Orvieto clocktower © Tom Pitman
The medieval fortress town of Orvieto is perched on a hilltop overlooking the Umbrian countryside, just over an hour north of Rome by car and also accessible by train. The dramatically situated town, with ancient fortifications that seem to grow out of the cliffs, has been permanently inhabited since the Etruscans. It is thought to have been an important centre for Etruscan civilization and many impressive artefacts can be viewed in Orvieto's archaeological museum. Situated as it is on the route between Rome and Florence, Orvieto has been a vital defensive outpost at various points in its long history. The famous Christian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, once lived and taught in Orvieto. The town remains almost unchanged since medieval times, and even in summer is not too packed with tourists. The 13th-century Duomo of Orvieto, with its magnificent facade and frescoes, dominates the skyline. The cathedral is Orvieto's must-see attraction, but visitors should also take time to wander around the town's backstreets to find hidden gems and amazing views over the city walls and battlements. The best restaurants are tucked away in the side streets off the main square.