Orvieto is one of the coolest places I visited in Italy, and while I was there I decided on a whim to check out Saint Patrick’s Well, also known as “Pozzo di San Patrizio.” The well was built in the 16th century after the Pope stayed in Orvieto. It was an unsafe time in Rome and Orvieto was considered to be a convenient place of refuge for the Pope. Since a reliable water supply was a necessity, the well was commissioned in 1527 and completed ten years later by the Florentine architect, Antonio da Sangallo.
For five euros I bought a ticket and started the descent down one of the spiral staircases of 248 steps. The well is 175 feet deep and 42 feet across and fairly cool inside. The sheer size of the well was the origin of the Italian saying about spendthrifts having pockets as bottomless as “il Pozzo di San Patrizio.” It was built with two staircases, one for descending and one for ascending, and the steps are wide since it was originally used by donkeys carrying water to the surface.
Its walls were cut from rock and further down are lined with bricks. Seventy windows are cut into the circular well allowing for light on the stairs. The walk down was not that bad; in fact it only took about ten minutes. At the bottom there was still some water, and it was eerie just thinking that this well had been used for the past five centuries.
I met a few people at the bottom and we shared travel stories before we made our way back up the 248 steps which naturally took more than ten minutes.