Orvieto is a hill town about an hour outside of Rome in the region of Umbria. The old town on the hill-top has very few cars and few tourists who stay longer than mid-morning to dusk for a single day. Give Orvieto a little bit longer, maybe three days, and you’ll get to discover all the little delights of the town.
Kevin, Beth and I stayed in B & B La Soffitta, which is walking distance from all the things I recommend in the Old Town. There’s no elevator and quite a few spiral stairs, but once you are inside it’s well worth it. There’s breakfast each morning in the dining room with yogurt, coffee, fruit, muesli, Melba toast, and fresh bread.
Drink White Wine In The Sun
Orvieto is known for dry white wines that blend the local Trebbiano and Grechetto grapes. We enjoyed our first sips at a long lunch on a patio. We sat in the sun eating handmade pasta, sipping glass after glass of wine, and people watching as the locals transitioned from work to siesta.
Visit Il Mago di Oz
Let owner Giuseppe Rosella guide you through his magical workshop and you’ll wonder if you’ve been transported to the North Pole. Giuseppe doesn’t speak a word of English, but he doesn’t need it to express his enthusiasm for his work. Smile with him and he’ll open every intricate, handmade music box in the store. Don’t touch anything and don’t take any photographs. Just chill out and let yourself feel like a kid again as Giuseppe shakes up his snow globes and shows off his collection of masks for Carnivale.
Climb The Bell Tower
The Torre del Moro is hard to miss because it’s so much taller than the other buildings in Orvieto. But this clock tower is still pretty short. You can climb up in just a few minutes and look out over Umbria. Just take note of the time: bells ring on the quarter hour and they are loud when you’re standing right next to them. (When the bells rang on our visit I jumped violently that I nearly threw out my back; it hurt for the rest of the day.)
Explore The Caves
Take a tour with Oriveto Underground and you’ll find that the subterranean story of Orvieto is just as fascinating as the above ground story. In the photograph above, we are standing in front of pigeon coops. The pigeons lived mostly underground but could fly out through windows in the side of the hill. They were bred for many reasons, including food.
Foodies must try the classic roast pigeon at least once in Orvieto. It’s not served as commonly as it once was so you’ll have to seek it out. We went to the aptly named Trattoria La Palomba (palomba is one of the words for pigeon in Italian). We all tried it and it was interesting, kind of like gamey chicken. The rest of the food and wine at Trattoria La Palomba was amazing, especially the potato side dish I ordered. So even if you don’t want pigeon it’s a good place to eat.
Hike Around The Hill
There’s a trail called Rupe that rings the hill that the Old Town sits on. It takes a few hours to hike, but it’s mostly flat and difficult to get lost. However, if there’s been any rain recently the path gets pretty slippery in places. Rick Steves gives a good overview of the stops along the way with one exception: the hike is a bit more moderate than easy. Wear shoes you’d wear in the woods.
Climb Down St. Patrick’s Well
This well is 40 stories deep and you reach the bottom via a circular path ringing the interior of their well. Today, people climb down for fun but in the past people and their donkeys walked down regularly to get water they needed.
Meet The Cats
Orvieto is full of stray cats. They’re beautiful, well-fed and generally friendly. Meet them at your own risk. We loved getting to know them.
Have you been to Orvieto? What did you enjoy there?