Machu Picchu, Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza, Mecca: All mystical and sacred places where one can find peace in the solitude and beauty of their surroundings. Add to the list Anello della Rupe – a spectacular walking trail that runs along the volcanic tufa rock on which the medieval town of Orvieto is perched. It’s a place where one can be alone, but not feel alone. Where you can have long conversations with yourself and even answer yourself out loud, since you pass very few people along the way. Only a few meters below the city center, yet a world away.
My daily walking regime is a way to get a workout, some fresh morning air in my lungs, and perspective. The Percorso is an hour-and-a-half trek (depending on if you run, walk, or crawl) that circumnavigates the town, situated halfway down the steep cliffs.
There are 5 entrances (Ingressi) to get onto the Rupe, but I personally like starting at Ingresso 5: Foro Boario. Taking the elevator down to the parking lot at Campo della Fiera, begin in a counter-clockwise direction (near the Acquedotto medievale used by Orvietani as early as the 13th Century). After walking a few meters (past a small grouping of houses) you’ll officially enter the park.
The natural trail is lined with rustic wooden fences and its switchbacks keep your legs and bottom in good shape. Climbing and then leveling off, you’ll come to my favorite side of the rock. Note the many grottos cut into the cliff walls and look out over the panorama for a spectacular view of the Hotel Badia – a former Abbey originally built in the 6th century with its existing structure constructed in the 12th century. A classic post card view, I can stand there forever staring at the awesome beauty of the Umbrian countryside.
Continuing up the path, you’ll come to a fork in the road where you can veer down to the Santurario di Cannicella and Necropoli estrusca (Etruscan necropolis). The remains of this sanctuary and necropolis date back to the 4th and 6th centuries B.C., respectively. Double-back up to the main trail and you’ll continue on to another fork: Ingresso 4; Palazzo Crispo Marsciano. This is the most modern gate into the park. Its Renaissance building was designed by Antonio da Sangalllo and completed by Simone Mosca. But don’t exit just yet. Keep walking (this is the longest stretch of trail) until you come to the Grotta dei tronchi fossili (Grotto of the fossil trunks) – an artificial cavity with paleo-botanical remains that preceded the formation of the cliff some 350,000 years ago!
Another steep climb on cobblestones takes you up to the medieval entrance to the city, Porta Soliana: Ingresso 3. From here you have a view of the ruins of the Madonna della Rosa. The small, 17th-century church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The tunnel for Orvieto’s funicolare (funicular) is right under your feet. This unique rail system was inaugurated in 1888 and connects Piazza Cahen with the train station in Orvieto Scalo.
You’re getting a bit of a break now, as the trail goes downhill and is shaded by trees. Further down the path it gets streeper, with the last section stairs climbing up to the road. You have to cross the road to continue on the trail. Note: Italians drive fast so pay attention at the crosswalk!
Once you’re safely on the other side, continue up the hill until you get to another fork located on your left. This is Ingresso 2: Porta Vivaria – a vertical ramp leading up to ruins of what was the medieval north gate known as dello Scenditoio. The trail splits off to the right, taking walkers to the official entrance of the famous archeological treasure of Umbria: The 5th-century, B.C. Necropoli Etrusca (Estrucan tombs of Volsinii). If the tombs are open, take the tour and then climb back up the steps to continue on the trail again. There’s more beauty still ahead.
Chiesa del Crocefisso del Tufo. Around the 16th century, this chapel and crucifix were carved into the volcanic rock. Sweet offerings of wildflowers are often left on its windowsills. As you get closer to Porta Maggiore, you’ll find a building on the left, the Madonna del Velo. It’s one of the few examples of 18th century ecclesiastic architecture in Orvieto, consecrated on June 5, 1751 and newly renovated.
Cross the Via della Cava at the Porta Maggiore – this gate is the oldest monumental access to the city, dating back to the Etruscan era. It points travelers to either the road to Lago di Bolsena or the A-1 (Autostrada) towards Rome.
At the traffic circle, you can either cross the road and walk back through the parking lot to the elevator or escalators (a fascinating engineering feat, carved through the rock up and carrying visitors to Piazza Ranieri.)
You have two choices here: Continue on up the pretty pedonale (promenade) with its benches and streetlamps. Walk under Porta Romana and you will be on the shoulder of the road again – be careful of cars.
Walk up Via Alberici to Via Garabaldi. Be sure and have a euro in your pocket so you can stop at the Blue Bar for a cappuccino and friendly conversation.
Even in the “dead of winter” there is so much life on the Anello della Rupe– literally and figuratively. Sometimes I walk with friends, but mostly I look forward to going it alone. “La Rupe” became my best friend and confidant. She helped me gain my confidence, showed me the strength I possessed inside and listened to me without interruption in a very reflective time of my life. It is a transforming experience – an hour that is entirely mine to day dream. I guess you could say it is my daily planning meeting with God – or something God-like. La Rupe will become your friend too. Buona passeggiata, Tutti!
*PAAO (Archaeological and Environmental Park of the Orvietano)
**All along the trail are signs posted in Italian and English with facts and information about the park and its features.
by Toni DeBella