This is the hardest post to write in my Italy series because we spent so little time in Siena and Orvieto, but they both deserve attention – and a much longer visit. (I don’t want to give the impression that these two hilltop towns are close together, they’re about 75 miles apart. Siena is in Tuscany and Orvieto in Umbria. We visited them on two different days.)
We stopped in Siena for lunch on our way to Florence from Montepulciano. I’ve heard people speak fondly of the medieval city of Siena and it’s lovely sprawling buildings. I understood as soon as I set foot into the main square in Siena. You can feel the sense of community. It’s one of those places where you can easily imagine living.
Siena is 35 minutes south of Florence. The town spans over three hills, making it the biggest of the hill towns which are scattered throughout central Italy. We parked the car at the Stadio, the large soccer stadium, and made our way to Il Campo, the main square in Siena. From there we wandered the streets to get acquainted with the city.
We stopped in Orvieto on our way to Rome from Florence, as our trip was coming to an end. With so many beautiful hilltop towns to choose from for our stop, we chose Orvieto simply because of the timing and convenience from the highway.
Orvieto began as an Etruscan village under a different name from 900 B.C. to 264 B.C. The Romans came and destroyed the town and people fled. After the fall of Rome and the chaos that ensued in 476, the people who lived in the valleys sought safety in the hills. Orvieto sits high on top of volcanic tuff (or hardened volcanic ash), the same substance that makes up many of the other hills in Italy.
In Orvieto, we wandered the streets, admiring the architecture, the views, and the various plant collections. I would love to come back for a few quiet nights and wander the streets of this town at sunset and into the evening.
We lingered over pizza before driving an hour to Rome where we spent our last evening in Italy.