1 day in Orvieto Italy — 8 unmissable things to do
Fall, specifically early October, is an ideal time to visit Orvieto in Italy.
The Ancient Roman city in southwest Umbria basks under plenty of autumn sunshine from its elevated position.
Surrounded by cliffs made from tuff rock and defensive walls made from the same material, our first impressions were good.
We arrived in Orvieto after spending 2 nights at the sublime Castello di Titignano.
This small borgo turned hotel and grounds is historic as it is picturesque. Overlooking the sparkling Lago di Corbara (Lake Corbara), this remote hilltop town makes being off the grid easy peasy.
With just 1 day to explore Orvieto, we didn’t have much time to see everything. However, the great thing about this city, is that most of the main attractions are within one place.
Copy, borrow or steal, this itinerary is yours for when you get the chance to visit Orvieto.
1. Catch the view from the gardens
Before even entering the city center, I suggest starting your Orvieto trip at the Giardini Comunali di Orvieto.
A large tuff stone arch indicates the main entrance. Free to enter, and with incredible views overlooking the Paglia river and the surrounding Umbrian countryside, it’s a must visit.
Even better on a sunny day, you’ll most likely take up half of your camera roll just snapping the views.
View from Giardini Comunali di Orvieto — Orvieto Italy
“Copy, borrow or steal, this itinerary is yours for when you get the chance to visit Orvieto.”
2. Marvel at the Duomo
Orvieto is no exception, with its Duomo being the central focus of the grand town square. It’s around a 6-minute walk from the main parking area in Orvieto to the Piazza del Duomo.
The short walk takes you through the narrow streets of the city, with some slight inclines along the way.
While no doubt charming, the endless stretch of cobbled stones beneath our feet led us past regular houses and buildings. A little misleading, as what was waiting for us in the piazza was about to exceed all of our expectations.
An impressive understatement — Orvieto Italy
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve stood at a Duomo in Italy with my mouth wide open. Not a pretty sight for sure, but beneath a mask, it makes little difference to whomever is witnessing my wonderment.
Il Duomo di Santa Maria di Assunta in Cielo (Orvieto Cathedral) came as an unexpected, and jaw-dropping, surprise. It gave me the same spine-tingling sensation as when visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome or the Duomo in Siena.
Dating to the 13th century, the glow from the white and dark green stripes on the façade draw you closer.
A magnificent sight awaits in the Piazza del Duomo
Like a toddler demanding your full attention, the details are so finite that you don’t know where to start.
As you edge your way to the front of the Duomo, your eyes meet the towering central green doors. On it are a series of 6 carvings, depicting tales of the city’s people. Above, is a statue of the Virgin Mary carrying an infant Jesus Christ.
Stand back at a good distance, and you’ll see that the cathedral’s front is divided into 3 sections. The design keeps in line with Italian Gothic architectural form, giving an overall feeling of balance and harmony.
Inside is an extension of the masterpiece, with a two-tone marble décor illuminating the scale of the grand structure.
Along with the paintings and sculptures that adorn the cathedral’s walls, there are also 2 chapels of great interest. Cappella di San Brizio sits in the right transept, while Cappella del Corporale is on the left.
Luca Signorelli painted the frescoes in the former chapel’s walls; the theme reflecting ‘judgement day.’
Look out for the painting, ‘Madonna with Child’ in the Cappella del Corporale. It was painted by Gentile da Fabriano in 1425 and is just about visible today.
Duomo di Santa Maria di Assunta in Cielo, Piazza del Duomo
Spectacular from any angle, the view of the Duomo di Orvieto
3. Follow in the footsteps of former popes
Orvieto was once one home to one of the largest papal residences outside of Rome.
And it’s in the Piazza del Duomo where you can find the complex of the former residences.
The building in dark brown stone to the right of Orvieto Cathedral is Palazzo Soliano. Today, it’s known as Museo Emilio Greco. Inside is a large collection ranging from graphics to sculptures from Sicilian artist Emilio Greco.
Greco had a long-standing connection to Orvieto, donating his works from some important stages in his career. To this day, two bronze altarpieces that he made in the early 1960s are still in the cathedral.
I Palazzi Papali — Orvieto Italy
Adjacent to the Duomo is a complex of medieval buildings, which once housed popes such as Urbano IV Pantaléon. They include Palazzo Papale and Palazzo dell’Opera.
Palazzo dell’Opera exhibits the collection of the Museums of the Opera del Duomo. Consisting of two floors, the collection takes you on a journey through historic religious paintings, sculptures and wooden artifacts.
You can buy your ticket for the Museums of the Opera del Duomo at the ticket office at Palazzo Soliano. There’s also the option to buy a combined ticket, which works out much cheaper.
For €5 (£4.5/$6), you can enter the Duomo and the museums; a single ticket costs €4 (£3.6/$5).
Visit the former papal residences, one of which was Palazzo Soliano (left)
4. Go underground
Take a fascinating look beneath the streets of Orvieto on a tour of the underground tunnels.
Have fun navigating your way around the series of more than 1,200 tunnels, caves and passageways.
The tunnels were used by noble families to allow safe passage to safety during times of siege. As well as being a visitor attraction, Orvieto Underground is also an excavation site.
You can only visit the Orvieto Underground on a guided tour. They begin at Piazza del Duomo no. 23 and are available in English, French, Spanish and German.
At the time of visiting*, tickets cost €7 (£6/$8), or €5 (£4.5/$6) for students and senior citizens. Groups of 20+ also pay the discounted price.
The series of tunnels beneath Orvieto Italy
5. Savor a taste of Umbria
Take a lunch break at the excellent Antica Bottega al Duomo. Rustic, homestyle cooking awaits, courtesy of chef Pippo at this family-run establishment.
An enticing counter of cured meats and cheese greets you as you enter its doors. We sat down to a hearty meal of a board of cold cuts and cheeses, before ordering our mains.
A classic dish in this region is the mouth-watering pappardelle al cinghiale (pasta with a ragu of wild boar). If you’re a meat eater, I urge you to try this. It’s heaven on a plate, and something they do very well at Antica Bottega al Duomo.
Antica Bottega al Duomo, Via Pedota 2
Enjoy a taste of Umbria at Antica Botega al Duomo in Orvieto Italy
6. Go above and beyond
With time ticking, there wasn’t much time to see everything we wanted. However, we did make time to see time, in the form of a clock tower at the Torre del Moro.
Located at the heart of Orvieto, the tower provides panoramic views of the city and beyond. Standing at 47m, there’s an elevator for the first half of the way up. From that point, keep racking up your step count until you reach the top.
Two for one attractions — Orvieto Italy
The entrance to the tower is where you’ll also be able to access Palazzo dei Sette. The exquisite building was once the public seat of the arts council. Today, it hosts art exhibitions, conferences and trade fairs.
Tickets cost €2.80* (£2.5/$3.3), or a reduced price of €2* (£1.8/$2.4) for students, senior citizens and groups (minimum 7 people).
Torre del Moro is usually open from 10am or 10.30am, and closes at 4.30, 7, 8pm depending on the season. Saying that, always check the website before visiting to avoid disappointment.
Torre del Moro & Palazzo dei Sette, Corso Cavour 87
The fabulous view from Torre del Moro
7. Swing by another palazzo
A short walk from the tower is the outstanding Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo.
This mouthful of a palazzo basically translates to the ‘palace of the captain of the people.’ It dates to the 13th century, and was formerly home to nobility, as well as a college at some point.
Today, the building’s used as a conference center, its arches and iconic merlons beckoning people to its doors.
While we didn’t go inside, it’s definitely worth visiting if only to see its impressive exterior.
Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo del Popolo 1
Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo at Orvieto Italy Credit: Wikipedia
8. Wander the streets
If you’ve read my previous post on Palazzolo Acreide, you’ll know how much I simply enjoy exploring the streets.
Without any help from Google Maps, I highly recommend wandering through Orvieto and seeing what you’ll find.
Along with discovering several small churches, I also came across typical narrow streets with small arches.
Stroll through the streets of Orvieto
Other notable sights in Orvieto Italy
If you’ve longer than a day, there are many more attractions to see in and around Orvieto.
Pozzo di San Patrizio
To the east of the city is where you’ll find the well of St. Patrick. Designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Young in 1527, this well is different from any other. A staircase consisting of 248 steps makes it possible to enter and descend to the bottom.
The reference to St Patrick pays homage to the Irish saint who was shown the entrance to purgatory by Christ.
Tickets cost €5* (£4.5/$6) or €3.5* (£3/$4) for students, senior citizens and groups. Entry is free for children aged 0 to 6 years old. Check the website for the most up-to-date opening times and prices.
Pozzo di San Patrizio, Piazza Cahen 5B
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Orvieto / Museo Claudio Faina di Orvieto
Learn more about the city’s Etruscan origins at Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Orvieto and Museo Claudio Faina di Orvieto.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Orvieto is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8.30am to 7.30pm. The museum’s closed on Mondays. Tickets cost €4 (£3.6/$5) and €2 (£1.8/$2.4) for students and senior citizens. Children under the age of 18 are free.
Museo Claudio Faina di Orvieto is open from March to September from 9.30am to 6pm. From October to February, it’s open from 10am to 5pm. The museum’s closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so plan your trip accordingly.
Learn more about the city’s origins at Museo Claudio Faina di Orvieto
Where to park at Orvieto
There are 2 principle parking areas in Orvieto: Piazza Cahen and Piazza Roma.
However, during the peak summer season, these spots fill up very quickly, meaning you need to find an alternative. Luckily, there’s a third option: the funicular.
You can park your car in the parking located at Strada della Direttissima. From here, walk to the funicular station called Orvieto Stazione Funicolare.
The short ride will take you up to Piazza Cahen Funicolare. You can then choose to either walk to the city center or wait for a bus. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth waiting for a bus as it’s just a short walk.
The walls around Giardini Comunali di Orvieto
What do you think of Orvieto? Is it somewhere you’d like to visit in Italy? Ask me any questions regarding your visit in the comments below.
*Prices correct at the time of publishing.
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....