First you have to get there
In some respects, reaching Orvieto (located in the southern part of the region of Umbria) is much like visiting an island because it takes some effort to get there. The medieval walled city sits on a high plateau of volcanic ash stone (Tufa) about 1000 feet above the valley.
Although you can drive up hairpin-curved roads leading to the town, the chances of finding a parking spot are iffy and all the discoveries seem to be in pedestrian-only squares and alleys. As a result, many tourists leave their cars in the public lot below and ascend a series of underground ramps, steps and escalators by foot (taking approximately 10 minutes) to reach the top.
In addition to being able to see all the town’s architectural, art and crafts treasures, one of the rewards of emerging from underground on a Thursday or Saturday morning is being able to visit the bustling outdoor market held in the Piazza del Popolo. Set on cobblestone streets, the square is anchored by the Palazzo de Popolo (The People’s Palace), a Romanesque-Gothic palace that now serves as a conference center.
On market days, the square and surrounding streets are filled with haphazardly arranged trucks and stands as shoppers weave their way around them. Many cooking classes for tourists also begin here with students shopping with their chefs.
What you’ll find
This centuries-old market offers a mix of food, vestiti (clothes) and home goods.
The region of Umbria has been dubbed the “green heart” of Italy because it is so rich in wine and agriculture; farmers and artisanal producers from the surrounding countryside arrive at the market in Orvieto early in the morning to sell their products. They close up just in time for the lunch hour. Like many in Italy, the market in Orvieto is far less manicured (and costly) than those in France.
Umbrian cooking is characterized as being simple in recipes and technique but made with outstanding ingredients. Walking through the market with all the local, seasonal food products, we only regretted that our hotel room didn’t have a kitchen.
The main event
If we had to name the one standout of this colorful market, it would have to be the truck just inside one of the alleys leading to the square that sells porchetta. Often sold in roadside stands throughout Italy, porchetta is a boneless, moist pork roast stuffed with herbs and traditionally cooked over wood.
The meat is usually eaten as part of a warm sandwich (panino) with a crisp piece of fatty skin adding to the savory taste. Every time we see one of the white porchetta trucks on the road, my husband lusts over this dish that is so popular with working men across the country. Because it was too early for lunch, we ordered two panini wrapped to take home to our hotel.
- It’s always better to arrive early in the morning when the crowds are less dense.
- Be sure to have your Italian dictionary and some knowledge of metric measurements if you are planning to purchase fruits, vegetables or nuts.
- Cash only, of course.
IF YOU GO
Piazza del Popolo Market in Orvieto
Open Thursday and Saturday mornings from 7AM-12PM
Previously on MoreTimeToTravel.com
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