Sunday, November 07, 2004

Umbria: Hill Town for Lunch, Hill Town for Dinner

This is day 4 through 7 of our trip to Italy.

After trying to see as much of Rome as possible in two days, you would think we would rest in the quieter environs of Umbria. Wrong. We had a car, we got bored staying in one place real quick. We were staying in Deruta, which is a wonderful place to buy pottery but not a hotbead of tourism or night life. So we embarked on our rampage through Umbria. We found we could drive to one hill town in the morning, eat lunch there and while everything is shut down for Siesta, we headed for another hill town where we would sightsee until the restaurants opened for dinner (the magic 7:00 hour that we found ourselves waiting for wherever we were).

So, we saw Todi (Dinner, the day we drove in from Rome), Assissi (Lunch), Perugia (Dinner), Orvieto (Lunch), Spoleto (Dinner) and in between we managed to see Deruta which is a cute little hill town although the part we stayed in was the flat part at the base of the hill. By seeing so many Unbrian hill towns we came to be something of hill town connoisseurs. We could appreciate the medieval layout and atmosphere of Todi and compare it to the combination of Roman, Medieval, and baroque sites in Spoleto.

Assissi has the wonderful churches associated with Saint Francis and the Franciscans. Assissi has a beautiful medieval layout and views to the agricultural plains layed out below the hill town. It competes with Todi to be the architypical Umbrian hill town. Assissi is a great place to buy religious oriented souvenirs as well.

Perugia seems a little more alive and less of a preserved tourist attraction than the other hill towns. Perhaps because of the University and the fact that it serves as more of a regional hub than the other towns. A highlight in Perugia was the Collegio del Cambio (Exchange Guild) decorated with wonderful frescoes by Perugino. The other unique thing about Perugia is that it has a laundromat! Laundromats seem to be very hard to come by in Italy. We asked all over Deruta, Orvieto, and Spoleto and couldn't get anyone to point us to a laundromat. Part of it may have been our inability to convey what we were looking for. However, it seems that while there are plenty of dry cleaners around, laundromats are rare. We found from our Lonely Planet guide book that Perugia had a laundromat so we were rushed back there to get to the laundromat before it closed. Running through a medieval town at night stopping at an internet cafe to ask where a laundromat is somehow was a strange highlight of our trip.

Orvieto has a unique Duomo with black and white striped exterior and an impressive interior. Orvieto is also famous for its white wine. The sample we enjoyed was a somewhat sweet but not too fruity white wine with a very clean after-taste. A very enjoyable wine.

In Spoleto we enjoyed the Roman museum and amphitheater as well as the impressive bridge that was built from a Roman aquaduct. We also unexpectedly met a friend from the U.S. who was also traveling on vacation.

In Deruta, we stayed at the Assi Di Coppa which is an affordable, comfortable and friendly family run hotel. Most people staying there are Italians, so the staff isn't that strong on English but we were able to convey our needs. We visited with our friend Dave who joined a wonderful family run ceramics store at Via Tiberina Sud 297, Sebastiono Camillen Maioliche d'Arte. Deruta is famous for ceramics and Dave's wife's family has offered a great selection of Deruta's ceramics for a number of years.

After our romp through the Umbrian towns and our visit with Dave, we headed back for the Rome airport to drop off our car and catch a train to Naples (via central Rome). From Naples we would take the Circa Vesuviana local train to Sorrento our next stop.

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