Orvieto, an ancient Etruscan city, nestles on top of a dramatic cliff made of yellow tufa that dominates the valley of river Paglia. All around, a wide agricultural region stretches on the flat surrounding the river bed. Underground cavities are dug under nearly every single building, perfect cellars for the famous local wine. In such cavities, archeologists discovered a remarkable number of valuable ceramics produced from the middle Ages on. Those finds prompted the city to recover its heritage of ceramics manufacturing, nowadays one of the most characterizing handicraft production in town.
Orvieto, settled on the cliff, is connected to and integrated with a twin, underground city, obtained by the same gigantic tuff rock in the same time span: walkways, trenches with hydraulic works and wells dating back to the Etruscan age are more than a thousand. The bulk of these remains were built by the Etruscan, thus retaining a great archeological value and historical interest.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, to which the town had been annexed since the 3rd century BC, the cliff of Orvieto witnessed numerous takeovers, due to its strategic and defended position. Theatre of disputes between the Goths and the Byzantines fighting over possession of the city, Orvieto later became the headquarter of a Lombard duke. Then, it eventually fell under the control of the papal state and experienced the apex of its development in the 13th century.
During this period, Orvieto witnessed a sparkling building activity, evenly split among residential, public and sacred, the latter category exemplary represented by the world-famous Cathedral: dating back to 1263 AD. This is undoubtedly the most important architectonic testimony of the city, with the wonderful gothic facade and the beautiful inside, rich of decorations and painted chapels.
The other main attractions located in the ancient nucleus are the incredibly deep Well of San Patrizio, constructed in year 1527 on a plan of Antonio da Sangallo il Giovane, Palazzo dei Sette (1300 AD), Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo (12th century), in which the Popular Board meetings were held, the churches of Sant’Andrea (12th century), S.Domenico (13th century), S.Giovenale (11th century) and Palazzo Soliano (1262 AD). The inside of this palace houses two interesting museums: the Museum of the Work of the Dome and the Museum of Modern Art.
Worth of note is also the Mancinelli Theatre (1866), the already mentioned Underground City (Città Sotterranea) and the Necropoli del Crocefisso del Tufo, important Etruscan remains.