What to do and where to stay in Orvieto
Around 500 BC, the Etruscans discovered a plateau of volcanic tufa high above the valley and founded the town that would become Orvieto. Today, it has one of the most spectacular settings in the region.
The top attraction in Orvieto is the Cathedral or Duomo. Construction of the church began in 1288 and employed more than 350 architects, painters, sculptors, and mosaic artists. It blends both the Gothic and Romanesque styles beautifully.
The highlight of the church is the façade which took 300 years to finish. One of the original architects of the church, Maitani, carved the huge, fluted columns. The detail of the sculptures is really impressive. The modern bronze portals were completed in 1970 by Emilio Greco.
Inside, there’s a 14th century rose stained-glass window and two exquisite chapels — the Capella di San Brizio, which has Fra Angelico’s 15th-century frescoes of the Last Judgement. These were recently restored at a cost of more than $4 million and they’re absolutely amazing.
The Capella del Corporale has a 14th-century silver shrine. The reliquary is covered with precious stones, and the altar cloth of the Miracle of Bolsena is inside it.
The wine in Orvieto is terrific. In fact, Luca Signorelli, who finished Fra Angelico’s frescoes, asked for partial payment in wine. So after you’re seen the church, have a glass of Orvieto Classico at one of the cafes on the Piazza del Duomo.
This area is also well known for its ceramics and on Saturdays, there’s a pottery market at Piazza del Popolo.
The church of San Giovenale was originally Orvieto’s cathderal. It’s covered with 15th- and 16th-century frescoes, and there are beautiful views from the top.
The local archaeology museum has Etruscan artifacts. If you’re interested in ancient history, you can take an underground tour of the wells and caverns that the Etruscans carved from the tufa beneath the city.
Located in a 15th-century mansion in the heart of town, Hotel Filippeschi is a very short stroll from Piazza della Repubblica. It’s close to many stylish shops and restaurants too. There’s a bar and Internet access, and rooms have mini bars, safes, and satellite TV. For the location, Filippeschi offers good value for money.
Also very near to the Cathedral, Hotel Duomo was purchased by Orvieto artist Livio Orazio Valentini in 2001 and completely restored. Each of the 18 rooms is named for an artist and has a piece of furniture designed by Valentini, as well as a minibar and satellite TV. The five floors are done in different colors. And breakfast is included in the room rate.
Located in a beautifully restored 16th-century palazzo not far from the Duomo, Palazzo Piccolomini has 31 stylish rooms with LCD TVs, minibars, WiFi access, and modern furnishings. Despite its central location, the hotel is very quiet, and it has a bar, and private parking.
About ten minutes drive from Orvieto, La Badia is located in a 12th-century abbey. It’s been beautifully restored and there’s a swimming pool, tennis, and a good restaurant. Public areas and some of the rooms have old wooden beams, vaulted ceilings, terra cotta tile floors, and tufa rock walls. Larger rooms have lofts and suites have Jacuzzis. If you’re looking for a hotel in the country, this is a very stylish choice, with professional service.
As the name suggests, Villa Ciconia is a villa built in the 16th century and surrounded by an 8-acre park. It’s less than 2 miles from town. It’s four-star all the way with a beautiful swimming pool and 12 nicely turned out rooms that tastefully combine old and new.