Orvieto, What is Orvieto

Orvieto, What is Orvieto

Orvieto The Rock

Orvieto it's

A city, a wine, a cathedral, a well. A rock, a city underground. A jevel to be saved, an example of how to restore a medieval town. A convetion center. It is this and more. Velzna. Urbs Vetus. Orvieto. Let's take them by one.

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Orvieto City : www.comune.orvieto.tr.it

Region of 'Umbria : www.regione.umbria.it

The Umbrian town of Orvieto is magnificently situated on a tufa crag which rears up out the Paglia valley.
Founded by the Etruscans, it was known in late antiquity as URBIBENTUM or URBS VETUS (the “old town”) and later became a strong-hold of the Guelf party, in which the Popes frequently sought refuge. The Cathedral of Orvieto, one of the most splendid examples of Italian gothic architecture, was built in alternating courses of black basalt and greyish-yellow limestone and decorated by the finest artists of the day.
It was founded before 1290 in honour of the “Miracle of Bolsena” and consecrated in 1309.....and there is an interesting Etruscan Necropolis, with tombs mostly dating from the 5th century B.C...and very more as written in "What is Orvieto" (kindly granted of to mention in the site web)...

a city Orvieto

A city

A "city high and strange" as described by Fazio degli Uberti in his Dittamondo in the fourteenth century. Rising up in the midst of the plain of the river Paglia, in the southwestern corner of Umbria, the green heart of Italy. A city With almost 22.000 inhabitants, if you include the surrounding districts, and with less than 8.000 up on the plateau itself. A city that lives, still, on agriculture, in particular the wine and tobacco and oil, on tourism, and small artisan firms (about 650 of them) with only a few that could be called small industries, one the field of high technology, and the other for the bottling of mineral water from the Tione springs, not tar distant. The over a million visitors a year are however the mainstay of the economy with the hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops that cater to them.

wine orvieto

A wine

Of course. Many, even abroad, will know of Orvieto classico, of Orvieto secco and abboccato, DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) which means only grapes from specific areas were used to make these wines. A light golden fragrant wine, made of a mixture of grapes: Trebbiano Toscano, Verdello, Druppeggio, Sacchetto, Malvasia Toscana. Throughout the centuries the wine of Orvieto, ranging from 11 to 12°, and with a delicate bouquet, has been appreciated by the artist who helped ambellish the city (Signorelli for instance had over a thousand liters a years as part of his contract) and by popes, as well as the Orvietani themselves. The yearly production is now about 150,000 hectoliters, sold both at home and abroad, and there are innumerable places to buy it, either by the bottle or by the case (winw cooperatives, specialized producers, enoteques or wine libraries, shops). Frequently the wine may also be sampled.

orvieto Cathedral
The Cathedral
Likened to a peacock, to a wedding cake, it has been called the finest example of Gothic in Italy. the foundation stone was laid in 1290 and by 1320 Maitani's reliefs on the facade were in place. Like many other Gothic cathedrals in Europe, it has recently celebrated its 700th birthday. An idea of what must have been like during the building is provided by Norton's list of contributions for the first yera: "Altogether the contributions recordere for this year from towns and barons amount to 731 puonds of wax, 24 markes, 29 horses, 3,858 loads of grain, and bravia (hangings or drapes in precious fabries) worth 84 gold pieces....The gifts of horses must have been of special value, from the fact that materials for building were all to be brought from a distance, and to be carried up the difficult ascent to the very crest of the mountain of Orvieto." unique for its glittering mosaic gold and marble facade, the cathedral also contains many other works of art, including thr famous frescoes in the Chapel of San Brizio where Luca Signorelli of Cortona worked for five years (1499-1504) on his Last Judgement, and where his nudes of the Damned and the Elect bear witness to the fascination anatomy held for artists of the time. The two are in a sense inseparable: Orvieto and its Cathedral, or if you like, the Cathedral and Orvieto.
Orvieto well of St. Patrizio
A well

In the nineteenth century, Geroge Dennis, English ambassador who was travelling through the central park of Italy studying Etruscan antiquities, said of Orvieto that the two lions were its cathedral and its well of St. Patrizio. The concept of a well in itself means water. and in Orvieto. this ideal fortress city, water was essential for the inhabitants in case of siege. But St. Patrick's well is more than this, for it mirrors the fascination of the human race with architectural structures, Built rather like a seashell with its double spiral staircase, a tower sunk into the ground, it impressed most 19th-century travellers more even than the cathedral. About 62 meters deep, with 248 steps to Sack of Rome by the troops of Charles V in 1527 and decided it would be best to have a well built to supply his fortress with water. His architect, Antonio da San Gallo the Younger, saw to the design. Building proceeded at a goodly rate, first through the tuff and the through layers of clay, and it was terminated in 1537 under Paul III. And the name? St. Patrick in Ireland also had a deep grotto where he went to meditate, a grotto which was likened to Purgatory, and so somehow in the nineteenth century this well, which up to then had been known as the Pozzo della Rocca (Fortress), got its present name. To be noted is that Carles V never did lay siege to the city and the water from the great well never slaked the thirst of the in habitants of Orvieto.

orvieto The Rock
That's it's called in Italian. La Rupe. And it is jast that. A crag rising over the plain, formed about 100,000 years ago by an enormous volcanic eruptionwhen strata of tuff (or tufo, formed of volcanic detritus) laced with veins of pozzolana (siliceous material that reacts chemically with slaked lime in the presence of moisture to form cement) were laid down. Weather and rivers midst of the valley was the enormous crag.
Orvieto a jewel to be saved
A jewel to be saved
That's what it was called in an American magazine article (GEO, January 1982) after landslip in 1978 had set off the alarm, with a big chunk of the cliff detaching from the rock no more than 300 meters from the Cathedral. Part of the problem depends on the fact that this emormous rock of soft friable tuff rests on a layer of clay and is therefore basically unstable. As time passes, the outer strata have a tendency to open out and peel off like the outer leaves of an artichoke. Orvieto with its wealth of treasures in the fields of archaeology history, art and landscape, had to be saved.Once the campaign had been launched, the government, with unusual speed, set aside 6,000,000 of old lire (law 25-5-1978 n.230) for consolidating the cliff. This meant first of all letting in long tie-rods to anchor the outer layers and redoing the whole sewage and aqueduct systems, which still dated in part to the nineteenth century. Equipment for monitoring movement of the rock were installed at the base and around the perimeter of the cliff. Over a third of the network of caves and grottoes and galleries in the rock itself, one might say the bowels of the city, were surveyed, photographed and mapped. The accusing finger was also pointed at traffic circulation on the pleteau, leading to the development of a plain, called "Mobilità Alternativa", to regulate cars and traffic. The old water-run funicular, originally inaugurated in 1988, Which brought passengers from the railroad station to the top of the cliff was renovated. Now run by electricity, it is over 577 meters long with an average slope of 27.86% and it takes less than two minutes to rise 156 meters from down below to up above. Parking were projected - one downat the station, the other recently terminated at the Campo Boario just outside Porta Romana (the city gate of the road leading to Rome and dating to the nineteenth century).
Orvieto an example of how to restore a medieval town
An example of how to restore a medieval town
The concern with the cliff also led to a concern with the city itself and its monuments, in particular the churches and other buildings. Orvieto sometimes looks like one of Italo Calvino's imaginary cities where everything seems constantly in construction, in restoration. Take the scaffolding down in one street, and up it goes on another. "why is this building going on so endlessly?" "So that the city will not begin to fall to pieces". Buildings involved in restoration included first of all cathedral itself - the Signorelli frescoes, the lovely Madonna Enthroned by Gentile di Fabriano, the apse and its stained-glass windows; then the church of St. Andrea which stands on top of a fascinating palimpsest of Etruscan, Roman and Early Christian remains, the former churches of the Santi Apostoli and of the Carmine (now a fine auditorium), and S. Agostin and private buildings everywhere. The Theater, a striking nineteenth century interior, in which preview performances were frequently given, has finally raised its curtain once more in all its splendor after restoration works that seemed endless, and Orvieto is again a theater town. But perhaps the star example of restoration is the splendid thirteenth century Palazzo del Popolo, where the Etruscan and medieval remains brought to light in the foundations during restoration now stand side by side with the technical faciities of a modern Convention Center.
Orvieto a convention center
A convention center
Thanks to the restoration of the Palazzo del Popolo, the building can now be used as originally convention center has a main assembly hall capable of seating 400, booths, for simultaneous translation, exhbition facilities, smaller rooms for conferences and lectures, and all planed with a view to eliminating architectural barriers.
A City Underground A City Underground
Still one more aspect of Orvieto which makes the city unique is the presence of a true labyrinth of cavities, galleries, shafts, wells, cisterns and quarries running along beneath the streets and houses. Almost 3000 years of history are documented in these man-made cavities, which brought water to the city from the source below the rock, preserved the water that came from the sky in enormous cisterns, as well as providing construction material for the houses on top of the rock, as well as jobs and working areas . Years of study by a group of speleologists has "brought to light" small fragments of Velzna, the Etruscan city, hidden in the dark bowels of the rock. Qualified guides are now available to take the visitor on a tour through a small part of this underground "city" (leaving daily from the Tourist Bureau - in Piazza Duomo - at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.), where the traces left by the ancient in habitants can still be seen and the faint echoes of the generations of Orvietani who worked here the streets still seem to fill the air.
Orvieto Velzna

The first settlement to stand upon this crag that could be called a city, was Velzna, one of the most important centers of the Etruscan confederation, which managed to hold out against Rome until 264 B.C., when she was forced to surrender after a two-year's siege. What is left ofVelzna? the remains of the Temple of Belvedere, near St. Patrick's well, the city of the dead - Crocefisso del Tufo - on the north side of the cliff where the tombs are laid out in city blocks, the sanctuary-necropolis of Cannicella on the south side, from which came the famous Venus of Cannicella, an archaic maeble figure of a nude woman (who seems originally to have been a male, a kouros). Many remains of Velzna are hidden underground and can be discovered in the subterranean labyrinththat runs along below the streetsof Orvieto. Archaeological investigation carried out by the Sovrintendenza alle Antichità, the Region of Umbria and the University of Perugia, continue to provide new information on these ancient inhabitants. We know, for instance, that the Etruscan inhabitants were relativelydemocratic, middle class, unlike Tarquinia where power rested with the nobility, and that they had built a powerful city up here on the rock.

Orvieto Urbs Vetus
Urbs Vetus
Old City. This was medieval Orvieto, a beehive of political and religious activity, where the whole populace helped build the glorious cathedral, financed by real estate taxes (the first cadaster or land survey records date to 1292) and legacies (which abounded in times of plague of which there where recurrents bouts through the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries). The territory of Orvieto stretched from the Tiber to Monte Argentario and many of the fine palaces built then still bear witness to this past, including the town hall, the papal palace (many were the popes who set up their headquarters here for Orvieto seemed to them much safer than Rome), the Palazzo del Popolo for the military authority and assemblies, the Palazzo dei Sette for the seven rapresentatives of the guilds. Butit was also a town characterized by clashes between the Guelph (or Papal) factions and the Ghibellines who sided with the emperor. At the height of this feuding, 4000 lay dead after three days' fighting and three hundred 'enemy' houses had been razed to the ground.
Orvieto a place of pilgrimage

A place of pilgrimage

The site of a miracle - well almost. The miracle itself took place in Bolsena, about fifteen kilometers distant, but the linen altar cloth involved is in Orvieto in the Chapel of the Corporal in the Cathedral. When a doubting priest, in 1264, said mass in Bolsena, drops of blood fell from the wafer as he broke it, and he promptly was convinced that Christ was present in flesh and blood in the bread and wine of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Pope Urban IV was in Orvieto then and it was from here that he proclaimed the feast of Corpus Christi and had St. Thomas Aquinas write the services. Pilgrims often come to Orvieto to pray silently before this miraculous cloth which is also taken in procession through the streets on the day of Corpus Christi. The whole event is clearly depicted in the paintings on the right-hand wall of the Chapel of the Corporal. And to the left is the marvellous silver-gilt and enamel reliquary originally made to house the cloth in 1337 by Ugolino di Vieri, a Sienese goldsmith.
Orvieto the procession of Corpus ChristiOrvieto The procession of Corpus Christi
The procession of Corpus Christi

Even for those who have lived in Orvieto all their lives, the procession of Corpus Christi is something to be seen anew each year, or even to take part in. The historical portion with over 400 participants, which precedes the religious procession bearing the cloth of the miracle, makes one regret the relatively drab attire of modern man. Nowhere in Italy are the costumes of finer make: hand woven silks and velvets, hand stiched shoes in fine leather, wrought-iron helmets and halberds the magnificent cloak of one of the knights with a rampant lion in beaded roundels od clear Byzantine derivation, the banners of the various arts and crafts and quarters of the city - Olmo, S. Maria della Stella, Serancia, Corsica. The solemnity with which the figures slowly leave the cathedral and move through the streets makes you truly believe you are watching knights, pages, the Capitano del Popolo, the Podestà, the Signori sette, who have moved up through the time warp of centiries to once more parade devotedly in procession.

The most magnificent view of a city of Italy
The most magnificent view of a city of Italy
It could well be that your first contact with the city was from state highway 71, coming from Viterbo where suddenly it breaks upon the view, rising majestic from the valley, a city that is a rock, a rock that is a city. Particularly if you happen to arrive when the mists still cling to the tuff and city rises up over the valley like an island in the midst of a sea of fog. Or in the late afternoon when the setting sun makes the gold mosaics on the cathedral facade flame forth, truly the "golden lily of cathedrals" as it has been called.
orvieto the  craft tradition
The craft tradition
Orvieto is so many other things as well. The crafts for instance. For some, Orvieto is synonymous with a certain style of medieval pottery. Many of the plates and pitchers now sold in the many craft shops which line the main streets - in particular Via del Duomo and the Corso - still echo the old medieval (and Etruscan) traditions. Once the clay was taken from the surrounding hills, that earth ideal for growing grapes, and olives, but so sticky your boots weigh a ton if you go for a walk in the country shortly after a rain. This tradition is still handed down from father to son (or daughter) and each potter personally reinterprets the tradition. Not all the potters orvietanis follow traditional styles. Some young people cross different roads experimenting new colors and new forms with results that fully reward their search. Lace can still be found in some of the shops but it is a tradition that is fast dying out, in part due to the costliness of works of this sort, made with a fine linen thread (once from Ireland which is why the lace is known as 'ireland') and the finest of crocheting hooks. Wrought iron is becoming hard to find although few craftsmen still practice this art. The last master smith, who made the wrought iron gates inside the Cathedral and one of the gates for Palazzo Soliano, died a few years ago. Woodworking however is still very much alive - in great part thanks to the impact made by the outstanding Michelangeli family, where wood has been a household word for five generations. They now famous in Europe and across the seas with the whimsical animals in 'virgin spruce' and one-of-a-kind dolls and the enormous wooden horses parked in the street in place of cars, all designed by Gualviero, after whom the street where they have their shop is now named.
Orvieto now
What characterizes the city now?A relative peace and quiet, the shipboard feeling of the cathedral square on sammer evenings when swallows dart low in groups and the wind rises and the cries of children ring out clear. Or the young people promenading along the Corso just before closing time and supper, a sort of itinerant parlor. A lack of parking space, particularly Thursday and Saturday morning when the market fills the Piazza del Popolo with its marvelous arrays of fruits and vegetables, much from Bolsena, cheeses from the surrounding countryside, and everything from silk trousers, to a new kitchen knife, to chickens, ducks and garlic. Cafe Montanucci is a must, with its fanciful decoration of wooden giraffes and houses, all by Michelangeli, and the wall along the edge of the cliff is ideal for a walk, leaving from Piazza San Giovanni (the restaurant Le Grotte del Funaro is a right there too - also in caves under the street where cord was once made), or the small lanes themselves, so quiet you can hear your footsteps echo behind you. Orvieto can be many things. It has been called a cradle, a harbor, a point of arrival. A second home for many.To on outsider it many seem one enormous museum, or a universe in miniature, a mirage that doesn't vanish. And to those who were born and raised in Orvieto it many truly be "the center of the universe", a sum of the hunderd small things of daily life: the odor of crushed tuff on the road after a rain, the overwhelming fregrance of linden trees in June, the people one knows you - or simly, as one man replid, "Orvieto? A hunk of tufa with lost of air around". Yet Orvieto can be many other things as well - a cage, apron strings never cut, a croos-section of society with all its problems and merits. But the final word is up to you, on whom the future of this city "high and strange" in part depends.