With its central location, in the heart of the peninsula, the town of Orvieto has always been very popular, throughout history, by the lordships and historical houses of Central Italy. Therefore, in its territory, a fortress that served as a bastion of defense cannot be ignored.
The Fortress of Albornoz was built for this purpose by the Spanish Cardinal Egidio Albornoz, an eminent ecclesiastical figure from the late Middle Ages, commissioned by Pope Innocent VI to regain the territories in the hands of the noble families of the time.
In fact, at that time, the authority of the Church in Italy had weakened, as a result of the transfer of the papal seat from Rome to Avignon. Innocent VI considered Cardinal Albornoz to be the right person to restore power in the Papal State, and therefore appointed him legate and vicar general.
The cardinal regained Orvieto to the detriment of the prefect Giovanni di Vico, thanks to the contribution of a large army of armed men and mercenary captains, including Ugolino da Montemarte. The latter was also a good architect and was subsequently commissioned by Albornoz to oversee the construction of the fortress, which began in 1364.
The history of the Fortress of Albornoz
Built near Porta Soliana, the fortress of Albornoz was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, confirming its strategic importance in the context of control of Orvieto's territory.
As early as 1395 the fortress was razed to the ground by the rebellious Ghibelline factions, but it was rebuilt shortly afterwards under the papacy of Nicholas V, with the addition of the circular tower, and finally completed in the 1600s under Urban VIII and Alexander VII.
In the meantime, an important innovation was made in 1527, with the construction of the majestic Well of Saint Patrick, wanted by Pope Clement VII. The pope, who had taken refuge in Orvieto after the so-called Sack of Rome, feared a further siege by his enemies and therefore considered it useful to devise a system of water supply that would supply the fortress in case of conflict.
Of quadrilateral plan and surrounded by a moat with two drawbridges, the fortress was entirely built with the typical local tufa stone, golden tones with vague pink reflections.
Recent history: from a fortress to a public garden
Over time, Albornoz Fortress lost its purely military function. In fact, at the end of the 19th century, it was further modified so as to facilitate its use by the public.
The moats were filled as part of the work for the construction of the funicular and they built an amphitheatre with terraces and steps, where people could attend shows and horse races. It was in those years that the Fortress took on its present form as a public park.
The Fortress of Albornoz: an unmissable destination in Orvieto
The fortress of Albornoz is now used as a public garden. A walk to the Albornoz Fortress is certainly one of the most relaxing pastimes for those visiting Orvieto, because it is at the same time an opportunity to relax in the open air, admire beautiful views and experience art and culture.
In fact, inside, the visitor can admire the elegant grandeur of its structure and enjoy a little relaxation in the shade of lush greenery. In the context of the fortress you can also admire some bizarre bronze sculptures of contemporary art.
The most striking aspect of the entire tourist complex is probably the panoramic view: the flourishing surrounding valleys and the smooth hills that stretch along the Paglia river giving the eyes an instant and regenerating emotion.
The Fortress of Albornoz can be easily reached from Cahen Square and it can be seen even when it is admired from below, along the underlying country path: so perched on the edge of the cliff, with its imposing fortifications and the massive circular tower to dominate the scene, it can be admired by tourists and enthusiasts in all its splendor.