Orvieto is my favorite day trip from Rome and a town I’m happy to return to over and over again. Located in southern Umbria, just a short drive from the Civita di Bagnoregio, Orvieto has one of most arresting cathedrals in all of Italy, along with beautiful scenery and wonderful trattorias. With its Etruscan heritage and famous ceramics, it is a great city for art and culture lovers but it’s small-town charm also makes it a great alternative to towns in Tuscany if you’re short on time or looking for a getaway from Rome. And though you can easily visit Orvieto in a day, I always encourage visitors to stay overnight because there’s plenty to see – and the town has a lovely atmosphere at night.
You can reach Orvieto by catching a one-hour train from Roma Termini. From the station of Orvieto Scalo, you hop on a funicular which takes you up into town. Then, you can either opt to stroll to the center or catch the local bus to drop you off near the Duomo. Whether you’re a solo traveler, visiting with kids or looking for a romantic getaway, Orvieto ticks all the boxes. Here are my favorite things to see, do and eat in town.
Orvieto Travel Guide
Duomo di Orvieto
With its impressive façade and ornate frescoes, the 14th century Duomo di Orvieto is considered one of the finest in all of Italy. It is decorated in the Gothic and Romanesque styles and dominates the central piazza in town – though you’ll be able to spot it from a distance even when you’re in the surrounding countryside. The bas-reliefs and statues on the façade represent stories from the New and Old Testament and are set below golden mosaics and a large rose window. The interior is more somber in style, save for the beautiful Chapel of San Brizio which features dramatic frescoes that depict the Last Judgement, a project commenced by Beato Angelico and completed by Luca Signorelli. Vasari, a 16th century Italian painter and historian, believed Michelangelo admired the frescoes so much, he used them as inspiration to paint his own Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.
Home to 20,000 people, Orvieto is the perfect sized-city to enjoy on foot without getting lost – and without getting overwhelmed. The city is divided into four quartieri, or districts, and by visiting the attractions listed in this guide, you’ll visit three areas. The last, Olmo, lies further off the beaten path in the northwestern quadrant of the city but it’s truly lovely and worth a wander for its quiet streets and beautiful views. Here, you’ll find one San Giovenale, one of the oldest churches in the city which dates back to 1004. It has magnificent frescoed columns and a medieval garden where many people plan their weddings. Wander along the city walls and climb up the steep Vicolo Malcorini Ripa Serancia for gorgeous views of the town, which looks like a true “presepe” (nativity scene) from this angle.
Pozzo di San Patrizio
No matter where you travel in Italy, there’s usually a whole world waiting to be discovered below your very feet. In Orvieto, you can’t miss the chance to descend down St. Patrick’s Well featuring two ramps in a double helix. Built in the 16th century by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, one of Italy’s leading architects of the High Renaissance, it’s a beautiful site that features 248 steps and 70 windows with modern-day illumination – making it a great photo op. The well was commissioned by Pope Clement VII who had fled to Orvieto after the sack of Rome in order to ensure the city would maintain an independent water supply. Its name was inspired by legends of St. Patrick Purgatory, an ancient pilgrimage site in Country Donegal in Ireland.
Etruscan Museum “Claudio Faina”
Located directly across from the Duomo, the Etruscan Museum is worth a visit not only for the plethora of ancient art it holds inside, but for its magnificent views of the piazza and the façade of the basilica. This is truly the best place to capture the cathedral in all its glory. Housed within a noble palazzo, many of the rooms have gorgeous 19th century frescoes in the neo-Baroque styles that enhance the archeological remains within. The impressive collection features Etruscan amphorae and bronzes, Greek vases and figurines, and Roman statues and coins.
Anello della Rupe
Orvieto is built upon volcanic tufa rock foundations which you can explore with a leisurely hike along the Anello della Rupe. This path that winds around the perimeter of town and takes about 60-90 minutes to complete, though there are multiple entrances around town so you can walk part of the trail – It’s an easy path but there are a few steep inclines to be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water with you. As you make your way along the trail, you’ll come across rock churches and spot Orvieto’s Etruscan necropolis near the Porta Vivaria entrance.
Torre del Moro
One of Orvieto’s many medieval towers, the Torre del Moro clocktower is the best place for a birds-eye-view of the city. There are 240 steps to the top but it’s an easy climb and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts! The hours vary by season but if you visit in the winter months, you’re in luck – the tower closes at 4:30pm so you can time you visit to catch the sunset and see the town come aglow all around you.
Where To Eat
Trattoria del Moro Aronne / Gastronomia Aronne
It’s difficult to have a bad meal in Orvieto. I’ve enjoyed every restaurant I’ve tried in the city but if I have to pick a favorite, it would be Trattoria del Moro Aronne and its sister deli-restaurant Gastronomia Aronne. The two eateries are located next to each other but the trattoria is better for dinner while the gastronomia is a more casual deli that is perfect for an al fresco lunch. My friends Linda and Steve from The Beehive live in Orvieto and recommended this place to me years ago – after a life-changing meal with friends, I was hooked. Don’t miss the tantalizing nidi, a fresh pasta stuffed with cheese and drizzled with honey, and order anything with truffles.
Trattoria La Palomba
With one of the prettiest façades in town, Trattoria la Palomba will beckon you to grab a seat as you stroll through town. This historic trattoria has been serving traditional Umbrian dishes for over 50 years and visitors travel from far and wide for a taste of its signature dishes. Pasta all’Ascaro features umbricelli tossed with egg yolks, parmigiano, pancetta and a freshly-shaved black truffles, while the Palomba is wild pigeon served with a fragrant sauce of berries, anchovies, capers, olives and orange peel.
Antica Bottega del Duomo
Tucked on a side street near the cathedral, the bustling Antica Bottega del Duomo serves hearty pastas and seasonal vegetables, panini stuffed with slow-roasted porchetta and antipasti platters with local meats and cheeses. It’s a rustic spot with a homey atmosphere and great for a quick bite. You can also order take-away sandwiches.
Orvieto is home to dozens of quaint wine bars that serve its eponymous Orvieto DOC wine made with a blend of Grechetto, Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. A great place to try it is Bottega Vera, a cozy little wine bar and alimentare with over 150 labels. You can order wine by the glass or bottle, enjoy an olive oil tasting and taste delicious cold-cuts, crostini or panini. I also enjoy sipping a glass at Enoteca La Loggia and Vincaffé.
Where To Stay
Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini
Set within a noble palazzo that belonged to a Papal family, Palazzo Piccolomini is a small family-run hotel located near Orvieto’s medieval district. It has a range of suites and bedrooms but the most beautiful is surely the Monaldeschi Suite, which features a frescoed ceiling and stand-alone bathtub for a romantic touch. The hotel’s atmospheric breakfast room lies below ground where you can admire the city’s tufa rock foundations, and it’s well-located to arrive by car (free parking is available outside).
Altarocca Wine Resort
If you prefer to stay in the countryside, the Altarocca Wine Resort is located 8km outside of Orvieto is a great option. This boutique property has luxurious suites and bedrooms, as well as apartments located in historic farmhouses of the borgo. It may be hard to tear yourself away from lounging by the panoramic swimming but the resort also offers a wonderful wine and oil therapy spa treatment that you shouldn’t miss. Altarocca also produces organic wines, including the town’s famous Orvieto Classico Superiore DOC and reds made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon