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ORVIETO | TERRITORY

Orvieto

Orvieto, known as Velzna in Etruscan times, rises up in a landscape of volcanic rock, only 100 km from fashionable Rome and 160 km from Florence. This part of Umbria has a strong tradition in the cultivation of olives and grapes. Vineyards are a prominent feature of the landscape and grapes are portrayed on the facade of the Duomo as well as in the light weft of the lace made with Irish linen thread. On arriving at this tall and strange town (see Fazio degli Uberti and Dittamondo), the dizzying heights of the cliff rise up to meet the visitor, and it is easy to get lost in the maze of narrow winding lanes. This feeling leaves us only when admiring the imposing noble palaces and monuments which are strongly anchored to the rock and visibly represented the political power of the day.

DIORAMA_Orvieto

photo Lamberto Bizzarri

Of particular mention is the 'Palazzo del Popolo' built in the second half of the 12th century to accommodate meetings of the city government. It later became the main residence of the Capitano del Popolo, the highest and most powerful authority of the town. But the palace history goes back a long time: in the underground of the palace, besides a cistern and ruins of the medieval water system, the base of an Etruscan building was found, evidence of the centuries of history of the town which fortunately have not been cancelled.

 

orvieto_palazzo_del_popolo

The most intriguing aspect of the town is certainly represented by that age-old atmosphere still intact, effortlessly blending with the modern era. At the foot of the Fortezza dell'Albornoz (14th century ) the 'Funicolare' was built at the end of 1800, a comfortable link, a means of communication with the top of the cliff, which has been modernized and connects in a few minutes the centre of the town to the railway station. More recently tunnels with escalators and lifts that go through the rock take us from the 'Campo della Fiera' parking to the town centre.

An excursion through the underground of Orvieto is definitely worth while: the caves, shafts and wells sunk into the tufa rock give one a special feel of the town, whose heart is Piazza del Duomo, with its imposing Gothic Cathedral and treasures such as the 'Cappella di San Brizio', Saint Brizio Chapel, with frescos by Fra Angelico and Luca Signorelli.

duomo_orvieto

Equally important is the 'Torre di Maurizio', Maurizio Tower, erected between 1347 and 1348 by the 'Fabbrica dell'Opera del Duomo', with the first clock in construction yards. Its peculiarity is the bronze automaton called Maurizio who strikes the bell with a hammer every hour.

Visits to the National Archeological Museum, the Claudio Faina Museum (it contains one of the most important collection of Etruscan antiquities in Italy) and the museum devoted to the sculptor Emilio Greco, all on the piazza, are not to be missed.

There are many interesting handicraft shops, wine shops and coffee-bars along the street that goes from Piazza del Duomo to Corso Cavour. Turning left one arrives at Piazza della Repubblica and then on to another wonderful part of the town, the medieval quarter with Via Filippeschi, the so-called Cava, Ripa Medici, San Giovenale and San Giovanni. The original town-plan has remained untouched in this area.

Of particular note are the Church of San Giovenale in Romanesque-Lombard style with a nave and two aisles, dating to the 11th century and with frescoes by Orvieto painters, the cloister of San Giovanni (now the 'Palazzo del Gusto' a gastronomical mecca) and the 'Pozzo della Cava' (medieval well).

Don't forget to book a giuded tour to the historical Mancinelli Theatre, an important cultural venue of the town.

 

Villages and castles in spectacular natural and artistic settings

The castle, the municipal palace , ascribed to the Architect Calderini from Perugia, are worth visiting in the village of Fabro (A1 exit). The local products include the white truffles which grow naturally in the surrounding woods.

Fabro1

To the north of Fabro there is Carnaiola, a medieval village with a castle (12th century) with walls built in the 16th and 17th centuries. The castle of Parrano was built in the year 1000 on the ruins of a Roman village. In this area you can visit the imposing natural caves called 'Tane del diavolo' with the remains of the Upper Paleolithic and Bronze Age. In Monteleone di Orvieto one should visit the Collegiata, the Church of SS Crucifix and the theatre 'Dei Rustici'. Close to the village of Montegabbione is the Monastery of the 'Scarzuola' (12th century) as well as the 'ideal town', an extraordinary architectural complex, designed by the architect Tommaso Buzzi.

scarzuola

A short distance from La Badia is the village of Porano with the interesting Villa Paolina and the Etruscan Necropolis. Other important old Umbrian towns, such as Todi, Deruta, Assisi, Gubbio and the capital of Umbria Perugia, are within easy reach of Orvieto. In upper Latium not to be misses is Bolsena with its beautifull lake and and Civita di Bagnoregio, the famous "dying town".

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