Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall Break: Perguia & Orvieto

        For the first few days of my break I spent relaxing in Perugia. Additionally, I had a few day trips planned which--up until now--I hadn't gotten around to.

Day 1:
        The first day, I made a late afternoon excursion to the town of Orvieto--a short hour long train ride out of Perugia. Orvieto is famous for its unbelievable cathedral which took roughly 300 years to build (1290-1609) and includes both Romanesque and Italian Gothic architectural forms... or at least that's what the informational brochure said. To be honest I really don't know much about architecture but still, as I said in my previous post, I like to think that  I can still appreciate it. Thankfully, the church itself is so awesome I didnt really need to investigate the finer details to really find something amazing. Pretty much the only effort required to appreciating this structure is opening your eyes.

This photo just happens to be the only one I have which includes the largest area of the church. Like the Duomo in Florence, this church also includes the alternating stripe patterns, composed of white travertine and green-black basalt, for the flanks of the building (again, this is the brochure talking)--I find this design to be pretty cool. It is only after facing the church from the front though that you can really see why people flock to this church.
         While it may not be noticeable in this photo, each one of the images done above are mosaics. Additionally, there are thousands of sculptures which line the spaces between the mosaics--some of which are no more than the size of my head while others stand over six feet tall. With this much detail its easy to see why it took almost 300 years to build.

DAY 2:

     After riding and then walking around Orvieto for almost six hours, I woke up this morning with very very very sore set of feet. Luckily however, this is nothing a few gallons....I mean, cups of coffee can't fix. Eventually, I worked up the motivation to go out for a ride. Sadly (and I don't know why) I forgot to bring my camera which really sucks since I took a nice excursion into Tuscany whose border is just a few miles north of Lago Trasimeno. This was nice, but the real highlight of the day came at night when my friend Elise and I went looking for a new place to get dinner in Perugia. At first our plan was to check out a new pizza place a few kilometers outside the city center. Instead however we--by pure chance--stumbled into this small store as a way to kill time before going to dinner. Inside was a bunch of local Umbrian products (wine, truffle oils, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, pickled produce, etc.). Shortly after entering we struck up a conversation with the store owner--a young Italian woman who didn't speak much English. Our conversation varied for a few minutes but eventually settled on the products and some of the dried meats she let us sample. After a while she invited us to go upstairs to look around which surprised me since the place was so small I didnt really think an "upstairs" existed. As predicted, the upstairs was pretty much a crawl space with the ceiling only a few feat above out heads. However, packed within this small space were three tables and an older man serving wines and cheese to two patrons already seated. To make a long story short (b/c this is getting long winded) we wound up talking to this guy who gave us a bunch of free wine samples. Eventually, we decided to just stay there for dinner and over the course of two hours we had this really simple (but really good meal) accompanied by several glasses of wine, cured meats, cheeses, and an awesome bruschetta (and i mean awesome!) When it did finally come time to leave, Elise and I were really worried the meal would be really expensive.

It came to 15 Awesome.

The name of the place we went to was called "Il Tempio." The name probably comes from the fact that it's right across the street from the Tempio di San Michele Arcangelo (pictured here:

Anyway, if you're even in Perugia and looking for a good "aperitivo" you need to check this place out. The guys name is Claudio...really nice.

Day 3:

        Other than the days spent traveling on trains, today was probably the worst day of the vacation. While riding, it rained the whole time and in the span of 2.5hrs I got 4 flats before ripping my tire--forcing me to take a train home. Boo. Luckily however, all my sorrows were quickly forgotten by the best pizza I've had in Perugia yet. After missing out on going last night, Elise and I finally made it to a small pizza place called "La Casetta"--a small 'hole-in-the-wall' pizzeria about a kilometer away from Perugia's school for foreigners. This place is so small in fact that you can only order out from there since the space is only big enough for the 4-5 people ordering at once. Both of us ordered the house pizza (apply named "pizza la casetta"). I'll let the pictures do my talking for me since my weak grasp on the English language will do the real thing no justice. 
Please note how the pizza was not cut for us--prompting us to rip it apart with out bare hands. It was somewhat barbaric...but when pizza tastes this good, you too would do anything to get it into bite size pieces. 

Day 4:

        Today was a day which was dedicated solely to riding and finalizing details for my trips to Ascoli Piceno and L'Aquila. Fortunately to counteract the monotony of travel planning I had an AWESOME ride around Lago Trasimeno to the town of Castiglione del Lago. The first third of this ride was done on the same roads as the one which brought me into Tuscany just a few days before. However, instead of heading north towards Cortona, I instead went south--thereby remaining in Umbria. Along the way I took some pretty cool photos of the the lake and the surrounding small towns. Since its no longer the summer season, this part of Umbria is pretty empty of both cars and people...two things which I could go without. Here are a few of my favorite photos:

Day 5:

        I wont go into a lot of detail about my use of the Italian public transport system. The one point that I will make though--for any future travelers reading this blog--is that TrenItalia (the major train service in Italy) is ALSO a bus service. How do I know? Well, let me just say that it took a few shouting matches with conductors and ticket agents to figure this out. Ill leave out the finer details of our conversations....just know hang gestures were involved. This shouldn't come as a surprise though since ALL Italian conversations involve hand gestures--some nicer than others.
        However, even though a bus is a much less efficient form of transport, it did offer a better opportunity to see the landscape. Notice how the trees are starting to change colors--like back home. It was images like these that made me realize I picked the right place to travel.

Since moving to Colorado I haven't really experienced a good fall like those back in New England. That all changed when I got to the Marche region though since this place could easily be described as the "Vermont" of Italy.
 Here is the actual town of Ascoli Piceno. This is the Piazza Del Popolo (Piazza of the People). I'm no photographer, but I somehow got this photo to look GOOD! As a way to celebrate my new found art skills, I decided to indulge on the local specialty of lamb stuffed fried olives pictured here about the regional seal. A perfect way to end the night...and this post.

Until next time,


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