With so much to do in Rome, we were hesitant to plan any day trips out of the city. We figured that with a whole month of traveling around Italy ahead of us, we should take advantage of our time in the capital and try to see as much as possible. But then we saw a few dreamy photos of the Umbrian hill town of Orvieto, and some quick research revealed that getting there by train would only take an hour and twenty minutes and cost 8 euro. So off we went! It ended up being one of our favorite days in Italy, certainly worth the sacrifice of one day exploring Rome.
Orvieto, like many of the ancient towns in Umbria and Tuscany, is perched on a hillside high above the surrounding farmland. The walls contain a warren of cobblestone alleyways, ancient churches, and adorable homes. You could spend an hour or two just getting lost in the maze-like streets. It’s easy to forget the town’s unique vantage point until you turn a corner and are suddenly on the edge of a cliff with the beautiful vista of Umbria stretched out before you. For being a relatively small town, Orvieto has a surprising number of sights to see and things to do. The Duomo is stunning and huge, its size in relation to the tiny surrounding buildings making it all the more impressive. There are also a few smaller churches around town that are worth popping into. The tuffaceous rock below the town is full of a large network of caves and cellars used for everything from wine storage to pigeon breeding and many of them are connected. Orvieto Underground offers really fascinating tours of the cool, dark, subterranean world, a welcome break from the strength of the midday Italian sunshine. For a slightly more strenuous adventure, you can hike a 4.5km path that circles the town. It is a relatively easy hike aside from the steep climb at the end to get back up. If you work up an appetite from all this exploring, Orvieto is full of family-run trattorias and cute cafes to dine at. Or if you visit on a market day like we did, you can stop by the meat and cheese truck in the main square for some cheap porchetta sandwiches.
It's impossible not to be charmed by the ancient streets of a town like Orvieto. Within minutes of arriving, we found ourselves talking about what it would be like to live there; what business would we open, which café would we get our daily cappucino at, would our house be in town or in the surrounding countryside? Sure, the realities of moving to a rural Italian town might not be quite as exciting as the fantasy, but hey, we can dream! Maybe one day we will live in an ivy-covered villa just a short vespa ride away from Orvieto. Until then, we will just have to be satisfied with a wonderful one-day visit.