Saint Patrick’s Well in Orvieto

DSCF2683 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.”

Orvieto Photo by Margie Miklas

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.

Orvieto Photo by Margie Miklas
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.

Orvieto Photo by Margie Miklas
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?

I’d like to hear your feedback, so please leave a comment.

Grazie and Ciao

20 Responses

  1. craftycrabbe

    I’ve never been to Orvieto, but your picture of inside the well reminds me of the initiation well or inverted tower in Sintra’s Quinta Da Regaleira garden in Portugal.

  2. imarancher

    Wells are a sign that people and animals will live in profusion in the area. When I see nighttime satellite pics of the USA I can spot the waterways of our country. Every river and canal is lit up as are lakes and areas fed by underground reservoirs. The vast areas of the west interior are unlit. Virtually the only thing that can exist in those areas are cattle that drink from cisterns fed by rainwater or water trucks during droughts, they do not need artificial lighting to live and thrive on the BLM lands. Water is imperative for civilization to flourish. No wonder they named wells after the Patriarchs of the Church.

    I think even I would try and make it down and up the staircase to get a look at this gem.

    • margieinitaly

      Glad you enjoyed this, Bonnie and as always, I thank you for your interesting perceptions…I always learn something from you! Grazie, mia amica

  3. Angela White

    What an incredible place! So amazing with the design of this well, never do you run into anyone going up as you are descending down.

  4. leslie heuer

    Yes, we walked down (and up) on a warm day last September, it was very refreshing and a great way to burn off some calories too. Orvieto was a highlight of our trip, I wish I could have stayed there several more days.

  5. enirofral

    I am going to Italy for the second time next April, and I will stay for 2 nights in Orvieto. Non vedo l’ora!!!
    The atypical attractions are the best, and if time allows, I’ll visit the well.
    Thanks for the post. Lovely pictures, as usual.

    • lorapat

      Your post sent me to my journal of our 1999 trip to Italy, with Orvieto as one of our most memorable stops. No mention of the well! I am certain nothing about it was in our guide books, or we would have checked it out. Great post and excellent photos, as always.

    • margieinitaly

      Grazie mille Line…I am so thrilled for you that you are returning to Italia and to Orvieto in particular. it truly is an amazing place!! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment

  6. Paula

    We visted the well when in Umbria with Victoria and her wonderful tour. Marco, our lovely guide explained the history of it but we were unable to spend the time climbing down as we had so much to see in Orvieto that day. I am sure a couple of the other ladies were secretly pleased we didn’t go down, but I would have gone for sure! Next time, as Orvieto was a wonderful place!

    • margieinitaly

      Thank you Paula for commenting here. Yes next time for sure. I know you had a great time if you were on Victoria’s tour – I went to Puglia last spring with her and loved the entire experience!

  7. Tony

    I have not been, but feel the need to go now. 🙂 Some of those pics remind me of the Tower in Pisa.

  8. Ishita

    I have been to Orvieto Margie but didn’t get a chance to go here. Instead I wallowed in the view of the Duomo 😉 Next time maybe. Great post!

    • margieinitaly

      Ishita, Like you I find there is never enough time to do it all. That is why I always find a reason to return! Thanks for commenting, amica

I'm always interested in your thoughts, so please leave a comment.