Sights in Orvieto, Italy

This is a unique Umbrian hill top town, just off the main auto route between Rome and Florence.  The high plateau that Orvieto rests upon has been pushed up toward the sky by extinct volcanoes.  The town is accessible by funicular.  When arriving, follow signs for the Orvieto Scalo parking lot, which is near the train station in the modern lower town.  The city dates to Etruscan times when it was a member of the League of 12 Cities.  Today, the town is known for its crisp white wines which are produced from grapes grown at the foot of the cliffs in eroded volcanic rock. 


Top Sights in Orvieto

The Duomo- has one of the most striking facades of any church in Italy, incorporating mosaics and sculpture.  Many art historians call this church the most colorful monument in the world.  The interior has been emptied of statues and pews to reveal a beautiful blood red marble floor.  The interior is also well known for the Chapel of San Brizio which features frescos by Renaissance artist Signorelli.  These frescos depict the second coming of Christ, the torments of hell and the Resurrection.  These frescos inspired Michelangelo in his painting of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.


Palazzo Faina- Located in the palace is the Archeological Museum of Claudio Faina.  This is considered one of the most important collections in Umbria.  You will find excellent examples of Etruscan sculpture and pottery.  A highlight though, are the three vases by Exekias.  He was one of the most important Greek vase painters of the 6th Century BC.  These vases were imported from Greece by the Etruscans.


Palazzo Papale- This 12th century palace was built for a bishop and later redecorated by two different popes.  The National Archeological Museum is located in the palace and features a tomb painting which depicts the afterlife.  Other highlights are objects found in Etruscan tombs and burial grounds including mirrors and a set of armor.


Palazzo Soliano- This 13th century palace was built for Pope Boniface VIII.  Inside the palace are two museums.  On the main floor is the Greco Museum dedicated to the local artist Emilo Greco (1915-1995), who made the modern bronze doors on the Duomo.  On the upper floor is the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo which includes a self portrait of Luca Signorelli. 


Pozzo (Well) di San Patrizio- In 1527 Pope Clement VII ordered this well to be dug to prepare for a siege that never occurred.  The well is about 190 feet deep and it features a double spiral staircase.  This would allow pack mules to go into the well to be loaded with water and then return to the surface on a separate staircase to avoid any collisions.  The design was likely influenced by Michelangelo who later designed a similar staircase in the Chateau of Chambord in France.  The steps are steep but they are available for you to ascend into the well passing an Etruscan tomb and various vistas from openings in the shaft.


Etruscan Tombs- On the northwest road that leads to the funicular, there are a series of Etruscan Tombs.  The contents of the tombs are in museums around the world, including Orvieto.  Each of the tombs are almost exactly the same, except for the family name above each entrance.


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