A stunning medieval city of Orvieto rises above the surrounding countryside sitting on its perch of volcanic tufa. Far below lies vineyards and fields dotted with ancient villas and vineyards. Orvieto has been inhabited since Etruscan times a fact that is still evident today in the underground world of caves and tunnels that run under the city.
Located just 90 minutes from Rome in Umbria, Orvieto is a city that I highly recommend you include in your itinerary.
This blog post is all about what you can do there in one day, but to be perfectly honest with you, I would suggest you stay longer. Like most Italian towns, it is filled with monuments and churches, museums and attractions of historical interest, Orvieto has a lot to do.
You can spend days exploring. I stayed for five and would have been happy to stay longer.
This post is part of a series of One and Two-day itineraries for places in Italy that I think you will love. And to make it easy for you each one comes with a downloadable itinerary, already timed and scheduled for you, so all you have to do is go.
Of course, you can be flexible and use our ideas as suggestions, but if you are not a planner, short on time or are just looking for ease and convenience then, by all means, grab it and slot it into your Italian Itinerary.
Here are other articles in the series:
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One Day in Orvieto
For the most part, the centre of Orvieto is closed to traffic during the day. Parking is available in the city of Orvieto and may vary in ticket fees with a few free parking spaces to €1.50 per hour.
Free parking is available at the Welcome Point located in Piazza della Pace, at the base of Orvieto. The Welcome Point is open 9 am – 6 pm, has bathrooms, a coffee bar, free wi-fi and tourist information desk.
You can also purchase tickets for the funicular and local bus, get maps and store luggage.
Orvieto is well connected to Rome which is approximately 1 hour away, and Florence is about 2 hours.
Train times can be found here – Train Timetable
The funicular is located across from the train station and will take you up to the city of Orvieto. Tickets can be purchased at the Welcome Point and the train station. Take the funicular to Piazza Cahen at the top of the city centre.
The funicular operates every 10 minutes and is open from 7.15 am to 8.30 pm. Tickets cost €1.30 per person or €2.60 for a round trip.
The local buses run from outside the train station. You can check times here – Timetable
If you are really short on time then seeing Orvieto as part of a tour may suit you better. Just make sure the tour has free time to allow you to explore at your own convenience.
Things to Do
St Patricks Well
Orvieto was one of the only cities outside of Rome to have a Papal Residence.
In 1527, at the time of the Sack of Rome, Pope Clement VII took refuge in Orvieto. He commissioned the Well of St Patrick due to a fear of inadequate water supply during the siege.
Although tufa is a soft rock, it was a mammoth task. St Patrick’s well is 54 metres deep, 14 metres wide and 496 steps down. The well comprises of an ingenious double spiral stairway wide enough for donkeys to navigate, leading to a bridge at the bottom where water could be scooped up.
If you are thinking about going down St Patrick’s Well, and I do recommend that you do, remember what goes down must come back up, and yes, it is a bit of a workout.
St Patrick’s Well is located near the Funicular across from Piazza Cahen. Tickets are €5 and opening times are 9 am to 6.45 pm but do vary depending on the season, so please check before visiting.
Under the city of Orvieto is another world. A labyrinth of tunnels and caves, more than 1200 in fact. Peppered with cisterns, cellars, wells, and secret escape tunnels leading to the valley floor below for escape during times of siege.
Underground Orvieto can only be seen by joining a guided tour, and I highly recommend you do. The tour was one of the highlights of our visit.
Remaining mostly intact the maze of tunnels have been in existence for 2500 years, dug into the soft tufa with openings to the outside world allowing light into this underworld city. Used by various inhabitants for all manner of purposes from a haven during times of siege to food storage and bomb shelter, remnants of life can still be seen from ancient olive presses to dovecotes.
A Gothic masterpiece the Duomo, it has black and white stone, creating bands in the walls and a facade that features the Rose Window, mosaics and four pillars featuring bas-reliefs each showcasing a different religious story.
The Duomo is considered one of the most beautiful in Italy.
Work commenced in 1290 and took three hundred years to complete. The interior is filled with sculptures and stunning frescoes, but the highlight of a visit to the Duomo is the Chapel of San Brizio, featuring Luca Signorelli’s spectacular frescoes of Judgement Day.
Tickets for the Duomo and Chapel of San Brizio are €4 (as of March 2017). Opening hours vary depending on the season, but from March to October daily (except Sundays) 9.30 am to 6.00 pm. Sundays and holidays during March, April, May and October 1.00 pm to 5.30 pm. Please check times before travel.
Torre del Moro
Located between Corso Cavour, Via del Duomo and Via della Costituente, Torre del Moro rises above the buildings of Orvieto is. A 13th-century tower boasting 250 steps and a climb that will reward you with a stunning 360-degree view of the city from the top.
Tickets are €2.80 and are free for children up to 10 years. The Tower is open daily, but please check opening hours before visiting as these can vary depending on the season.
For those of you who think you will do and see all the activities, we have recommended you may find that purchasing the Carta Unica to be the best value.
It has no expiry date, so if you are on an extended visit to Italy you may have the opportunity to visit Orvieto again, but I believe you will get your money’s worth in one day and visiting the recommended places.
Almost every area in Italy, or even each town, has its unique patterns and designs. Purchase ceramics unique to Orvieto in many shops in both the modern and traditional styles.
Take some time to look around, see what styles and colours appeal to you.
If you are looking for an authentic (and hopefully useful) souvenir, then you can’t go past something ceramic.
During my visit to Orvieto, I would wander down to this little shop that held so many delights that I just had to sample everything.
Of course, there was wine. I had no clue what I was looking at, but the shop owner asked if I trusted him to choose something for me and what a great decision that was.
Orvieto has two wines certified DOC – the Orvieto Classico (white) and the Rosso Orvietano.
My advice is just to buy a few bottles of the local wines and try them. You won’t be disappointed.
At the end of a long day exploring take some time out and sit at a café bar. Order a coffee or a glass of wine and relax. Take some time to reflect on all you have seen. And people watch. Not the tourists but the locals. Get a feel for life here in this beautiful medieval city. Imagine what life must be like here now and in a time gone by.
I loved my time here and would visit again in a heartbeat. One member stands out. Late one afternoon I was sitting at the café bar just down the cobblestone road from our apartment. As I gratefully sipped on a glass of cold white wine, it had been a hot day; I spied a face peering from behind a pair of shutters just open far enough to spy the world below. A small, frail lady quietly watched the world go by below her window. I imagined that is what she did every day, quietly enjoying life from her comfortable place behind the shutters.
I don’t know what it was about that moment that has always stayed with me. Maybe it was the curiosity of witnessing another’s life even for a brief moment.
Perhaps it was that we were both enjoying quiet reflection, people watching, gazing at the beauty around us, the wonder I always have in old places, a curiosity of others and how they live.
Or maybe it was that I spied her at a time I was contemplating a change in my life, and the two memories have now become intermingled.
For me, that is part of what I love most about travelling. That will always be my favourite memories of Orvieto.
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Have you been to Orvieto? Do you have any recommendations? Pop them into the comments below so we can share them with our community.
If you are travelling around Italy, you might find these posts useful:
- What to See and Do in Rome
- How to See the Best of Venice
- How to Plan Your Ultimate Trip to Bologna
- A Day in Milan
- How to Plan Your Ultimate Trip to Florence
- The Best of Verona
- One Day Complete Guide to Visiting Orvieto
- A Tuscan Town Called Cortona
- A Day in Arezzo