Orvieto in four hours

A complete walking tour and guide

We're proposing two different walks in Orvieto, both allowing time for lunch. The longer route makes an extra loop through the oldest section of town at the western end, with terrific views and a possible wine tasting along the way at the Enoteca Regionale (must be booked ahead). Park in the Piazza Marconi, just behind the Duomo but on market mornings, Thursdays and Saturdays, in the summer we suggest parking in the Campo della Fiera lot at the south-west of town instead; an elevator and escalator bring you to the top.

Orvieto walking tour

10:00 am

Exit the Piazza Marconi by the Via Nebbia Cesare (the striped back of the Duomo is to your left), then turn left into the Via Scalette and enter the Piazza del Duomo. on your right will be a row of low stone buildings that once housed the Cathedral's canons.

Torre di Maurizio (muricçio was the medieval word for a construction site) at the end of the row was commissioned in 1347 by the body overseeing the construction of the Duomo. It's topped by a bell and a bronze man holding a mallet; the man is dressed as a site foreman and rang the bell to mark the working hours.

For an energy charge before your walk or between cultural engagements, gelateria Pasqualetti at #14 offers the best ice cream in Orvieto and Cantina Foresi at #2 serves coffee, a huge selection of wines and fresh panini at tables on the square. The project to build a new Duomo in Orvieto was launched in celebration of the Miracle of Bolsena (see Bolsena). It got off to a slow start - the first stone was not laid for 25 years - and was almost abandoned twice, at the height of the family feuds and then during the Black Death. In the end it took 300 years and 33 architects to complete. The changes in tastes during that period explain the odd contrast of the gilded and carved façade with the bold black-and-white stripes (white travertine, black basalt) along its sides. Look closely at the bas reliefs on the façade: they depict episodes from the old and new Testaments in chronological order in marvellous detail, including facial expressions.

12:30 pm

Leave the Piazza del Duomo by the Via del Duomo. In front of you at the end of the street will be the 47m/480-foot Torre del Moro, which has a viewing platform on top; there is an elevator to help you get up there but it still leaves 171 steps to climb. The tower's bell has been ringing every 15 minutes since 1316.

14:00 pm

After lunch head to the Piazza della Repubblica on Via Cavour, steps from where you exited the Piazza del Popolo.

Turn left exiting the Torre and immediately left again onto Via della Costituenta. Continue into the Piazza del Popolo. On market days the food stands will all be to your left; veggies, fruit, cheese and prepared meats are the best buys. If not, you'll have a good view of the Palazzo del Popolo, the towering asymmetrical 15C building from which the city leaders addressed townsfolk and accepted allegiance from representatives of vanquished territories. Exit the piazza by Via della Piazza del Popolo, to the left of the Grand Hotel Italia. Lots of options for lunch around here...

The longer route

Exit the Piazza along Via Loggia dei Mercanti at the far end of the comune. Continue to Piazza Rainieri and take the level road on the right, Via Ripa Serancia, under a 13C arch. Stop at the Enoteca Regionale on the right, or continue into Piazza San Giovanni. In front of you is the pretty Santa Maria del Pianto (Santa Maria of the Tears), to your right the church/convent of San Giovanni Evangelista. Turn right to walk along one of Orvieto's defensive walls, then veer left and downhill on Vicolo dei Malcorini; this will take you over Porta Maggiore with views across the valley and Etruscan excavations. 

Continue up along Via Volsinii II , then turn left along Via Volsinii I which veers to the right in front of the church of San Giovenale. San Giovenale's plain exterior belies a riot of 13C-15C frescoes, including a lovely Tree of Life and an odd Calendar of Funeral Anniversaries. The site was once occupied by a temple for Jupiter, Giove in Italian.

14:00 pm

The simplest way from the Piazza della Repubblica to your car in Piazza Marconi is to retrace your steps along Corso Cavour; our route is no longer but twists through quieter back streets dotted with active and defunct monasteries and churches. Walk under the large archway in the middle of the comune. Stay to the left, following Via Adolfo Cozza as it veers to the left and then turn right into Via Clementini. Continue past Piazza Buzi and under the arch to Via degli Alberici; turn left..

In Piazza Santa Chiara San Lorenzo de' Arari is a little Romanesque church notable mainly for the incongruous use of an Etruscan sacrificial slab as its altarpiece. San Lorenzo was roasted to death on a gridiron during the 3C persecutions of Christians; during his torture he is said to have cried out Assum est, inquit, versa et manduca ('This side's done, turn me over and have a bite'), which has earned him the role of patron saint of comedians, butchers and roasters. Frescoes (upper left wall) depict him as quite indifferent to the heat.

Take the Via Ippolito Scalza to the right of the church into the Piazza San Francesco. The church of San Francesco, consecrated in 1266 as part of a large monastery, was the most important church in Orvieto before the Duomo. The façade is largely intact but the interior was given a baroque facelift in the 18C. To its right stands Orvieto's excellent library.

Restaurants & caffès

    Vinosus Stylish, excellent food, expensive, terrace. Piazza Duomo 15 - 0763 341907. Closed Monday.

    Gelateria Pasqualetti Ice cream made with fresh fruit, etc. Piazza Duomo 14 and Corso Cavour 56. Open 11am-10pm. 

    Cantina Foresi Light meals, a long wine list. Limited indoor seating. Piazza del Duomo 2 - 0763 341611.

    Maurizio Contemporary, elegant. Via Duomo 78 - 0763 344103. Closed Tuesday.

    Da Carlo Tiny, serving good, simple local food with a few outdoor seats in a little piazza. Vicolo del Popolo 9 - 0763 343916. Closed Sunday evening. 

    Dell’Ancora Best wood-fired pizzas in town. Outdoor seating. Via Piazza del Popolo 9 ✆ 0763 344455. Closed Thursday.

    Caffè Montanucci  Where Orvieto gathers for pastries, salads and gossip. Outdoor seating. Wi-fi. Corso Cavour 21/23 - 0763 34126. Open daily 7am-midnight.

    Trattoria dell’Orso Great food. Entertaining owners. Via della Misericordia 18 - 0763 341642. Closed Sunday pm, Monday and Tuesday.

    La Palomba Best in town for truffles, meat and pastas. Via Cipriano Menente 16 ✆ 0763 343395. Closed Wednesday.

    Pizzeria Charlie Neapolitan pizzas with fresh veg and local mozzarella. Lots of outdoor seating. Via della Cava - 0763 344766

    Mezza Luna Good basic food at reasonable prices. Via Ripa Serancia 3 - 0763 341234. Closed Sunday 

    Zeppelin Pretty restaurant serving beautifully presented Umbrian dishes. See also Catering and cooking lessons page 95. Via Garibaldi 28 - 0763 341447;www. ristorantezeppelin.it

    Libreria dei Sette Guide books and literature in English. Corso Cavour 87. Open daily 10am-1pm and 4-8pm.

    Enoteca Regionale Orvieto Palazzo del Gusto, Via Ripa Serancia I 16 0763 393529. Book tastings at itinera.orvieto@tiscalinet.it

Museums and sights

    Tourist office  Piazza Duomo 20; - 0763 341772; www.comune.orvieto. tr.it. Open Monday-Friday 8:15am- 1:50pm and 4-7pm; weekends and holidays 10am-1pm and 3-6pm.

    Duom  0763 341167. Open April- October 9:30am-7:30pm, November-March 9:30am-1pm and 2:30-5:30pm. (San Brizio Chapel closed Sunday morning).

    Museo Faina  0763 341511. Open April- September 9:30am-6pm, winter 10am-5pm

    Opera del Duomo  Open April-September 9:30am-7pm, October-March 10am-5pm daily except Tuesday.Museo Faina  0763 341511. Open April- September 9:30am-6pm, winter 10am-5pm

    Orvieto Underground  Piazza Duomo 23 - 0763 340688; www.orvietounderground.it. Tours leave daily 11am, 12:15pm, 4pm and 5:15pm and by appointment.

    Churches  are generally (but not always) open daily 9am-1pm and 3:30-6:30pm.

    Torre del Moro  Palazzo dei Sette, Corso Cavour 87. Open daily 10am-1pm and 4-8pm.