In the Umbria region of Italy, the town of Orvieto sits 1000 meters high on a tufa cliff. Starting with the Etruscans and those centuries after, caves and passages were dug into the soft tufa beneath the city.
Tufa or also called tuff is a soft porous rock that is a variety of limestone. The tufa in Orvieto was created by volcanic ash during a volcanic eruption. You can get your ticket for a guided tour of Orvieto Underground at the Orvieto Tourist Office located in Piazza del Duomo – the town’s square.
There were people from different countries in our tour group. Our guide was very educated about Orvieto’s history and she spoke perfect English.
Orvieto has over 1,000 caves and passages underground, but we only toured six of them! Some are still used privately by the locals underneath their homes.
This amazing labyrinth of caves were used to store wine, olive oil and functioned as water cisterns.
It was also used for pigeon breeding. Pigeons were a food staple to the Etruscans. They are a good source for protein and they used the caves to breed which made them widely available for consumption. Pigeon is still one of the many Etruscan dishes you can taste in Orvieto. Our guide even made a joke about getting pigeon holed – no pun intended!
When touring this underground city, you will see a well preserved olive press, mining shafts and Etruscan tombs. I’m still trying to figure out how the Etruscans were able to squeeze through those small spaces!
Consider taking this tour if you ever visit Orvieto. This very cute town makes a great day trip from Rome, it’s only an hour away by train!