Umbria

Bella Perugia

Perugia is a small town in Umbria known for its chocolate (Perugina). It is the capital city of Umbria and is very near the Tuscan border. It is also close to the wonderful city of Assisi. The Tiber River flows through this city to Rome.

This is a town that invokes a lot of emotion for me. As Jo Anne and I walked this town, we were thrown way back in time. It started on the escalator  from the central parking garage to the old city on a hill. The escalator is underground going up through old ruins. If this is your first glimpse of Perugia, it will be a lasting memory.

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Ruins seen on escalator

As we exited the escalator and building contains its terminus, we were in a small piazza in Perugia. Life was exploding all around us. As in any Italian town, life is vibrant. Motorcycles were all around us and loud. Small and larger cars were everywhere. As I looked out at the parking around the Piazza, I was reminded of my youth playing with cars. It appeared the cars were randomly placed by some giant all around the Piazza. Cars faced both directions and some were so small they could just park backed in-between two other cars.

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Parking

Italian was being spoken loud and with passion all around us. Hands are a big part of the Italian language. I am finding I use my hands more and more as I speak. It must be contagious. Life here is very visual. You can not help be emerged in it.

From the Piazza we walked down a set of stairs away from the hustle bustle of automobiles and into a restricted driving zone. Here there maybe be and occasional car or motorcycle but it is mostly pedestrians and tourists. These streets make you feel like you are in ancient times. The architecture is fantastic. Buildings almost touch each other with narrow roads in between. These roads would be impassable to large vehicles. Some passageways I can touch both sides with outstretched arms.

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Narrow roads everywhere

Walking along these streets gives a sense the buildings are closing in on you. Soon we were out in another Piazza. Life was again happening all around us without cars or motorcycles. Restaurants with outdoor seating were everywhere. Italian life is about being outside with other people. So we picked a place and joined in.

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At a bar/Restaurant in a Central Piazza

From our table we could nourish ourselves and partake in this age-old tradition of Italians. For a day we were becoming locals. We already knew we would miss this place when we had to leave. But for now we were here and enjoying life to its fullest.

In the movie Benvenuto al Sud, they say you cry twice in the south. One when you arrive and once when you leave. I felt this way as I shed a tear on my arrival at the sheer beauty of this place and another on leaving it because I would miss it. I tend to feel this way about most Italian towns. I guess I am just a helpless romantic.

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Memories of Perugia

George

 

Categories: Architecture, Assisi, Bars, Europe, General Travel, Italian, Italian language, Italy, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Ristorante, Romance, Small Towns, Tuscany, Umbria, Walking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Siena Pictorial

Siena is a good size city in the region of Tuscany, provide of Siena.  Ithaca a population of 52,700 people. Siena has a very large piazza in the center of town that has a horse race twice a year called the Palio.

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Siena is near to many Tuscan and Umbrian mountain towns, Sah Gimignano and Florence. The main Chianti wine area is nearby as well.

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The piazza

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Small narrow streets

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Stairs up from Baptistery to Duomo

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Inside Duomo

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Duomo in its full glory

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Always time for gelato

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Beautiful streets

Siena is worth a stop for a day or two. Get out and walk the city and see its sites. Soccer fans will find a large soccer stadium here. Siena is near the autostrada and is easily reachable by car from Florence or Rome.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Driving in Italy, Duomo, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Il Palio, Italy, Siena, Tuscany, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Assisi Pictorial

Our second day took us from Perugia to Assisi to spend a day in this wonderful town. This was a trip of hill towns in Tuscany and Umbria.

Assisi is named after the popular Saint Francis. He was the son of a rich silk merchant that gave up his riches to live a life of poverty. Assisi is in the region of Umbria, province of Perugia. There are about 27,600 people living there. This is a mountain town with beautiful small streets, a fort and several churches including the Basilica of St. Francis.

Outside of Assisi is a wonderful large cathedral. Inside this church is the small original church of St. Francis. This is well worth a stop on your way to Assisi.

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Contains the original church of St. Francis

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First view of Assisi on a hill – On the left you can just make out the very large church of St. Francis in Assisi where he is buried

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Fun in Assisi on a Merry-go-round

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Another church in Assisi

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Stairs in Assisi

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Streets in Assisi

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Piazza in Assisi

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More stairs

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Streets lead through an ancient wall

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The Basilica of St. Francis opened 1253

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A wedding in Assisi

Assisi is a place of St. Francis but it is also a great hill town in Umbria. It is fun to walk the streets, eat in the piazza and watch life and sometimes a wedding go on around you. This is a romantic town worth a visit.

In the afternoon we reluctantly left Assisi and drove to Cortona for the night. More on Cortona tomorrow. Parking in Assisi is in a lot outside the city walls. There are stairs up to the streets of Assisi.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Assisi, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Parking Garage, Romance, Small Towns, Traveling without a tour, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Early Etruscan Life

Before the Romans there were the Etruscans. They were an advanced people. They built some great cities like Pompeii. This civilization lived in ancient Italy in the current areas of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. It started just after the Iron age and last up to the Roman period.

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Livescience” has an article on early Etruscan life. It was titled “Skeleton of early Prince Reveals Etruscan Life”. The Etruscans they are talking about lived between 616 & 579 BC. That’s a long time ago. If you have been to Pompeii or are planning a trip to Naples or Rome Italy, go and see Pompeii. It’s that famous city that was destroyed by the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. It was not destroyed by lava but very hot volcanic ash that covered the entire city killing everyone inside. After they found this remarkable city they dug out the ash and discovered a modern city. Some of the things that were amazing to us were:

  1. Stone ovens like our brick pizza ovens probably for bread
  2. Speed bumps to slow down the horse and carriages inside the city
  3. A water gravity system that when turned on cleaned the streets automatically
  4. Homes that were very large and beautiful. Several we would love to live in today
  5. Graffiti on the walls as a form of communication
  6. Hotels
  7. Theaters
  8. Hotels catering to prostitution

Don’t miss this wonderful glimpse into the past.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Etruscan, Europe, Italy, Lazio, Pompeii, Tuscany, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Orvieto, A perfect city

English: Facade of Orvieto Cathedral.

English: Facade of Orvieto Cathedral. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of our favorite side trips from Rome is Orvieto. It is an easy train ride out of Rome.

Italy is famous for its hill-top towns. They were built high up to protect from invaders and pirates. Some cities have two parts, one at the sea as a port and the other high up on a hill-top. As invaders were coming, the town people went to the hill-top part to protect themselves. Orvieto is a hill-top town between Florence and Rome in the province of Umbria. It is easy to get to by car or train. The train and car parking is at the base of the mountain. There is a funicular that travels up the hill to the town above.

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The views are spectacular from any wall around the town. The town is made of small cobblestone streets with great shopping and dinning. If you can only do a day travel to Orvieto, take an early train and stay until after dinner. The Duomo (Cathedral) is amazing and incredibly large. It sits on a small piazza against one of the town walls. There is a small hotel and restaurant on the piazza as well. One has to marvel at how they built such a structure high up on a hill.

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The town only allows local residents cars to drive up the windy road to the top. You can see residence walking up and down this road during the day. We took the train from Rome to Orvieto and returned to Rome in same day. The trip through the mountains was enjoyable. This is a city worth seeing and exploring. You do NOT need a guide! Just enjoy the city. Look at the wonderful leather goods and ceramics. Eat lunch and dinner at a restaurant, Trattoria or cafe. In the morning stop at a bar for coffee and a pastry. Don’t forget the wonderful local white wine from Orvieto.

Orvieto has a main road that leads from the fort and funicular to the wall at the back of town. In the middle at the clocktower, turn left on a street that leads to the Duomo piazza. All along the main road are restaurants, bars and shopping. On the side road to Duomo is additional shops and restaurants. Off these main roads are smaller roads with even more shops and restaurants. Orvieto has great ceramics for sale.

Enjoy your trip!

Categories: Duomo, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Orvieto, Rome, Small Towns, Traveling without a tour, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Orvieto, Italy

Orvieto is a small mountain top town in Umbria. It is north of Rome and can be easily gotten to by car or train. The train station and free parking lot are at the base of the butte. The butte is of limestone and volcanic ash. It goes straight up on all sides and town sits on the top. It is flat and easy to walk. From the train station or parking lot take the funicular up the butte to the town. There is a bus that will shuttle you to the piazza with the duomo (cathedral). You can easily walk around this town.

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Funicular

There is a large fort at the top of the funicular. Inside you have great views down to the train station and countryside. Walking straight out of the funicular is Corso Cavour, follow this to the bell tower in the center of the city and make a left at Via del Duomo. The duomo is in a Piazza at the end of this road.

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                                          Bell tower                                      Duomo

The duomo is so large it is hard to believe it is in this small city. On Via del Duomo there are ceramic and leather shops with fantastic local products. Restaurants abound in this area. In Piazza Duomo there is a small trattoria. You can eat outside with great views of the duomo.

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Trattoria

Walk the narrow streets and enjoy this great city. If you go back to Corso Cavour and go left to the end, you are at the back side of the city with views of the countryside.

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Countryside Views

 This is a city worth a stop. If you have time spend a night here and get to know the local people. As you ride the funicular down you are a little sad that you are leaving Orvieto. There is a fantastic local white wine here called Orvieto and Orvieto Classico. What a romantic place!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Duomo, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Orvieto, Romance, Rome, Small Towns, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Some of our Favorite Italian Cities

We love large and small Italian cities. We love both mountain cities and beach cities. Italy has it all! Rome, Naples, Venice and Florence are must see cities. They have great museums, architecture and food but after you have seen the top touristic cities where do you go? Italy has a second level of great cities and after those there are thousands of small cities some have never seen tourists. Here are my top second run cities in Italy:

  1. San Gimignano – This is George’s favorite city anywhere. He fell in love with it long before it became a tourist destination. It originally started as an Etruscan village in 3 century BC. This should be on everyone’s bucket list.
  2. Trastevere Rome – This is not a city but a section of Rome often overlooked. It is a maze of small streets that are now home to many artists and great restaurants. There is good night life here as well. We allowed ourselves to wonder and get lost. When it was time to return to our hotel, we turned on a map app on our iPhones and in walk mode just walked out and back to our hotel.
  3. Orvieto –  This is a small walkable city on top of a butte of volcanic tuff. It is in the province of Umbria north of Rome. In the center is a huge Duomo (Cathedral) of marble. There are great shops and restaurants here as well. From the train stain at the bottom of the butte, is a funicular to the city above. The views are amazing.
  4. Ravello – This is another city high up above the city of Amalfi on the Amalfi Coast. There is a winding road up but the views and food are worth the trip. You can take a bus (often very crowded) or a taxi.
  5. Largo (Lake) Maggiore –  The second largest lake in Italy (the first is Largo Garda). It boarders Italy on the south and Switzerland and the Alps on the north. This is home of the rich and famous. Small Italian wooden boats cruise the lake in the warm summer while you can still see snow high up in the Alps.
  6. Abruzza – This is a region of Italy with many towns in it. It lies on Italy’s East coast (bordering the Adriatic Sea). The western border of Abuzzi is only 50 miles from Rome. On its Adriatic shores are many resorts and beaches.
  7. Genoa – Is part of the Italian Riviera. It is close to the French border and the French Riviera. It was founded by the Greeks but probably served as a small port for the Etruscans as well.

Go to Italy and relive history. Take your history out of the books and onto Ita;y’s beautiful landscapes. Enjoy and be romantic!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Beaches, Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, GPS, Italy, Mountain Towns, Naples, Orvieto, Rome, San Gimignano, Small Towns, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuscany

Tuscany, Italy is a beautiful and romantic place. No visit here would be complete without a stop in Firenze (Florence). Florence was the capital of the renaissance movement. It has great architecture and museums. The Statue of David by Michelangelo is magnificent. It is located in the museum at the Accademia Gallery. In this museum there are other statues that were mistakes in the creation of David. They are also very beautiful. The Statue of David was replicated many times. There is a copy in the main Piazza near the Ponte Vecchio (old Bridge). The Uffizi and the many Churches and museums are worth a stop. Buy a good guide-book and tour this wonderful city.

I enjoy other places in Tuscany as well:

  1. San Gimignano – This medieval walled mountain town is my favorite place. It was a great secret but over the last 10-15 years the tour buses have found it. You must park outside the city walls and walk in. There are two main entrances to the city (one in the north and one in the south). Don’t be afraid to wonder off the two main streets. The small side streets are romantic and provide a feel of the original life here.
  2. Siena – A beautiful old city that is easy to get to off the Autostrada. The Palio is a special event in Siena. It is the racing of the horses around Piazza del Campo. The duomo is magnificent as well. Be romantic and walk the small streets of Siena.
  3. Cortona – This small beautiful city was made famous by Frances Mayes book, “Under the Tuscan Sun” and the movie that followed. Cortona is a small city with wonderful hills and views all around. Get out and walk! You can see the house used in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” but it is difficult to find. Ask the tourist office in Cortona.
  4. Perugia – OK Perugia is near and dear to my heart and my sweet tooth. This is Italy’s chocolate city! It is where Perugina chocolates (Bacci) are made. You can tour the plant and taste chocolates. The Perugina factory is a short drive outside of Perugia. The city is divided into two sections. One up on a hill and other down at the base of the hill. There are escalators to transport you up and down. The main square is old and worth a visit.
  5. Assisi – This city is the home and burial grounds for Saint Frances. His church is really two cathedrals one on top of the other. It is massive and worth a visit. The town is old and has many interesting sites. Park and take a walking tour (like the one in the link above). Wikitravel has walking guides and things to see.
  6. Montepulciano – This is where Italy’s best and most expensive wine (Brunello) comes from. Many consider this city to be one of Tuscany’s most attractive cities. It is built up on a mountain with views of the area around it.

This general area of Tuscany is also home to Italy’s best Chianti wines. Look for bottles and wineries displaying the black cock. It is a symbol of the best made wines.

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Chocolate, Europe, Italy, Mountain Towns, Parking Garage, Small Towns, Tuscany, Umbria, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Umbria’s Hill Top Towns

Italy has hill-top towns everywhere. Most are medieval in origin. The Umbria region is no exception. Travel, wrote a BLOG on hill-top towns to visit when you are in Umbria. Montefalco is one of my favorite cities. It is old but looks artistic in design. You can plan trips from a central location and see many of these great hill-top cities. Rent a car and drive through the country side and visit as many as you can. You will feel you have been taken back in time to an earlier time in human existence. Enjoy it, eat the local food, drink the local wine and speak with the local people. This is how to experience the real Italy.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Umbria, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Last BLOG in series on Perugia Chocolate

English: View on Perugia, Italy and the Church...

English: View on Perugia, Italy and the Church of San Spirito (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kace has a BLOG and wonderful pictures of Perugia, Italy and its wonderful chocolate. This is a place not to be missed. It is in Umbria and is an easy drive and very scenic from Orvieto, Florence, Siena or Rome. If you hate chocolate this is not a city for you but for everyone else go and enjoy.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Chocolate, Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, Italy, Perugia, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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