As we always do back in Raleigh, we start each morning with a walk. Mike’s hour-long journey takes him into the small town of San Giaccomo, where he has already made friends with the crossing guard, the police sergeant, the pastry lady and the owner of the grocery store with whom he often shares a cappuccino. For myself, I prefer a peaceful walk away from civilization. This morning, on a road that wanders through fields of poppies, of maize turning gold against the backdrop of blue sky, I am recalling our recent expedition to Perugia.
Ah, Perugia. We had been warned that getting into the city would be difficult, so we programmed our GPS to guide us to the Piazza Matteotti. Alas, our GPS speaks the worst Italian we have ever heard, so whatever she says is intelligible. Relying on our map and the signs that flew by, we managed to get to the city properly without incident. However, getting into the parking lot where we could access escalators that would take us to the heart of the city was another story. We coursed around and around the narrow streets, stopping now and again for directions, thus:r
‘Mi scusi… dove e la scala mobile?”(Excuse me, where are the ‘moving stairs’?)
“Ah, la scala mobile! Si, si. Allora, va dritto, e poi destra…” etc.
It took a little doing, but the scala mobile, when we finally found it, was worth the effort, for a series of many escalators took us up through the bowels of the city itself. As we progressed, we found ourselves in huge, dark, empty caverns that looked as if they had been used as storage warehouses in another age. Up and up we went until the scala mobila brought us to the brightness of the Piazza IV Novembre with its 13th century fountain and… yes… lunch! Exhausted and grateful, we plopped down at a tented outdoor café and ordered pasta a la Bolognaise whilst an elderly troubadour, reminiscent of Bacchus in a baseball cap, sang to us of love.
Fortified by food, we wandered through the city and finally came to the National Gallery of Umbria with its extensive collection of Umbrian and Tuscan paintings. The National Gallery is housed in the enormous Palazzo dei Priori, so as we gazed at masterpieces (how, we wondered, could the colors be so bright after centuries have passed?), we were actually walking through history itself.
Painted in a far off age
Still seem to breathe life.
It took us two hours to make our way through forty plus rooms full of art, and we emerged with two thoughts. Thought one: Many of the great masters, magnificent though their works might be, didn’t know how to paint babies. Their adult subjects are wonderful. Their cherubs and babies very often look vapid or bored.
Thought two: now we have to get out ofPerugia.
Around and around and around we went on streets so narrow that two bicycles would have trouble riding abreast. Horns blasted. Other drivers shouted. Confusion (and frustration) turned the air about us blue. But did we cringe in defeat? Did we lose our courage or our cool? No, and no and no!
We did, however, have an extra glass of wine when we finally returned to Sig. Ettore’s farm.