Monday in Montefalco

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As often happens on the second night in Europe, I woke up midway through the night. Got up, read, then went back to bed and overslept. So a leisurely start to the day. But since it was dreary and beginning to mist, a short jaunt seemed in order. We drove the short distance through the valley through Foglino, then past Bevagna, and then up the steep winding road through vineyards and olive groves to Montefalco, the “Balcony” of Umbria, at least according to the local tourist boards.

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Montefalco was a wealthy town during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, with several notable churches. We parked just outside the walls, and walked up the steep cobbled street, past many souvenir stands and some shops selling lovely linen textiles or the local wines. (Now I’m kicking myself for not looking at textiles. Let’s blame Larry, whose eyes were glazing over when I looked in shop windows.) At the top we reached pretty Piazza del Commune, surrounded by old stone buildings.

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We walked down to the Museo, attached to the church of San Francesco. The Museum was eerily empty, not large but had some interesting paintings, objects from daily life, (Hey, textiles!) and downstairs through rooms of stone fragments,  the monks’ old wine cellar with ancient wine presses and equipment.

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The church was built in the mid 14th century, and has many wonderful frescoes, some recently restored, others damaged or softly fading into the walls. The main apse of scenes from ST Francis’s life fairly glows.

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Side chapels hold more frescoes, I was particularly fascinated by several depicting Hell, complete with raging demons, snakes, and people having a great old time being devoured.

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I also loved this early 16th century painting, which according to my guidebook tells the story of Mary and a misbehaving child, with his mother threatening the child with the devil if he doesn’t get his act together. Effective parenting? Who knows.

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Across the church is a serene Nativity fresco by Perugino, with Lake Trasimeno in the background.

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By now it was lunchtime, so we crossed the Piazza to L’Archemista, a restaurant several friends had recommended. It wasn’t raining yet, so we took a chance and sat outside. We shared a special antipasto of grilled vegetables with thin slices of pecorino and two vegetable sauces. Really light and good. The Larry had a special of beef topped with red onions (grown locally and harvested now, we’ve seen signs for a red onion festa) and grapes; and I had a salad of arugula, with slices of pork, pine nuts and parmesean. Two glasses of really nice wine. The owner came out, peered down the street at the sky, and started hustling people and settings inside. Larry looked at his weather app, which showed no rain. So much for tech. Immediately, the rain started, and so the staff made room for everyone inside, where we finished up with a great dessert of warm chocolate and pear cake, served with cinnamon gelato.

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By now it was absolutely pouring, so we poured ourselves into the car, and drove to clouded-in Spello  to dry off and spend the rest of the afternoon reading.  Lentil soup for dinner, and a pretty sunset.

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