In March 2019 a friend and I went on a short road trip to explore Orvieto in a day. My friend Steph drove us south along the windy roads through the mountains on a cloudy Sunday.
Orvieto is a perfectly preserved medieval town full of pretty churches, narrow streets, and over a thousand caves. A day trip to Orvieto is a must for any holiday in central Italian.
You can see the highlights of Orvieto comfortably in 6 hours; the cathedral overlooking the vineyards and olive groves, a tour through the caves under Orvieto and a glass of their famous crisp white wine.
How Do You Reach Orvieto For A Day?
Just north of Rome, Orvieto is easily reached by train. There are direct trains from Termini station in Rome that only take an hour and cost less than ten euros one way. And it’s on the same train line and highway that goes up to Arezzo and Florence.
Coming from Perugia, it’s easiest by car. There are still cheap trains to Orvieto, but not direct; you’ll have to change in Arezzo or Cortona.
From the train station, it’s a quick tram, or funicular, up to the historic town. The ticket costs just over a euro and is right across the street. If you’ve driven find the free parking lot below the train station and walk up a few stairs to the funicular.
Orvieto’s Uniquely S
Orvieto is almost floating in the middle of a valley. The city is built on a plateau made of a volcanic stone called Tufo.
The sheer drop down to the valley was a great strength in
These days it makes for fantastic photos.
We arrived before lunch and after a stroll enjoyed a glass of white wine with the essential Umbrian fast food.
In the afternoon we bought tickets for a tour of the caves, dug out 3000 years ago, and for the magnificent cathedral.
This Small Town Has a Long History, Even for Italy.
The story of Orvieto begins well before the ancient Romans. Inhabited by the Etruscans, they first dug into the soft rock to make wells. Romans destroyed most of the Etruscan town when they conquered,
The historic part of this city is up on the plateau, above the boring newer area in the valley. Orvieto is small enough to enjoy on foot, and being a plateau it is fairly flat.
A bonus is the few cars that can drive within the historic town, adding to the peaceful atmosphere.
Orvieto’s Top Attractions
While not a big city, Orvieto has lots to do for a day or a few nights.
The town’s largest attraction is one of the most important Cathedrals in Italy.
The Duomo, or Cathedral, is an impressive building that can be admired from afar and up close. The facade from 1330 is full of sculptures, stain glass, pink and green marble, and gold.
I love the paintings inside this Cathedral. They are in panels telling different stories and painted mostly in the 14th century.
Behind the Duomo is the residency of several Popes from the 11th to the 14th century.
Orvieto’s had many Popes come and live in this Residency, normally because they had to escape from Rome for political reasons or because of war.
When we purchased our tickets for the Duomo, for an extra euro we could add on the Residency. It isn’t very big and it lacks English translations, but the art collection was nice and it was fun to investigate behind the cathedral.
By far the most interesting and unique part of our day in Orvieto. It was full of interesting information about how people lived in the region from 3000 BC until world war II. Ancient wells, making wine and oil and farming pigeons. They have several choices for language and it lasts just under an hour.
I should mention that both my friend and I suffer from claustrophobia. We got nervous that we’d made a mistake as we waited for the guide to arrive, but we had nothing to worry about.
While the whole tour is in the caves below Orvieto, there are windows looking out at the panorama the entire time. One staircase was tight, but neither of us felt uncomfortable. You do however need to be okay with a fair amount of stairs.
We got lucky (with the 12.30 tour) and it was just the two of us in English. Our guide said the tour before ours had over 30 people. In the summer or winter, it’s an excellent choice as the caves maintain a continuous temperature of 10C 12 months of the year.
Saint Patrick’s Well
Or in Italian, Il Pozzo di San Patrizio. I have yet to see this impressive well made 1537 so that the Pope, and the city, could survive a possible siege.
It goes down an impressive 53 meter or 174 feet. But we went on St. Patrick’s Day and the well was closed for a later event.
What we did learn was to make sure you buy the tickets BEFORE walking down the path to the Medieval well as you can’t buy them on site!
Eating and Drinking in Orvieto
We arrived around 11.30 and decided on an early lunch. Something quick, easy and a local specialty, the Umbrian fast food: porchetta.
A white crusty bun full of pork that has been stuffed with herbs and cooked on a spit isn’t the healthiest, but Steph had to try it once. If that doesn’t appeal, don’t worry.
Another dish to look for is a pasta called
Olive oil has been grown here since the Romans, there are even presses dating back hundreds of years on the underground tour.
The area around Orvieto is best known for their white wine, the Orvieto DOC and the Orvieto Classico DOC. They are both dry white wines, but there are sweeter versions if that is what you prefer. Both wines need to have at least 60% of Grechetto or Trebbiano grapes to have their DOC certificate.
I have a post about my favourit wineries to visit in Umbria for tours and tastings here.
Orvieto In A Day Won’t Cause Burn Out
While it’s always nice to spend a few days in every new town, sometimes it isn’t possible. A trip to Orvieto in a day can be done easily from Rome. A way to get a taste of Umbria and entice you to come for longer on your next trip to Italy.