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This is what it looks like from the clock tower. Sorry it’s so small.

For those of you who have either a) known me for a while (which is to say, probably most of you), or b) seen the backlogged entries from 2007 and after about my love affair with the Umbrian hill town of Orvieto, you know this will be a difficult post to write. But, dear readers, I am always excited to spread the Orvieto love, and this weekend I got a chance to show some Tucson friends around. So I give you my top 5 recommendations for sightseeing in my dear Orvieto, especially if you’re only there a couple days.

Also, I’ll give no excuses, but I do offer my apologies for such sparse updates lately. More to come soon, I promise. Also, photos, once I get my cell phone working.

Umbrian countryside. Just chillin.’ (Unedited photo) 

The Duomo

Still my favorite facade ever.

In my mind, this is–and always will be–my duomo. Not in the sense that you can’t love it, too, but in the way that a place is so ingrained in one’s memories as a backdrop for life and therefore will always be a favorite sight/site of mine. I’ve seen a LOT of cathedrals in my day, but this continues to be the most beautiful. Finished in 1591, it took 300 years to build and it has a striking golden facade. The biblical scenes sculpted into it are raw and emotive; take a look at the far right hand sculptures of Judgement Day if you don’t believe me. The San Brizio Chapel is one of Luca Signorelli’s masterpieces, and the acoustics are beautiful. There is a fee for entry unless you’re a religious worshiper, but if you have the Carta Unica,* it is included in the price.

Duomo view from the Torre del Moro clock tower

Claudio Faina Museum

There are a few archaeological museums in Orvieto, all of which are interesting and well curated. Next to the duomo you’ll also find a very fine archaeological museum, also featuring Etruscan bronzes, part of a painted tomb, and more. But I like the Claudio Faina in part because it has a great coin collection, as well as a nice itinerary for the kiddos. Also, the view of the duomo from the top floors is spectacular! Entrance included in the Carta Unica.

Eating

Oh, man, I have eaten so much food in Orvieto. From the quick slice of pizza to-go to a proper, full Sunday lunch with a primo, secondo, dessert, and lots of drinks to go with, there are a lot of tasty options on la rupa. My favorite place for gelato, hands down, is Pasqualetti, conveniently located across from the clock tower and also next to the duomo. A fantastic trattoria serving typical Orvietani dishes is Trattoria del Moro Orvieto isn’t necessarily known for its pizza, but a fun place with great atmosphere is Pizzeria Charlie. But really, do eat some gelato while you’re there.

Orvieto Classico is the famous wine of the area. You have to try some if you’re there!
These empty plates are from Osteria Numero Uno, a new(ish)–and delicious–restaurant in Orvieto!

St. Patrick’s Well

Il Pozzo di San Patrizio is a well with a double-helix design, so you don’t even take the same route down as you do coming up the 53 meters of steps. A great way to cool off on those warm Italian days, and with a fantastic view overlooking the valley, the well is a short, sweet jaunt into 16th century engineering. Price included in the Carta Unica.

View from the top to the bottom of the well. Do you know how many sunglasses are at the bottom of this thing!?

Orvieto Underground

Orvieto was originally an Etruscan town, and thus has many Etruscan ruins. This intriguing past is mostly unknown to non-Italian folks, and learning about the Etruscans is one of the most interesting and rewarding things I’ve done while living in Orvieto. Some really cool ruins are the underground caves you see while on a tour of the Orvieto Underground. Tours are available in both English and Italian, and leave from Piazza del Duomo. Price included in the Carta Unica.

Runners up: the Crocifisso del Tufo necropolis, the national archaeological museum, the market on Thursdays & Saturdays, the fortress by the funicular. Another good idea for Orvieto: get lost. It’s a small place, and wandering through the Medieval Quarter or along the town walls will provide some great views and the town’s sense of history truly seeps out of its cobblestone streets.

*I highly recommend getting a Carta Unica if you’re in Orvieto for a couple days. It includes admission to all the major sites, as well as a funicular & bus ride, all for only 18 euro (price as of October 1, 2012).

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