Orvieto: Well worth the climb

An elderly man rests near a sculpture in the medieval Italian town of Orvieto.


By KENDRA HELMER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 1, 2004

Travelers no doubt are tempted to stop when they spot the old city of Orvieto perched high on a craggy cliff just off the A-1 autostrada that runs from Naples to Milan.

But the medieval town deserves more than a few photos snapped from the highway.

The quaint village, in the Umbria region about 60 miles north of Rome and about 125 miles southeast of Livorno, is an ideal day trip.

After parking or getting off the train, the town and its maze of buildings is easily explored on foot.

The dominant feature of the town is its duomo, or cathedral. The symbol of the city is hailed as one of Italy’s finest Gothic buildings. It took three centuries, starting in 1290, to build. Though scaffolding temporarily covers the duomo’s multi-colored facade, the black-and-white marble bands on the main body are unobstructed.

The bells of a half dozen or so other old churches can be heard chiming throughout the day.

Orvieto also has numerous Etruscan tombs and underground chambers to explore.

Four daily “Orvieto Underground” tours take visitors into the crag upon which the city was built. The subterranean caves have traces of Etruscan, Medieval and Renaissance periods. The hourlong tours start at 11 a.m., 12:15, 4 and 5:15 p.m. at the information office, across from the duomo.

Shopaholics can keep busy in the numerous stores tucked in alleyways, while picturesque views of the surrounding countryside and vineyards keep artists busy. Photographers will find friendly responses among the town’s 21,600 residents, who smile from their balconies and don’t seem to mind visitors taking photos of them hanging their laundry.

Those wanting a bird’s-eye view of Orvieto can climb 250 steps to the Torre del Moro (Moor’s Tower).

To get there, follow Via del Duomo northwest to Corso Cavour.

Restaurants and cafes are tucked in various alleyways.

Take home a bottle of Orvieto Classico, wine produced from the area’s two dozen vineyards.

If one day isn’t enough, there are plenty of options for accommodation in Orvieto and the surrounding countryside.

On the QT

Directions: Orvieto is right off the A-1 autostrada. Exit at Orvieto and follow the signs up the cliff. Once you reach the city, look for parking signs and get a ticket from the machines.

Orvieto is 60 miles north of Rome.

From Naples, tolls cost 14.80 euros one way.

By train: Trains arrive at Orvieto Scalo, downhill from the old town. Take Bus No. 1 to the old town or the funicular to Piazza Cahen.

Times: The duomo (cathedral) opens at 7:30 a.m.; closes 12:45-2:30 p.m.; opens again until 5:15-7:15 p.m. depending on the time of year. Free entrance.

Cost: The duomo is free. There is a cost for the funicular.

Food: Restaurants and cafes are scattered throughout the town.

More Information: For more information, go to www.comune.orvieto.tr.it (in Italian) or call 0763-341772.

The tourist information office is open weekdays 8:15 a.m.-1:50 p.m., 4-7 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m.

The medieval Italian town of Orvieto, which rests high atop a craggy cliff, offers stunning views such as this of the surrounding countryside.

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