Things to do in Orvieto, Italy
Perfectly situated on a massive limestone rock, the town of Orvieto sits high above the lush Italian landscape. With a long history dating all the way back to the Etruscans (900 – 27 BC), it has remained one of the most important strongholds throughout time.
When you approach the picture-perfect rock, you can immediately spot the Orvieto cathedral peering down onto the surrounding countryside. With nearly 3,000 years of history, this unique European town has plenty to offer, from beautifully preserved medieval architecture to underground tunnels and famous wine.
Tip: Depending on the time you visit Orvieto, the town organizes some exciting cultural events. There’s the Fotografia photography exhibition in summer or the Orvieto Winter Jazz Festival. The most famous event is the Corpus Domini celebration in June, when the streets fill with flower petals and songs.
1. Duomo di Orvieto (Orvieto Cathedral)
Orvieto is all about its grand Duomo, a breathtaking Gothic cathedral in the middle of the historic town. Somewhat reminiscent of the Duomo in Siena, the building features a huge facade covered in elaborate carvings and colorful mosaics. When the sunlight shines onto the cathedral, you can see the stunning details of the building fully come to life.
Make sure to make your way to the Piazza del Duomo to admire the magnificent exterior of this grand structure. You can enter the cathedral for a small fee to look at the beautiful (and strange) artworks on the inside. Especially the chapel is covered from top to bottom in different religious depictions. The stunning facade, intricate frescoes, and detailed sculptures make the Orvieto Cathedral one of the best things to do in Orvieto, Italy.
2. St. Patrick’s Well
Pozzo di San Patrizio, also known as St. Patrick’s well, is one of the best things to do in Orvieto. With an entire underground network carved into the rock that carries the town, this 175-feet deep (53-meter) well is one of many historical marvels.
Located at the edge of the town’s center, just beside the cable car station up top, makes it the perfect starting place on your visit to Orvieto. Climb all the way down inside the cylindrical well through one of the two doorways at the top. As you descend deeper, walking the winding staircase, make sure to look at the arched windows that contribute to the surreal atmosphere.
The well was originally built as a hiding place in case of a siege, commissioned by the escaped Roman Pope Clement VII. While imperial troops sacked neighboring Rome, Orvieto would always have an adequate water supply inside its fortress walls.
3. Stroll the Streets
The narrow streets of the charming historic center of Orvieto are lined with colorful stone buildings and lively squares. Discover the laid-back atmosphere of the town by going for a stroll and turning down random alleys. It doesn’t matter where you go, as you’re never too far away from something familiar. Walk past beautiful family homes draped in lush flora and the castle-like Albornoz Fortress perched at the edge of town.
Lots of the streets lead towards the Orvieto cathedral in the center, taking no longer than 10-15 minutes. However, it’s worth taking your time, peeking into little courtyards and local shops as you go. Here, you can also pick up authentic Italian souvenirs, from beautiful ceramics (the town’s craft) to delicious local wines or truffle-infused products. Some of the shops even have showrooms where you can watch the artisans work on their crafts!
4. Sit at One of the Many Wine Bars
The hilltop town of Orvieto peers down onto a rich wine region bearing the same name. The area, primarily known for its white wines, predates Roman times and is one of the very best in Italy! A trip to Orvieto would not be complete without sampling a glass of ‘Orvieto Classico’ or other delicious local wines.
Wind down after a day full of sightseeing at one of the town’s incredible winebars, tucked between the beautiful local stores and quintessential homes. We sat down at Bottega Véra Orvieto, perfect for trying some local classics paired with a delicious cheese platter.
Tip: If you have time, consider adding a wine tasting at a local vineyard to your things to do in Orvieto. There are plenty of wineries in the area that offer tours to the cellars and through the lush vineyards.
5. Orvieto Underground
Though the historic hilltop town already has lots to marvel at, there’s much more to be discovered underground. Hidden beneath the surface, right under the buildings of Orvieto’s center, you’ll find a labyrinth of 1200 different tunnels, dating as far back as the Etruscans 2,500 years ago!
The tunnels were accidentally discovered in the 1970s when a large opening appeared in the city center due to a landslide. Worried about potential repercussions, the people of Orvieto sent down a team to research the hole. Here, they discovered over 1000 different caves, passages, and chambers.
Though most of the caves are privately owned, there are two open to the public for tours. Learn about the different uses of the man-made underground city as you walk through the fascinating network of tunnels. You can book a tour in advance or head to the tourism office on the Piazza del Duomo once you’re in town. This is by far one of the most unique things to do in Orvieto, Italy.
One of the most interesting underground attractions to visit is Pozzo della Cava. This ancient cave well is over 2000 years old and originally built to provide water for the Etruscan settlement that once stood where you now find the town of Orvieto.
With multiple levels of tunnels and rooms carved out of the tufa rock, you can descend about 118 feet (36 meters) below the surface. Dive deep into the town’s history as you walk through the tunnels. Make sure to look at the markings on the walls full of ancient inscriptions, medieval Christian symbols, and more recent graffiti.
Pozzo della Cava is privately owned and can be visited on a guided or self-guided tour. It takes about 1 hour to make your way around the site, including a visit to a small museum full of artifacts from the well.
6. Torre del Moro
Because of its high position above vineyards and the lush Umbrian countryside, there are plenty of incredible viewpoints to be found all over Orvieto. The historical clock tower Torre del Moro is the perfect place to come to for the best panoramic views. On a clear day, you can see all across Orvieto and far out over the surroundings – absolutely breathtaking!
Look at how the town’s winding streets come together at the Duomo di Orvieto. Or, watch as the summer sun shines onto the surrounding greenery, bathing everything in a golden light around sunset. You could spend hours admiring the scenery from up here.
Climb about 236 steps to the top to reward yourself with stunning vistas. This is a popular thing to do in Orvieto and makes it a busy spot in town (there’s also a delicious gelato place in front)!
Best Cafes and Restaurants in Orvieto
Umbrian cuisine is known for its rustic dishes made of local ingredients and traditional cooking methods. From delicious appetizers to big bowls of freshly hand-made pasta, Orvieto has many restaurants that serve the best local food. Some of our favorite cafes and restaurants in Orvieto are:
- Bottega Vèra Orvieto
- Gastronomia Aronne
- FE3.0 (FEBO)
Grab a quick bite somewhere on the Piazza del Duomo or dine at one of the local trattorias tucked in the little alleys of the town. A must-try is strangozzi or umbricelli al tartufo: a pasta dish with thick noodles and an incredible sauce made of black truffles.
Where to Stay
Though Orvieto is a popular destination for a day trip from neighboring cities, it’s worth it to spend the night in town to soak up more of its incredible atmosphere.
There are various accommodation options to choose from in Orvieto, from small hotels in the stone buildings of the historic center to agriturismo (farm stays) in the beautiful surrounding countryside.
The easiest way to get to Orvieto is to drive. Renting a car and driving in Italy is an incredible experience and a great option if you’re hoping to see more of the country along the way.
Due to its size, you can’t drive into Orvieto’s old town without a permit. Because of this, it’s best to park on the outskirts of town where there’s plenty of space (here’s the location). From there, you can take the funicular up to the top of the hill.
You can also travel to the hilltop town via train from Florence (2.5 hours) or Rome (1.5 hours). Tickets cost between 7.90 – 12 EUR (8.50 – 12.92 USD), depending on when you purchase them. Getting them in advance is more affordable, but you can also buy tickets on the day of your trip.
The train arrives at Piazzale Matteotti in Orvieto Scalo (the lower part of town), from where you can take the cable car up to the historical center. The cable car journey takes only 2 minutes and costs 1.60 EUR (1.72 USD) for a single trip.
The small historical center is very walkable. In fact, it only takes 20 minutes to walk from one side to the other. Once you reach the top of the hill, you won’t need anything else than your own two feet to get around!
Tip: You can also purchase the Orvieto Card, which covers the most popular things to do in Orvieto. Some of the sites included are the Duomo, the underground, St. Patrick’s well, and the Torre del Moro. However, a funicular round-trip to and back from the old town is also included. You can purchase the card online, at the train station, or at the tourism office on the Piazza del Duomo.
How Many Days in Orvieto?
The time you spend in the stunning town of Orvieto depends on your travel plans. If you’re on a tight schedule, one or two days is plenty of time to explore the beautiful charm and history of the center. However, if you want to spend more time immersing yourself in the local culture and incredible scenery, plan to stay for a few more days. The location and size of Orvieto make it a great destination on your road trip through Italy, too.
How Much Does Orvieto Cost?
Much like the rest of Italy, the costs of visiting Orvieto depend on your choice of accommodation, food and drinks, transportation, and attractions. However, traveling the country is overall quite affordable.
There are many amazing budget-friendly hotels and guesthouses in and around Orvieto, and meals typically range from 10 – 15 EUR (10.77 – 16.50 USD) per person at a trattoria or pizzeria, up to around 50 EUR (53.86 USD) at a fancier restaurant.
Best Time to Visit Orvieto, Italy
Orvieto, Italy, makes a popular tourist destination in the peak season (June to August). It’s especially loved by locals who spend their vacation in the charming town or visit one of the many festivals and events during summer. The most famous event is the Corpus Domini celebration in June, when the streets are decorated with flower petals, and choir music travels through the streets.
If you prefer a more peaceful and relaxed time, visit in the shoulder seasons in April/May or September/October. During this time, there are fewer crowds and lower prices, but still plenty of the warm Umbrian sun.