Descend into the eerie abyss of this 16th-century mountain well to admire its intriguing layout, seemingly countless arched windows and lucky coins.
St. Patrick’s Well is an innovative cliff-top construction built to source water in the event of a medieval siege. Pope Clement VII ordered its assembly after escaping a besieged Rome and taking refuge in Orvieto. Walk the stairwells pockmarked with internal windows for a glimpse into Orvieto’s history.
Make your way to the dark base of this well, which has a depth of 203 feet (62 meters) and a diameter of 43 feet (13 meters). The site takes its name from the legend of St. Patrick’s Purgatory, implying the well is deep enough to reach the biblical realm. The well has 248 steps and 70 windows that provide some light.
Walk down one of the double-helix staircases and come back up via the other. The separation of the two sets of stairs prevented the congestion of mules carrying water.
Kids will enjoy hearing their voices echo in this reverberating tunnel. Be careful not to lose your footing on the worn steps. Note the crystal clear water and spot the countless coins at the bottom of the well.
Inspect the Latin inscriptions that praise humankind’s ability to overcome nature with this remarkable construction. Get the audio tour to learn about the context behind the site’s construction in the 1530s. The pope built the well to address his concerns about a backup water system should Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire sack the town.
There is a fee to enter the site, with discounts for students, seniors and kids. The site is open daily from morning until evening.
St. Patrick’s Well is in the northeastern outskirts of the medieval town. From the town’s train station, take the cable car to Piazza Cahen on the fortified hilltop. It is a short walk to the site from the square.