Key to Umbria: Orvieto

Walk II: From Piazza della Repubblica

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This walk starts in Piazza della Repubblica, which seems to have been the site of the forum of the Etruscan city and was the centre of civic life (the Platea Comunis, Piazza del Comune or Piazza Maggiore) from at least the early middle ages.  

The present church of Sant’ Andrea (illustrated above) was built in the 11th century.  It is possible to visit the excavations under this church, where the remains of its paleochristian pedecessor survive.  This earlier church seems to have built soon after the return of the people of Orvieto from exile in Bolsena.   The excavations have also uncovered the remains of much older structures that suggest that this site was at the heart of the Etruscan city.

Since Santa Maria Prisca, the old cathedral of Orvieto was dilapidated from at least the 12th century, Sant’ Andrea was the most important church in the city for some 200 years. The (much restored) twelve-sided tower (12th century) to the right of it was probably originally the Torre Civica, although it was later adapted to form the campanile of the church.  The first palace of the civic authorities, Palazzo Comunale, was built to the right of it in 1216-9, and noblemen from the surrounding area came here each year to reaffirm their allegiance to the Commune. 

The municipal fountain (1276) at the centre of the piazza was fed by a new aqueduct (see Walk IV).  The fountain was restored by Lorenzo Maitani in 1324, was unfortunately later demolished (see below).

By1485, Palazzo Comunale was in such a poor state or repair that the Council held its meetings in the Palazzo Vescovile.  Plans to restore Palazzo Communale originally came to nothing.  Its external loggia threatened to collapse in 1563 and had to be demolished.  The municipal fountain was also demolished at this point, and some of is bronze was re-used to cast a new bell for San Francesco

In 1574, Ippolito Scalza was finally commissioned to rebuild the palace, but this work stopped in 1581 before the planned extension to the right had begun.  Scalza intended to extend the palace so that the new ground floor loggia would comprise the seven original arches and four more to the right.  Work duly started in 1573, but it was abandoned in 1581, before the extension had begun. 

This change of plan is obvious from the current appearance of the facade: the second arch from the right, which is distinguished by double columns, was obviously meant to be the central portal of the palace.  The present Via Garibaldi, which was meant to be diverted to pass through this arch, in fact still passes through the original central arch, two bays to the left of it.  Symmetry would have been achieved had the four planned arches to the right been built.

Walk through the arch along Via Garibaldi to look at the rear of the palace.  (The entrance to the palace is under the arch, of the left in this photograph).  Virginio Vespignani designed the neoclassical travertine arch as a ceremonial entrance to the civic centre from Porta Romana (see below) when Pope Pius IX visited Orvieto in 1857.  (There is more detail in the page on Palazzo Comunale).   

Take a short detour from this point by continuing along  Via Garibaldi.  The inscription to the left of the entrance at number 38a commemorates seven men who were condemned to death at a Fascist tribunal here in 1944.

The next palace on the right, at number 38-40, is Palazzo Aviamonzi Alberici.

Turn right along Via Ripa de' Medici and then take the fork to the left, which swings around Piazza dei Cacciatori del Tevere to Porta Romana.  The piazza is named for the volunteers under Luigi Masi known as the  “Cacciatori del Tevere” (literally huntsmen of the Tiber region) who expelled the papal garrison from Orvieto in 1860.  More specifically, under a negotiated settlement, the papal garrison withdrew through Porta Romana at 7 pm on 11th September, and the volunteers entered the city by Porta Postierla (in Walk III) at the same time.  Orvieto thus became part of the new Kingdom of Italy. 
Retrace your steps to Via Ripa de' Medici and take another short detour by turning sharply left along it to Palazzo de' Medici.  Return along Via Ripa de' Medici and turn left along Via Garibaldi to return to Piazza della Repubblica.


                                      Palazzo Ottaviano                          Palazzo Ravizza

The two palaces opposite Palazzo Comune now belong to the Cassa di Risparmio di Orvieto:

  1. Palazzo Ottaviano is opposite and to the left (at number 18-24)

  2. Palazzo Ravizza to the right of it (at number 26), which hosts the excellent Bar Il Sant' Andrea on its ground floor.

Leave Piazza della repubblica by Via dell' Misercordia , which runs along the right side of Palazzo Ravizza.  The second facade of this palace (illustrated here) is in Piazza Vitozzi. 

Continue along Via della Misercordia.  The street swings to the left at the ex-church of Sant' Agnese (at number 6 on the right, illustrated here), with the associated Oratorio della Misericordia is just beyond it (at number 4 on the right).


                                         Well head (1571)                             Palazzo Mancini 

Turn left at the end of Via della Misercordia into Via Pecorelli and continue into Piazza dell’ Erbe: 

  1. The well head (1571) at the centre was designed by Ippolito Scalza for Piazza del Comune and moved here early in the 20th century. 

  2. The palace ahead (opposite the palace  illustrated on the left above) is Palazzo Mancini.

Return to and cross Piazza della Repubblica, and leave it along Via Loggia dei Mercanti (to the right of Palazzo del Comune).  This takes you past a number of medieval tower houses and to the ex-church of San Giovannino dei Cavalieri di Malta on the left. 

Torre Polidori at the junction with Via Commenda on the right is the tallest surviving in Orvieto, albeit that it has been truncated. 

The Loggia dei Mercanti, for which the street is named, is on the left at the end.  This complex, which provided a meeting place for merchants, passed to the Carmelites in 1328 and became the site of the church and convent of Santa Maria dei Carmine

The street ends in Piazza Ranieri.

  1. Palazzo Ranieri (13th century) and its truncated tower are opposite. 

  2. The church and monastery of San Lodovico are to the left of them. 

Turn right out of the piazza and fork left along the picturesque Via Ripa Serancia, passing under a fine 13th century arch. 

This leads to Piazza San Giovanni, which contains:
  1. the church and convent of San Giovanni Evangelista (illustrated here);

  2. the ex-church of Santa Maria del Pianto; and 

  3. the Oratorio di San Giovanni Battista dei Disciplinati to the left of it (at number 35).

Walk along the left of San Giovanni Evangelista to the entrance to Vicola dei Malcorini, which is named for the Vipera and Cane factions of the warring Monaldeschi clan.  In 1338, the leaders of the factions agreed to go into exile, but this clan subsequently broke the agreement and became known as the "Malcorini" (from "di mal core" or “of bad heart”).  

Follow Vicola dei Malcorini sharply downhill following the line of the medieval fortifications.  The walled stretch at the bottom of the hill passes over Porta Maggiore (see Walk IV).  

There are fine views of Via della Cava (see Walk IV) on the right. 

To the left , you can see some of the other places visited in Walk IV, including:

  1. the Convento dei Cappuccini;

  2. the medieval aqueduct;

  3. the excavations at Campo della Fiera; and

  4. San Lorenzo delle Vigne.

Continue up along Via Volsinii II and then turn left into Via Volsinii I.  An interesting medieval house at this junction is under restoration.  The road soon enters Piazza San Giovenale and the church of San Giovenale (illustrated here).

Leave Piazza San Giovenale by Via Malabranca.  The ex-church and convent of Sant’ Agostino is on the left.

Return to Via Malabranca, which passes:
  1. Palazzo Caravajal Simoncelli (number 15 on the right); and

  2. Palazzo Filippeschi Simoncelli (number 22 on the left, illustrated here). 

There are fine views from the terrace opposite Palazzo Filippeschi Simoncelli that include the back of San Giovanni Evangelista with its campanile and below, the lantern of the church of Santa Maria della Cava.

Continue on to Via Filippeschi, which leads back to Piazza della Repubblica, where the walk ends.