There’s something about being up when the rest of the world is still asleep that makes me feel at home even in a far away land. It’s a safe, comforting time when society is silent and the sounds of nature take over. The light of the early morning sun is at its most gentle and even the hottest of summer mornings are tolerable. Morning dew and mist work their way over fields and birds start to sing. At 5:45 I rise to hike the Anello della Rupe (Ring of the Rock) in the hilltop town of Orvieto, Italy. This morning it is shrouded in fog, wrapped in shades of violet and blue. Magic is in the air and the village almost appears holy in its somber hues. The only person awake to see this transformation, to share this secret world, is myself. As you can see, what a wonderful world it is.
The morning sun is held captive behind the shade of the volcanic rock cliffs as I start the route, allowing me peace from the usual 100 degree days that have hit Italy this summer. The suns rays gradually wrap around cliff faces and burn off the last bits of fog.
The circle led me through shady forest paths and sun filled areas lined with castle trimmings. Tall, cypress lined hills rolled away from me into the horizon and ruins fill a field below. Now this is Italy, I think to myself. I suddenly wish my parents could be with me as they fell in love with this kind of Italian countryside when we visited a few years ago.
I continue the loop, snapping photos along the way. The first signs of human life make their way onto the path as a few people in fluorescent sportswear and running shoes start their morning workout. Against a tall stone wall, an elderly man picks berries off of vines snaking their way into the rock. I smile and say buona sera (good evening) when it’s 7am. My Italian is really great until it comes out of my mouth!
I finish the loop and start my way into the town of Orvieto, taking advantage of the fact that I’m uphill already and it’s an easier walk than from the house I’m staying at in the town below. Orvieto is charming, with a medieval quarter to get lost in and a cathedral sure to make you stop and stare at is beauty. The city has its own appeal, but the hike around its base before the rest of the world wakes up sets it apart from other Italian towns in my mind. You get the best of both worlds with nature and city, one within the other. If you start out early enough, you might experience the magic and mist all to yourself as well.
I found little information online about this hike when trying to plan for it. Here are two maps I acquired at the tourist information center in town. It’s located across from the cathedral (Piazza Duomo) if you want to pick up your own. You can click on each to view larger.
The route is approximately 3.5 miles or 6km and takes about 2 hours to complete, longer if you stop at the many points of interest along the way. There is a necropolis you can visit, but make sure to note the hours of operation.
I started my circle by heading up from the town below and connected at the top of Via Dritta del Marchigiano which is near Porta Maggiore, just before number 1 on the map below. I then circled clockwise around the town. The trail is pretty clearly marked. Just keep to the base of the cliffs. At one point between 2 and 3 the trail does cross to the other side of a road but it’s pretty clear when it does. There was one other part that looked confusing. I show it in the photo below. The trail seems to branch off at a 3 way intersection. Take the middle one, not the upper or lower. Other than those two points, the trail is pretty straight forward. Enjoy!