We never quite made it to Perugia on our first visit to Umbria, so we decided to rectify that oversight today. We braved the Bermuda Triangle of tangled access roads our GPS sent us on to try to avoid the morning traffic jams on the outskirts. Got off at Madonna Alta near the Stadio, and parked at one of the huge lots at the MiniMetro train. After realizing that the ticket machine didn’t like our US credit card, we finally managed to get a ticket. The MiniMetro is just that–a tiny, one-car train that zips up a monorail like track up the mountain. At the Pincetto stop at the top, Larry geeked out over the workings of the tracks and wheels. We took a few escalators to get near Corso Vannucci –only afterwards did we realize there was a funicular we could have taken.
We spent some time in Piazza Novembre, taking in the marvelous buildings surrounding the enormous Fountain Maggiore.
We started out in the Gallerria Nazionale in the Palazzo dei Priori, which has room after room of beautiful paintings from the 12th to 15th centuries in roughly chronological order, mostly by Umbrian artists. I loved seeing how styles and techniques developed and flowed through the centuries. Many gorgeous Gothic and Renaissance paintings, with some Mannerist toward the end. Many Peruginos. A few heavily carved wooden pieces, some textiles.
A simple door to the right of the Gallerria leads to the Sala del Collegio della Mercanzia, for the city’s Merchant Guild. Inside is an arched room covered in elaborately carved and inlaid 15th century woodwork.
Just past the Galleria door to the right is the entry to the Collegio del Cambio. You enter to a beautifully paneled little room, which leads to a room smothered in frescoes by Perugino, mixing classical and religious narrative. Mercury and Moses, Jupiter and Jeremiah. There is a guide who points things out in machine-gun rapid Italian. Supposedly one of the panels was painted by a young Raphael. (no photos allowed, so here’s one from the Web)
A tiny chapel in back has frescoes of the life of John the Baptist, complete with a charmingly gruesome beheading scene.
We sat outside on the steps of the Sala dei Notari, watching business people, students, tourists, and families walk by, congregate, and gesture while talking on their cellphones. We once again demonstrated that we fail at selfies.
Up in the Sala dei Notari which was built in the late 13th century are frescoes of the coats of arms of bigwigs of the 13th and 14thcentury, and above, scenes from Aesop’s Fables and the Bible.
We continued walking down the Corso, enjoying the views down from the park at the end. To the left, there’s a nice bar with outside seating overlooking the valley.
For lunch, we walked down a steep hill to Osteria a Priori , recommended by a friend. Upstairs are table under stone arch. A small, local menu, cheerful staff, and good food. We started with a plate three vegetable mixtures–local beans; tomato and bread salad; and a frittata with the local red onions and cheese. Then I had rabbit roasted with olives; and Larry had a filled beef pasta simply sauced with the local red onions. All very good, although I thought the rabbit a just bit oversalted for my taste. Just as enjoyable was watching a young family of infant, mom,dad, and Nonna at the next table. Each taking turns calmly and tenderly caring for a fussy baby while eating, with the dad obviously very engaged and totally comfortable with infant care. And grandma stepping in as needed, but letting these new parents take charge.
We needed to walk off lunch, so decided to head to the Giuditta Brozzetti textile workshop. I used to weave, so really wanted to visit the wotkshop. We walked down many, many steps, and then across the former 15th century aquaduct. My physical therapist will either yell at me or give me a medal. Then up through a University building, and to the workshop, housed in a deconsecrated church.
The founder’s granddaughter Marta runs the shop now, which in her grandmother’s day had nearly 30 women weaving the gorgeous traditional textiles. They were doing a tour for a group when we entered, which they kindly let us join. The designs are elegant, often featuring griffons, simple bands, fruits and flowers. Although she has a 300 year old hand loom, Marta uses the several old jacquard-powered looms from her grandmother’s day. Jaquard looms were among the first mechanized work, first used in the mid 18th century. The multiple harnesses pull harnesses to open or close the warp to weave the designs, with the Jaquard card punched with the pattern to make the harnesses lift the warp as indicated on the card. The weaver still throws the shuttle or uses a fly shuttle for speed, and has the exacting and backbreaking job of threading the hundreds or thousands of weft threads through the heddles. I was reminded of why I stopped weaving.
After leaving, Larry was convinced that he could easily drive back to pick me up. My knees would not complain about being spared the climb. So he headed back up the stairs, took the MiniMetro back down, and then drove to pick me up. Negotiating our way out of the city was a bit hair raising, but we managed. We both enjoyed Perugia, and want to get back on another day to further explore.
Back home through a few raindrops. A small takeout pizza for dinner.