Thursday, May 9, 2013

Meet Me in Umbria

The Umbrian Hills

"What is May in Umbria?
Days that never dim nor darkle
Nights that spangle. Nights that sparkle.
Dawns that flame with burnished splendor
Eves that melt in raptures tender
Noons that glow with sapphire burning...'
~ Clinton Scollard
from May in Umbria

Tomorrow is our last day in Spoleto which I can hardly believe.  While I'm a bit sad to leave this beautiful place, I'm thrilled that we are finally, finally heading to Sulmona on Saturday.  (For those of you who do not know, Sulmona is near the village of my grandparents.)

I'm really glad I chose to stay in Spoleto.  If you've followed this blog from the beginning, you may remember that I had a difficult timespoleto finding a place for the period between Torino and Sulmona.  In the center of the country, Umbria and Spoleto are great if one wants to do daytrips and such.  Of course, my main concern was trying to fit in and speak to locals, and the Spoletini are most wonderful for that.  I appreciate their willingness to stop and talk, teach me about their town, and be patient with my broken Italian.

If you don't mind, tonight I'll just show you a few photos from around town.

The escalators to La Rocca

If you didn't know, Umbria is called "The Green Heart of Italy" because it is located in the heart of the country and is full or rolling fields and emerald hills. Perched on many of those hills are little towns like Spello, Trevi, Assisi, Norcia, Cambello, and Spoleto.  Each has its centuries old churches, palaces, castles, roads, and stories.  Not much motor traffic can get through the still-narrow streets, so Umbrians tend to walk a lot.  (Actually, Europeans tend to walk a lot.)

La Rocca, the building at the top of the mountain in the above photo, was a fortress built by one of the popes in the 14th century.  Its prime location helped guard the area from mauraders, as one would expect.  Since it sits at the highest point of the town, getting there is not easy if one walks.  Luckily, the town installed a series of escalators to help get people up (and down) without causing heart attacks.  We've gone up twice, and each time I forget to count the number of excalators, but I think it's seven or eight from bottom to top.  (They are the roofed structures in the photo above.)

Spoleto from La Rocca

I took this photo of the "new" town of Spoleto from La Rocca one of the times we were up there.  Of course, in the foreground you can see part of the centro storico (historic center). Interestingly, the new part of the town is on lower ground.  The historic center is, of course, built on the hillside.

Mike and I have decided that Spoleto is probably the least hilly of all of the Umbrian hilltowns. That's not saying much, though.  One we walk out of our flat, we go either uphill or downhill.  Returning, of course, is just the oppostie of which way we started.

Ponte delle Torri

On the other side of La Rocca is La Ponte delle Torri, The Bridge of the Towers.  An aqueduct, it stands 80 meters high.  It was built sometime in the 13th century on ancient Roman foundations.  What you can't see from this angle is that it is pedestrian-friendly, and we walked across it both times we were there.  I made it up to the first tower yesterday, but Mike walked up to the second.  I did get that far the first time, so I don't feel like a total weakling.

The Duomo

If you walk down the hill from La Rocca, which we did both times we went up there, you come to the duomo.  (A duomo is a term for a cathedral or basilica.  Usually, it's the seat of the Church in a given town or city.) The Duomo in Spoleto is the Cathedral of Sta. Maria Assunta (The Assumption of the Blesed Mother).  Built in the 12th century, it was modified and restored a few times.  Town historians say that a church of some sort has stood in this particular spot since Roman times (before 900 AD).

  Our flat

Quite simply, I love the narrow streets and alleys of this town.  That said, most of the towns in France and Italy have them....even the big cities like Paris and Rome.  I constantly marvel at the old buildings and think about the people who inhabited them years ago.  Mike and I have some great conversations about how they survived hundreds of years ago without electricity, heat, running water, etc.

Our flat is in the building on the right.  The two windows on the first (American 2nd) floor are ours.  The door below is not the door to our building.  Our entry is actually to the left.  We go through a locked door, up stairs and through another door to get to the door to our flat.  The picture in the frame betwen our two windows, by the way, is of the Blessed Mother.  You'll find the same thing or statues on buildings all over town.

Tomorrow, I'll introduce you to a cast of characters who have made Spoleto special.

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