Orvieto is one of these towns you do not want to miss when you are on holiday in Umbria. This gorgeous city is located on a plateau of volcanic tuff and has an incredible history and amazing foods and wines. The Duomo in Orvieto is one of the most beautiful gothic cathedrals of Italy. Other attractions are the Pozzo di San Patrizio and the weekly markets on the Piazza del Popolo on Thursday and Sunday. The Orvieto DOC white wine is the pride and joy of the locals. This wine is one of the most popular and famous wines in the world.
But did you know about the caves in Orvieto? There are 440 caves! We went and discovered the caves with Orvieto Underground.
Guided tour with Orvieto Underground
Every day at set times the tourist office at the Piazza Duomo organises guided tours in the Parco delle Grotte. These caves are just 5 minutes walking from the tourist office.
On the city map of Orvieto (picture below) you see the underground caves with red lines and the modern city above-ground with black lines. The part of the guided tour in the Orvieto Underground is marked.
The guided tour takes about 1 hour and are in Italian and English. Mind: do not take the tour if you suffer from claustrophobia.
What is there to see in the caves?
The caves date back to Etruscan times of over 2500 years ago. They are a network of tunnels and spaces, created to dug up stones for the building of houses in the surrounding area. The corridors are all inter-connected, creating an underground world which has been used for centuries by the inhabitants of Orvieto.
In the first cave of the tour one sees remains of an olive press from the Middle Ages. There’s a high humidity and a constant 14-15 degrees which is ideal for the production of olive oil. There are other historical details in this cave, such as a wine cellar, a water reservoir and a fire place.
Furtheron in the cave there is an enormous artificial cavity originally exploited as a Pozzolana quarry. This Etruscan well is so large that a man can easily descend into it.
Via another entrance we visit a cave with small corridors, tunnels, rooms and narrow stairs. The cavities you see in the walls were used to keep pigeons that flew in and out through the openings. The locals ate the pigeons and to this date it still is a culinary specialty in Orvieto. The pigeons don’t live in the caves anymore.
When you decide to go to Orvieto, we recommend a visit in the Orvieto Underground. For children it is a nice experience and you learn quite a bit of the history of Orvieto.
For more information, times and prices, have a look at the website of Orvieto Underground.