A bit more…

I am actually quite enjoying keeping a journal because I can’t call home every five minutes to ramble on about it, so at least this way you can listen to my rambling as you please, and not on your credit card.

Yesterday we went on a “Nooks and Crannies of Perugia” tour with one of our staff members, Zach, whom we love dearly and grieve over the fact that he does indeed have a girlfriend and is not, unfortunately, allowed to date students. The tour was far more historical than I was expecting– I thought he was just going to show us some cool places. Which he did, but not in the fashion I was expecting. He started us walking down Corso Vanucci, the main road, and the only one that is about as wide as a common American two-lane road. Ironically, cars are not allowed on this street, because it is far too congested with people, dogs, children, street vendors, and musicians at all times. Corse Vanucci is interesting because it is actually, technically, the valley between the two “hills”– and by hills I mean mountains to any east-coast American– that make up Perugia. Interestingly, it is now one street. The valley has been gradually filled in over approximately the past 2500 years when Perugia, originally Perusia, was settled. If you stand at the summit of the city center, at the Fontana Maggiore (the big, middle fountain in the central Piazze IV Novembre), you can look down Corso Vanucci and still see a bit of a dip that runs right down the center of it. If you rolled a ball from the fountain down Vanucci, it would literally roll right down the center, in what used to be a valley. We were given a brief history of the main cathedral (I don’t even know the name of it, we just call it the Duomo), whose steps we sit on almost daily as a meeting place, to eat lunch, to read, to drink (because yes, you can have alcohol in public here although technically are not supposed to have it on the cathedral steps)… any given Friday or Saturday night, these steps are completely draped with college students lounging, drinking, probably smoking pot, making out… and during the day, it’s a peaceful yet sociable place to dine with the pigeons and wave at passers-by that you met the previous day in a cafe (which, here, are called bars). The cathedral is not a beautiful building beyond the fresco that goes about 30 feet up… after that, as Zach put it, it seems that the builders got tired of doing detail work and just started throwing some old bricks on top.

Further down Corso Vanucci, we talked about some interesting and funny stories involving Perugian locales, and toward the edge of the city walls, I took my first trip on one of the scale mobili… or, an escalator. The scale mobili are underground escalators that go through parts of town that are medieval ruins underground. They are also an easy way to get from top to bottom without having to hike in your heels. And yes, I’m wearing high heels. I hadn’t yet seen any of the medieval ruins and it’s pretty crazy… and a bit scary. Zach also gave us a brief explanation of why the bread in central Italy sucks… basically, there was a salt war in Roman times, something about the pope, cheap salt, and lies… and now central Italy makes their table bread without salt. However, in the alimentari (small grocery stores), you can ask for panna sale… salted bread.

Continuing on, I began to get a bit bored (and tired of hiking) until we came upon a church that supposedly is built over a huge mass grave… supposedly, if you walk upon a certain set of stairs (which we walked on and I didn’t experience this), you can hear the bones beneath you rattling. After that, as we turned and made our way down an enormously long, steep, and winding set of stairs, Zach turned to an old, vine-covered stone wall and stuck a key in it, and voila, a door opened and we were in his own, private vineyard on the side of one of the Perugian hills. It was slippery and steep, and supposedly the wine is terrible, but the concept is beautiful. Supposedly, when Zach was a student (about 6 or 7 years ago) at the Umbra Institute, he noticed these sad looking vines, did some research to find out who owned them, and bought them himself. He is now learning to make wine and care for a vineyard. Yes, we do love Zach.

Apart from that, I suppose I can talk about my weekend a bit. We have discovered the best caffe in Perugia… Caffe Morlacchi is the “caffe intelletuale” of the town… this is where the artsy-fartsy, intelligent college-and-older types hang out. The people who work there are infinitely friendly, and the people who frequent it are pretty wonderful. On Saturday afternoon, Kelley and I woke up late (after a verrry late night out on Friday), and decided we needed espresso (obviously). We walked up to Caffe Morlacchi and happened to be there when group was rehearsing for their performance later in the evening. An older trumpet player was named Massimo, a beautiful, blue-eyed Italian named Michele was the pianist, Andrea (can’t even describe his beauty!!!) was the trombone player, and an artist whom none of us remember his name (but his signature was UGO) sat in the back of the caffe laughing and playing. They came up and talked to us after, and told us they were playing later on, and invited us. Obviously, we are in love with all of them, even the older one… they actually are involved with the Conservatorio di Perugia, a music conservatory very close to my apartment (which is strong in instrumental music and not so much voice). We went back later to see them play (the artist painted as he was inspired by the music) and spoke to them afterwards (and of course exchanged phone numbers… we are having dinner at Michele’s house next week), and then returned again even later (at 11) to the caffe to hear a group play called Hot Club PG (Italian people love to use English phrases for their brands. We only intended to stay until about midnight, but this band was amazing. There was an upright bass and two guitar players. It was gypsy music, and they even played Georgia on My Mind (in their own special way). We stayed til 2. While there, we made many new friends and ran into Zach and Mauro, two staff members whom we love. So anyway… next post coming soon.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Hi there! I just happened across your blog because I was looking up Pizzeria Etruschetta in Perugia then I started reading more and it took me back!! I did Umbra Institute back in 2002…Roberta was my Italian teacher that year. I also took photography and bought most of my supplies from Walter’s photo shop (near the school). I also think I know the Zach you are writing about. So funny, reading this was like reading my own journal I wrote back then (unfortunately blogging wasn’t big enough back then…bummer). Anyway, just thought I’d let you know! I really liked reading through this! I’m sure it has been a while since you were there as well. I can’t believe it’s been over 10 years for me! Geez!


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