Recreating “Orvietan” – a 400 year old medicinal potion

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:

L’Orvietan – recreating a famous, 400 year old medicinal potion from Cross-Pollinate Travel on Vimeo.


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.

The Story of Paper by artisan papermaker Lamberto Bernardini

by Steven Brenner

This video was initially intended to be a simple demonstration of how to make artistically marbled paper using traditional techniques, for an article by my friend Toni DeBella, who writes a blog about Orvieto.

However, after meeting Lamberto the papermaker, I realized the story was about so much more. With books from the 1600s that he pulls out and flips through to illustrate his points, Lamberto tells us the story of paper – its history and passage through ‘The Silk Road’, and how it changed society by permitting the spread of ideas in a cheap and accessible way.

As Toni says in the video, this is one of the things we love about Italy – how these history lessons spontaneously pop up in simple conversations and include things that are hundreds of years old, that “back home” would be held in a museum by glass.

You can read Toni’s full article on Italian Notebook here.