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If you're visiting Italy, Orvieto deserves at least a day trip - it is in an excellent position to drop in, just off the highway between Rome and Florence. But there's too much here to pack into one day, so consider taking a bit more time and stay overnight in one of the best places to stay in Orvieto.
Orvieto sits beautifully, but inconveniently, at the top of a steep, volcanic hillside. Founded by the Etruscans, the town was designed to be impregnable. And this lofty position has meant it's been difficult to over-develop the town. Change takes time here, and that's why it's so unspoilt, uncrowded and home to so many of Italy's most beautiful buildings, some of which have been converted to house the best places to stay in Orvieto.
Most travellers will have seen photos of the wonderfully striped and decorative, Gothic cathedral - one of the few sights worthy of being called a 'feast for the eyes'. It took 30 years to complete the building's planning, and then it took another couple of centuries to actually finish, during which time the originally Romanesque design took on a more Gothic shape as the architects, workmen and styles changed.
In fact additions were still being made in the 1960s, that's when the huge bronze doors went in. It's hard to chose highlights from something so impressive, but many people come just to see the frescos, specifically The Last Judgement by Luca Signorelli, which was said to be an inspiration for Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Apparently part of Signorelli's payment for the work was as much local wine as he could drink…
One of Orvieto's other highlights is as opposite as can be from the grand Duomo; Orvieto's underground cave system. There are around 440 caves in the system, used by locals as shelter, refrigerator, wells and even as a dovecote.
Orvieto also has a number of museums. There's an impressive collection of Etruscan artefacts in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, the Museo Claudio Faina e Civico has a significant collection of Greek ceramics and the Museale dell'Opera del Duomo di Orvieto, housed in the former papal palace, has the town's impressive art collection and the religious relics not housed in the cathedral or in Orvieto's numerous churches. And these are jut the tip of the duomo...
If you arrive my rail there's a little funicular railway which runs right into the Piazza Cahen, which makes for an easy and spectacular way of entering the town for the first time.
- Locanda Palazzone has all the charms you'd hope to find in a rustic, but gorgeous Umbrian country house. The food is excellent, the views are perfect, and the range of accommodations, from suites to rooms to apartments, makes this an easy and comfortable spot for families and groups.
- If you're looking for a remote, peaceful base in Umbria, then you'll find nowhere more perfect than the Eremito Hotelito del Alma. The vibe here is monastic, yet comfortable. There's a heated pool and steam room, but they're hewn directly from the stone of the mountain, and inside Gregorian chants are played. The food is largely home grown and the whole property has around 7000 largely untouched acres. Really something special.
Best Hotels in Orvieto
Eremito Hotelito del Alma 14 rooms from $183Parrano, Umbria
A monastic Medieval detox in Umbria, with single 'celluzze' rooms only. Stripped back to essential comforts, such as hand embroidered sheets. Situated in 7000 untouched acres, the house took four years to build from scratch. Vegetarian menu, simple yet chic eco spa, Gregorian chants - near perfectOutstanding location - Wonderful peaceful setting surrounded by 7000 acres of private woods and hills, only the sound of wind in the trees at nightRestaurant - Organic homegrown vegetables, vegetarian fixed menu, delectable homemade pasta and exquisite risottoSpa - Small heated indoor pool hewn from the rocks and steam roomOutdoor diningRecommended by - Tablet
Locanda Palazzone 3 rooms from $193Orvieto, Umbria
Gorgeous rustic country house with excellent food and lovely views. Various rooms, suites, family rooms and apartments, all simply designed, cater to families, friends, and couples. Swimming pool, terraces, and five course set dinners. A very bucolic spot.Views - Hilltop position affording stunning views over the surrounding countrysideFoodies - 5 course set dinnnersGourmetRomantic BreakRecommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, Tablet, I Escape
La Badia 27 rooms from $198Orvieto
Historic abbey, with origins in the 6th century, turned country hotel. Spacious, air conditioned rooms adorned with period features and antique furniture, many with views of the Umbrian countryside. The restaurant offers good local wines and authentic Italian cuisine. A unique country retreat.Sights nearby - Orvieto is very close by. Also easy to reach are Todi, Perugia, Assisi and Gubbio.Views - Wonderful views over the surrounding Umbrian countrysideLocal markets - Explore the local street market in OrvietoCooking classes - Hotel run cooking classes