Tuesday, May 27, 2008

“The Little City of the Infinite Views”

Marcella made me a nice breakfast and a delicious latte before I had to say goodbye and walk to the bus station. Good thing the Autostazione was at the bottom of the hill – I’m sure it was a much more enjoyable trek than going uphill. I had to take a bus to Chiusi before getting on a train to Perugia. I loved riding through the hills of Tuscany – I felt like I was in Under the Tuscan Sun, just waiting to come across Bramasole. If I weren’t a broke college student, I would seriously consider moving here. But that is not the case, and I’m sure that real estate is way more that I could ever afford. C'est la vie.

I think that the bus driver didn’t know where we were going – at one stop, I’m petty sure he shouted over to another bus driver “How do we get to Chiusi?” in Italian. So far I have been lucky with transportation this trip, but I'm still keeping my fingers crossed. I got to the train station a bit early and waited outside rather than on the train to early to avoid accidentally getting on the wrong one and having it take off to a different city. Last semester, Katie and Caitlin and I had a 1am to 5am layover in Bologna. At about 4:30, we decided to get on our train to Florence a few minutes early rather than camping out in the station’s underground, dungeon-like passageways with homeless people. The train suddenly took off, and when we asked if we were on our way to Florence, the conductor replied “No, partiamo per Milano." We were seconds away from literally jumping off the train – Milan was the complete opposite direction and the whole reason why our plans got messed up in the first place!

I have been to Perugia once before – on our way to Rome over fall break last semester, we stayed there one night on Caitlin’s friend Tori, who was studying in Perugia. I was able to fit in all I wanted to do in just two days. On my bus from the train station to Piazza Italia, I sat with a very funny and loud group of Netherlanders – definitely an accent I have never heard before! They were traveling around Italy for six weeks and camping in the outskirts of major towns, which I think would be a very fun thing to do.

My hotel was on the upper part of the hill right around the corner from Piazza Novembre IV, where Fountain Maggiore and the Colleigo di Cambio are located. Yesterday, I decided to adventure over to the lower part of Perugia towards the outskirts of the town, where the University of Perugia and San Pietro are located. I am amazed at how everything shuts down between 1pm and 4pm – I wish I had known that before I walked all the way to that part of town! I was entertained though by a young Italian guy who tried to convince me that the only way I would learn and appreciate the language more would be if I “spent the night exploring Perugia with a guy who knows the city” – yeh right, I’ll pass. I walked around the gardens outside the university, which have a spectacular view of Umbria – sorry Reynolda Gardens, I think Perugia beats you!
I finally got to San Pietro, which is unbelievable – every square inch of the church is decorated by marble, gold, or a painting. The age of paintings underneath the ceiling clearly showed in their dark, faded appearance, but they were still very dramatic. My favorite part of the church was the choir, which was very bright as opposed to the rest of the church, and had paintings from one of my favorite artists of the Renaissance – Perugino.
Henry James once called Perugia “little city of the infinite views”; now I see why – every time I got lost (which was kind of frequent), I could never complain, because I would finally stumble across a wall overlooking the vast Umbrian landscape. Maybe it’s because I grew up near Chicago where the land is completely flat, but being able to see rolling hills and tiny hilltop towns for miles and miles evokes a sensation that I can't even describe. I remember last semester talking to my friends about not wanting to leave Europe – when would we ever get the chance to fly from country to country each weekend and explore a new landscapes and cultures?

On Friday, I went to San Severo – the actual church was closed off to visitors, but the chapel behind it was open, which houses the only remaining work of Raphael in the region – all the rest were carted off to France by Napoleon. Raphael had worked with artists such as Perugino and Pinturicchio while he lived in Perugia, and was commissioned for the San Severo painting.My friend Anna was is studying in Venice this summer, and she was able to visit Perugia for the weekend! It was so nice to finally hang out with a friend and hear about her time in Venice. We visited the National Gallery of Umbria, which in honor of Pinturicchio’s 550th birthday anniversary was currently exhibiting all of the surviving movable works of the artist. Literally starving after the museum, we searched for any restaurant that was open earlier that 8pm. Anna introduced me to the Italian tradition of drinking spritzers before dinner. I had a long trip to Siena the next day, so after watching Greek dubbed in Italian, I tried to catch a goodnight sleep. Siena’s my last city on my trip – I can’t believe how quickly it went by!