The 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.