A drink lover’s guide to Orvieto

Etruscan tunnels, wild boar ragu and exciting local wines await in the stunning Italian city seated in the cliffs of Umbria

Words by Annie B. Shapero

Orvieto's old town sits high atop a rocky plateau with panoramic views of rolling hills coated in vineyards and olive groves

At just over an hour by train or car from Rome, the stunning hilltop town of Orvieto, Italy, is accessible, affordable and an outstanding destination for art and history. Archaeological sites abound in the city and surrounding countryside but most of all, Orvieto offers a fascinating spectrum of local flavour.

Legend has it that 16th-century artist Luca Signorelli asked for payment in local white wine to complete his frescos on Orvieto’s cathedral. Centuries earlier, Etruscans carved out underground cavern cities from the volcanic tuff stone that blankets the region and quite possibly invented the world’s first gravity press for winemaking.

Today, with the Orvieto Classico appellation at its heart and a rich culinary identity that melds the traditions of Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany, Orvieto is every bit the modern-day wine destination. Enterprising wineries are taking traditional blends of indigenous grape varieties like Grechetto and Sangiovese to new levels with an eye on minimal intervention and full faith in their unique geographic positioning and microclimate. To truly soak up a sense of place, a winery visit is an absolute must.

The cathedral in Orvieto
The Duomo di Orvieto is a masterpiece in the Italian Gothic style

Things to see and do in Orvieto

The historical centre sits high atop a rocky plateau with 360-degree views of swooping countryside coated in vineyards and olive groves. Orvieto’s medieval and renaissance art and architecture make it as much a treat for the eyes as it is for the palate. It’s accessible by funicular from the railway station, which frees you up to taste wine at the city’s numerous wine bars to your heart’s content. If coming by car, several parking options include elevators and escalators to the old city.

Begin with the cathedral at Piazza del Duomo. A masterpiece of Italian Gothic style, the Duomo looms large over the city. Its colourful façade sparkles with detailed mosaics, gold cornices and a giant rose window. Inside, check out 15th-century frescos by Gentile da Fabriano and a soul-stirring marble Pietà.

Etruscan cave beneath Orvieto
One of many Etruscan caves beneath Orvieto's old town

Across the piazza, Faina Museum showcases one of Italy’s largest archaeological collections of Greek and Etruscan artifacts. Explore elaborate Etruscan tunnels and retrace the steps of the ancient city below your feet in a sprawling subterranean archaeological tour. Saint Patrick’s Well, built in the 16th century, is a great way to work up an appetite thanks to its 250 steps.

Above ground, stroll the Medieval quarter and shop for truffles and other local delicacies at I Sapori di Umbria and ceramics at Fravolini. Browse the wines at Enoteca Barberani, one of the area’s most enterprising wineries.

Local charcuterie and cheese at Gastronomia Aronne (Photo: Annie B. Shapero)

Where to eat and drink in Orvieto

Kickstart your day with coffee and pastries at Bar Montanucci. Grab lunch at Gastronomia Aronne or assemble a picnic from their selection of local salami, cheese and wines. No-frills Antica Bottega al Duomo is a beloved lunch spot for hearty pasta dishes and crostini topped with locally cured meats.



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Family-run for more than a half century, cosy trattoria La Palomba serves traditional dishes like umbrichelli pasta with cinghiale (wild boar) ragù, pigeon alla leccarda in a rich red wine and olive-based sauce, locally produced salami and cheeses, and copious amounts of black truffle.

I Sette Consoli offers a polished take on Umbrian cuisine, with tasting or à la carte menus, and a wine list with over 900 bottles, both local and international.

Later on, tuck into Cantina Foresi to sample local wines and cheeses, or sip artisanal beer and cocktails alongside experimental cuisine at buzzy brew pub Febo.

Where to stay in Orvieto

Orvieto has gained popularity in recent years but has yet to be completely overrun by tourism. That means charming holiday apartments and Airbnbs in the old city start at around €100 for the whole place. La Casa del Tufo is a sweet, old-school bed and breakfast located in the heart of the medieval old city. For a more glamorous option, the four-star Palazzo Piccolomini is housed inside a 16th-century palace with vaulted ceilings, polished terracotta floors and museum-worthy artwork. Expect to spend around €200 a night at most.  Alternatively, immerse yourself in greenery at a winery guesthouse or farmhouse stay.


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The ultimate drinking destination

An excursion through wine country offers splendid views of the area’s terrain, from rows of vineyards and olive groves at cloud-level to the dusty tuff-stone soil underfoot where you might stumble on a fossilised seashell – fascinating proof that these hills were once underwater. Cantine Neri offers tastings starting at €15, with add-ons for local cheese and cured meats or a luxurious full lunch in the garden for €50. For a pure splurge, book a wine experience tour, complete with transfer service, two wineries and lunch.