Orvieto Celebrates 15th Century Fertility Festival on June 12. Watch Out for the Dove!

Orvieto Celebrates 15th Century Fertility Festival on June 12. Watch Out for the Dove!

Orvieto - Palombella traditional ceremony. by Patrick NicholasThe Festa of the Palombella (the dove) was introduced by the Monaldeschi family in the 15th Century. It is essentially a pagan-Christian fertility festival. A wire is strung up from the church of San Francesco to a tabernacle placed in front of the Cathedral, a distance of about 300 metres. The white dove is sent down the wire by trolley in a clear plastic cylinder with a sunburst aureola around it. The city’s brass band strikes up an enthusiastic fanfare and the ceremony begins. The wire is high, the cage is small and would be something of a non-event if it weren’t for the attention grabbing fireworks that are set off around the bird on its descent. Scalded, deafened, semi-asphyxiated and presumably somewhat bewildered, the luckless bird is then paraded around the cathedral square before being donated to a betrothed couple in the bishop’s palace as an augur for a happy, and fertile, marriage.


The city of Orvieto is a little jewel which shines even more brilliantly on occasions such as these.


Rome -Orvieto: Train from Roma Termini takes about one hour. Be warned: the platform for the regionale train is at least a 10 min walk from the station concourse. At Orvieto station take the Funicular up to Orvieto – show your train ticket and you’re entitled to a 30 cent discount.

By car, drive up to the top (the rupe) and just before arriving at the summit (Piazza Cahen) on the right are the huge red barracks – park free on the former parade ground.

Find out about other events in Orvieto here.

For other traditional and religious ceremonies in this area, read this article.

Text and Photo by Patrick Nicholas and Cameraetrusca the guided tour and photo workshop service of Northern Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria