Sunday, November 05, 2006

Week 3 – Perugia, Assisi and back to Milan

Saturday morning we needed head back north. Our taxi driver arrived on time at 9 am, we loaded up and were off. Got into Naples about 10:30 am and had approx. 1 hour to wait for our train north. We got tickets using the automatic machines. They’re very easy to use and have an English Language mode. The only trouble we had was getting seats together, but that was partly because we didn’t reserve in advance. The trains were 99% full, which was a little surprising. Anyway, we had time for a cappuccino and pastry while we waited for our train to Rome. It was part of our ritual, a cappuccino every morning, if not 2. Even I was getting into the cappuccino mode and gave up drinking tea.

The train trip to Rome was uneventful and very comfortable. Did I already say how much more comfortable train travel is, than being packed into an airplane? Anyway, we changed trains in Rome and continued north. As we left Rome I noticed it was pretty cloudy, and not far out of Rome the rain started. We were headed north through Umbria. The countryside turned hilly, lots of small towns & farms. It’s very pretty, even in the rain. We got into Perugia about 4pm. It was pouring, so we took 2 taxis out to the farm house/hostel that we’d reserved. We got in earlier than we’d planned and the guy who ran the place was not around. But I called him on my cell and our taxi driver talked to him and got him headed our way. The taxi drivers in Perugia were great. They waited for us to get checked in (with good humor no less) and then drove us up to the old town so we could wander around the EuroChocolate Festival. After our dealings with taxi drivers in Sorrento (who were horrible rip-off’s) I was very pleasantly surprised

EuroChocolate Festival in Perguia

Pictures taken in Perugia (12), titled 0071 Perugia

The Eurochocolate Festival is a huge yearly event. It runs for 10 days, we were there on the last Saturday night. The old town of Perugia is up on top of a hill, it’s a medieval walled town but with fairly wide streets. By the time we arrived, it was getting dark. The town was all fogged in, and a little light rain fell on & off. We missed most of what was going on, but we wandered through the booths selling all sorts of chocolate for several hours. I bought a cup of hot chocolate that was almost too thick to drink. It was very good with a little chili pepper in it to spice it up.

I’d like to go back sometime and walk through their Archeological Museum, it looked very interesting. But by the time we found it, it was just closing. So we went to dinner and caught another cab and went back to the farm house. We sat around in the dining room and drank a glass of wine and visited with some collage students from California who were also staying there. They’re studying in Rome for a semester and were having a really good time. I think it’s great they can come to Europe for a semester, it’s a great experience.

View from the farm house in Perugia

Sunday morning we’d had grand plans to get up really early and be in Assisi for a 6:30 am Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis. We were lucky to be moving by 9am. At least the rain had stopped, so we walked out to the main road and caught the bus to the train station (and then had a cappuccino while waiting for the next train to Assisi). The trains coming in to Perugia from Rome for the Chocolate Festival were PACKED. Standing room only, that had to have been a long trip.

While waiting at the Assisi train station for a bus into the old town, Penny started talking to an odd fellow dressed in a blue denim robe. I think he wanted to be a monk, but maybe of his own church. He sort of tried to follow us but we ditched him when we got into the old town. And told Penny she wasn’t allowed to talk to any more strangers!

View of St. Francis Basilica from the old Fortress at the top of Assisi

Assisi was very interesting. The old fortress at the very top had wonderful views of the countryside. My pictures are a little dark, it was actually much more sunny than they make it look. I think I could actually live here, or in the surrounding area; beautiful farms & little windy roads. And the Basilica of St. Francis is huge, contains 2 churches and a crypt. The frescos inside are amazing, though I’m not sure St. Francis would approve if he came back and saw what was built in his name. And it was very crowded. There must be 50+ bus tours every day, plus all the people who drive themselves or come by train. It’s quite the commercial operation in many ways.

Pictures taken in Assisi (35), titled 0072 Assisi

Assisi is another World Heritage site. It was an important town in Romans times and it’s amazing that people still live and work in the buildings that were built in 2000 or more years ago. In particular Assisi was hit by quite an earthquake in Sept. 1997. A lot of the town has been rebuilt and it’s very beautiful. They’ve been very careful to use the same building materials and other than the repairs building look very clean, they don’t look any different from the others around them. It really made me think about how many times some of these building have been renovated & repairs or just changed around in the past 2000 years. Wow, I wonder if anything we’re building today will still be around that long.

Several of the churches have had major restoration projects. Their interiors where all frescoed. Some of the frescos were repaired, but some were total losses.

Repaired houses and a new street.

This is my favorite Assisi picture, taken at sunset from the train station looking back up at the old town. You can see the fortress at the very top, and the old town all along the hill below it.

Monday was finally here. We were all flying out of Milan on Tuesday, so we got and got going. The older couple who we think owned the old farm house, and didn’t speak much English) helped with all our bags. Penny got to ride in the little 3 wheeled truck (which you see all over Italy) with the luggage to the bus stop. They’re actually more like a motorcycle with a cab then a truck. Then we were off to the train station for more cappuccino and a long train ride back to Milan.

We got into Milan late in the afternoon, still raining so we took taxi’s to our Hotel Trentina. We’d stayed there the night we all arrived and the folks who ran it were so nice and helpful we wanted to return. (PS, they also serve a wonderful breakfast which is included in the room price.) We went out of a last dinner and drank some more great local wine, it was a nice ending to our trip.

The next day was a taxi ride to the airport, and 24 hours of traveling to get back to Anchorage. The flights were fine, though long, security in London is very tight, but that’s actually OK too.

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