On Friday, the only thing on the schedule was meeting some people for lunch in the hills above Marsciano. We decided to take the highway up and around instead of the small roads across to the western part of Umbria. In my trip research, I had found mention of an Etruscan archaeological site near Perugia. Always happy to look for something offbeat, we located it on Google Maps, once again braving the Bermuda Triangle of roads surrounding Perugia. After a few roundabots and underpasses, we saw a little brown sign for the Ipogeo di Volumnii near where the train tracks go under an underpass. We pulled into the little parking lot, looked around uncertainly, and then found the little building on the road. Inside was a young woman only too delighted to have visitors, who gave us some printouts in English.
Discovered in 1840 was a set of 2nd and 1st century B.C. Etruscan tombs, containing many funerary tombs with wonderful carvings. All around the new stairs leading down to the main tomb are arranged the urns, grouped by design–medusa heads, carvings of mythological figures, battle scenes, matrimonial figures, floral designs, etc. Worn by time, but exceptionally beautiful. You can go down the steep stairs to see the tomb, which was arranged into rooms with some inscriptions remaining on the walls.
After climbing a path up the hillside above the tombs (with a trucks whizzing by on the overpass) we found an area of more recent excavations, including one where you can go down the earth stairs into a small tomb, which still has the fain carved roof lines that were made to look like wooden beams, and the designs of columns and acorns on the walls.
Down another path is a small museum, which contains more finds, including fragments of metal shinguards, vessels, even an ancient large spinning game. Also here are some particularly well preserved urns, featuring mythological scenes, reclining married couple portraits, and even traced of the original paint. (and oh, a nice clean bathroom)
This is a wonderful place to visit, I highly recommend it.
As we headed toward Deruta, I wanted to revisit one of the churches I had most enjoyed , Santuario Madonna dei Bagni. It is off the E45 highway down a little side road–which has a “road closed” sign on it. We tried accessing the road from the other side, and found another road closed sign. We decided to be Italian and ignore the sign, and found the road continued across the highway, and over to the church–but from the other side, the road was indeed under construction. In any case, we were able to get there.
According the legend, in the 17th century a man found a broken ceramic tile with the picture of the Virgin, and nailed it to a tree. A few years later his wife got ill, and he returned to the tre to pray for her recovery. Upon returning home, he discovered his wife recovered. He had a tile made to thank the Virgin. Since then, people have commissioned ex voto tiles which have been put on the church walls. An Ex Voto was a physical form of prayer to ask for healing, or give thanks after a recovery. All sorts of calamities can be seen on the tiles, which date from 1643 to the present. Prayers for recovery after falls out of windows or off horses, fires, childbirth, farming accidents, war, childhood illness, even car accidents.
Many of the tiles were stolen or broken during a break-in in 1980, but since they were so well documented, they were recreated. You can find the first, original one under glass at the back of the altar. The church is generally open in the mornings, call if you want to be sure of entry. The buildings around the Sanntuario are also home to an organization which helps people, rebuild their lives, you can leave a donation with them.
We drove the short distance into the low hillsides about Marsciano, to the agriturismo restaurant owned by friends of Barb and Art’s. Barb and Art lived in this area for 7 years before moving back to the US a few years ago. Also at the long, fun lunch were Andrew (former fellow Moderator from SlowTrav who has a place in Umbertide) and wife Margaret, and Mac and Karen. Lots of good food, good conversations.
We had made an appointment with Giaccomo at Ceramiche Mori in Deruta at 4, and after some driving back and forth along the road, found the factory door along the side of a building. They don’t ordinarily sell retail, but as we were “friends of friends” we got to see their workshop and look over the display room and commission some pieces. I loved a delicate design of flowers and fruits, which they will use on two platters and a bowl. All at very good prices–as a matter for fact, shipping would be the same cost! They’ll try to finish them before we leave next week so we can take them with us. We also went to Sberna and Ubaldo, two places where I’ve bought in the past. Nothing jumped out at me at Sberna, but I did leave Ubaldo with a bowl and a nice conversation with the owner, who I remembered from our last visit.
Back home, I made some eggplant parmesean using Letizia’s recipe, with a simple salad, a lovely light dinner.