Who would dare build a home atop an extinct volcano, without worrying that one day it may erupt again into a raging inferno? Such was a thought that did not bother the ancient builders of Orvieto when they constructed this magnificent place centuries ago. An iconic city that Etruscans continue to take pride of until today. Travelers who have been to this city will resonate with me if I tell you, it should be number one in your ‘must see’ destination list. Here’s why.
History Meets Gastronomy
Food is where the heart is. Believe me, I am not a foodie. But I became one in this city! I ended up buying an enormous amount of cooking ingredients as well at “i Sapori dell’Umbria e”, a small spice, food and wine store, located in Orvieto’s main street Corso Cavour; including vacuum-packed cheese to take home at the end of our journey. If the photo of my friend and I inside the small ristorante is not enough to convince you, then I don’t know what would.
Orvieto’s gastronomic traditions always include quality as an important ingredient of the food they serve, whether it’s a gourmet meal or a snack to go. So while there, why not sample one of their traditional appetizers like Mazzafegate, or whatever you fancy? After touring around the cobblestone pathways back and forth where they sell souvenirs, and delicacies, including the much sought-after truffles that grow aplenty in Orvieto, a Bruschetta with garlic and extra-virgin locally produced olive oil will help restore your energy back. If you’re OK with gaining an extra pound, try including a salami of wild boar with seasoned ricotta in your sandwich. You’ll burn the extra calories anyway as you keep strolling to reach their famous edifice and historical places, i.e., Orvieto Cathedral – The Duomo, The Well of Saint Patrick, and Piazza della Repubblica located uphill, to name a few. While up there, don’t forget to look down where you came from and admire the view!
Art and Soul
The Duomo is by itself an art. Its greenish-black basalt and whitish striped travertine form an intricate element of the Cathedral’s Gothic appeal that Lorenzo Maitani, an architect and sculptor from Siena, engraved when he was commissioned to stabilize the building and design its façade in 1309. The Cathedral is home to Luca Signorelli’s masterpiece “Last Judgment”, The Chapel of San Brizio, with striking frescoed murals by Fra Angelico’s team, and The Corporal of Bolsena. A complex behind the Duomo displays the city’s best devotional art pieces. Underneath the hill are mementos of Etruscan era in the form of caves, tunnels, and wells that are worthy to visit also. This long kept secret labyrinth called Orvieto Underground showcases its early settlers way of life, and reveals how they were kept safe and protected from the outside world who would dare to intrude. Even Pope Clement VII took refuge in this place during the sack of Rome in 1527 when he was threatened by Roman Emperor Charles V’s troops siege; the same time when he commissioned the installation of “Well of Saint Patrick”. The cobblestone pathways of Orvieto breathe art that will inspire even those with less appreciation for the finer things in life.
Wine Is Cheaper than Water
This metaphor might sound a little exaggerated. But what it means is that, like its neighbor Tuscany, Umbria is set in rolling hills of vineyards and Orvieto is one of its cities where the finest white wine flows in abundance. In fact, I have personally witnessed how wine is processed at Castello di Corbara Winery, when our guide offered to take us there early morning on our way to Orvieto. Our tour at the winery ended with a wine tasting which my friend was more than happy to try. She bought the finest white and red wine, two bottles if I remember, to take home as gifts. I reckoned she might have been impressed by the wine’s quality, the winery’s hospitality, or both. Not wanting to go home empty-handed, I decided later on to buy a bottle of red and white wine myself for EUR2 each at “i Sapori dell’Umbria e” in Orvieto. My souvenirs on this trip!