La Vita Umbra… and beyond

Last night I received a text message from Michele, the pianist from Caffe Morlacchi, to meet him and his friends for a “birra”– beer– after their calcio– soccer– game. This, of course is in Italian time, so that meant to meet them at 11 at a place called Merlin’s… a very typical Perugian underground pub. So we go out around 11, and he is there with one friend at this huge table. And then about 7 more of them showed up. So imagine 4 American girls and 9 Italian guys. Italian men are hilarious! They are all in their 20s and fun and sweet, and really tried hard to help us with our Italian. They definitely taught us some slang, too. It was fun and wonderful, but of course we got in late. One thing I can’t get used to in Europe is co-ed bathrooms. It’s odd to stand and chat with an Italian man in a restroom while you wait in line.

Tomorrow morning we are hopping on a train to Rome! We are staying for free at a bed and breakfast owned by a friend of a friend and also in someone’s home. We are coming back Sunday. I’m packing light, just taking a book bag. I am really looking forward to the train ride, actually. As much as I love Perugia, I’m excited to get out of town for the weekend and see more of Italy! Also very exciting– we get to go to Venezia for Carnivale the second or third weekend in February!!! We have already made our hostel reservations. I feel like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity… (see mom, I did have a need for some dresses). We are definitely going to buy masks and of course, get lost in Venizia. Apparently that’s just how it works there.

My Practicum class is very interesting… we had some great reading assignments due yesterday and it was really neat to know an overview of the ancient, ancient history of Umbria. In fact, Umbria is 94% hills and mountains and apparently gets its reputation of “mistica”– magical– from the plethora of hermits that live atop sheer mountains and even in caves. Yes, really. My professor actually knows one of these hermits… she lives on top of a tall mountain near Norcia and used to be a nun but was kicked out of her convent for heresy. She believes in reincarnation and the divine feminine, and after being kicked out, was given a piece of land on top of this almost uninhabitable mountain. Apparently she chipped stone on her own and built her very own home with her own two hands, which is solar powered 9 of the 12 months of the year ever since sometime in the 1970s. However, it is almost impossible to get to some of these places so getting a cab driver to take my professor to see her is almost unfathomable. In addition, artifacts have been found in numerous Umbrian caves that provide evidence of human existence from 35,000 years ago. 35,000 years!!! That is incredible to me, and here I am, walking the same ground as they, living off the distant relatives of their crops.

I am quite excited about riding the train past Lago Trasimeno, the biggest lake of the region. The ladies there still believe in the ancient art of lace-making by hand, and sit by the lake chatting and, well, making lace, while their husbands stand on the shore and fish for their food.

If you’re curious about Umbria, apparently a good movie is My House in Umbria, and also a movie from the 70s I think called Brother Sun, Sister Moon which was filmed here as well. The latter is more about the many saints associated with the region… perhaps primarily St Francis, but it should be good. I have heard of that one, but wasn’t around for it.

Anyway, I’m doing laundry for the first time today after class and it should be interesting. For now, and until I get back from Roma, ciao-ciao!!!

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