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Orvieto, Orvieto

Tourist info: 24 Piazza Duomo
Italy 05018
Tel: 39 076 334 1772's insider take:

If you visit only one sight in Umbria, make it Orvieto's majestic Duomo, or cathedral (Piazza Duomo; 39-076-334-1167). If Florence's Duomo is a monument to the arts and the technical know-how of the Renaissance, Orvieto's mother church celebrates the cultural refinement of the Middle Ages—at least on the outside. The foundation stone was laid in 1290, and although it was more than three centuries before the huge, intricate edifice was completed, the artisans who built the cathedral stayed true to its original medieval plan. The facade includes delicate, 14th-century sculptures of Old Testament scenes; inside are the colorful Last Judgment frescoes of Luca Signorelli, who was a major influence on Michelangelo.

Built atop a steep-sided bluff of volcanic rock that looks like something out of Monument Valley, Orvieto's dramatic and rather precarious position is belied by the air of quiet prosperity in the town itself, with its bookshops, cafés, theater, and highly rated restaurants. Vineyards fill the flat expanse of the volcanic floor below the town; if you want to buy wine, there are any number of enotecas in the old town—or you could head for the sales outlet of the reputable producer Cardeto, where bottles made with Orvieto's eponymous white grapes are offered at cellar-door prices (51 Via Angelo Costanzi; 39-076-330-0594).

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