Orvieto sits high above the valley floor atop a big chunk of tufo volcanic stone, overlooking cypress-dotted Umbrian plains.

Orvieto's cathedral has a Gothic facade, divided by four pillars, which has been compared to a medieval altarpiece — a gleaming mass of mosaics, stained glass, and sculpture. It is circa 1330, back when no one dared question "intelligent design." Things start with Creation and end with the Last Judgment.

Inside, the nave feels spacious and less cluttered than those in most Italian churches. It used to be filled with statues and fancy chapels until 1877, when the people decided they wanted to "un-Baroque" their church. The nave is also an optical illusion; the architect designed it to be wider at the back and narrower at the altar, making it appear longer than it is. Windows of thin sliced alabaster bathe the interior in a soft light.

The cathedral's highlight is the Chapel of San Brizio, featuring Luca Signorelli's brilliantly lit frescoes of the Day of Judgment and Life after Death. Although the frescoes refer to themes of resurrection and salvation, they also reflect the turbulent political and religious atmosphere of Italy in the late 1400s. Signorelli's ability to tell stories through human actions and gestures, rather than symbols, inspired his younger contemporary, Michelangelo, who meticulously studied Signorelli's work.


The walled city in general is also lovely to walk around. To see: Piazza del Popolo, Saint Patrick's well, La Cava well (etruscan), Corso Cavour (with its shop and restaurants), the Medieval quarter, Saint Giovenale, Saint Giovanni and Saint Francesco churches, Albornoz rock and the surrounding promenade of the downtown.



This is a well constructed, new, building with about a dozen rooms in the main building and lots more in distant annexes. Personally I would not want to stay in one of the annexes. We had a nice room with views of Orvieto in the distance. The hotel is a good 10 minute drive down a narrow twisting road from Orvieto.

Regrettably we ran into a couple of major problems in getting food in the evening. The receptionist showed us the changing daily dinner menu at 33€, so we booked for dinner. But when we arrived (the restaurant is in a separate building from the hotel) the staff did not show us this menu, and when we pressed them for it, they were very reluctant to let us have it. That set the tone for a difficult evening, ending up with the staff disappearing and me having to find them in the kitchen in order to sign the bill.

Next night we decided to try the (very limited, and mainly cold items) bar menu in the main building. We were told they stopped serving this cold food at 7.30, and arrived in the bar at 7.15 and ordered it. It was fine

On the third evening, we again hit the bar, this time at 7.01, and the lady behind the bar refused to serve us on the grounds that she stopped serving food at 7.00 - yes, she was going to the wall over one minute. I saw the receptionist, who confirmed that we could eat till 7.30, and eventually, with very bad grace we were served

I have no idea why they stop serving bar food at such an early hour. It is simple, cold, basic food, that anyone could be trained to do. And in fact the lady who did not want to serve us at 7.01 prepared our cold food , and was still on duty at 10.00. Weird.

Breakfast was fine, apart from the fact that they wanted to charge 6 euros for a glass of fresh OJ, which was penny pinching at its worst.

I tried to get a manager to talk to, but was told he was not on duty. You cannot expect a hotel to run itself, there has to be some leadership.

Altarocca Wine Hotel

To view a larger photo click on the thumbnail below



We went to the wrong town. The place we should have seen was the hilltop fortress on the right below, which is about 2 km away from the town itself. My eye was caught by the interesting war memorial, which appears to show soldiers being fired from cannons

To view a larger photo click on the thumbnail below



Narni is an ancient hilltown and comune of Umbria, with 20,385 inhabitants. At an altitude of 240 m, it overhangs a narrow gorge of the Nera River in the province of Terni. It is very close to the geographic centre of Italy. There is apparently a stone on the exact spot with a sign in multiple languages

To view a larger photo click on the thumbnail below




Orvieto is situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff. The city rises dramatically above the almost-vertical faces of tuff cliffs that are completed by defensive walls built of the same stone called Tufa.

The most striking building in the city is the Duomo, which towers above everything else.

Pope Nicholas IV laid the cornerstone for the present building in 1290. The master mason was an obscure monk named Fra' Bevignate from Perugia. The church is striped in white travertine and greenish-black basalt in narrow bands, similar in many ways to the cathedral of Siena and other central Italian cathedrals of that era.

In the following decade, cathedral authorities called Sienese architect and sculptor Lorenzo Maitani to stabilize the building and design a façade. He enlarged the choir and planned a transept with two chapels (c. 1308-1330), spaces that were not finished until long after his death. The Cathedral has five bells, tuned in E flat, which date back to the renaissance. The façade is particularly striking and includes some remarkable sculpture by Lorenzo Maitani (14th century).

Inside the cathedral, the Chapel of San Brizio is frescoed by Fra Angelico and with Luca Signorelli's masterpiece, his Last Judgment (1449–51).

A maze of small side streets fans out from the cathedral, including a long pedestrian (well mainly pedestrian) main street that runs the length of the town, and has the majority of the tourist shops lining it.

To view a larger photo click on the thumbnail below


San Gemini

The town is a well-preserved medieval burgh with two lines of walls, built over the remains of a small Roman centre along the old Via Flaminia. It is especially known for its mineral waters.

Piazza San Francesco is the centre of San Gemini, where the ancient part of the city borders with the modern one. We had a coffee here and, it being out of season, there was not another tourist in sight.

To view a larger photo click on the thumbnail below



Almost all Todi's main medieval monuments — the co-cathedral church (Duomo), the Palazzo del Capitano, the Palazzo del Priore and the Palazzo del Popolo — front on the main square (Piazza del Popolo) on the lower breast of the hill: the piazza is often used as a movie set. The whole landscape is sited over some huge ancient Roman cisterns, with more than 500 pits, which remained in use until 1925.

To view a larger photo click on the thumbnail below


The car was returned to Rome Airport, and we caught a Vueling flight back to Alicante early, if not bright, in the morning.


Italy 2018