Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Yesterday I took off from Pompei at about 10.30am and finally arrived in Perugia at 7.30pm. I stopped for an hour in Terracina for lunch and a stroll and had a couple of coffee breaks further on, but otherwise it was driving, driving, driving. Of course, it'd have been much quicker if I'd taken the motorway all the way up. But that would've been boring.

Temple of Jupiter Anxur

Terracina is about 80 kilometres south of Rome and looks like a perfect weekend/summer getaway place.

Today I investigated Perugia itself. I had the choice of 1.50 euro to take the bus into town or pay 1.50 euro per hour to drive and park the car in about the same place the bus stops. I took the bus.
Perugia is a wonderful town. Some parts - the Etruscan Arch and the remains of the aqueduct - date back to the Romans, other parts are medieval and renaissance.
The bus stopped at the bottom end of town and it's a fair hike up the steep hills (it's in the mountains after all) to the interesting bits of town. But, the Perugian authorities, in their wisdom, have installed escalators to move the likes of me up the hills.
The first stage of the escalator goes through the basements of the Rocco Paolini which was, back in the day, a huge fortress. Only the basements remain now, which is a shame as they're pretty impressive. Can only imagine what the fortress was like!

Basement of Rocca Paolini

The most interesting part of town is the Piazza IV Novembre. I'm not sure of the significance of November 4th. In the centre of the piazza is the Maggiore fountain. Not as spectacular as Trevi but impressive nonetheless. Beyond it is the Cathedral San Lorenzo. It doesn't really look like a cathedral from the outside - which proved to be my undoing as it turned out. On the left side is the Palazzo dei Priori which houses the town council and the National Gallery of Umbria. (Umbria is the region/state that Perugia is in.)

Piazza IV Novembre

I decided to visit the National Gallery first.
The gallery's exhibits start on the third floor and make their way back down through a very structured series of rooms. There's no option to go your own way. Consequently, you get taken through a chronological exhibit of Perugian art history. The vast majority of works on display are medieval and renaissance pieces and are, therefore, religious in nature. Variations on the madonna and child and the adoration of the magi feature heavily.
I was interested in the way the techniques and representations developed through those periods. Figures become more lifelike, perspective becomes more realistic, faces become more individualised, etc as one moves through the collection. It's easy to see that development because of the way the gallery is set out.
From the gallery I went in search of lunch in a restaurant with a view of the piazza. I ordered gnocchi with truffles. I suspect the truffles were really just ordinary mushrooms diced up. Good gnocchi but no special truffle taste to write home about. In fact, the most pronounced taste I've experienced so far in Italy is of salt. Don't know if it's the cheese or what, but everything is really salty. I'm not a fan of salt.

Just on the food thing: I've been to quite a few places now and eaten in them all, and I can honestly say that the best place to go for food, of any kind, is Melbourne, Australia. And that's a fact. Except maybe for Cumberland sausages.

Back to Perugia....
During lunch I studied the map (right way up) I got from the hotel and discovered that the other side of it had photos of the interesting sights. That was when I discovered that the cathedral was, in fact, a cathedral. So off I went across the piazza. Closed. Damn!!
So from there I wandered through the streets at random and found the Etruscan Arch.

Etruscan Arch

This is on the north facing side of the old city and is the entrance through what would have been the original city walls. It dates back to the 3rd century BC. It's an enormous structure.
From there I got hopelessly lost but eventually, with the excellent assistance of an English speaking resident, made my way back to the bus station and, from there, to the hotel.

Perugia is not one of those places that was recommended as an Italian place to see. But I now recommend it, to anyone who's interested, as an Italian place to see. Fabulous.



9fragments - CJStrahan said...

Ah, the pesky modest cathedral facade! I may have to tweet that comment about Melbourne food - glorious!

Those Etruscans knew how to build an arch, eh (or was it the Romans?)

Mary said...

Each post you make I become more and more impressed with your ability to move through so many foreign lands, with out speaking the language, fearlessly. You are a rock star to me.
and .. I too love the comment about the food! Like Dorothy said, there's no place like home.