Etruscan ruins, opulent churches, stunning views: there are lots of incredibly cool things to do in Orvieto, Italy!
We’ve had our eye on this adorable hilltop town for a while: with its long history dating back to the Etruscans and picture-perfect setting on a cliff in Umbria, we were eager to explore its back streets, check out its Duomo (because every Italian town needs a Duomo!), and sample its delicious food.
Beyond that, though, we really had no idea what we would actually do there until we booked some train tickets and started planning our trip.
And to our surprise, it turns out that there are plenty of fun things to do in Orvieto!
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Orvieto was one of the most important cities in the region during Etruscan times, and (much) later served as a home for the pope.
With a history like that, it should come as no surprise that the Orvieto of today is an engaging and multi-faceted place to visit.
Heading to this charming piece of Umbria soon?
Here’s what to do in Orvieto, Italy.
Table of Contents
The Best Things to Do in Orvieto, Italy
Marvel at the Orvieto Cathedral.
Orvieto’s Cathedral (usually known as the Duomo, as in most cities in Italy) has one of the most beautiful facades we have ever seen!
The carvings and mosaics on the Duomo practically demand that you plop down in the Piazza del Duomo and properly admire it for a few minutes.
Once inside, be sure to check out the Cappella di San Brizio!
While most of the interior of this Duomo is rather stark, this small chapel is absolutely magnificent–and disturbing.
The depictions of hell on the ceiling, complete with flying demons, countless acts of violence, and streams of blood, are some of the creepiest we have come across in Italy (which, frankly, is really saying something).
Check out the underground.
Did you know that there are 1200 caves under Orvieto?
Each one of them is man-made, some dating back as far as the Etruscans, and each has been put to good use.
Be sure to add a tour of the underground to your list of things to do in Orvieto!
It’s amazing to get underneath the city and learn more about the many, many uses the caves have had over the years.
Unlike most things to do in Orvieto, this one does require scheduling (slightly) in advance.
We recommend heading to the tourism office in the Piazza del Duomo when you arrive and signing up for a tour, and then structuring the rest of your time in Orvieto around that.
… And also the Pozo della Cava.
Pozo della Cava is a privately owned cave in Orvieto and is an interesting opportunity to learn more about the city’s history (their detailed, multilingual signage is impressive!).
It’s also a great place to get an up-close-and-personal look at one of Orvieto’s many wells.
Descend into St. Patrick’s Well.
While you can peer into the well at the Pozo della Cava, at St. Patrick’s Well, you can climb all the way down inside!
It’s beautiful and eerie to look up and see the perfectly cylindrical well reaching 175 feet above your head, and definitely an experience worth adding to your list of things to do in Orvieto.
Give a pigeon dish a try.
Seemingly every small village in Italy has its own local dish or food associated with it, and in Orvieto, it’s pigeon.
Pigeons were originally farmed in the caves under Orvieto, though today they’re produced in more modern facilities.
For a truly local meal, order the pigeon (in Italian, “piccione”) for lunch!
Check out Etruscan artifacts at the Museo Claudio Faina.
Claudio Faina was a private collector of Etruscan artifacts, but his collection (and the stunning palazzo it is housed in) are now open to the public.
The museum is located right across from the Duomo, so be sure to duck in for a quick look at Etruscan history in Orvieto!
Head to the Archaeological Museum.
It’s hard to imagine today, given Orvieto’s status as a charming yet tiny Italian town, but Orvieto was one of the most important cities in Etruscan culture.
In addition to the Etruscan archaeological sites in Orvieto, the Archaeological Museum offers a fantastic opportunity to view Etruscan artifacts and to learn more about Etruscan history and their way of life.
The museum will give excellent context to your visit to Orvieto, as well as the region as a whole.
View the ruins of an Etruscan necropolis.
It’s not every small town that can say they’re the home of a 2,500-year-old cemetery, but Orvieto can!
Several distinct graves–complete with inscribed family names–can still be seen at the necropolis.
… And also the ruins of the Temple of Belvedere.
This Etruscan temple was probably built to honor the god Tinia, the Etruscans’ highest god, and the remains of the temple can still be seen to this day.
Certain artifacts that have been found there can also be seen in the Museo Claudio Faina.
Soak in amazing views at the top of the Torre del Moro.
No trip to an Italian hilltop town could be complete without visiting an amazing viewpoint!
Without a doubt, climbing the Torre del Moro is one of the most memorable things to do in Orvieto.
On a clear day, you can see all across Orvieto and beyond into the Umbrian countryside, and the views are absolutely breathtaking (as is the climb, and there is no elevator option).
Stroll through the Albornoz Fortress.
Built in the Middle Ages, this castle-like fortress stands at the very edge of Orvieto.
If you arrive in town via the funicular, it’ll likely be the first thing you see in Orvieto!
Today, the fortress is mostly used as a public garden, complete with an amphitheater for performances and absolutely stunning views of the surrounding Umbrian countryside.
Stop by the Piazza della Repubblica.
Long the center of public life in Orvieto, this small piazza may not be the most picturesque, but it’s an unmissable attraction in Orvieto, Italy.
Home to the town hall to this day and once the center of the city’s religious life (until the Duomo was erected on the edge of town), it’s worth noting the Piazza della Repubblica on your list of things to see in Orvieto.
Step inside the Church of San Giovenale.
Standing proudly on the edge of Orvieto, this charming church boasts a long history.
Built in 1004 on the site of a former Etruscan temple, it has the feel of a weathered building that has seen many things come and go during its life.
The interior is still partially decorated with frescoes, so be sure to stop and take a peek inside!
… And then enjoy the nearby views.
The Church of San Giovenale stands on the edge of town… which means the nearby views are absolutely stunning.
We spent a long time blissfully admiring the countryside from one of the benches situated at this vantage point.
Other than the occasional meandering local with their baby or pup, we had the view all to ourselves!
Taste the Orvieto Classico wine.
In addition to being a town, Orvieto is also the name of the surrounding wine region!
Known primarily for its white Orvieto Classico wine, wine lovers should be sure to order a glass while exploring Orvieto.
If you have enough time, you can even head to a nearby vineyard and add a wine tasting to your list of things to do in Orvieto!
Spend hours exploring the small streets of Orvieto.
One of the best things to do in Orvieto is quite simple: wander the streets.
It’s simply not possible to get too lost here–you’ll always be a short walk away from something familiar–but it’s lots of fun to simply turn down random streets and see what turns up.
Beautiful homes, charming small businesses, quiet corners, and plenty of adorable dogs are just waiting to be found.
We loved every moment of our visit to Orvieto, but if we had to pick just a few favorites, the quiet moments spent wandering streets at random would definitely be among them.
Shop for local souvenirs.
Hoping to nab some delicious cured meats, local olive oil, wine, or truffle-infused products during your trip to Italy?
Be sure to browse the small streets of Orvieto!
Many of the shops here offer memorable local products… that frequently come with a lower price tag than those in larger, popular cities like Rome and Florence.
About The Orvieto Card
For 25 Euros, you can purchase the Orvieto Card, which covers 9 of the most popular things to do in Orvieto, Italy.
The Duomo, the underground, St. Patrick’s Well, and the Torre del Moro are all among the Orvieto attractions included.
Round-trip public transportation to the old town from the train station via the funicular is also included with the card.
If you’re going to be doing quite a bit of sightseeing in Orvieto, we recommend picking up the Orvieto Card as soon as you get to town–preferably before you pay for the funicular up!
The cards are sold at all participating attractions, the train station, and the tourism office across the piazza from the Duomo.
If you’re so inclined, the card can also be used for small discounts at certain local restaurants and shops.
Getting to Orvieto, Italy
Orvieto is easily accessible via train from both Florence (about 2.5 hours travel time each way) and Rome (about 1.5 hours travel time each way) and is an easy day trip from both cities.
You can also drive to Orvieto, which is a great option if you’re hoping to see some smaller sights and attractions along the way.
If you happen to be driving from Rome to Florence as part of an Italy road trip, Orvieto is among the best stops between the two cities!
However, you’ll need to secure parking for your car before ascending into Orvieto’s old town–you can’t drive there without a permit.
If you’d rather skip worrying about transportation, this popular day trip includes a visit to Orvieto, a wine tasting at a vineyard, and a visit to beautiful Assisi!
Getting Around Orvieto
Orvieto is tiny, and once you ride the funicular and/or escalators up into the old town, you won’t need to do anything other than walk to get around!
When visiting Orvieto, we walked directly from one side to the other in less than half an hour, and we weren’t moving particularly fast.
How Long to Visit Orvieto, Italy
One day in Orvieto is plenty of time to see all the major and some of the minor sights, and for most travelers, we recommend visiting as a day trip from either Florence or Rome.
We loved having a chance to savor the best things to do in Orvieto, but you can see the best sights relatively quickly!
Unless you only want to relax in a beautiful setting (which is admittedly a wonderful way to spend a trip to Italy), anything beyond a day is overkill for Orvieto.
If you would like to spend more time there, consider also making time to explore Umbria beyond Orvieto, starting with the nearby wineries!
34 thoughts on “17 Cool Things to Do in Orvieto, Italy (+ Travel Guide)”
Orvieto is so pretty! I have never heard of this place before but it looks so charming. I love little winding streets and that cathedral is BANANAS! Also bananas? That pigeon is eaten! I guess you can’t knock it until you try it! Thanks for the tips!
Haha, right? It’s definitely not what I expected from a town in Italy, but then again, we’ve come to find there’s almost always a surprise in tiny towns like these. 😀
My husband, teenage son and I recently spent 6 days/5 nights in Orvieto. I completely agree with you that it is charming, beautiful and fascinating. The only point I would disagree with is that more than a day is overkill. After 6 days, none of us were ready to leave.
I’m glad you had such a wonderful time! Orvieto is certainly beautiful.
My hubby & I are attending a wedding in Orvieto next year. It’s also our own 20th wedding anniversary therefore we are planning on taking 2-weeks and traveling through Italy in the surrounding areas 🙂 It’s going to be our first time in Italy. Any other tips or suggestions would be amazing Kate! Thank you.
Congratulations on 20 years! That’s a wonderful accomplishment. 🙂
There’s a search bar in the top-right corner of our blog that you can use to find our suggested 2 week Italy itinerary for a first visit–it covers Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence, and Venice, and would be very easy to adapt to a wedding in Orvieto! If you’d rather stick to a close geographic region, Tuscany and Umbria alone could easily fill a trip–Siena, Montepulciano, Cortona, Florence, Assisi, Perugia, San Gimignano, and Volterra are all very close by and worth looking into!
Personally, though, I’d have to suggest broadening it a bit further and visiting at least Rome or Venice for a look at a different region of Italy.
Whatever you choose, I have no doubt it’ll be an amazing trip for you guys!
One day in Orvieto? ?WRONG!!!, Kate this advice is misdirecting people. I live in Orvieto and can assure you that all tourists who visit Orvieto for one day, leave complaining that one day is not enough. The comment we hear -without exception, is “what a shame that we are staying here for one day only”. My advice to your readers and take it from someone living here for 7 years, is that if you are coming to Orvieto one day is NOT enough, make it 2 nights, arrive early so you get to enjoy a full 3 day visit. Unless your goal is to see everything and appreciate nothing then 1/2 a day will do it. Other than that, you have done a wonderful job at describing the lovely, peaceful atmosphere of Orvieto, matching its interesting sites with the history behind it, and one more thing a typical dish Orvietano is pasta with fresh truffle yum, yum
I think you have to first asses what you like to do, if you like big cities or smaller villages, churches and basilicas, if you like mountains, or scenic vistas over water or outdoor trekking, wine country, foodie towns, etc. You cannot do it all in two weeks and you are better of picking say 3 places beyond Orvieto rather than be overly ambitious. If you are in Orvieto for the wedding than I’m assuming your flying into Rome so you could arrive early and see the Rome highlights, then Orvieto, then train up to Florence (another busy place) OR if you have a car you could drive into Tuscany and see Sienna or Lucca or Pisa, or other San or Multa towns. Santa Margherita / Portofino on the coast are more upscale than Cinque Terrae but if you love hiking choose the latter. To the south of Rome Sorrento, Capri, Positano are spectacular views. Good Luck !
I agree that Orvieto is wonderful, but I completely disagree that a single day is enough time there! I studied in Orvieto for 5 months and I still feel as though there was more to do and see. The theater has great shows, the food festivals (almost weekly in the summer!) bring the rest of Umbria to the Orvietan hilltop, and the religious holidays and historical reenactments truly demonstrate the history of the city beyond even hat all the wonderful museums have to offer.
To each their own, Erin & Katy! I’m glad you love your adopted home, but most of our readers are lucky to have a couple of weeks to try to see large swaths of Italy and our advice is geared toward them.
Orvieto is beautiful, but on a short trip to Italy as opposed to a long-term expat experience like yours, I definitely stand by my advice.
Of course, for travelers looking for a quiet trip based in a small town in Italy, Orvieto sure is a lovely choice, though not my first one. 🙂
Recommendations of hotels or inns with breakfast?
I’m in Orvieto right now. I think a day is far too short unless.ypu want to be running from place to place and your happy to only to be able to say you’ve been there. After a single day, I don’t think you can say anything else about it. I spent a full hour in the Duomo alone just soaking up the ambience and the amazing art. I think you could comfortably spend 3 or 4 days here and really enjoy what it has to offer rather than rushing through.
Glad you had a great time! The Duomo is lovely, we particularly enjoyed the Cappella di San Brizio.
My daughter & I just took a day trip here from Rome on your suggestion. Thank you for sharing! We had a great time & saw most of what you suggested here. Loved the Moro Tower. We agree one day was enough though & are glad that we got to head back to Rome. We both prefer the city in general & there’s just so much we still want to see there.
So glad we could help! The Torre del Moro was one of our favorites too, love the views from up there. We were lucky enough to climb on a gorgeous fall day which also helped.
I agree, you can never run out of things to do in Rome–it’s probably my favorite city in the world and I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring its nooks and crannies.
We hired a car and drove around Tuscany then got robbed in Varenna on Lake Como. Thieves stole all our luggage from the boot of the car a Fiat 500. We were only away 2 hours… walking down to the ferries for a ride to Bellagio. We had left it in the car because we had just checked out. Just don’t leave belongings in your hire car. Italy has thieves everywhere!
I’m so sorry that happened to you, Julie! What an awful experience.
I know this doesn’t help now, but for anyone else who happens to read this, I will say it’s considered advisable in Italy (and most places, honestly) to not have any luggage or valuables visible in the car when you leave it.
Of course being robbed isn’t the norm, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible when it does happen!
I hope the rest of your trip was much more pleasant.
If visiting Orvieto for two nights in September, where would be the best location to keep a rental car?
I’d double-check with your hotel just to make sure you find the best place in relation to where you’re staying, but there’s a large parking lot at the base of Orvieto next to the train station that will likely be best!
Hello – My husband and I are planning to visit in the spring with my mom. How easy is it for her to get around there? Is it one of those places where everything seems uphill? She is not in a wheelchair, but it will not be enjoyable to take longer or strenuous walks.
Once you’re up in the historic center (and there’s a funicular to help you up), Orvieto is fairly flat for an Italian hilltop town! There is undeniably quite a bit of walking involved, though, as it’s really the only practical way to get around in the center.
Thank you! That is what I was hoping for. Some of the other hilltop towns we have visited were very hilly and wouldn’t be a good fit for a visit with my mom.
Beautiful town!! My daughter heading there for 6 week study abroad program, she is very excited!!! Fun things for her to see and they have trips to Florence and Rome!!
That’s so exciting! Orvieto is a beautiful place to study abroad. 🙂
My husband and I are visiting Italy 4/20/22-5/4/22 and are arriving in Rome, staying for 4 days and we are wondering from your experience, would it be better to head up to Venice after that and work our way to Cinque Terre, Florence and Orvieto then back to Rome or to leave Rome, go to Orvieto, Florence, Cinque Terre, then Venice and take the long train back to Rome for departure the day before we depart. Any other input is welcome. Thank you so much! I am enjoying your blog and information which is so helpful!
Either way can be a wonderful trip. Totally depends on your preferences, there aren’t any pitfalls I see there.
The high-speed train between Rome and Venice makes traveling between the two very doable, but make sure to book in advance (tickets can get pricey and go up in price the closer you get to travel).
Hope you guys have an amazing time–looks like a fabulous itinerary. 🙂
Enjoyed your blog about Orvieto. Planning 3 weeks in Italy this fall and want to see many small towns and avoid heavily touristy places. Any advice on how to divide and conquer the country in 3 weeks? Presently looking at Dolomites, NW (Bergamo, Barolo fav wine, Camogli) then Tuscany/Umbria (Saturnia, Anghiari,Florence, Orvieto, Civita di Bagnoregio, Ravenna), Rome (Ostia Antica), Amalfi coast(Ravello, Procida, Pompeii, Salerno), then to Puglia/Basilicata (Maratea, Matera, Sant Agata’di Puglia, Otranto, Ostuni, Ginosa. It seems that many of our wish list could be day trips from central locations in each region? Would you recommend renting a car for a trip like this or could we see most of these by train? Any advice most appreciated! Thank you!
Thanks so much, Deb!
That sounds like quite the wish list–many amazing places, but I think you’ll find that you’ll want to trim it down a bit.
Personally, with 3 weeks, I’d pick no more than 3-4 hubs to do day trips from. You could push it to 5, but if you’re day-tripping almost every day, that is going to feel like a lot of moving around and not much savoring. Some places you mention are a bit further apart than you might think (Ravenna is on the eastern side of Emilia-Romagna, for example–technically doable by train from Florence but still a lot of travel).
You’ll probably want to do a mix of rental cars and times without one, depending on what bases you choose. You’ll definitely want one in Puglia, but in the Amalfi Coast area, for example, trains + buses + taxis + ferries will be easier. And, of course, you won’t want a car for any time that you’re based in Rome or Florence.
In Tuscany (and beyond–the day trips you mention cover 4 of Italy’s 20 regions!), I’d recommend picking one base (two if one of them is Florence) and sticking to what’s within easy reach of you there. Tuscany is a fairly large region in its own right and driving between towns, parking, etc. can take up quite a bit of time. Whether you choose north, central, or southern Tuscany, though, you’ll have tons of beautiful towns at your fingertips!
Believe me, I know how hard it is to trim down where to go (we still always leave Italy with more places added to our wish list than taken off), but getting exhausted and burned out on moving isn’t fun either. 🙂
we have most of our trip planned and but would love your recommendation. we are driving from Rome to Florence and I thought we’d stop in Siena but after reading your blog I’m intrigued by Orvieto. I can only stop 1 place for about 3 hours. which would you pick? Thanks! RK
Ah, that’s a hard call!
They’re both well worth visiting, but in your case, I’d opt for Orvieto.
It’s smaller, so you can see more in a few hours, and it’s also right on your route rather than a detour out of the way.
Not knowing the daily rental for a Jeep (4 people and luggage) would cost, would you recommend having a car to do daily excursions from Florence?
Generally not, no! Having a car and dealing with parking in Florence is doable, but a pain. Add in the fact that you’re talking about a VERY big vehicle by Florence standards, and it’s not typically worth it.
In most cases, I’d recommend either having a car and staying outside of Florence/in the countryside if you want more of a road-trip feel, or staying in Florence and sticking with trains, buses, and organized tours for day trips.
If you have one day trip in particular that you really want to do by car from Florence, you could even consider renting a car just for that day, rather than keeping it overnight or for your whole trip.
Kate, we are driving from Rome to the Tuscan countryside and had Orvieto recommended as a good halfway stop. Do you have a lunch restaurant recommendation and is it too risky for us to stop with luggage in our car? Thanks for all the other suggestions.
Trattoria La Palomba is a great, casual lunch spot! I recommend getting there right when they open to make sure you get a spot.
As far as the luggage goes–nothing in life is zero risk, of course, but personally we feel comfortable stopping with luggage in our car in Italy as long as nothing is visible in the vehicle (this is standard best practice for parking a car in Europe–put away any phone chargers into the glove box, etc.).
Rental cars in Europe that don’t have a traditional trunk (like an SUV) tend to have a cover that pulls over the back of the trunk area, concealing any contents from sight.
Hope you guys have a great time!