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Orvieto, Province of Terni, Umbria

Orvieto is a town in southwestern Umbria, on the flat summit of a large volcanic tufa plateau, above the almost-vertical faces of tufa cliffs, completed by defensive walls built of the same stone, which, together with the tile roofs, give Orvieto its characterful color shade. The white wine of the Orvieto area, to the northeast of the city, is highly prized.

Info

  • Altitude: 325 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 20,000 inhabitants in 2017
  • Zip/postal code: 05018
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0763
  • Patron Saint: St. Giuseppe, celebrated on 19th March.
  • Demonym: orvietani
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Provinces of Umbria

Administrative division

Orvieto includes the following Frazioni & Localities: Bagni, Bardano, Baschi Scalo, Benano, Biagio, Botto, Buon Viaggio, Canale, Canonica, Capretta, Ciconia, Colonnetta di Prodo, Corbara, Fossatello, Morrano, Mossa del Palio, Orvieto Scalo, Osa, Osarella, Osteria Nuova, Padella, Ponte del Sole, Prodo, Rocca Ripesena, San Bartolomeo, San Faustino, Sferracavallo, Stazione di Castiglione in Teverina, Sugano, Titignano, Tordimonte, Torre San Severo.

History - Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The ancient city "urbs vetus" whence "Orvieto" populated in Etruscan times, has usually been associated with Etruscan Velzna. Orvieto was certainly a major center of Etruscan civilization.

Orvieto was annexed by Rome in the 3rd century BC. After the collapse of the Roman Empire its defensible site gained new importance: the episcopal see was transferred from Bolsena, and the city was held by Goths and by Lombards before its self-governing commune was established in the 10th century, in which consuls governed under a feudal oath of fealty to the bishop. From 1201 it governed itself through a podestà in concert with a military governor, the "captain of the people" but bitter feuds divided the 13th-century city. Pope Boniface VIII was from Orvieto and donated statues of himself at the main city gates.

History - Modern Times

During the Sack of Rome in 1527 the Pope took refuge at Orvieto, and fearing that in the event of siege by Charles' troops the city's water might prove insufficient, he had a spectacular well constructed (Pozzo di San Patrizio) by the architect-engineer Antonio di Sangallo the Younger (1527-37) with double helical ramps for one-way traffic, so that mules laden with water-jars might pass down then up again unobstructed. Its inscription boasts QUOD NATURA MUNIMENTO INVIDERAT INDUSTRIA ADIECIT ("what nature stinted for provision, let application supply")

A small university (now part of the University of Perugia), had its origins in a studium generale that was granted to the city by Pope Gregory XI in 1337. The territory of Orvieto was under papal control long before it was officially added to the Papal States, and it remained a papal possession until 1860 when it was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.

What to see

  • The Duomo di Orvieto, a Gothic cathedral, striped in white travertine and greenish-black basalt in narrow bands; its design has often been attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, but maybe its master mason was an obscure monk, Fra' Bevignate from Perugia; construction began in 1290. The façade is particularly striking and includes some remarkable sculpture by Lorenzo Maitani (14th century). Inside the cathedral, the Chapel of San Brizio is frescoed by Fra Angelico and hosts Luca Signorelli's masterpiece, the Last Judgment (1449-51).
  • Etruscan ruins and the remnants of a wall that enclosed the city more than 2000 years ago. At the foot of the rock, surrounded by peach and apple trees and a vineyard, the Etruscan necropolis of Crocefisso di Tufo counts a hundred or so chamber tombs laid along a rectangular street grid.
  • The Archaeological Museum (Museo Claudio Faina e Museo Civico) houses some of the Etruscan artifacts that were recovered in the area.

Where to stay