Key to Umbria: Orvieto

Museo del Pozzo della Cava

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Reproduction of the well head (1528)

Installed in 2004, when the original arch

under which it had stood was re-opened

A letter discovered in 1999 reveals that Pope Clement VII commissioned Antonio da Sangallo il Giovane to excavate a deep cylindrical borehole in what is now Via della Cava, which dated back to Etruscan times.  

The well was rediscovered in 1984, at which time its original depth of 30 meters had been reduced by 5 meters by rubble and refuse.  A stone plaque exhibited in the museum records that it was closed in 1646, probably because of the fortification of Via della Cava during the War of Castro.  [This plaque is of particular interest since it was carved on the back of a relief that must have come from one of the city's ancient churches.]  

The site was subsequently excavated to reveal a complex of caves dug out of the tufa that had been in use for various purposes since Etruscan times.  The excavations were opened to the public as a private museum in 1996. The museum's excellent website provides a virtual tour round the fascinating caves. 

There is also a good cafe in an internal courtyard (partly carved out of the tufa) which is open for breakfast and lunch.

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