Thursday, May 9, 2013


The rain finally stopped, so I hopped on a train to spend the afternoon in Spoleto, another delightful Umbrian town about 40 miles SE of Perugia.  A colony was first formed here in 241 B.C.  Imagine that!  It's taken 2,254 years for it to grow to a population of about 39,000.  Spoleto is built on a foothill of the Apennines at an elevation of about 1300 feet.  

This fortress rests at the top of the hill.  The train station, of course, is at 0 feet.  But no mountain goat muscles needed today.  See those things snaking up the hill?

They cover the 8 of these escalators that eventually deliver you almost to the top of the hill where the fortress sits.  There's an elevator that takes you the rest of the way.  I knew that before I got here, because you know there's no way I'd climb 1,300 feet of steps to get anywhere, except maybe into heaven.

There weren't many tourists in town today...there were only 6 or 7 other people wandering around the fortress, which dates back to 1370.  

This is an inside courtyard.  You can see that the 15th century frescoes are a little worse for the wear.

There was an inside room where the walls had been covered with frescoes, but most are so damaged you can't even tell what they might have depicted.  

There were parts of a couple where you could make out the scene.

Another that is much larger than it appears here.

The views from the fortress were stunning.  This is from the room where the above frescoes were.  

I don't know what this is, but it's very photogenic.  I love the red poppies that you see all over Tuscany and Umbria.

By now it's after 1 p.m., and I know all the churches will be closed for "pranzo", so I decided to find the ristorante that rated #1 on Trip Advisor.  And I did find it, but unfortunately, it was closed.  So I went in search of a trattoria that had a very good review.  It took me about 20 minutes to find it, because the town folk didn't recognize the street name.  The last people I asked were a work crew doing some street repair.  I approached 3 men who were standing together and asked if they knew where Via Flitteria was.  "Non lo so" (I don't know) was the response from all three.  I turned around and noticed a restaurant with an outdoor patio just down the hill a bit, and it was the trattoria I was trying to find.  This work crew was standing right below the street sign, which I didn't notice either.

Again, I forgot to take pictures, but I had a delicious lunch of pasta with wild asparagus and prosciutto and a decadent dessert of puff pastry filled with cream and topped with mixed berries.  At least the menu said it was mixed berries.  It looked like just one kind of berry to me.  When I asked the waiter what kind of berry it was, he said there were blueberries and cranberries and some other berry I didn't recognize.  Excuse me, but I know what a blueberry looks like, and there weren't any in that dessert.  So I don't know what the berry was, but it was delish!  And the bread was great--there was one kind with black olives and one with walnuts, a nice change from the usual plain white.

I did some backtracking to see the main cathedral of Spoleto--the Duomo.  There were several art students in the piazza making drawings of it.

It had a beautiful altar, modest by Assisi standards, but still impressive.

Soleto is a town filled with arches.  They're the fortress...

Opening the way to piazzas......

Curving above side streets..I don't think I've seen so many in any other place.

There were other churches I might have seen; and had there been time, I would definitely have taken the 3 kilometer hike to see this fabulous bridge.

But I didn't feel pressured to rush and see everything, because I was truly enjoying the relaxed pace of the afternoon and there was no disappointment that I missed a few sights.  

It's strange sometimes what makes a great impression.  These are the steps I walked down from the second floor of that courtyard in the fortress.  I could feel the wear of the millions of feet that trod down these stairs over the centuries.  You can see how worn and uneven they are.  It's the same shivery feeling I had when I saw the chariot ruts in the stone roads of Pompei.  There's history here beyond what we know in our country, and I feel connected to it when in the presence of what's been so carefully preserved through the ages by a people who deeply respect its traces.  

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