In the true meaning of this rather misused word. The cathedral at Orvieto inspires awe. And to be this awesome to me, in 2011, and living in Italy (and therefore having seen many, many churches and cathedrals by now!) then one can only just begin to imagine how awesome such an amazing building must have seemed to a medieval peasant.
Mind you there may not have always been much to see except scaffolding back then as it took 300 years to build, having begun in 1290. It is considered one of the finest cathedrals in Italy, and for me it was. The facade is incredible, such variety. It’s all going on, carvings, mosaic, stained glass and plenty of gold and bling! Over the top perhaps, but majestic! You could easily stand for hours trying to take in every last little detail.
As is often the case with churches and cathedrals of the this style (romanesque-gothic) in Italy the facade is the star, inside is a little disappointing in comparison, though in fairness I wasn’t able to see the interior’s most important work, the Signorelli fresco of the Last Judgement as the chapel was in use for a service .
According to the signs you are not supposed to take photos inside. But after a while I got so fed up seeing everyone else taking them, with attendants standing right beside them not saying a word I decided I would too! If they are going to have a rule then enforce it, otherwise what’s the point! And if they charge 3 euro entry, then maybe it’s only fair to expect people will want to take photos for the money!
The atmosphere reminded me of Lucca, our nearest ‘big town’ here in northern Tuscany, though with added ceramics. Lots of ceramic shops, some a bit tacky but some lovely. I almost succumbed to this butter dish (middle right) at Ceramiche Fusari on Corso Cavour, where the woman was hand painting the objects at the back of the shop , but then the practical matter of the fact that I would almost certainly never actually use a butter dish stopped me, but I’ve kept her card! Or maybe I should try to like a vase next time, I’m more likely to use one!
The best thing about Orvieto though was leaving it! But I mean that in a nice way! Let me explain.
My first glimpse of Orvieto was years ago passing below on the A1 autostrada driving from Rome to Tuscany, it looked imposing and intriguing perched up there, and that very fleeting glimpse put it into my head as somewhere I wanted to see some day. Orvieto stayed in my head thanks to its crisp dry (and very affordable) white wine which often finds its way into my shopping trolley.
So having finally made it up there (it stands on a 300m plateau of volcanic rock) we left it in the direction of Bolsena (20km) As the road (ss71) twists and bends around the views of Orvieto are superb. We were able to stop at ‘Belvedere di Orvieto’ a special parking area for admiring this view and take a photo but really it doesn’t do it justice.
In fact that’s true of all my pics of Orvieto, both the view and the duomo. The sheer size and scale of the cathedral was impossible for me to capture, and there is such loss of sharpness in the detail. So it is much better than it looks here! Awesome in fact! And an easy place to visit in terms of location, an ideal stop off coming north from Rome to Tuscany.