Orvieto, not just another hill town 16

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A short trip north of Rome is the small town of Orvieto. From the moment you see it perched up on its volcanic plug, you can tell it’s a special place. With its 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside and vineyards, it’s no wonder a number of popes have called Orvieto home over the years. We spent a bit of time here this past winter and would like to share some of our favourite places.

Discover Orvieto

Orvieto with the Duomo dominating its skyline.

La Pergola

via del Magoni, 9

We found this little restaurant up via del Magoni and decided to check it out. As it turned out we were quite lucky to get in without a reservation. The front room was bright and filled with locals – always a good sign. We were escorted through the restaurant and out the back door to a courtyard and a separate, closed in dining area with one free table. The food was simple as is the case with most Italian restaurants. Letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

We enjoyed a starter of guanciale with vinegar. Guanciale, aka pork jowl, looks like a very fatty bacon but the fat has amazing flavor. In this case it was cooked but not crispy and then splattered with balsamic vinegar, super simple and so good. The second course arrived, a typical Umbrian stewed salt cod with vegetables and raisins for me and a tagliatelle al ragú for Tim. We skipped the third course and dessert and opted for a quick espresso before heading out for a long walk around town. We liked La Pergola so much, we returned a second time.

Discover Orvieto

Stewed salt cod with vegetables and raisins


via del Magoni, 11

Right next door to La Pergola is a wonderful turned olive wood studio and shop. Run by the artist, Umberto Fantina himself, you can find pretty much anything you would want made out of olive wood. From pasta and pizza cutters to bowls and yoyos, all made with beautifully grained olive wood. It’s a great place to find nice souvenirs like small cutting boards and salad servers that are hand made and affordable.

Orvieto Duomo

The Duomo in Orvieto was built during the 14th century under the orders of Pope Urban IV, to house the Corporal of Bolsena, a miracle that is said to have happened in the 1200s. We spent a few hours here over three separate visits, appreciating all the amazing 14th and 15th century art.

Orvieto: the city card
The most impressive part of the Duomo is the Chapel of the Madonna di San Brizio. In the summer, visits to the chapel are limited to 15 minutes, barely enough time to get your bearings. During the winter months, when crowds are slim, this rule isn’t in effect and you can take your time, finding the different sections on your map and reading about the artwork or get yourself an audio guide and follow along. The Duomo is a work of art in itself and dominates the skyline of this small Umbrian town, its facade glimmering in the sunlight.

Discover Orvieto

The Duomo’s eye-catching facade

The Crocifisso del Tufo necropolis

It’s interesting to learn how cultures differ from one another when it comes to burying their dead. When we were in Orvieto we had the opportunity to visit this Etruscan necropolis. As you enter, there is a small museum describing the site, its history and the excavations that took place here. A moss covered path leads to the necropolis, you can walk among the tombs and enter some of the empty tombs if you wish.

Discover Orvieto
All tombs are similar in size and with nothing to differentiate one from another, we are led to believe that citizens of differing rank and status were buried side by side. Visit the Museo Civico in town to see some of the artifacts excavated at this site.

Discover Orvieto

Teatro Mancinelli

For a few euros you can do a self guided tour of the theatre, situated on Corso Cavour. The facade is elegant with its two-tiered portico, and inside you will find an elaborate decor and beautiful frescoes. The theatre dates back to the Middle Ages and showcases frescoes by Cesare Fracassini. At the front of the theatre is the historical painted curtain showing Belisarius freeing the town of Orvieto from the siege of the Goths, also by Fracassini.

Go See Write

Another great way to see the theatre is to attend one of the events held here. They range from buffet receptions in the foyer to plays to gigs during the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival.

Discover Orvieto

Part of the ceiling in the Theatre

rome to orvieto

Have you experienced any great Italian hill towns?


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About Nat and Tim Harris

Together for close to a quarter of a century, A Cook Not Mad‘s Tim and Nat have indulged their passion for life and experience to the fullest, but they feel most alive when traveling, cooking and eating. An award winning chef, Tim has dedicated his life and career to cooking and the pursuit of honest food. As a professional photographer, Nat records their adventures with incredible pictures of everyday life and the extraordinary. They believe that everyone should get to know a culture by learning about the foods they eat and living like locals as much as they can.

16 thoughts on “Orvieto, not just another hill town

  • Jackie

    I love the hilltop towns you can stumble across in Italy! Your post brought back a lovely honeymoon memory. Hubby and I came across Volpaia, a tiny hilltop town while driving through Tuscany. It was the best lunch we had, complete with crisp homemade white wine, a scrappy dog stretched out sleeping in the small town piazza, and an Italian grandmother in her house dress sweeping her front steps. I think we were lucky enough to be the only tourists around!

  • NZ Muse

    When we went to Italy I insisted we stop here because I read a book set in Orvieto once! We only really had time enough to get up the hill, eat lunch and then we had to get back on the train to Rome, but it was so, so cool.

  • George

    Our world is diversified with different cultures merging together at some point of time or another. Every place has a story to tell and I liked your narrative style in describing your travelling experience.

  • Arti

    That’s a great compilation for a town that looks so beautiful, wish to visit it and experience all that you have shown someday!

  • Chrissy Eastwood

    I was in Sicily in March this year and visited a beautiful town on a hill called Taomina, it has stunning views of Mt Etna, and the surrounding area.. apparently it’s famous for having Hollywood starts visit. There are lots of places to eat, a lovely little wine bar where we had some lunch and it’s very easy to access via the buses. Great place to visit.
    I am enjoying reading your blog, and look forward to more of them.

  • Martin Parker

    That you for an insight into a town I had never heard of before. The artwork in the Duomo is really exquisite.

  • Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home

    The underground tunneling system is tremendous. These secret hidden tunnels are now only open to view through guided tours. The tunnels would lead from the city palazzo to emerge at a safe exit point some distance away from city walls.

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