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Orvieto

Umbria, the birthplace of St Benedict and Francis of Assisi, seems bathed in a mystical glow, and Orvieto plays into the mystique. Set midway between Florence and Rome, Orvieto is Umbrian perfection, with luminous frescoes and enigmatic churches only serving to underline its lofty otherness. Looming on a sheer ledge of lava-stone, Orvieto is a brooding Etruscan presence hewn out of dark volcanic rock. In medieval times, this citadel, perched on its impregnable rock, controlled the road between Florence and Rome. Although majestically sited on top of a volcanic tufa plateau, the hill is porous and in danger of bringing the city down as it crumbles. More positively, the fertile volcanic slopes are covered in the vineyards that produce Orvieto’s famously crisp white wines. The town also scores high in the spirituality stakes, with its low-key churches counterpointed by the grandeur of the Duomo and loveliness of the undulating landscape.

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