any case, we come there a lot and like to. Travel with us to discover Umbria and read our tips for Orvieto below.
Umbria, a small region that is great in terms of beauty and good food and drink! The most authentic Italian region with its rolling hills where you can visit untouched old villages and towns. Unaffected because they are on top of a ridge or against a mountain top. Expansion or renewal is less easy to realize. They were deliberately built because the former city states could defend themselves better.
It is the green heart of Italy with a peaceful green landscape of hills, streams, forests, olive trees and vineyards. But above all it is a region where you will find impressive Etruscan and Roman ruins, medieval castles, great cathedrals and special paintings such as those by Perugino, Giotto and Signorelli.
We have become more than devoted to this authentic and almost mystical, green region. And although we would like the region to remain as quiet as it is now, we hope that you too will come to Umbria to discover this beautiful region. To enjoy all the beauty it has to offer. And that's why we share our tips with you.
Orvieto is beautifully situated on a tuff plateau or rupe with steep walls that suddenly rises into the green landscape. From quite a distance you can see the famous cathedral of Orvieto.
When you go to Orvieto from Polmone Turismo Verde, you drive on the so-called thousand-turns road. Very popular with motorcyclists and a little less with people who quickly become carsick. In that case, drive there very slowly and enjoy the beautiful views that you encounter along the way. In the first instance, the view of the Tiber valley, the Valle del Tevere. You drive through the UNESCO reserve of the biosphere, Monte Peglia. And at a good time you have a view of Lake Corbara with its surrounding hills. The best part of that view is the mist and cloud patches that hang around the hills around Lake Corbara as you drive to Orvieto in the morning.
In the time of the Etruscans, from the 8th to the 4th century BC, Orvieto already existed. It was then called Velzna. It has been a thriving Etruscan center. Many objects from Etruscan times have been found, including burial sites, necropoli and ruins of temples. In the museums of Orvieto, the Museo Claudio Faina and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale you can see the Etruscan treasures including the objects found in the Etruscan cemeteries.
The largest of the Etruscan death cities discovered in the area, necropoli, you will encounter when you drive to the upper town by car. They are nice to visit. At least you get a sense of how the Etruscans buried their dead.
In 264 BC the city was completely destroyed by the Romans who raised a new city: Volsinii Veteres or Urbs Vetus (Orvieto), after which the city flourished again in the course of the Middle Ages.
The historic center with all its sights and cozy streets is very easy to walk. You can leave your car in the lower town, Orvieto Scalo, behind the station where there is a large parking lot. You can then use the Funiculare, a funicular train, to the old upper town. Children like that too.
When you're at the top, take a pleasant stroll through the Corso Cavour to the center. You come across the nicest and tastiest shops. Drink a cup of coffee with a dolce in one of the many bars and enjoy the bustle in the shopping street.
If you want to see several sights in Orvieto, it is recommended to purchase the Carta Unica Orvieto. With this ticket you can visit all the main attractions in Orvieto at a discounted price. It remains valid, so you can use it for several days and even keep it for the next vacation. The ticket is also valid for the Funiculare opposite the station. There is a bus at the top of the exit that will take you to the cathedral and back again. All inclusive.
The Duomo of Orvieto
After all the years that we have been in Orvieto, we still can't believe our eyes when we stand in front of the Duomo of Orvieto. I advise you to sit down on the stone bench opposite the cathedral and take in all the beauty of that special facade. The mosaics shine towards you and be sure to view the reliefs up close. It is a very beautiful visual story that starts on the far left with the creation story of Adam and Eve and ends on the fourth panel on the far right with the Resurrection. I still marvel at the more than beautiful depiction of hell, with devils, snakes, dragons and damned people. Children's imaginations run wild here and mine still too!
The story goes that the construction of the cathedral is due to the miracle of Bolsena. Peter of Prague, a Bohemian priest, doubted the change of wine to blood and the Host in the body of Christ during the Eucharist. For that reason he went on a pilgrimage to Rome to pray on the tomb of the apostle Peter. During his journey he stopped in Bolsena and celebrated mass. A miracle took place there, for he saw blood running from the host. The blood also got on the so-called corporale, the linen cloth on which the host and the cup of wine are placed during Mass. Pope Urban IV heard of the miracle and had the bloodied relic transferred to Orvieto. After which he entered the festival of the Corpus Domini, Corpus Domini, in 1264. It was then also decided to build the Duomo for which the first stone was laid in November 1290. More than 3 centuries have been built on the cathedral.
Also view the inside
Don't let that you have to buy a ticket to get in, because believe me it is really worthwhile to see the cathedral from the inside. I am not going to repeat all the descriptions of the Duomo of Orvieto that you can find in the many travel guides and on the internet in this article. But do take the time to visit the chapel in the right transept. It is the famous Capella della Madonna di San Brizio with the grandiose frescoes of the Last Judgment by Luca Signorelli.
The left side aisle in the Capella del Corporale houses the relic of the miracle of Bolsena, the bloody linen cloth, the corporal. The canvas is kept in an enameled silver cabinet, which is only displayed on Corpus Christi, Corpus Domini and Easter.
The well of San Patrizio
Even though we've been coming to Orvieto for 31 years, we had never been to the Pozzo of San Patrizio until 2 years ago. We love the atmosphere and have always enjoyed strolling through the streets and alleys of Orvieto, the Duomo with its beautiful façade, the best ice cream at Gelateria Pasqualetti, a visit to the market and a delicious lunch in one of the many trattorias. Actually, we didn't feel like having to queue with a group of tourists to visit an attraction. But 2 years ago we were in Orvieto with two of our grandchildren and then of course you want to show them something nice. They liked it! And so do we, because last week we even descended the well and climbed up again.
It is a 62 meter deep well dug by order of Pope Clement VII. He had fled Rome and wanted to make sure that Orvieto's water supply would be sufficient in the event of a possible siege of the city. The special feature of the well is the two independently built spiral staircases that run one above the other and are illuminated by 72 windows. When you walk there you have the idea that you ended up in a drawing by Escher!
With those same two grandchildren we also started doing Orvieto Underground for the first time. It was quite warm that day, in the middle of summer. Two very cooling outings, which all four of us enjoyed very much!
Orvieto is built on a huge tuff hill. Because water seeps through tuff, there has always been little water in the city. However, under the tuff hill there is a layer of clay that the water cannot penetrate. For this reason, the inhabitants of Orvieto have dug a large number of caves, passages and wells in the tuff throughout the ages. Not only to be able to reach water, but due to lack of space in the city, the residents also made workspaces underground. They were not to be lived in, but the constant temperature of 15 C made it an ideal climate to store wine or process olive oil. And the excavated material was used again in construction. Two thirds of the ground below Orvieto appears to be hollow. Now there is a ban on further excavation work for fear of collapses. The Orvietans also kept pigeons underground in the pigeon lofts dug out of tuff to have enough to eat during the many sieges that took place.
The Torre del Moro
The 47 meter high tower can be found at the crossroads of the 3 main streets in Orvieto, Corso Cavour, Via della Costituente and Via del Duomo. It is the symbolic heart of the four districts into which the city is divided.
If possible, make the effort to climb the tower. You can do the first two floors with the lift, but we have walked all the stairs. That was not easy, especially because we did it in corona time, so we had to put on a face mask. I'll be honest with you, we finished it halfway through. There were no other people around anyway. But when you come up panting, you get value for your effort. On top of the tower you have a truly magnificent view of the city and the surrounding countryside.
The medieval quarter
The first years we went to Orvieto, we also visited the medieval quarter every time. It had been too long ago, so we walked through it again last week.
To get there, keep following Corso Cavour to Piazza della Repubblica. There you can walk straight ahead into the medieval quarter. A picturesque neighborhood in the west of the city with densely built tuff houses. View of rooftops with beautiful antique terracotta tiles, narrow alleys and steep roads. We once got stuck with our bus when we were looking for a certain company there.
You can walk along the city wall with a view of the steep tuff walls of the plateau on which Orvieto is situated. Enjoy the green view of the surrounding area. And be sure to visit the oldest church in the city, San Giovenale. The church was built in 1004, most likely on the remains of an Etruscan temple dedicated to Jupiter. In the San Giovenale you will find an incredible amount of reasonably well-preserved frescoes from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Wood was the same for the Michelangeli family in Orvieto as music was for the Bach family. The art of woodworking has been passed on from father to son and daughters at least five generations. Born in 1929, Gualverio Michelangeli is the inventor of a playful woodworking technique with which he created animals, dolls, mythological scenes, angels, snakes and paradises. He used three layers of wood that staggered slightly, creating depth in his objects. He has since passed away, but his daughters have continued the craft business and design entire interiors with this playful technique. At the time, we thought about having our kitchen designed and made by them!
In the street where the Bottega can be found, various objects by his hand, including a horse, a pregnant cow, a scene of a couple in love. Go and have a look and let the children climb on the horse! You can still buy the special sculptures in the Bottega. They are not cheap, but then you have a very special gift.
Throughout the city you will find interiors that he designed in shops, restaurants and bars. Just take a look inside Bar Montanucci. By the way, they have delicious cake there, so maybe it would be an idea to have a coffee there.