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Report 472: Back to Uni to Learn Italian - A Month in Perugia

By Pamela R from Sydney, Australia, Fall 1998

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Page 22 of 31: Tuesday 22nd September - Spello

As Margaret had decided to go to Rome on the train today, armed with as many directions and suggestions as we thought appropriate to burden her with, we decided to head off, after Pamela’s morning class, for Spello. Unfortunately we just missed the bus to the station and, realising that the next one may just miss the train, we scanned the timetable and discovered there was also a bus direct to Spello from Piazza Partigiani. We hot-footed it up through the arch and all the way through town, arriving just in time for the bus, which took an hour.

Spello was beautiful. From the Roman town at the foot of the hill we entered through the Porta Consolare in the original Roman wall. The houses are all built of the golden stone of the area and the cobbled streets of the medieval town on the hill are completely free of cars.

The 12th century Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore is rightly famous for its beautiful frescoes by Pinturicchio in the Baglioni Chapel and a fragment of floor dating from 1566 made of tiles from Deruta. There was an interesting marble font which we couldn’t resist stroking, as so many must have done before us, contributing a bit more weathering to its smooth-edged surface.

Further up the hill the Chiesa di Sant’Andrea was rather more friendly and personal and had some interesting modern artwork, obviously locally inspired and relating to the need for community support and courage after the recent earthquake.

We passed an enoteca as we ventured off down a narrow side street and were exhorted to come in and try their produce. A few others followed us in and we were offered tastings of olive oil and wine, complemented with small savouries and bruschetta. We saw where the olives were pressed on a time-worn stone press, now visible beneath a glass panel in the floor of the building, with channels cut into the stone surrounds to carry the oil to vats in the cellar. We bought a jar of the truffle spread which we’d tasted on the bruschetta, but sadly, towards the end of the trip when we were at Molino d’Era near Volterra, we discovered that the jar had leaked and it had to be discarded.

By now it was lunch time and we happened upon a small café with a delightful tree-shaded garden overlooking the valley where we passed a pleasant hour or so before having to return for Pamela’s late afternoon class. Reaching the train station we found the ticket office closed for renovations, but with notices posted warning of the fines for travelling without a ticket. If we returned to the café several blocks back where tickets were available we would undoubtedly miss the train. Observing our dilemma, two young lads saved the day by offering to sell us tickets from their supply (they were obviously locals who bought their tickets in bulk). We were very grateful for their offer and they were very eager to pose for a photograph when it was suggested.

Returning by bus from Perugia’s railway station, Peter alighted at Piazza Fortebraccio and Pamela carried on towards Porta Pesa. Thinking that the bus would go down past the Uni, she didn’t get off at the Porta Pesa stop and then found the bus speeding off in the other direction. The next stop was quite some distance away which meant a long walk back in the heat and late arrival for class.

Shortly after arriving back at the apartment, Peter was surprised when Margaret turned up. After a problem with getting bus tickets in the early morning she’d not gone to Rome after all. The pity was that if we’d known she was still in Perugia she could have accompanied us to Spello.

In the evening we all walked up to La Botte for a meal where we couldn’t help keeping half an eye on the soccer on the TV above the doorway (which seemed to be consuming the attention of the proprietors and staff).

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