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.
Of course, all my plans have small flaws and this one became apparent immediately. Instead of my little Nissan Micra, Avis presented me with a monster BMW. I mean, this mother is a four-door station wagon. At least it was, until I ripped one door off on a particularly tight corner in Bevagna. (Okay, that never happened, but it came close and I did scrap the fender trying to get in the hotel's tiny parking lot. I've now taken to parking outside the city walls in large municipal lots.)
But the monster car, which starts with a toggle and a push button -- no ignition key -- has gotten me around quite well and it has been interesting to learn the "rules" of the Italian roads. I'll almost be sorry to drop her off tomorrow at Foligno so I can catch the train for a week in Perugia.
Anyway, back to Wednesday. After I checked into comfortable Hotel Brunamonti and changed rooms a couple of times to find the right one, I headed out to the Genius Loci agriturismo to meet the delightful Mary, another Slow Traveller.
Her place is spectacular. High in the hills above Bevagna, the nearby towns of Spello, Montefalco and Bevagna are all spread out at your feet. Assisi can also be seen in the distance. Mary and her family chose the perfect spot and have created a really lovely agriturismo. They also make their own wine and the glass of white offered by her son Michael was fantastic.
I would have bought a bottle, but instead, I was drawn to some stunning tapestries which are hand-woven by an artist in Perugia who works in a deconsecrated church. She is a friend of Mary's, and I hope to meet this artist next week -- especially since I couldn't resist buying one of her tapestries which I plan to frame under glass and display in my home.
Mary, a talented writer and avid student of art history, also encouraged me to take the rental car on the motorway to see San Pietro in Valle. This 8th church is in a stunning, but somewhat remote, spot in mountains and Thursday afternoon, after a morning admiring the frescos in Montefalco, I hit the freeway. Naturally, I got lost and wound up way to hell and gone in Norcia. But no harm done. Eventually, I found the Valnerina region and San Pietro.
The frescos in San Pietro, although badly damaged, were worth the long drive. Actually, the drive was worth it in itself, the mountains are beautiful and the landscape very rugged. I could easily see how it inspired so many artists and the holy women and men (well, mostly men) who the artists followed.
Still, the art in San Pietro didn't grab me quite as much as the Benozzo Gozzoli fresco cycle in the apse of Montefalco's 14th century San Francesco. Indeed, the Montefalco church is absolutely packed with frescos from different artists, including a wonderful Nativity scene by Perugino.
Warning: I think I will do a seperate fresco post soon. And there will be many photos!