Drive to Lake Bolsena, Orvieto, & Viterbo

Today you’ll explore a beautiful region at the borders of Umbria, Tuscany, and Lazio. This area features Orvieto, Lake Bolsena, Pitigliano, and Viterbo. 

Visit Orvieto, a small hilltop town populated since the Etruscan times. Then, swap cobblestones for scenic nature at Lake Bolsena and enjoy a leisurely walk or break. Next, make a detour to discover Italy’s hidden gem of Pitigliano, and finally visit Viterbo, a city with important history, beautiful churches, fountains, and stairs. 

Suggested Activities:

1. Orvieto is impressively situated high upon Tufo rocks and is famous for white wine and gelato! It has one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Italy and acts as a labyrinth of small alleyways with shops and restaurants. 
  • Climb aboard the cable car and enjoy the view as you ride this funicular through a tunnel of trees and arrive at a fortress. You'll arrive in Piazza Cahen near St. Patrick’s Well and the Ruins of the Etruscan Temple of Belvedere.
  • Visit the main cathedral, Duomo di Orvieto. Towering over the medieval square, this impressive building looms over passersby.
  • Climb Torre del Moro for the best views of the city. Established in the late 1200s to defend the town, this historic tower now provides a beautiful, unobstructed panorama of the town's medieval streets, the Duomo di Orvieto, and the hills beyond. Take the small elevator, then climb the 236 steps to the top to reward yourself! 
  • Explore the Etruscan Orvieto Underground that has 440 caves, of which some are open to the public. In addition, the tourist office organizes guided tours in the Parco delle Grotte. These caves were once water reservoirs, stone pits, wine caves, and even hiding spaces during World War II. It's chilly inside, so don't forget a jacket!
  • Climb down to the bottom of St. Patrick’s Well. Climb the 496 steps down to the bottom and take in the shocking size of this well! Forty-five feet wide and an impressive 175 feet deep, locals used it in the 16th century as a place of refuge for the pope. You can see why the phrase “it’s like digging St. Patrick’s Well” is commonly muttered by Italians when asked to complete a challenging task. 
  • Enjoy wine tastings or tours at Cantina Custodi or Cantine Neri. 
  • Explore the artisan shops known for their ceramics. Be sure to check out these local ceramic shops: La Corte dei Miracoli, Ceramiche Fusari, Ceramiche Bellocci. For leather and shoes: Federico Badia.
2. Bolsena Lake provides a natural border between Tuscany and Latium. Surrounded by the ancient Via Cassia, the views from the road are amazing, especially between Val di Lago and Bolsena. The town of Bolsena and the lake’s beaches are also worth a stop. Explore the town's charming streets, sit on a medieval rock by the lake, enjoy stunning views, discover historic buildings, or have a meal in delicious cafes and restaurants. At the lake, you can swim, fish, or rent a bot.

3. Pitigliano is a breathtaking town carved into the Tufo rock. In the heart of the Tuscan Maremma, Pitigliano is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Also known as "Little Jerusalem," the town hosted a large Jewish community within its walls in the 16th century.

4. Viterbo has the largest medieval historical center in Europe.
  • Visit the churches of Viterbo. The town's 13-century Cathedral is where the eight popes elected in Viterbo are crowned and where Corradino di Svevia, heir of Frederick II, was excommunicated. The church and monastery of Santa Rosa are where the "Machine of Santa Rosa" starts, a procession held in early September where locals carry a canopy and a statue of the saint around the city. The small Church of San Silvestro, built before 1000 CE, is also worth visiting, as is the Church of Santa Maria Nuova.
  • Among the palaces of Viterbo, the most famous is certainly the Palazzo dei Papi, built in the mid-1200s and decorated with a beautiful loggia called "of the blessings" because the popes looked out from here to bless the people. Palazzo dei Priori is famous for the 16th-century Sala Regia and its beautiful frescoes.
  • You can access the San Pellegrino District from Piazza San Carluccio. To the right of the fountain of San Carluccio, you'll find the Via di San Pellegrino, which is the main road axis of the medieval quarter. Characteristics of the neighborhood are the profferli, external staircases that lead to the landing of the houses, and the so-called "bridge house," a type of house that unites two buildings through hidden passages.
  • Visit the Palazzo degli Alessandri, established in the first half of the 13th century, which overlooks the square of San Pellegrino and the 11th-century Church of S. Pellegrino. A walk in the neighborhood will help you grasp the true essence of the ancient village.
Linked to the legend of Hercules, who drove a huge pole into the ground giving rise to pure water, the Thermal Baths of Viterbo have very ancient origins. They were very famous in Etruscan times, but it was under the Romans that they became increasingly popular, especially among the families of wealthy patricians. After neglect in medieval times, the springs resumed in the 13th century for therapeutic purposes. It is said that the grandeur of the Viterbo baths struck Dante Alighieri himself! The use of baths has continued to this day, but the most important include the Baths of Masso or Massi di S. Sisto, the Baths of the Jews, the Baths of the Zitelle, and the Baths of Bacucco.

Read more about unique and interesting cultural experiences in Italy.