Hotel OrvietoOrvieto stands on a precipice of volcanic rock. Through stillvisible archaeological evidence both in the city and its attendant necropoli, it has been identified as the ancient Etruscan citystate of Velzna, where every year the Etruscans would come to celebrate religious festivals and participate in games.
One of the most important artifacts from the prosperous Etruscan era is the Necropoli del Crocifisso del Tufo, an Etruscan necropolis located at the foot of the cliff of Orvieto. According to the Etruscan conception of the afterlife, even in the hereafter the dead continue a sort of parallel existence. For this reason, at the moment of burial the body was accompanied by objects which were thought to be useful after death. This is why mirrors, fibulas, spears, necklaces, vases, bronze and terracotta objects in both Etruscan and Hellenistic style have been found in the tombs.
Unfortunately, during the excavations in the 19th century there were organizational problems and many finds were dispersed in various museums around Europe. Beginning in 1961, however, much of this material was recovered and catalogued. Today it can be found in the Museo Faina in Orvieto. Another peculiar artifact of the ancient inhabitants of Orvieto is the beautiful labyrinth of grottoes which winds beneath the city. Orvieto underground is an apparently unending succession of tunnels, unexpected passages, overlapping rooms on whose walls can be read, in thousands and thousands of foursided niches, the centurieslong adventure of this “underground city.”
There are two more architectonic marvels found in Orvieto: the Pozzo della Cava and the Pozzo San Patrizio. This latter is considered a true masterpiece of engineering. It consists of two spiral oneway ramps which allowed mules to carry water without getting each other’s way or going back along the only road that connected the town with the valley. The well is nearly 54 meters deep, has 248 steps and 70 large windows. The Pozzo San Patrizio, originally called the Pozzo della Rocca due to its proximity to the Albornozian fortress, got its name from the Irish saint. Legend has it that there was a cavern in Ireland and God told St. Patrick to withdraw there in prayer in order to show the tortures of hell to the unbelievers who had ventured all the way inside. In exchange they would have been pardoned for their sins and admitted to paradise.
The city’s most characteristic symbol is surely the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta or simply the Duomo for the locals. It’s an Italian gothic architectural masterpiece, whose facade is decorated with a series of bas reliefs and sculptures by the architects Lorenzo Maitani. The construction of the church was begun in 1290 at the behest of Pope Niccolò IV with the intent of giving a worthy location to the corporal of the miracle of Bolsena.
In 140844 the chapel of San Brizio was built, which is located in the righthand transept of the church and was frescoed only later, between 14471504.
The chapel is known for its cycle of frescoes telling the Story of the Last Days, begun by Beato Angelico and Benozzo Gozzoli in 1447 and finished by Luca Signorelli in 14991502.
There are many other places in Orvieto worth visiting, and the city also hosts cultural events such as Umbria Jazz Winter, Umbria Folk Festival and the Festa di Santa Perduta. It’s also worth mentioning the Festa della Palombella, the annual celebration of Pentecost. The celebration goes as far back as 1400 and takes place inside the Duomo with the following rite: a white dove, tied to a halo with red string, descends, propelled along a steel wire drawn between the dome lantern of the Church of St. Francis and the Cenacle, reproducing the design of the Reliquary of St. Savino, which is then laid out before the main door of the Cathedral. When the dove finishes its course it arrives at the Cenacle and “a thousand explosions are heard”, as one chronicler colorfully put it. A volley of firecrackers then go off and on the head of the Madonna and the Apostles red flames are ignited, an allusion to the Holy Scriptures.