As a student abroad, I have two options when weekend plans fall through:
1) Sit alone in my pensione with extra-dark chocolate crumbs scattered across my pajama top.
2) Maximize every moment of my limited time here in every way possible.
Although a few weeks ago I was first inclined to choose the path of least resistance and go with number 1, I decided on option 2, and this is why I went on a two night solo trip to the beautiful hilltop Umbrian town, Orvieto.
This ancient Etruscan town, although small, afforded me so many opportunities to get out of my comfort zone and explore as much as I could on my own time.
Orvieto, if arriving by train, requires a funicular ride up the side of the hill.
This gives visitors their first glimpse of the beautiful views of the rolling hills in the “green heart of Italy” that they can expect if they venture to the edges of town.
The town itself is easy to navigate and well-marked with signs at every major intersection and piazza, pointing to all the major attractions in town, including the Pozzo di San Patrizio (St.
Peter’s Well), the underground caves scattered under the hill, the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, the incredible Duomo and the nearby museums, and the trail circling the town’s walls.
After a brief look at the map in one of the piazzas, it is easy to orient yourself and find where you need to go.
The Pozzo di San Patrizio sits just a few steps away from the exit of the funicular, and is perhaps one of the most unique experiences of the town, with two snaking spiral staircases leading visitors up and down the entire 62 meter depth.
Just outside, there is a spectacular view of the countryside.
The Duomo of Orvieto is a towering beauty boasting an intricate golden facade often attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, with pillars of green basalt and white travertine alternating similarly to the Siena cathedral.
In the same piazza are several museums housing everything from Byzantine-style statues to modern exhibitions to Etruscan era artifacts.
The museums generally range around five euros for entry and usually offer a student discount.
On my rainy-day visit, these were great opportunities to stay warm and still see a great deal of the town.
This piazza also has the tourist office, where visitors can book tours for the fascinating Orvieto Underground.
With over 1200 separate man-made caves, Orvieto has an extensive underground network that is used mainly as private cellars or condemned.
With ceramic shops dotting every street and restaurants tempting pedestrians every few meters, there is no shortage of ways to fill a day in this quintessential Italian town.
These are a few of the many discoveries I found while wandering the streets of Orvieto on my solo trip.
Although traveling alone presents new challenges even to the most savvy travelers, I found that people were very helpful if I asked for help sincerely and gave profuse thanks.
Preparation can alleviate much of the stress and diminish the dangers that come with solo traveling, so having a hard copy of all tickets, hotel confirmations, important addresses/directions, and travel documents can save a lot of time and trouble if anything goes contrarily to your plan.
Of course, traveling alone can be dangerous, but if the traveller keeps their eyes open, prepares adequately, and uses their common sense, it shouldn’t be more dangerous than group travel.
Traveling alone opens the door to new possibilities of self-discovery and independence, all without wallowing in chocolate crumbs.