Monday, January 30, 2012

That One Time We Got Lost in Perugia

So, the title of this post has a bit more of a negative connotation than the story actually possesses, because, *spoiler alert*, we emerged from the situation probably better off than we started.

At the end of last week, the group decided to explore a bit of our Italian surroundings by taking an overnight trip to Perugia and Assisi in the neighboring province of Umbria. The journey to Perugia went off without a hitch, and was complete with a windy (side note: just had the major realization that windy (moving air) and windy (curvy) are spelled the same way. mind. blown.) bus ride through the picturesque Tuscan countryside, and two additional train rides. Italy, I found out, is very well connected north-south, but not so much east-west. Thus, what should be only an hour and a half away, took about four hours. We didn't mind the travelling too much though, as we had plenty of homework to do to and it was an adventure in itself- ensuring all the connections were made on time, the correct tickets were bought, etc.

When we arrived in Perugia around 3pm, we slowly began to realize after taking in our surroundings (the center of Perugia is literally on top of a mountain, we were at the bottom) that we had absolutely no game plan. The only things we knew for certain: we had virtually no time restrictions, and we had to go up. With no public transportation system in sight, we started walking. Hiking, rather, I swear the roads were at nearly a 90 degree angle...

After wandering upwards for about 45 mins, exhausted and with screaming feet (I made the completely amateur mistake of wearing my new boots which have about a three-inch platformed heel, my feet STILL hurt two days later), we discover that we have made it. Naturally, beautiful views insued.

I will quote my friend Brooke here and venture to say that we learned a valuable lesson from this bit of trekking: everything happens for a reason. Had we not been completely ignorant to the inner workings of the Perugian transportation system, and had we not taken the completely random path up the mountainous outskirts of the city, then we would not have ran into the fellow group of American students who were receiving a free tour from a young American professor at the University of Umbria, who insisted that we join them on the latter half of the tour! This was such a great experience. Zach, our tour guide, was interesting and funny (he specifically said he doesn't do "the boring shit"), and SUPER helpful seeing as we had relatively zero knowledge of this new city. Fun fact: there used to be a lazy susan-type situation at a Perugian orphanage where poor families could drop their newborn children off, without or without a marker. If they had a marker, the parents intended on retrieving them from the orphanage when the family was in better economic standing. Also, the kids in these places were only assigned a first name, so if they were released without a family, they were given a last name
that indicated their orphan status. I don't remember exactly what it was, but this means that there are lots of people in the region who have the same last name and an ancestor that hails from this orphanage.

Our tour guide, Zach.

We were sufficiently exhausted after another hour of walking on the tour with our bags and my poor choice of shoes. This did not stop us, however, from taking a look around the inside of the beautiful duomo in Perugia's main piazza.

This same church won third place in a contest for Europe's ugliest churches from the outside:

The rest of the evening consisted of shopping at the little markets set up in the center of town, and eating dinner at a delicious restaurant recommended to us by our tour guide. This dinner provides a perfect example of the Italian's culture of time and timeliness in general. After being unable to accommodate a table for twelve when we first arrived at the restaurant around 8, we made a reservation for 9:15, had an aperitif at a nearby bar, then returned to the restaurant precisely at 9:15. Of course, there was still no room for us, nor would there be for another hour. Reservations, similar to stop signs, seem to be merely a guideline in this country. It was worth the wait though, I finally had that life changing pizza. The WHOLE pizza was life changing. Seriously, so much pizza...



The next day started at 8am when we woke early enough to get to Umbria's National Gallery of Art before our 10:30am train to Assisi. This time I can proudly say that we found the "minimetro," the pod-like train that takes you up and down the mountain. UP and down the mountain....right. We'll keep that in mind for next time.

Also, shout out to Ashton who let me borrow his extra pair of shoes for the day. My feet were in heaven seeing as I could hardly stand when I woke up that morning.

Assisi is a smaller, pedestrian town like Siena that is also nestled on top of a mountain. It is surrounded by the breathtaking countryside, and is home to Saint Francis. The main event of the day (other than successfully reaching the top via bus) was touring the Cathedral and Basilica di San Francesco, where his remains are buried.

Basilica di San Francesco.

We then spent the afternoon wandering through the cute little streets, eating amazing pasta and gelato, and generally enjoying the sunny afternoon in this incredible country that I love more and more every day that I'm here.

Some of the girls enjoying our gelato :)

View of the country from the hills of Assisi.

1 comment:

  1. In most cases, as in this one, before and after photos are entertaining and/or instructive. :} Enjoyed your travelogue, pray for your poor feet, and proud that you are having a memorable time.


    Mom and Dad