The City of Orvieto
Perched on a plateau of tufa rock, with the outline of its world famous Duomo visible for miles around, the city of Orvieto has adapted to the needs of the modern day tourist by transforming itself into a car-free haven. Access to the city in fact is either via the funicular that runs from the railway station below up to the old town centre, passing directly by the Albornoz fortress, or up the system of escalators dug into the cliffside from the large parking lot at Campo della Fiera. Alternatively there is a regular minibus service that covers the entire city.
The exceptional views commanded by the city, as well as the beautiful skyline of Orvieto itself,can be fully appreciated by looking out from the top of the 13th century Torre del Moro, the highest vantage point in town.
But the heart of Orvieto is undoubtedly Piazza del Duomo, onto which look the town’s most important public buildings and the façade of the Duomo, a masterpiece of gothic architecture with its polychrome marble inlays and dazzling mosaics. The interior of the cathedral contains, among other important works of art, Luca Signorelli’s fresco cycles depicting the Antichrist, Armageddon, the Resurrection of the Flesh, the Chosen and the Reprobates, along with a spectacular Last Judgement in the San Brizio Chapel. Another great artist, Beato Angelico, completed the angels in the vaults of the ceiling. Started in 1290, the Duomo took several centuries before completion.
At the corner of Via del Duomo there still survives the mechanical clock tower that chimed the moments of work and rest for the workmen in the building site over the centuries.
A number of Etruscan remains testify to the importance of the city even before Roman rule. They are the Necropoli del Crocifisso del Tufo burial ground at the base of the plateau on which the city stands – (Loc. San Martino – Orvieto Scalo), and the underground passages beneath the city.
This network of passages was enlarged during the Middle Ages for a number of reasons that ranged from the need to make additional water cisterns to spaces for breeding pigeons. Today these underground passages form almost another city beneath Orvieto. The passages are open to the public with the Orvieto Underground itinerary that also includes the Pozzo di San Patrizio well, a remarkable architectural feat designed for Pope Clement VII in the 16th century by Antonio da Sangallo.
The city’s public art collections are also well worth a visit, and are divided between the Museo Claudio Faina, the Museo Archeologico and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.