Searching for ideas for a place to stay as we made our way down from Tuscany to Rome, I stumbled across images of the Umbrian city of Orvieto. Perched high on a volcanic rock, this medieval city houses one of the most beautiful Duomos in Italy. Of course, as a lover of all Italian churches, I was instantly sold and began planning our visit. Orvieto is conveniently located close to one of the main superstradas (motorway/highway) and therefore perfect for a day trip or overnight stay.
We spent a lovely 24 hours in the city and would highly recommend a visit if you’re in the Tuscany or Umbria area. Below is a quick guide to all you need to know about Orvieto: including what to see, where to eat and where to stay.
Looming over the A1 superstrada, Orvieto is easy to find and accessible both by car and train (including from the major cities of Florence and Rome). On arrival you can jump on the funicular that takes you up its steep hill to the top of the city.
What to see:
As I mentioned, Orvieto’s cathedral (Duomo) is perhaps one of the most beautiful in Italy. With the ecclesiastical heavyweights of Florence, Rome and Siena surrounding it, this is certainly an impressive claim. I knew very little about the city before arriving and was instantly blown away by this beautiful cathedral. Work on the building began in 1290 but it took over three centuries to complete: it was well worth the wait! Enjoy the intricate mosaic walls of the exterior, which include solid gold that sparkles in the afternoon sun.
Climb the Torre del Moro
After picture perfect views of an Italian town or city? Always head to the clock tower. The city’s clock tower is located in the town centre and is fairly easy going as clock towers go, in terms of steps and sweat. The best bit? It offers 360 degree views of the city from the top. Looking out across the soft orange buildings (whilst clutching onto my dress in the wind), Orvieto reminded me of a smaller Siena, with its black and white cathedral and medieval rooftops, all set against a back drop of lush green countryside.
Il Labirinto di Adriano and underground Orvieto
These series of underground rooms were only discovered in the 1970s and have now been made into a private museum. Sadly, we ran out of time to visit but were fascinated by these mysterious dwellings that lay dormant under the city for centuries. You can also take a guided tour of underground Orvieto, which includes the remains of an old olive mill. Divided into over 1,200 caves, this is an underground wonderland that has long since been forgotten. Perfect if you’re looking to escape the heat of the city for a few hours.
The production of colourful ceramics in Orvieto is intrinsic to the city’s history. In the underground caves and wells of the city, many ceramic pieces have been found – thought to have been cast into these dark, hidden alcoves during the plague. These possessions were deemed infected and were therefore buried out of reach to prevent further contamination. Upon discovery of these archaeological finds, the city continued to nurture an interest in the art of ceramics and today there are plenty of beautiful ceramic shops for you to explore.
Where to sleep: Misia Country Resort & Spa
Misia Country Resort was an unexpected find on my search for somewhere to stay in the Orvieto area and after staying there, I can confirm that I most certainly unearthed a hidden gem. Located a ten minute drive from Orvieto in the quiet village of Rocca Ripesena, this boutique hotel provides beautiful accommodation, split between rooms and apartments. Nestled in a village of roses (there are hundreds of delicate rose bushes around), this ever-developing mini resort had a laid back but high-end feel. Unfortunately, after a manic few weeks leading up to the wedding, I had managed to catch a cold and Misia was the perfect place to nestle down in my big bed to enjoy some peace and quiet.
On arrival, we were greeted by the owner of Misia Resort, Giorgio, who was quick to offer us a drink at the cosy bar before showing us around. It’s obvious to see he’s invested an immense amount of time into Misia and is a hugely knowledgable host, about not only Orvieto but the surrounding area. Before dinner, we took a leisurely walk up a woodland path to panoramic views over the countryside and Orvieto, which sat shining in the evening sun, atop its volcanic perch.
Less of a boutique hotel and more of a mini village, Misia Resort really is beautiful and is only going to get better. Before we left, Giorgio showed us his work on a new building that houses a kitchen and eating area, ready for cooking classes and a separate building for a spa, which will offer different treatments. I’ll definitely be returning soon to try both of these out!
Where to eat:
Trattoria La Palomba
Tucked away down one of the many winding streets of Orvieto, Trattoria La Paloma is the perfect spot to taste some truly traditional cuisine – most notably its black truffle dishes! A bustling yet cosy setting, this is a great restaurant to rest your tired legs whilst stocking up on hearty food. I highly recommend the local sausage (pork being the favourite meat of the area) spread on crusty thick bread with plenty of olive oil. Other famous dishes on the list include local pigeon and dove.
Altarocca Wine Resort
Located a leisurely ten minute walk from the Misia Resort, Georgio recommended that we visited the Altarocca Wine Resort. On the higher end of our budget, it probably wasn’t somewhere we’d usually choose, but the food more than made up for its hefty price tag. Making our way back to our room, slightly fuzzy on delicious red wine and food, we were treated to the dance of dozens of fireflies, leading us back along the quiet country road. A highly recommended treat for those looking for a romantic setting.
Orvieto is a perfectly located city to enjoy a day trip; escaping the many tourist hot spots in the area. Offering delicious food, some of the most beautiful architecture in Italy and secret underground dwellings, it’s a city that won’t disappoint. Make sure you give it some time if you’re passing through.