After you’ve viewed the splendors of the Orvieto Duomo (Cathedral) – taking in the mosaic splendor…..
…and sculpted masterpieces on the facade –
…as well as the many treasures of the interior…
….take time to explore Orvieto’s underground treasures as well.
On the eastern side of Orvieto – not far from the site of a 5th- B.C. Etruscan temple – you’ll find the entrance to the Pozzo di San Patrizio (“Well of Saint Patrick”), commissioned by Pope Clement VII, Medici Pope.
Having fled Rome during the Sack of Rome by the mutinous troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the Pope sought refuge in Orvieto from 1527 to 1528. The well he’d commissioned – situated near the once-existing Papal fortress, la Rocca – was built to provide water for the Pope and his entourage ensconced in the fortress, as well as for the Orvieto citizens.
The Pope entrusted construction of the the well to fellow Florentine, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (who would also be the architect of the fortress in Perugia for for the Farnese Pope Paul III).
And why ever was a well built in Orvieto named after Saint Patrick? It was thought to resemble the northwestern Ireland chasm used in the 5th-century for by Ireland’s patron saint, considered an entrance to Purgatory. As of the 19th-c., a local Orvieto legend baptized the well “il purgatorio di San Patrizio,” assuring Paradiso to whomever descended all those 248 steps.
The well would later be called simply “Il Pozzo di San Patrizio.” The orvietani saying “è come il Pozzo di San Patrizio” (“It’s like the Well of St. Patrick”) refers to something into which you uselessly put energy and effort – for like that deep, dark well which will never be full of water, your goal will never come to fulfillment.
Your “underground adventures” in Orvieto must also include a guided visit of the Orvieto Sotterranea. Thanks to the explorations and discoveries of speleologists in the 1970’s – perhaps inspired and intrigued by centuries-old sayings indicating “it’s all empty, underneath” – visitors can now wander through the many rooms and intersecting tunnels of the Orvieto Underground, passing through centuries of history, testimonies of ancient peoples who carved into the porous tufaceous rupe (rock) with pickaxes for 2500 years.
The extremely friable rocks forming the rupe, tuff and pozzolana, can most be scratched away with a nail file. The materials can easily be dug and perforated, to open a grotto….or two…or one-thousand-two-hundred!
On your guided visit, you’ll wander tunnel to grotto (though not all 1200!) as your guide points out Etruscan cisterns and wells, medieval olive presses, wine cellars…..
…and the medieval dovecotes, apertures carved into the rock for the raising of doves, a coveted source of meat:
Occasionally, certain areas of the Orvieto Underground are cordoned off for a wedding:
That glorious Duomo may be steps away from the Orvieto Sotterranea entrance but sometimes the preference is for a more intimate space. Underground.
(…and mille grazie to the Orvieto Underground for use of their photos – and also to Carol Lundin for some of hers of the Pozzo di San Patrizio – and the Duomo)
Read about Etruscan Orvieto
Click here to read about fresco splendor in Orvieto
Read about the Orvieto Duomo‘s treasured Holy Corporal linked to a 13th-c miracle
Read about – and see! – the splendid Signorelli fresco of “The Preaching of the Antichrist”
Read about a talented young artisan of Orvieto, Federico Badia
Click here to read about the Assisi UNTO festival where I first met Federico and his wife Hannah
Read here more about Federico Badia – and see his work!
Click here to read about Orvieto’s Winter Jazz Festival
Read about a jazz lunch at the Ristorante San Francesco
Read about another memorable Umbria Jazz Winter concert
Read more about Umbria Jazz Winter
Read more on Umbria Jazz Winter, Orvieto
Click here for more on why Umbria Jazz Winter entices