Orvieto Underground

September 3rd, 2010 Activities,Orvieto Underground

Orvieto CavesThe town of Orvieto was actually created from the soft volcanic rock from which it’s sits, as the Romans, then the Etruscans and everyone who followed dug into the soft tufa and over the centuries by doing so created over 1,000 cisterns, caves, secret passages and storage for wine and olive oil underground. At the heart of the Medieval quarter of Orvieto there is a fascinating underground labyrinth of passages, with caves and archaeological finds, all discovered fairly recently after centuries of neglect. The most important structure in this network is certainly the Pozzo della Cava, which is a huge well, 36 metres deep, made out of the tufa rock by order of Pope Clement VII in 1527 to ensure that Orvieto had a constant supply of water in the event of a siege. The Pozzo di San Patrizio, on the opposite side of the city, was dug some years later for the same reason.

The Pozzo della Cava was dug between 1528 and 1530 by enlarging a previously existing Etruscan well whose traces are still visible today. In 1646 the well was closed up during the Castro war, and was forgotten about until its rediscovery in 1984. In 1996 the well was emptied of all the debris that had accumulated inside over the centuries and the water supply was once again accessed.

In the caves next to the well, there are also the remains of two ceramic kilns. One is Medieval and includes rooms where the potters worked as well as a number of discarded pots and some interesting tools. The other is a classic Renaissance kiln that was used in the 16th century for the so-called ‘third fire’, to obtain the hard shine found on Renaissance ceramic, which was famous for its golden and ruby-red iridescence.

The two kilns were discovered in 1985 and shed a new light on the production of majolica in Orvieto during the 15th and 16th century. This period had in fact previously been considered the dark ages of majolica production in the city. Some remains of Etruscan tombs have also been unearthed. In one of these the place where the body was laid to rest is clearly visible. It was adapted during the Middle Ages to house a fulling machine to work and soften wool.

You can now take a tour of the caves below the town of Orvieto which highlights how certain caves were used, as well as an explanation on how the city is building support structures to keep the caves from caving in and to keep Orvieto standing.

Click On Photos Below For Larger Views & Check Out More Photos of Orvieto Underground In ThePhoto Gallery

Orvieto Caves

Orvieto Caves

Orvieto Caves

Orvieto Caves

Pozzo della Cava
Via della Cava 28 Orvieto
Tel 0763/342/373 Fax 0763.341.029
Single ticket: € 1.50 – Free for children under 10
Open non-stop from 9am to 8pm
Closed Mondays
e-mail: info@pozzodellacava.it

Orvieto Underground Tour
Orvieto Tourist Office
Piazza del Duomo 24
Tours Run Daily From 11, 12:15, 4 & 5:15
Admission for Hour Long English Tour Is $5.50

One Response to “Orvieto Underground”

  1. Orvieto | Travel Umbria! says on April 26th, 2011 at 11:09 am

    […] impressive 130-feet-deep Etruscan well shafts, and the remains of a primitive cement quarry. See Orvieto Underground for […]