Municipality of Orvieto

 

Municipality of Orvieto
The municipality of Orvieto is located in the southwestern area of Umbria, with a historical center on a tufa plateau overlooking the valley and plain of the Paglia River.

Archaeological evidence bears witness to the fact that the Etruscan city achieved its maximum economic and artistic splendor between the sixth and fourth centuries B.C., brusquely interrupted by the Roman conquest in 264 B.C. After the fall of the Roman Empire it was conquered fist by the Goths, then by the Byzantines and then the Lombards of the Duchy of Spoleto. Around the year thousand it once more developed economically and socially and as a city and soon became a free Commune with a government that was recognized by Pope Hadrian VI in 1157. In the twelfth century the territory of Orvieto included vast areas of what are now the regions of Tuscany and Lazio. The power and wealth of the medieval city reached its zenith in the thirteenth and fourteenth century, to which the splendid buildings still t be seen bear witness. After a period of civil and religious struggles between the patrician families, in 1354 Cardinal Albornoz once more affirmed the control of the Church and of the territory. In 1449 Orvieto was annexed to the papal state until 1860, when became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
The city has one of the richest artistic and cultural patrimonies in Umbria. Prime among them are the Cathedral with its Gothic facade by Lorenzo Maitani and the church of San Giovenale, built in 1004 in the medieval portion of the city where the underground complex of Pozzo della Cava is also located. Among the most representative public buildings are the palazzo del Popolo and the torre del Moro (both dating to the thirteenth century). The tower of Maurizio dates to 1348 and still strikes the hours in Piazza Duomo, where Palazzo Soliano, thirteenth century, is also located. Masterpiece of engineering is Saint Patrick’s well, 62 meters deep and with two independent spiral staircases, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and dating to from1527 to 1537. Orvieto underground, a fascinating labyrinth of man-made tunnels, galleries, cisterns, shafts, quarries and cellars lies hidden under the streets and buildings of Orvieto.
The most striking feature of Orvieto today is obviously the cliff on which it stands. Its geographical siting was always a determining factor in the role played by the city perched on top with important communications routes, such as that of the Tiber river towards the Tyrrhenian Sea or the plains of Perugia and the Apennine passes or the Via Cassia with its network of secondary roads. The first consistent stable settlement can probably be hypothesized for the protohistorical phases while the urban fabric, reflected in the layout of the tombs in the urban necropolises, began to take shape in the sixth century B.C. The necropolis of Crocefisso del Tufo (5th-4th cent. B.C.)  is at the base of the cliff. The name of the head of the family is engraved in the architrave over the entrance to each of the chamber tombs built of tufa blocks.
The necropolis can be reached on foot from the historical center thanks to a pedestrian walkway, part of the archaeological park, that circles the cliff halfway down. Evidence regarding the period of Roman occupation needs to be reinterpreted in the light of the excavations in Campo della Fiera, the area at the base of the cliff and seat of the Federal Etruscan sanctuary known as Fanum Voltumnae, which continued to be important as a religious site in Roman times to which the late Antique and medieval phases bear witness.
The final phases of the Bronze Age in the territory are documented in Castellonchio, continuously inhabited up to Hellenistic times. In the full archaic period the outlying settlements in the areas controlled by the Etruscan Volsinii were consolidated with countless satellite pagi or castella (villages). In the Hellenistic period the situation characterizing the archaic period was in part overturned. Presences in the territory multiplied in the areas closest to the cliff, a result of the centrifugal forces  that arose in the urban sphere with regards to the social-political relationships between the nobility and the inferior classes. They were harbingers of the situation that was to determine the Roman takeover in 264 B.C., with the consequent deportation of the population of Volsinii to the shores of lake Bolsena. The more well-to-do classes withdrew to their extra-urban residences and nuclei of necropolises sprang up. The communication routes continued to be the waterways, with the interesting site of Pagliano, and the Via Cassia, dating to between 171 and 154 B.C., for which still considered the area near the cliff important, later ignored by the Via Traiana Nova that was laid out in 108 A.D. Orvieto, once an Etruscan capital, is now also the capital of the Città Slow. The city and its territory are characterized by a thriving wine and food tradition in which the production of wine holds a prestigious place and is promoted by the Etrusco-Roman Wine Road, which includes the entire province of Terni with the centers of reference represented by the Regional Enoteca and the Palazzo del Gusto.

 

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