Orvieto is one of the coolest places in Italy. Built on a tufa in Umbria this medieval town is full of surprises. While I was there I decided on a whim to check out Saint Patrick’s Well, also known as “Pozzo di San Patrizio.”
The 16th century was an unsafe time in Rome, and Orvieto was considered to be a convenient place of refuge for Pope Clement VII. Since a reliable water supply was a necessity, the well was commissioned in 1527 and completed ten years later by the Florentine architect, Antonio da Sangallo.
After purchasing a ticket for five euros I began the descent down one of the spiral staircases of 248 steps. The well is 175 feet deep and 42 feet across, so it is fairly cool inside even during the summer.
The sheer size of the well is the origin of the Italian saying about spendthrifts having pockets as bottomless as “il Pozzo di San Patrizio.” Built with two staircases, one for descending and one for ascending, this well is easier to navigate than the staircase at Giotto’s Bell Tower in Florence. These steps are wide since they were originally used by donkeys to carry water to the surface.
Its walls are cut from rock and farther down they are lined with bricks. Seventy windows are cut into the circular well allowing for light on the stairs. The walk down was not that bad; in fact it only took about ten minutes. At the bottom of the well, as you might expect, I found some water, and I felt the dampness. Just thinking that this well had been used for the past five centuries gave me an eerie feeling.
I met a few people at the bottom and in a mood of camaraderie, we shared travel stories before we made our way back up the 248 steps which naturally took more than ten minutes.
Not the typical tourist attraction but definitely a fun experience in Orvieto.
Have you been to Orvieto? Have you walked to the bottom of St Patrick’s Well?
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