Orvieto is a perfect day trip option just one hour away from Rome. It is a beautiful small town in Umbria settled on a huge, flat mountain of volcanic rock at a height of 200 metres above the surrounding countryside. It has a gorgeous cathedral with a mosaic facade, and it is peaceful and rich in culture with a deep history going back all the way to Etruscan times.
Best way to go from Rome to Orvieto
Take the train to Orvieto
Definitely, take either Regional train from Tiburtina station or the Fast train from Termini station in Rome - whichever is more convenient from your accommodation. Trains run all day at a high frequency. Even on a slow train you will be in Orvieto station in 80 minutes. Tickets are cheap on the regional trains, and a round trip will cost you about 15 euros. The fast trains are more expensive but not much faster than regular trains.
Driving down is not recommended
Do not drive to Orvieto even if you have a car, the traffic in and out of Rome is heavy and just not predictable. Even on a light day you will take 90 minutes one way. But if you are planning to spend more than a day in and around Orvieto then driving could be an option.
Plan to leave early and return late
Orvieto has a many things to see and do. You can easily spend the entire day in Orvieto; infact many visitors even spend a night. It seems even the Trenitalia folks know this because trains start leaving Rome at around 6 am and the last train back from Orvieto to Rome is at 1130pm!
Arriving in Orvieto
The Orvieto train station is at the base of the hill town. So you will need to take a 5 minute funicular ride that costs less than 3 euros for a round trip, up into the town center.
What to see and do in Orvieto on a day trip
The Cathedral of Orvieto is famous for its brilliant mosaic facade, its intricate rose window, sculptures and art, and for its Signorelli frescoes. The entry fee is 3 euros and you should certainly visit the inside. Also take a walk across to see the oldest church of Orvieto - San Giovenale - over 1000 years old. Next to the church, also visit a room called Museo dell’Opera del Duomo which has 2 pairs of stunning sculptures with intricately carved brass bells.
Shop at local businesses
Orvieto has retained its local businesses that cater to the residents of the city. So when you walk around town you will see very few tourist-focused shops. Instead, there are local grocers, cafes, tailors, butchers, and the like.
Walk the path around town
From 5 points spread all around Orvieto, you can just go a few meters down to a walking path called Anello della Rupe. This 1 hour long walk circles the town through nature and there is also a necropolis on the way near the Porta Vivaria exit. If you stay late you will see also the main streets of town, Corso Cavour and via del Duomo, full of local families in the evening.
Watch a street performance
During the high season, do not miss lingering in the main Piazza del Popolo to watch tradesmen and street performers. Orvieto also hosts the Umbria jazz festival every December; this year it runs from 28 Dec to 01 Jan.
Eat and Drink the local specialities
You have to try the wild boar, the wild truffles, and the local white wine Orvieto Classico. There are many good quality restaurants all over town. My suggestion is that you should simply pick a place you like, and you will not go wrong with the food.
If you have more time in Orvieto:
You will have enough nice views from Orvieto but you could also go up the Moro Clock Tower for a 3 euro fee and see the countryside from even higher up. I do not think this is a must-see part of Orvieto but a nice experience still. There is an elevator but also a steep climb involved.
Personally, I find Orvieto’s underground well systems fascinating; I don’t know why so many visitors totally miss Pozzo Della Cava and Pozzo di San Patrizio. The first one Pozzo Della Cava hosts nativity scenes every Xmas in its dugout rooms. So for me, if you are visiting at this time, you should not miss Pozzo Della Cava. But otherwise, the Pozzo di San Patrizio is larger, and more popular, being very close to the funicular station.