Only 100 kilometers north of Rome, the Umbrian town of Orvieto stands high above the Paglia valley on a crag of soft limestone called tufa. Founded by the Etruscans, Orvieto later became a stronghold of the Guelfs in the struggles against the anti papal Ghibellines.
Its high location and steep approaches proved useful, and several times the beleaguered Popes sought refuge here.
There are two distinct towns: the old high one and a newer one in the valley, where you'll arrive by train or park your car. A funicular will whisk you up to the old town, where you'll find most of Orvieto's tourist attractions.
Some of the most interesting of these lie underground, carved into the porous tufa since Etruscan times.