The best things to do in Orvieto Italy, the beautiful hilltop town you’ll love

Piazza Duomo Orvieto

How to visit Orvieto Italy: the best things to do in Orvieto, how to get there, what to buy, how to organise your day.

Orvieto is one of the most beautiful towns in Italy and one of the most peculiar.

It is nestled on top of a tufa hill in the middle of the Umbrian countryside and the first time you catch a glimpse of it, it looks like a mirage and you will find yourself blinking try to adjust your vision!

The skyline of Orvieto emerges from the tops of the hill it looks one with it: the sight is wonderful and things only get better once you get closer to the town and enter its historical center.

Orvieto is a very pretty town with stunning views and one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Italy. 

This is all you need to know to plan a trip to Orvieto, Italy and why we believe it is one of the most beautiful places in Italy

One of the great joys of traveling through Italy is discovering firsthand that it is, indeed, a dream destination. – Debra Levinson, Author

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Is Orvieto worth visiting? What is special about Orvieto

Orvieto is stunning and definitely worth visiting for a day or longer. Orvieto is special under several accounts:

Orvieto has a peculiar position, perched on top of a tufa hill in Umbria, central Italy

It has a stunning Duomo, one of the most beautiful churches in Italy

Orvieto has a lovely ceramics tradition, which makes it perfect if you love crafts or you are on the hunt for authentic souvenirs from Italy

Orvieto has an incredible underground city worth visiting. 

In this article, we are going to look at how to visit Orvieto’s main attractions if you have one day in Orvieto and some ideas on other things you can see if you have longer in this beautiful town.

By the end of it, we are sure you’ll agree it is one of the most beautiful places in Umbria!

The best things to do in Orvieto in one day

Orvieto is a small town however, it has several attractions worth seeing.

Most people come to this town as an easy day trip from Rome or Siena so I will list the best things to do in Orvieto in one day first and then will recommend a few more, should you find you have more time in the city or are spending the night here.

Orvieto’s Duomo – Orvieto must see

The jewel in the crown and the most important landmarks to see in Orvieto is the Duomo, the town’s cathedral.

Orvieto’s Duomo is in the center of the city and you get glimpses of it as you walk up the town’s meandering roads.

However, nothing prepares you for what you see when you have the cathedral in front of you!

The church is a masterpiece of gothic architecture and stands tall in the middle of Piazza del Duomo, one of the most beautiful piazzas in Italy. 

The Duomo facade is decorated with intricate carvings and wonderful mosaics that add a touch of color to the building and it has peculiar and striking side walls with dark and cream stripes.

The side of the church reminiscent of the one of the Duomo in Siena, which has a similar patter and indeed, there are a few similarities between the two cathedrals but each I special and worth seeing in its own account.

I recommend starting the visit to Orvieto’s duomo from the outside: the carvings are incredible and it worth noticing the little details of each different figurines and you should take your time to admire the mosaics too. 

They are rather high up on the church façade but they are striking and shimmer in the sun thanks to their golden and bright colors: they represent images from the life of Mary and occupy splendidly the triangular areas frames by the pointy arches that make up the front of this church

The marvels of Orvieto’s duomo do not finish here but continue inside.

Inside the duomo, you will notice the same stripes pattern of the outside of the church and you will find important frescos and chapels, including the famous frescoes by Signorelli and the Reliquiario del Corporale, artwork made by Sienese goldsmith Ugolino di Vieri in 1337-1338.

The duomo dates from the XIII century and it is one of the most impressive examples of gothic architecture in Italy. 

Good to know: other interesting examples of Gothic churches in Italy are the duomo of Siena and the cathedral of Milan and the church of San Francis in Assisi. 

Piazza del Duomo

Orvieto’s Duomo (the cathedral of Orvieto) dominates the main city square however, the square is also a pleasant place to spend a bit of time and watch life pass by.

Piazza del Duomo Orvieto Italy

My favorite spot here are the steps of the cathedral, perfect for people watching, but you also have several cafes and restaurants if you want to sit comfortably with a view of the duomo.

Good to know! If you are visiting Orvieto with kids, the side of the Duomo offers large, safe spaces for them to run around, car free!

Piazza Duomo is also where you find the entrance to another famous attraction in Orvieto and one of the most unique: Orvieto Underground (see below).

St Patricks’ Well / Pozzo di San Patrizio

Pozzo di San Patrizio or St Patrick’s well is one of the most famous and important attractions in Orvieto, the most famous after the duomo.

It is located at the edge of Orvieto city center, just beside the arrival station of the cable car and it can be a good place to start or finish your visit to Orvieto, if you are coming from out of town especially.

Inside of Orvieto well with lit up windows
Pozzo di San Patriazio, a historic well in Orvieto, Umbria, central Italy

The well dates from the XV century and was built by order of Pope Clemens VII, who escapes from Rome and moved to Orvieto in 1527.

The well was built by Antonio da Sangallo, and  Giovanni Battista da Cortona and was intended as a fortress and hiding place in case of siege.

Nowadays, the well is a sight to behold. It is 62 meters deep, 13.5 meters large and has 2 elycoidal staircases that never meet with 248 each.

72 window let some light in, creating an out of this world, surreal atmpspehre. 

The well is open to the public and it is maybe the most popular Orvieto attraction: the queue outside of it is always very long and while there is a small cafe beside it where you can get a snack before joining the line, some patience is required!

You can buy tickets for St Patricks’ well at the ticket office beside it or you can get them online in advance here.

Orvieto Underground

St Patrick’s well is the most famous but not the only opportunity to visit Orvieto below ground.

Indeed, Orvieto has a full undergournd city meandering under the surface one, a city that is not open to the public and that can be visited with a local guide. 

Orvieto undergrouhd was discovered by chance: in the 1970, a landslide created damage to the streets beside the duomo and opened up a large hole.

A team of speleologists, part worried about the stability of the rest of the city, past curipus aout a legend that said orvieto was ‘all shallow underground’ went In to explore and discovere over 1200 grottoes, passages and chambers that tell the story of life in orvieto from etrucsn times to the middle ages and renaissance!

You can find more info and tickets for Orvieto Underground here  

Torre del Moro

Torre del moro, the Moro tower, is a historical tower in the center of orvieto easy to recongise thanks to its red brick body and a large black and white clockfacte near the top.

The tower is at a busy crossoads where several important shopping streets and it is a good place to. know if you do not suffer from fear of heitghts and want to take in beautiful views of orvieto. 

You usually do not have to book in advance and you cn find tickets here.

Rocca Albornoz

beside the cabe car station and the entrance to St Patrick’s Well you fid a beautiful and impressive park: Rocca Albornoz.

The Rock dates bacl to the XIV century and takes its name from Cardinal Egidio Albornoz, who gave order to build it as a defence post, and nowadays is a popular green area from there to admire the views

The rock is at the edge of the city and this meand from here you get expansive views of the area aroud Oriverto’s tufa’s hill and an see the green Unbira cntryside rolling at your feet. 

Piazza del Popolo and Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo

Another important piazza in Orvieto worth seeing is Piazza del Popolo, a lively square that regularly hosts events such as market days and festivals.

The piazza is dominated by Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo , which is a historical building in Orvieto’s piazza del Popolo dating from the XIV century.

The palace used to be the residency of ‘Captain of the people’, an important public figure in orvieto, and then of the mayor and it is still in use nowadays as conference center. 

This is a lovely place to visit and a nice place to see especially after the underground attractions because of its large, airy spaces.

Stroll Orvieto’s small streets

Up to now I have mentioned beautiful Orvieto attractions however, Orvieto is not just a place of beautiful landmarks but a pretty town with lovely small streets, alleys and corners.

As you venture into the city cetner you find yourself in small medieval alleys, with histrciocal homes decorated with pretty flowers, balconies, elaborate doors and widnoes.

The ebst way to enjoy this side of orvieto is to allow yourself to get lost!

Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and, if you get lost, look for the duomo.

Its imposing frame is visible fro almost anywhere, in Orvieto, you won’t stay lost for long!

Orvieto’s craft shops

Orvieto is also a wonderful town for shopping thanks to the many craft shops and artisan workshops in town.

The main craft here is ceramics and you will find many shps with open doors showcasing the skills of the artists.

Pretty shop front in Orvieto with flowers and bakery sign

More things to see in Orvieto

Museums in Orvieto

  • Museo opera del Duomo, where you can learn about Orvieto’s duomo, its incredible history and precious artefacts
  • Il Museo Nazionale Etrusco, National Etruscan Museum in Orvieto
  • Etruscan Museum ‘Claudio Faina’
  • Museum of Medieval Ceramics
  • Orvieto Vie, a more recent museum about the town of Orvieto, its history and attractions
  • Modern Art Museum Emilio Greco

Orvieto’s Etruscan sites

Orvieto is Etruscan in origin and is the last Etruscan town to have fallen under the power of Rome.

This makes it a wonderful place to learn about the Etruscan and history lovers will find several locations worth seeing.

Among the most famous, the best attractions in Orvieto to learn about Etruscan history are:

  • Il Pozzo della Cava – an interesting underground passage with Etruscan remains
  • Il Tempio di Belvedere (Belvedere temple) – outdoor ruins near St Patricks’ well
  • Il Santuario e necropoli della Cannicella and La Necropoli del Crocefisso del Tufo – Etruscan Sanctuaries and necropolis
  • Orvieto Etruscan museums
  • Modern Art Museum ‘Emilio Greco’

Teatro Mancinelli / Mancinelli’s Theater

Orvieto has a long and important dramatic tradition and, since the XVI century, a beautiful theater for its performances.

The theater is called Teatro Mancinelli and it is open to the public: this is a beautiful historical palazzo and one of the best attractions in Orvieto for theater and architecture lovers.

Orvieto food and wine

Orvieto is in an area know for hig uality produce and good table wine. The wine to try here is called Orvieto and the main Orvieto specialties are:

  • Chickpeas and chestnut soup
  • Umbrichelli (typical Umbrian pasta)
  • Gallina ‘mbriaca (hen cooked in wine)
  • Lumachelle all’orvietana (orvieto style Lumachelle, a baked good)
  • Fagioli all’uccelletto (beans)
  • Torta al testo (a type of bread or focaccia, despite the work torta=cake in the name)
  • Pigeon
  • Truffles

What to buy in Orvieto

Orvieto is famous for food produce and ceramic crafts, so the best things to buy in Orvieto are:

  • Food: especially dry pasta and cured meats
  • Ceramics
  • Wine, Orvieto wine is a nice table wine from this area
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil for the countryside surrounding Orvieto (Umbria is one of the oil producing regions of Italy)

Where is Orvieto, how to get to Orvieto and where to park in Orvieto town center

Orvieto is in the region of Umbria, in central Italy, and it is easily reached by car or train from Rome.

If driving from Rome to Orvieto, most of the road is motorway and then you have a last ten minute drive to climb up to the top of the hill (this is an easy drive, albeit one with several bends: go slow).

Along the road you will find very many signs for parking however, we found that the best place to park in Orvieto was the pay and display parking in front of the arrival station of the cable car.

From here, you have St Patrick’s Well just in front and you ca easily walk all the ay yup to the duomo in about 15 minutes.

If you are going to Orvieto by train, you then climb to the top of the hill by the handy cable car, this leaves you beside the well and the rock and about about 15 mins walk from the duomo. 

  • Rome to Orvieto: 1h30 mins by car approx. About 2h by train, direct
  • Siena to Orvieto: 1h30 mins by car approx. About 3h by train, with at least one change. the best way to get from Siena to Orvieto is by car.

How long to visit Orvieto

Oriveto can be easily explored in a day and makes an excellent day trip from Rome or Siena.

Best day trips and day tours to Orvieto

Assisi and Orvieto day trip from Rome

Orvieto 2 hour guided walking tour

2h Orvieto Cathedral and Underground tour

Where to stay in Orvieto: good hotels in Orvieto

The best place to stay in Orvieto is the old city center, the part of the town on top of the tufa rock and around the duomo.

This is the historical and scenic part of the city and has many pretty hotels and guesthouses, the best place for accommodation in Orvieto close to all main attractions.

The part at the bottom of the hill and closer to the train station is modern and flat and while it can be convenient if you arrive last minute and cannot secure a place it town, It doesn’t really offer charm. 

Good hotels in Orvieto to consider are:

Hotel Duomo, hotel in Orvieto in the perfect location just beside the Duomo

Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini, 4 star hotel in Orvieto town center, only a few minutes walk from Orvieto cathedral

Affittacamere Valentina, lovely accommodation in Orvieto town center

Agriturismo Cioccoleta, farmhouse near Orvieto if you are looking for accommodation near Orvieto town by want to be able to relax in the countryside in the evening

Altarocca wine resort Orvieto – If you don’t mind to be a little farther out and want to experience a wonderful countryside location near Orvieto and stay a few days to explore the area too

Places to see near Orvieto

  • Rome – no need for introductions!
  • Montepulciano – beautiful hilltop town famous for views and wine
  • Civita di Bagnoregio – ghost town in stunning location
  • Saturnia – lovely location with natural hot springs, free
  • San Quirico d’Orcia – beautiful Romanesque town in Tuscany
  • Val d’Orcia – Unesco world heritage site area of great natural beauty
  • Pienza – Unesco towns, symbol of the renaissance
  • Monticchiello – beautiful medieval town famous for local theater productions
  • Cortona – another hilltop town bu t very different from Orvieto, definitely worth the trip

I hope you enjoyed this overview of the best things to see in Orvieto and you found it helpful to plan you day in this stunning Italian town. Safe travel planning!

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