If you are looking for a European tourist destination, consider visiting the medieval hilltop jewel of Orvieto near the border with Latium in the landlocked region of Umbria in central Italy. Depending on your interests, this beautiful area might be an ideal vacation spot. You can get classic Italian food, and wash it down with fine local wine. This area is hardly undiscovered, but is not overrun by tourists. Be sure to read the companion articles in this series that present the lovely cities of Perugia and Assisi, and other tourist centers in southern and northern Umbria.
Orvieto, a city of some twenty thousand, sits on a plateau of volcanic rock. This location is really spectacular and should be relatively easy to defend but the Romans were able to defeat the Etruscans and destroy this city back in 283 B. C. and the Etruscans haven’t been heard of since. Visit the Museo Claudio Faina e Museo Civico (Archaeological Museum) to see both Etruscan and Roman artifacts and other treasures.
The Romanesque-Gothic Duomo (Cathedral) was started towards the end of the Thirteenth Century. The beautiful carved-stone façade was completed by some of Italy’s best artists over a period of some three hundred years. Believers and others will want to see the stained altar cloth that led to the Feast of Corpus Christi celebrated nine weeks after Easter. Make sure to see the frescoes painted by Luca Signorelli, who stipulated that part payment for his efforts be Orvieto wines. You’ll also want to visit the thousand-year-old San Giovenale Church with its many beautiful frescoes. Orvieto is one of the few Italian cities to host a papal residence. There were in fact three. The most recent, built near the turn of the Fourteenth Century, Palazzo Soliano, is now home to the Museum of Medieval Art. Stop by the Piazza Cahen and its Fourteenth Century Fortezza. The Pazzo de San Patrizio (Well of St. Patrick) supplied water to the city during a siege. Would you believe that it was designed with two one-way mule paths (well over 450 years ago) to avoid traffic jams?
Via del Duomo shopping street near the Orvieto Cathedral.
Orvieto has quite an underground city. Make sure to save time for a guided tour to visit the labyrinth of tunnels and caves including Etruscan tombs and much more. When you are ready to leave this spectacular town, head east to beautiful Lake Corbara, a World Wildlife Federation Reserve. Then it’s to the Strada dei Vini Etrusco-Romana (Etrusco-Roman Wine Trail), celebrating the wines that have been produced here for some 2500 years. Among the wines to look for are the white Orvieto DOC, and the red Rosso Orvietano / Orvietano Rosso DOC, both of which may be dry or sweet.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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