In the center of Orvieto, on the Via del Duomo – a main road that runs from the 14th century cathedral to the town’s medieval clock tower is a small shop called “L’Orvietan”. The shop’s owner, Lamberto Bernardini, took the name from Girolamo Ferranti, who in 1603 obtained the license from the city of Orvieto to sell a medicinal potion of his own invention. As a travelling salesman, Girolamo toured Europe with his potion, becoming known as the “Orvietan” (the guy from Orvieto), a name that later was used to refer to his medicinal.
Later, in 1647, Ferranti passed the formula down to Cristoforo Contugi, who obtained the royal privilege and exclusive rights to sell it, from King Louis IV.
For 200 years, “Orvietan” was all the rage as a protection against poison and love sickness, being cited in many books and pharmacopeia. References to it appear in works of Walter Scott Kenilworth, Molière, Voltaire, and Balzac.
Lamberto, an antique book collector as well as shop owner, came across a copy of Niccolo Lemery’s Farmacopea, published in 1697, containing a few recipes for the potion, and with the help of a few pharmacists and herbalists, recreated the potion is the form of a digestive liqueur which can be enjoyed as an aperitif, an after dinner drink, or in a tea or coffee.
Here’s a quick video of Lamberto and the story of Orvietan:
If passing through, or staying in, Orvieto, you can visit Lamberto’s shop, L’Orvietan, on the Via del Duomo, or ask for the digestive in restaurants around town.