Planning to visit Orvieto, Italy? Then you’re certainly in the right place because this guide covers all the top tourist attractions in Orvieto, Italy.
The charming town in central Italy is known for its rich history, fascinating medieval architecture, and great Umbrian food. With historical ruins, incredible archaeological finds, and dramatic clifftop views, it’s one of the best places to visit in the Umbrian countryside.
So, read on to learn more about the top things to do in Orvieto, and start planning your Italy road trip!
Orvieto Cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks in the hilltop town. It’s a Roman Catholic Cathedral from the 14th century and it is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Pope Urban IV ordered the construction of the spectacular church to give the Corporal of Bolsena an adequate home.
The fascinating Cathedral is built in the Italian Gothic architectural style and its façade is considered one of the architectural masterpieces from the Late Middle Ages. Stand at Piazza del Duomo to fully take in the golden frontage, which is the most impressive part of the façade with statues, symbols, and bas-reliefs that depict various stories from the Old and New Testaments.
The interior of the cathedral is just as impressive as its exterior. At the center is the nave with two aisles and six bays, and it’s purposefully left spacious and without clutter. Go inside Cappella di San Brizio to see the mesmerizing frescoes that were created by Beato Angelico, Benozzo Gozzoli, and Luca Signorelly in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Orvieto Underground is easily one of the most fascinating attractions in this Italian city. It’s an incredible underground city with more than 1,200 caves, wells, and tunnels. All were carved into the rock some three millennia ago and they withstood the test of time incredibly well.
A tour of the underground maze is one of the most popular tourist attractions in town. Guided tours are affordable and they’re great for learning more about the history of Orvieto and its earlier civilizations. The ancient mill remains are perhaps the most interesting underground attractions, but visitors can also witness other notable traces of Etruscan antiquity.
Pozzo di San Patrizio, or the Well of St. Patrick in English, is a famous Orvieto landmark and tourist attraction. The ancient well shaft was constructed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger in the 16th century, at the order of Pope Clement VII.
What’s interesting about this well shaft is that it’s quite a large construction with a spiral staircase that leads underground. There are approximately 248 steps, so some 500 stairs to climb if you want to go all the way down and then back up. It’s not a wheelchair-friendly attraction in Orvieto, so keep that in mind.
The well interior has quite a few windows as well, and they’re very interesting to observe. It’s truly a unique landmark that’s specific to this town, so it’s recommended to descend the staircase, even if it might be a nightmare to climb back to the exit. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a pretty good workout, so why not kill two birds with one stone during your time in this ancient city.
Torre del Moro is a 13th-century tower in the heart of Orvieto. The imposing structure dominates its surroundings and it’s definitely a landmark you can’t miss while you’re exploring the city center. The bell tower is 47 meters tall and it features an observation deck at its tallest point, from where you can experience some of the best panoramic views of the narrow alleys in Orvieto.
It’s not an easy climb to the top of the tower – there are some 236 steps to climb, and that’s after an elevator ride from the very bottom. The scenic views from the top make all the effort worth it, so just be sure to bring a water bottle along for the climb.
While you’re ascending the never-ending stairs, you’ll pass by the mechanical clock of the tower. It was added in the 19th century and it played a big part in the city’s rich history. Also, it’s worth noting that the bells are quite loud at the top of the tower, plus they toll every half an hour. It’s not a bad idea to bring some earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, especially if you’re sensitive to noises.
Museo Claudio Faina is an archaeological museum displaying various Etruscan objects found in and around Orvieto. It’s a fairly large museum with multiple rooms, which showcase everything from ancient coins to impressive statues. The famous museum is situated just across from the Cathedral of Orvieto, so it’s virtually impossible to miss it while you’re exploring the city center.
There’s also an entire room dedicated to ancient vases and it’s incredible how well preserved they are. In fact, there are three sections that are entirely dedicated to Etruscan ceramic art, and the highlight of that collection is a large marble torso.
The ground floor is reserved for Museo Civico with its collection of antiques collected in the 19th century. The highlight of this collection is the Venus de Cannicella statue, and the decorations of the Temple of Belvedere’s pediment are a close second.
Palazzo Del Capitano Del Popolo is a landmark historic building situated at Piazza del Popolo. It’s one of those landmarks that you’ll use to orient yourself in Orvieto because it’s such an imposing and unmistakable building. It’s situated in the heart of the old city center, and it’s surrounded by many cafes and restaurants.
The historic building is not open to the public, so it’s not possible to explore the interior of the building. You can only admire it from the outside while sipping proper Italian espresso at one of the many cafes in the area.
Piazza del Popolo is perhaps the heart of this ancient city. It’s lined with nightclubs and bars that liven up the place at night, but the downside is that it can get pretty loud here in the evenings. Keep that in mind when you’re searching for accommodation in Orvieto.
The National Archaeological Museum of Orvieto is the largest archaeological museum in the city. It’s situated in the Papal Palace at Piazza Duomo, and it’s a must for all archaeology and history buffs who find themselves in this charming town.
The museum houses an impressive collection of archaeological artifacts that were uncovered in and around the town. It’s where most of the artifacts discovered at the Etruscan Necropolis are housed, including frescoes recovered from the Etruscan tombs.
The museum also boasts a room with artifacts recovered from the Porano necropolis, as well as another one that’s entirely dedicated to the Necropolis of Cannicella. The artifacts in all the museums are truly fascinating, and for the most part, it’s incredible just how well preserved they are. Overall, the National Archaeological Museum of Orvieto is certainly one of the top town attractions for all the archaeology and history buffs visiting Orvieto.
The Albornoz Fortress is one of the oldest landmarks in the clifftop city. It has been torn down and rebuilt several times, and it wasn’t until the late 19th century that it finally lost its military function. Once it stopped being a defense post for the city, it got modified so that it could be used by the wider public.
The fortress grounds feature a beautiful public garden, many sculptures, and mesmerizing city views. Also, it’s worth noting that it’s impossible to not notice it while you’re just walking around central Orvieto – the imposing building truly dominates its surroundings and it towers over the rooftops of Orvieto’s old town. You can easily reach the Albornoz Fortress from the Cahen Square, just be prepared for an uphill walk.
The views from the fortress are incredible and it’s impossible to discern whether it’s better to stare at Umbria’s rolling hills or at all the buildings down in Orvieto. It’s also possible to see the Well of St. Patrick from here, plus there are quite a few interesting statues and other landmarks on the fortress grounds.
The Etruscan Necropolis northwest of the Orvieto city center is one of the most impressive testaments to the Etruscan civilization. It’s also undeniable proof that the civilization once inhabited Orvieto, so head there if you want to see some impressive pieces of history. Tickets are only some 3 Euros, so this is also one of the cheapest tourist attractions in Orvieto.
There are more than 200 tombs in the necropolis, and they’re all made from tuff blocks and built as chambers. Some tombs are open for visits, but it’s not possible to visit them all.
It’s worth noting that you won’t see many fascinating archaeological finds here since they’re all on display at the city’s archaeological museums. There are informational tables that describe what kinds of objects were found on the grounds and where they’re displayed, so it’s probably a good idea to visit the Necropolis first and then start planning which museum in town you want to explore.
Piazza della Repubblica is a public square in the heart of Orvieto. It’s not exactly a famous tourist attraction, but it is one of those places you will pass through several times during your stay in the town and you can use it to orient yourself more easily.
It’s also where Corso Cavour beings – the main town street that runs through the entire town of Orvieto. It’s lined with popular bars, restaurants, cafes, and shops, plus it stretches nearly all the way to the Albornoz Fortress.
It’s worth noting that most people who want to be centrally located in Orvieto look for accommodation near Piazza della Repubblica or somewhere along Corso Cavour. If you want to be within walking distance of all the interesting landmarks in the clifftop town, these are the best places to stay in Orvieto by far.
Teatro Mancinelli is a performing arts theatre at Corso Cavour in Orvieto. It’s an attractive building on the outside, but the façade doesn’t do any justice to the spectacular frescos and decorations inside. Definitely go inside the theatre, whether it’s to see an opera or just stop by at the café, and try to get a peek at the ornate ceilings and walls.
It’s worth noting that free concerts happen from time to time at Teatro Mancinelli, and they’re a nice way to see the building from the inside without actually paying for anything. However, if you have to spend money to get inside the theatre, it’s worth it.
The frescos, the stained glass windows, and the statues are all just so impressive and wonderful to look at, plus you might get the chance to witness a fabulous performance as well.
Pozzo della Cava is another destination archaeology buffs will enjoy in Orvieto. It’s a well that was discovered fairly recently in 1984. When it was first uncovered, the well had been out of use for more than three centuries, and it was only 25 meters deep. It took more than a decade of excavations and restorations to return the structure to its old appearance.
Nine caves surrounding the well were also excavated, and today this archaeological complex is one of the most significant ones in entire Italy. The system of caves features quite a few interesting attractions, including butti – medieval pits that were once used for garbage disposal. Visitors can also observe quite a few smaller archaeological artifacts that were recovered during the recent excavations.
One of the caves even features an impressive Etruscan tunnel, as well as a second Etruscan well with many ruins and remains from Medieval and Renaissance times. The underground cave system also holds a Medieval ceramic workshop, underground rooms built for wine preservation, and remains of Etruscan burial tombs.
If you want to explore more of the Umbrian countryside, check out our article on Assisi, Italy for the best things to do in this beautiful town!
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