Orvieto – Stuck in a Well

Orvieto. A quaint town perched on top of a plateau amidst the countryside. The roads are small and winding and the town, quiet. For such an unfamiliar place everything was seemingly comfortable.


There was a sharp contrast to the night life of Orvieto. The town comes alive and people flock to the streets. Shopping, dining, socializing, just walking. A remarkable change to the quiet Orvieto we knew.


We arrived mid morning and were free to explore for the day. Costing about a euro, we hopped on the finiculare and rode it up to the top of the plateau. It was a quick five minute ride and offered amazing views of the countryside.


Upon reaching the top we followed signs for the Orvieto Cathedral. Quite the uphill climb but when we finally reach the piazza the view was spectacular.


We wandered around the piazza for a while and sketched in the rain. We found an information desk shortly thereafter and bought tickets for the Orvieto underground tour. Some 1,200 caves rest underneath the town and have a very unique and interesting history.


Much of the space was purposed for producing olive oil and there are also remnants of medieval fire places within. Subsequent rooms contained lattice stone walls which housed pigeons. These rooms were on the side of town which faced the countryside. The pigeons would leave to go feed and return to their holes. A much more efficient way of farming food than chickens. Part of the reason why pigeon is a delicacy in Orvieto.


The caves were later purposed for refuge during WWII and in more recent times they were used for personal storage and wine cellars. After reaching the surface we took to the streets and found a nice place to sit down and eat lunch (La Palomba). After hearing that pigeon was the town’s delicacy it was the only thing on my mind, and sure enough it was on the menu.


Half of a pigeon covered in an olive and olive oil puree. Similar to duck I hear. It was absolutely fantastic. The first time I had actually eaten with my fingers in Italy. The owner came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and gestured that I pick it up and eat it with my hands. And all along I thought it was taboo to even eat pizza without a fork and a knife. The wild boar was also very good.

After more sketching we arrived at our last site for the day the Pozzo San Patrizio. A well from the 16th century. Walking 239 steps down and 239 steps up. The scale and size of the well was much greater than I had anticipated.


After the long climb back up we were met by a turnstile. Everyone filed up and passed through one at a time. I brought up the rear and slowly started to walk through (camera bag slung around my shoulder and backpack on). I got about halfway through and I couldn’t move anymore. I tried pushing back and the turnstile wouldn’t budge. Both my camera bag and my water bottle were tied up in the overlapping metal bars.


I wasn’t going anywhere. I called ahead to friends in hopes they would come help free me. After a solid minute of laughing and photo snapping photos they helped free me from the metal trap.

Although I have a new hate for turnstiles, it was great having the opportunity to experience the town up on the hill, Orvieto.



    • Ozayr

      Hi Kate – We had a good day in Orvieto – with bouts of rain and sun. The students loved it there (even Alexi, who got trapped in a well for a short while…). Hope all is well in Minneapolis –

  1. Mike Chryssomallis

    An awesome short story complimented very well by beautiful photographs. My favorite shot was the one from down in the well. The perspective is stunning and I like that the focal point (the well opening) is not in the top-center of the picture plane, but skewed slightly right. It gives a nice asymmetric feel to an otherwise perfectly symmetric structure. Nicely done man, nicely done indeed.

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