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Orvieto is situated on a steep tuff cliff. It is an ancient Etruscan city, that was once near a famous shrine, the Fanum Voltumnae, visited annually by the inhabitants of Etruria, who came there to celebrate religious rituals, games and events. Invaded and destroyed by the Romans in 264 B.C., its population was forced to leave the city and took refuge in Volsinii Novi (today Bolsena). The city was reborn in the Middle Ages with the name of Urbs Vetus (hence the current name Orvieto). The physical limit of the cliff has never allowed a normal expansion of the city, to the point that it was forced, during its history, to superimpose the various stages of its growth according to a stratification not always easily understandable. There is also an “underground Orvieto” cut into the tufa rock, marked by trenches, tunnels and wells (most of them date back to Etruscan times.) These cavities develop in intricate paths, that connect each other the deep cellars built on several floors, typical of the city, dug in every period for the processing and storage, at constant temperature, of the famous wine of Orvieto. Among the most valuable works of art in the city there is the Duomo, a masterpiece of Italian Gothic architecture, whose impressive facade is decorated with a large number of sculptures and bas-reliefs designed by the Sienese Lorenzo Maitani. Of great beauty it is also the San Patrizio Well, an engineering masterpiece built in the sixteenth century to supply the city with water in case of siege or calamity: inside, it develops in two spiral ramps completely independent from each other, along which water could be carried outside into the town using donkeys. Maybe because of the sacredness and the sense of magic linked with deep cavities, the modern visitors are used to throwing pennies into the well as a good omen to be able to return again.

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