Orvieto - Umbria
a period of 3000 years Orvieto has sat in the same site, high above
the rolling plateau of Umbrian farmland and volcanic valleys. The
city since has been a center for worship, art, and touristry (in that
order), with its visitors becoming intoxicated by Orvieto's character,
charm, history andof courserenowned Orvieto Classico wine!
Tellingly, in ancient days, the city went by the special nickname,
Oinarea, or "city where wine flows."
Orvieto's underground companion city was founded by the Etruscans in the 7th century B.C. as they dug for tufo (a volcanic stone responsible for much of the city's medieval quarter). The important Etruscan municipality lasted until 263 B.C. when Romans came and sacked the area, ironically dubbing their "new" city "urbus ventus" (or "old city"), the name from which Orvieto is derived. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Episcopal see was transferred to Orvieto by Bolsena; and, during the Middle Ages, the city became a center of worship, with Thomas Aquinas lecturing in its local academies and numerous churches emerging on street corner after street corner. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the so-called "Masters of Orvieto" joined with prominent artists from Siena, Assisi, and Perugia to form a school of painters that would prove to be highly influential in the world of art. In 1540, Orvieto was incorporated into the Papal States, later changing hands between provinces until the Unification of Italy (in the year1860).
The city's dazzling Duomo (cathedral) was designed ca. 1290 by the artist Lorenzo Maitani, but it involved 33 architects, 90 mosaic workers, 152 sculptors, and 68 painters working together for over 600 years to create the Duomo as it stands today. And, the work continues. The historical Palazzo dei Papi, or "Palace of the Popes," is the site of the Museo Archologico Nazionale, and contains some of the area's Etruscan artifacts, including a full-scale tomb. Excursions are also offered of Etruscan Orvieto, the "Underground City," known as Velzna. Though indeed sacked and pillaged by the Romans, many of the original mills, cisterns, pottery works, quarries, canteens, and burial chambers remain preserved beneath the earth, awaiting visitors. Other Etruscan artifacts can be found in the Museo Civico and Museo Faina. Two important churches to explore are the Chiesa di Sant'Andrea (at the entrance to the city's medieval quarter and the site of an ancient Etruscan temple) and the Chiesa di San Giovenale (Orvieto's oldest church, and dedicated to the city's first bishop).
Several tasty, authentic food items to pick up or sample while in Orvieto include lumachelle (snail-shaped rolls with ham and cheese), tortucce (fried bread dough), anise seed or almond biscotti, chickpea-chestnut soup, rigatoni prepared with nuts and chocolate, and mazzafegate (sweet or salty sausages). Also, don't leave town without a taste of Orvieto Classico, the city's world-renowned wine!
Trains make hourly departures to Arezzo, Florence (via Cortona), and Rome. Buses, leaving from either Piazza Cahen or the train station, travel to Viterbo, Perugia, and Todi.