Umbria’s Orvieto … an Etruscan Hill Town Endowed with a Captivating Spirit

Umbria's hill town of Orvieto is perched high on a rocky butte

Umbria’s hill town of Orvieto is perched high on a rocky butte

The medieval Estrucan hill town of Orvieto is perched high on a butte in southwestern Umbria. At the train station below the walls of ancient Orvieto, Polly and I boarded a gondola which traversed the steep terrain of the bluff and dropped us at the center of this captivating village. Cobblestone pavers led us along meandering streets lined with boutiques, luxury hotels and restaurants. Just a little exploration here convinced us that Orvieto’s history is vast and intriguing.

Orvieto Cathedral’s Chapel of the Corporal

In Duomo Piazza, the colossal Orvieto Cathedral dates to the 1200s. Its limestone façade is adorned with ornate carvings of biblical leaders and brightly hued scriptural interpretations painted on gold leaf, while steeply angled roof lines and spires reach for the heavens. Inside, the Chapel of the Corporal harbors a blood-stained corporal veil from the eucharistic “Miracle of Bolsena”. Across the Piazza, Museo Faina, an archeological museum displays relics and tombs dating from the sixth century BC, and documents the elaborate system of caves, tunnels and catacombs lying under the rocky butte. Created thousands of years ago, these passages were designed to ensure that prominent nobility could successfully escape to regions far from Orvieto in the event of siege.

After our lesson in Etruscan history, Polly and I moved on to Orvieto’s main gathering place, the Piazza della Republica. Countless shops, boutiques and restaurants fill this Piazza as well as the cobblestone walking paths branching off in all directions. Beautiful ceramic work by local artisans and hand-carved marionettes created by Bottega Michelangeli make Orvieto a unique shopping destination. Naturally, Polly and I were willing participants in the economic enterprise of this delightful Umbrian village!

The shopkeeper at Bellocci Luigi, a lovely ceramics boutique where we both invoked some wicked damage on our credit cards, happily recommended a place for dinner. She contacted Trattoria del Moro and secured reservations for Polly and I that evening. Our meal was spectacular! The waiter encouraged us to order their “offerte del giorno” … shaved ribbons of mushrooms harvested earlier in the day, and drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper were an epicurean dream! The mushrooms alone made Trattoria del Moro worth the visit, but the entrees which followed convinced us that this hideaway has to be one of the finest in Umbria … Delizioso pasto! (

Polly enjoying the Umbrian landscape from atop Orvieto

We left the trattoria after our late night feast and strolled to Piazza della Republica, where we found our driver Giorgio waiting patiently to deliver us at our accommodations in modern Orvieto, located below the ancient section of the city. While the hotel we chose was adequate, Polly and I agreed that staying inside the walled portion of medieval Orvieto, high on the butte overlooking Umbria’s lush green hills and rolling landscape would have been a superior decision. 

Dozens of medieval hill towns and scenic attractions fill Umbria’s borders. The capital city of Perugia, Assisi, Trevi, Spoleto, Narni and Lake Trasimeno are but a few that are steeped in abundant history and intriguing lore dating to BC; all are worthy of a visit. But the vibrant people, heritage and culture embodied within the town of Orvieto have captured my heart. If you have the opportunity for travel to this wonderful Umbrian hill town, please take a few days to discover and enjoy its magnetic charm.

Orvieto's Duomo Piazza

Orvieto’s Duomo Piazza

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