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A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Archive for the tag “Perugia”

Alone in Assisi

IMG_4170It had been a very long time since I spent any time alone. Not just during the day alone, but really alone. Sleep alone. Get up when I wanted to, alone. Not make dinner for anyone, alone. Do something on a whim, alone. After so many months where my life has centered around caring for Michael, I needed a break. So I decided to take a weekend and plan a solo get away. Where could I travel to easily in Italia by train, be safe and get some quiet time? Florence is only 1.5 hrs by train from Roma, but it seemed too busy. Ah ha! Assisi has been on my list of places to visit, so it seemed like the perfect solo getaway.

Through Booking.com I found a very inexpensive hotel (less than 100€ for 2 nights and it was clean and quaint), the Hotel Berti,  located just inside the ancient walls of the old city. I bought a train ticket online and early on a Friday morning off I went. The train ride from Rome took about 2 hrs, and with a first class ticket, I was comfortable enough. The walled city of Asisi sits up on a hill, terraced under Mt. Subasio. It was easy to find the city bus that goes from the train station up to the old city, and the hotel was just a 2 minute walk from the main bus stop.

Assisi, is best known as the birthplace of St. Francesco (known at Saint Francis of Assisi, but interestingly born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone and nicknamed “Francesco” by his father). He was born into a wealthy family in approximately 1181. As a young adult he experienced a vision that led him to renounce his wealth, begin to preach, and live a life of poverty. He founded three Catholic orders, and while never ordained as a priest, he was pronounced a saint in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX. Francesco lived his life in such a way as to imitate the life of Christ and carry out the work of Christ. He also experienced the stigmata, the wounds of Christ.

The Basilica of St. Francesco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an amazing church and an important site for Christian pilgrims. There are actually 2 churches, the Lower Church and the Upper Church and a crypt below which contains the tomb and remains of St. Francesco. There is also a Franciscan Friary that is incorporated as part of the Basilica complex. The Lower Church is amazing for it’s frescos, which highlight the development of medieval art during the period. There is also a very simple room that was originally used as a meeting room for the friars, which today holds artifacts from Francesco’s life. I took a lot of photos which you can see below.

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There are many churches in Assisi and I visited another important Basilica in the walled ancient city, the Basilica of Saint Clare, who was a follower of Francesco. Her tomb lies in the crypt below and was quite beautiful and moving. I also visited San Rufino Cathedral, built in 1140, which is famous for housing the christening font where St. Clare and St. Francesco were baptized. The Temple of Minerva, from the first century sits next to the Civic Tower in the Piazza del Comune, and was reconverted in the 16th century into what is today the St. Maria Sopraminerva Church.

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View from Perugia

I ended up on Saturday taking the train to Perugia, I guess, just because I could! I met a lovely American couple, Jason and Melissa, who were on a short day trip prior to her running in the Rome Marathon the next day. I enjoyed a pleasant, but cold day hanging out and lunching with them before saying goodbye.

Assisi has many more sights to see than I was able to do in a few short days. I ate well, particularly at Risorante La Pallota where I met the neighbors fluffy dog and had visions of my mama while eating a Umbrian/Tuscan chicken liver pate (it was as good as my mama’s chopped liver!). I spent a few evenings with Nila, the owner at Bibenda Wine Bar, which is rated as the number one restaurant in Assisi for a good reason (although interestingly, she serves mainly appetizers to go along with her extensive selection of delicious wines). I stumbled upon a modern art show and wandered the city’s streets.

Me and the dog!

Me and the dog!

Many people talk about the spiritual energy of Assisi and I was curious about how I would feel there. Assisi is famous for it’s religious institutions, which naturally attract people interested in living a more spiritual, than secular life. While you do see many tourists walking around, priests, nuns and friars are a very common part of the landscape of the city. When the day tripping tourists leave, there is a calm and quiet that settles over the city. Sitting in one of the Basilica or churches you do feel the energy of the millions of prayers having been spoken within.

While I enjoyed my time alone, and I enjoyed Assisi, at the core, I am a nature kind of gal. Sedona still holds my heart and my spirit soars when I am there. I’ll be back home there for a visit soon. Red rocks…here I come.

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Umbrian Adventure

Perugia

Our wine supply from Tuscany was running low, and while there are good wines available from regions closer to Rome, we decided to travel to Perugia, the capital of Umbria, and see what we could find.

Umbria (pronounced “oombria”) is the region to the north of Lazio (where Rome is located) and to the east of Tuscany (Florence and Sienna are a few of the main cities in Tuscany). It lies to the west of the Marches, which includes Italy’s eastern coast. Umbria is known for its green rolling hills, and is home to the Apennines mountains. Assisi, the home of St. Francis, is located in Umbria. There’s great information about Umbria available on many websites…I happen to be a fan of Wikipedia.

We wanted to visit a winery on our way to Perugia, a 2 hour drive from Rome, so I consulted the web and found a nice website, Wine Trail Traveler, that listed some wineries to visit. I picked the Lungarotti Winery in Torgiano, because it looked to offer a nice selection of wines and to be just a short drive off the main road. Knowing we would be arriving near lunchtime, I also searched for a restaurant in Torgiano in which to eat.

It turned out that the winery was closed when we arrived, so we headed to lunch, hoping to visit it afterwards. TripAdvisor had recommended Albergo Restaurant Siro as the best restaurant in town, and it is as fabulous as it’s reviews. Fabrizio our waiter was top-notch and delightful. We oohed and ahhed over the appetizer plate and I almost had an orgasm while eating my sunflower ravioli with truffles. The prices seemed so cheap compared to Roma! Fabrizio indulged me by letting Michael take our picture, which I wanted after hearing his story about his heart transplant some years ago. Amazing! The restaurant was so good that we ate there again for lunch on our way home the next day!

Brufani Palace pool

Pleasantly stuffed from lunch, we again tried to visit the Lungarotti Winery and it still wasn’t open, so we decided to just head to the Brufani Palace Hotel in Perugia where we would spend the night. It’s rated to be a 5 star hotel, but seemed a bit tired. Our room, while small, did have a lovely view of Perugia and the Umbrian hills. There was an indoor pool/spa that had a glass bottom in one section that overlooked Etruscan ruins and we were lucky enough to be the only ones using it at the time.

We wandered the streets of the old city in Perugia, which sits high up on the hill. There’s a series of escalators that were built running through a medevial fortress, which we explored, that brings you up from the bus terminal below to the city center. We browsed through a local crafts fair going on in the old city, bought and ate hand made Perugian chocolates, and  enjoyed wine that evening at a local enoteca (wine shop/wine bar).

Umbrian Sunset

Saturday morning we continued to explore the old city and stumbled upon a small food market where we bought fresh green olives, delicious biscotti, amazing locally made pecorino cheese and inexpensive wines from a small nearby winery. On our way back to Rome in the afternoon, as I said, we again ate at the Albergo Restaurante Siro in Torgiano. The waiters winked at us upon our return, but based on it’s reviews, we weren’t the first people to eat there days in a row!

Again, the Lugorotti winery wasn’t open! Our friend Riccardo, however, had recommended we visit the MonteVibiano Winery near Marciano, so we set the navigator and wandered through the beautiful green countryside to the winery. They were providing a wine lesson and tasting to a group of restaurant workers from Germany during our visit, so we were the only tasters at the counter and were lucky enough to be offered tastings from their selections, along with those normally offered by the winery. We bought a few bottles to take home along with boxes of perfectly packaged individual servings of olive oil that had just been pressed the previous day.

While we only touched the tip of the Umbrian “iceberg”, it wetted our appetites for another visit in the future.

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