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September 2008 Archives

September 2, 2008

Underground Perugia

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Something that I love about Perugia, where I'll be staying in a few weeks' time, is its many layers of history. Sections of Perugia date back to the Etruscans, who lived in parts of Umbria long before the Romans.

Indeed, visitors to Perugia, the capital city of Umbria, can see evidence of Etruscan walls and arches; of Roman structures; medieval buildings; and can admire Renaissance art and architecture.

These photos (above and below) from Wikipedia, show an interesting layer of medieval Perugia. The city has not just preserved this historic area but indeed, has turned it into a kind of working museum by running through it a system of escalators that link old and modern parts of the city. To use these escalators, visitors and residents must cut through the remains of a medieval neighborhood which was razed to construct the Rocca Paolina, once a fortress lording it over Perugians more than 500 years ago.

Continue reading "Underground Perugia" »

September 4, 2008

Am I cheating on Umbria with a day trip to Arezzo?

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I realize that I’m pushing the boundaries of “slow travel” with my itinerary that not only starts and ends in Florence but includes a day trip to Arezzo.

In my defense, I’m only flying into Florence and then heading straight down to Assisi. No real Tuscany Time. And the vast majority of my trip will be spent in Umbria. But I must confess I’m planning a day trip from Perugia to the city of Arezzo, which is only an hour away by train but is, in fact, across the border in Tuscany.

Now, instead of fretting over whether my travels are really slow enough, I should be prepping for Arezzo. I know nothing really about Arezzo, except that it is where I’ll find Piero della Francesca’s Renaissance fresco cycle, The Legend of the True Cross.

Continue reading "Am I cheating on Umbria with a day trip to Arezzo?" »

September 5, 2008

The forty-three meme

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Here’s an interesting list of 43 beautiful, famous or perhaps even infamous piazzas, squares, or plazas from around the world.

I copied this list from Deborah’s blog Old Shoes, New Trip. http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/deborah/

As Deborah suggested, I’ve put an asterix besides the places I’ve visited. I’ve got 19 so far, which clearly means I need to do a lot more travelling! She also suggests the following rules for other bloggers who want to play the game!

"Copy this list into your own blog and put an asterisk after each city square you've actually spent time in. (Riding past in a taxi or bus doesn't count.) Please include the link back to my blog in your own entry and don't forget to come back to and leave me a comment so I can find your blog and admire your count."

By the way, the photo above is of Maria-Theresien-Platz in Wien, or Vienna. #28 on the list, and very lovely.


1.Piazza Del Campo, Siena, Italy *
2- Piazza Della Signoria, Florence, Italy *
3- Staromestske Namesti, Prague, Czech Republic
4- Markt, Bremen, Germany
5- Grote Markt, Brussels, Belgium
6- Piazza and Piazzetta San Marco, Venice, Italy *
7- Piazza Del Campidoglio, Rome, Italy *
8- Krasnaya ploshchad (also known as Red Square) Moscow, Russia*
9- Sultanahmet Meydani (aka Hippodrome of Constantinople), Istanbul, Turkey*
10- Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy *
11- St. Peter's Square, The Vatican *
12- Place Des Vosges, Paris, France*
13- Place Vendome, Paris, France*
14- Place Des Terreaux, Lyon, France
15- Place Stanislas, Nancy, France
16- Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
17- Schlossplatz, Stuttgart, Germany
18- Plaza De La Constitucion, Mexico City, Mexico*
19- Praca do Comercio, Lisbon, Portugal
20- Trafalgar Square, London, UK*
21- Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin, Germany
22- Konigsplatz, Munich, Germany*
23- Winter Palace Square, St. Petersburg, Russia
24- Piccadilly Circus, London, UK*
25- Piazza Duomo, Milan, Italy
26- Piazza Dell'Unita D'Italia, Trieste, Italy
27- Theaterplatz, Dresden, Germany
28- Maria Theresien Platz, Vienna, Austria*
29- Hosok Tere, Budapest, Hungary
30- Plaza De Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
31- Times Square, New York City, USA *
32- Tian'anmen Square, Beijing, China *
33- Praca Dos Tres Poderes, Brasilia, Brazil
34- Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, Canada *
35- City Hall Plaza, Boston, USA
36- Plateau Beaubourg, Paris, France
37- Tsukuba Center Square, Tsukuba, Japan
38- Place Du Nobre D'Or, Montpellier, France
39- Placa Dels Paisos Catalans, Barcelona, Spain
40- Parliament Square, Canberra, Australia
41- California Plaza, Los Angeles, USA
42- Schouwburgplein, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
43- Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany*


September 9, 2008

How will I get these on the train?

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Okay, I don't have this much luggage. And, alas, I don't own this beautiful set of Globe-Trotter luggage either. I wish I did -- the cases look fabulous. This British company has been producing hand-made luxury cases since 1897. Queen Elizabeth chose Globe-Trotter for her honeymoon luggage, how is that for an endorsement?

Sadly, Globe-Trotter is far out of my league. If I could afford such great luggage, I wouldn't need to worry about overpacking and how I'll schlep my suitcases on and off Italian trains this weekend (and in the weeks to follow!)

Now to my point: what to pack, what to leave behind, and how to keep my suitcase under the airline limit of 23 kg (about 50 pounds.)

Continue reading "How will I get these on the train?" »

This is the part where I leave for Italy!

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So, tomorrow I am off to Italy again, to Umbria with a few days in Tuscany. Unfortunately, I am at that stage where all of the small, last-minute details and concerns threaten to swamp the excitement I should be feeling about the trip. This, of course, always happens to me, so I try not to be too concerned about it. Instead, I aim to focus on the wonderful sites I hope to visit, and on the experiences I expect to have and try not to fret over whether I should pack one more (or one less) sweater!

Actually, it's very chilly and rainy as I write this, and so I'm projecting that onto my Italian plans as well as onto my final packing. I have to shake off the urge to thrown my winter coat and boots into my suitcase, and focus instead on photos like this one of Spello, taken by Bill Thayer. Spello is one of the towns I'll be visiting while I'm in Umbria next week and it looks so beautiful! And it's hilly -- which means lots of hard walking, which in turn, should mean that I can silence my small, internal nag that constantly counts calories and tries to stop me from eating gelato.

I'll also try to focus my thoughts on other towns that I hope I'll have time to visit, such as Gubbio, which I visited last year and loved; and on Todi (seen below:)

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And from Gubbio, here's a fanciful depiction of St. Luke.:

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September 15, 2008

Arrival in Assisi

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At last, I'm in Assisi, and it's pouring rain! But so what -- it's Italy!!!!

My flight to get here was a bit of a grind--Montreal to Zurich, Zurich to Florence. I landed in Florence about 9 a.m. on Sunday and had 3 hours to wait until the next train to Assisi. (Sunday schedules!) So I left my ample luggage with the train station's baggage claim area and spent a couple of hours drinking coffee and prowling central Florence.

I most wanted to see Santa Maria Novella in Florence, but of course, the church was closed to visitors for Sunday morning Mass. Ah well, the sun was shining and outdoors, I was getting lots of sun right after landing which was great for fighting off jet-lag and resetting my body to Italian time. (My heart, of course, constantly beats on Italian time.)

Continue reading "Arrival in Assisi " »

September 16, 2008

Would you believe.....light lasagne?

On my first full day in Assisi, I left town. I didn't go far, mind you -- just out to Letizia's agriturismo for another fabulous cooking class. Letizia is, of course, known to Slow Travellers by the name of her agriturismo, alla Madonna del Piatto.

This was my second class with Letizia, who not only gives wonderful advice and a wonderful cooking class, but even helped me set up my Italian cell phone. And gave me a jar of fabulous homemade fig jam to take home. I may now call her St. Letizia!

Continue reading "Would you believe.....light lasagne? " »

September 19, 2008

Finally, frescos

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While cooking with Letizia was a highlight of my days in Assisi, I did also have time to spend in the Duomo and in the Basilica of San Francesco. Finally, I could enjoy some frescos and they were fantastic.

There really is so much to see in Assisi, if you love art. It was such a change this year to experience Assisi without the large crowds that hit town last year when I visited, at the same time as the Pope. This year, it wasn't hard to get tables in restaurants I also had time to peer through the glass at the Oratorio dei Pellegrini and admire the delightful, 15th frescos of some adorable camels being received by St. Anthony Abbot. According to legend, the camels had journeyed to bring provisions to the monks. (I was really delighted to see the camels reappear in frescos in Montefalco, but more on that later.)

Continue reading "Finally, frescos" »

Sometimes it's very good to have a car

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I left Assisi (shown above) Wednesday morning, taking a very short train ride to the city of Foligno where I had booked a rental car for the next 3 days to use from my base in the village of Bevagna. I had planned this all carefully -- Foligno isn't too big a city, but it does have a rental car office, which neither Assisi nor Bevagna can boast. Further, it's only about 7 kilometres from Foligno to Bevagna, so I could pick up a car, drive to Bevagna and use it as my base for the two very short day trips I had planned to the nearby hill towns of Montefalco and Spello. I had long wanted to see these towns, but they're tough to reach without a car.

Continue reading "Sometimes it's very good to have a car" »

September 21, 2008

Things really DO go better with Spello!

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Okay, I'm really dating myself with that reference to an old Jell-o advertisement But it fits -- I really loved the town of Spello. Despite the fact that it poured rain the entire day that I was in town, I thought Spello was really beautiful and its art was fantastic. Plus, I had a wonderful lunch there, at La Cantina; I didn't get lost or have any trouble parking the giant BMW;and in no way did I embarass myself (at least, that I'm aware of.)

That hasn't always been the case on this trip, I'm afraid. (How's that for foreshadowing?)

Continue reading "Things really DO go better with Spello!" »

September 22, 2008

What's so great about Perugia?

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Where do I begin to list the things that I love about Perugia? Since I arrived here on Saturday (in some shame, after the unpleasantness in Montefalco) I've cheered myself up with some great GROM gelato, drank a fair amount of grechetto and limoncello, eaten some really great food, and seen some wonderful art.

I've also found myself trotting up and down that damned acqueduct more times than I would have thought possible! In fact, I'm beginning to realize that this structure is actually an important link between the upper reaches of the historic centre and the university district, and not just a way for visitors to burn calories!

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September 28, 2008

Chuffed about ceramics

I have been a woeful correspondent in these last few days of my Italian trip. I've been distracted by much shopping, eating and admiring of some of Florence's great art. And tomorrow, alas, I wrap up this trip.

But I just had to say a few words about what a fabulous day I had on Thursday, in Deruta (of all places!) I hadn't really planned to visit Deruta, the small Italian city that I believe is one of the great centres of Italian ceramic production. I had a definite plan to shop for ceramics during this trip, but with close to 200 ceramic shops, I feared Deruta itself would be way too intimidating.

However, this day demonstrated yet again that sometimes during travel, the things we don't expect to happen, or that we expect will be awful, actually prove to be quite the reverse.

Fellow Slow Travel blogger Mary T., a creator of the beautiful Genius Loci agriturismo near Bevagna, took me under her wing and we spent a really delightful day in Deruta (now that's a phrase I didn't think I would ever write!)

Continue reading "Chuffed about ceramics " »

September 30, 2008

I've landed back in autumn....

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Re-entry really isn't much fun (as Brad recently remarked on another blog entry!) I landed back in Montreal Monday evening and was greeted by autumn colours. Beautiful, but I'm definitely not ready for the end of summer. Tights and heels were not comfortable attire for my walk in to work this morning. But, they're now necessary. (Several loads of laundry is also necessary, alas.)

I'd really rather be back in Italy right now, even if the days were getting shorter and cooler. Perhaps I'm just in withdrawal today from good coffee and great gelato!

Continue reading "I've landed back in autumn...." »

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