Monthly Archives: June 2013

Memories are Made of This

Leaving Spello after 3 months was not easy. We had tried our best to live the Italian life, integrate into the local community and taste the pleasures of the land and the grape. Saying goodbye to our new friends was the hardest thing; so many people asked us to come back, and I am certain we will do so.

Orvieto: bell tower

Orvieto: bell tower

As we crossed Umbria’s border for the first time in 3 months, we reflected on the things that we will remember about our experience. The smell of woodsmoke in the air; the sight of the smoke from the fires of trimmed olive branches curling upwards; the sound of the bells chiming harmoniously and the earthy taste of truffles.

The art: from the frescoes…

Spello: Chapel of St Anna, fresco detail

Spello: Chapel of St Anna, fresco detail

….to the simple chapels….

Spello: chapel

Spello: chapel, detail

….to the grandest cathedrals.

Spoleto: Duomo, marble angel

Spoleto: Duomo, marble angel

The architecture: from ancient monuments, built to glorify God….

Assisi: Basilica of St Francis

Assisi: Basilica of St Francis

Orvieto: Cathedral facade detail

Orvieto: Cathedral facade detail

….to the wonderful hill towns in stone and brick….

Spello walls: the lookout

Spello walls: the lookout

Spello: street view

Spello: street view

The stunning Umbrian mountains and countryside: the “green heart of Italy.”

Monte Subasio: view

Monte Subasio: view

The weather: every day was different. We had torrential rain, hailstones the size of acorns, storms and sun, sun, sun. The sky was a constant, moving picture….

Spello: Sky from apartment

Spello: Sky from apartment

Spello: Sky from apartment

Spello: Sky from apartment

The food: local, seasonal, delicious….

Ravioli with tomatoes and olives.

Ravioli with tomatoes and olives.

Potato rosti with brie, walnuts and leaves.

Potato rosti with brie, walnuts and radicchio.

The artisan food shops such as the local bakery. The window display changed regularly….

Spello: Bakery

Spello: Bakery

The wine: new varieties of grapes to try….

Montefalco winery: wine jug

Montefalco winery: wine jug

….and the remnants of a good night out….

Spello: sad, empty bottles

Spello: sad, empty bottles

Nature: the flowers, wild and cultivated.

Spello: Spring flowers

Spello: Spring flowers

Spello: wild flower

Spello: flower

And who could forget the Infiorata? Carpets of flowers in every street and square in Spello’s old town.

Spello: Infiorata, flower carpet

Spello: Infiorata, flower carpet

The beauty of the trees, bursting into life….

Spello: Spring buds

Spello: Spring buds

….and promising edibles to come….

Spello: Olive Tree

Spello: Olive Tree

Fonti del Clitunno: Water weeds in the lake

Fonti del Clitunno: Water weeds beneath the surface of the lake

Most of all it was the people of Spello that we will remember. Their generosity, their warmth, their patience with our piecemeal Italian, their sharing and their humour will not be easily forgotten.

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Spello, Magic Spello, we have left a little piece of our hearts with you, until we return.

Spello: town gate

Spello: one of the town gates

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In Memory of the Martyrs

Gubbio: view of Piazza Quaranta Martiri from Piazza Grande

Gubbio: view of Piazza Quaranta Martiri from Piazza Grande

Most visitors, us included, arrive in Gubbio at the Piazza Quaranta Martiri – the square of the 40 martyrs. In 1944, 40 local people were executed here by the Germans in an act of reprisal following a partisan attack. A simple monument marks the spot; the bullet holes are still visible.

The 13th century church of San Francesco dominates the square, and opposite the church is the 14th century hospital of Santa Maria della Misericordia. The wool merchants guild added a loggia in the 17th century to create a long gallery for stretching and drying their products.

Gubbio: view of Palazzo dei Consoli

Gubbio: view of Palazzo dei Consoli

Gubbio was built of local limestone on the lower slopes of Mount Ingino, one of the smaller Apennine peaks. Today it is a well-preserved medieval town, but it was founded much earlier by the Umbri. Seven bronze slabs, known as the Eugubine Tablets, survive from the 2nd century BC. They are engraved with text in the (then) local language describing sacred rites and sites – a remarkable heirloom of pre-Roman Italy.

Today Gubbio is a busy little town, known for its ceramics, wrought iron and woodwork. The roads wind – as ever – uphill, but the centre is quite compact even though it is steep.

Gubbio: street view

Gubbio: street view

Gubbio: Piazza Giordano Bruno

Gubbio: Piazza Giordano Bruno

In Piazza Bruno is the church of San Domenico, with an interior decorated with rich, fading frescoes.

Gubbio: Fresco, Church of San Domenico

Gubbio: Fresco, Church of San Domenico

A fragment of a fresco such as this can be very attractive. It always makes me  wonder what it would have looked like when complete. This fragment looks like an Annunciation scene, with a rather beautiful angel.

In front of a lovely ancient palazzo in the tiny square, Largo del Bargello, is the Fontana dei Matti, the madmens’ fountainAccording to tradition, in order to be considered mad, you had to run around the fountain 3 times, preferably trailing your elbow in the water as you ran. During our visit we did not see this put to the test! Hard to believe that this small fountain was once the town’s main source of water.

Gubbio: Fontana dei Matti

Gubbio: Fontana dei Matti

Continuing upwards, we reached the Piazza Grande, centre of Gubbio and engineering feat extraordinaire. The large square is suspended above a space supported by huge arches: a veritable hanging piazza! Here it is seen from the top….

Gubbio: Piazza Grande, Palazzo dei Consoli

Gubbio: Piazza Grande, Palazzo dei Consoli

…and from underneath…

Gubbio: view underneath the Piazza Grande

Gubbio: view underneath the Piazza Grande

The most distinctive building in the main square is the Palazzo dei Consoli. Building commenced in the 14th century and its battlements, decorative windows and sweeping staircase make this a remarkable sight. It now houses an art gallery and a museum where the Eugubine Tablets are kept.

Gubbio: Palazzo dei Consoli

Gubbio: Palazzo dei Consoli

The detail is wonderful….a narrow passageway next to the Palazzo with inspiring views…

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An iron ring in animal form – perhaps medieval nobles tied their horses up here?

Gubbio: Palazzo dei Consoli, detail

And a rusty bolt might secure hidden treasures….

Gubbio: Palazzo dei Consoli, detail

Across the square is another lovely facade, shades of pink in the bright sunlight.

Gubbio: Piazza Grande

Gubbio: Piazza Grande

But still we rose….

Gubbio: stairway to Cathedral and Ducal Palace

Gubbio: stairway to Cathedral and Ducal Palace

The cathedral and Ducal Palace are above the main square and face each other across a tiny street. The cathedral is dark and unwelcoming, with an altar made from a Roman sarcophagus, some unremarkable frescoes and an unusual rose window.

Gubbio: Cathedral, rose window

Gubbio: Cathedral, rose window

The Ducal Palace houses temporary exhibitions, but its best feature was its garden bar overlooking the town.

Gubbio: Ducal Palace facade

Gubbio: Ducal Palace facade

Gubbio: view from Ducal Palace garden

Gubbio: view from Ducal Palace garden

Gubbio: view of Palazzo dei Consoli from Ducal Palace garden

Gubbio: view of Palazzo dei Consoli from Ducal Palace garden

Descending, we passed the white marble facade of San Giovanni Battista which is on the probable site of the old cathedral. It also (apparently) featured as the parish church in the TV programme Don Matteo.

Gubbio: Church of San Giovanni Battista

Gubbio: Church of San Giovanni Battista

There’s a “cable car” that links the town with the mountain top, where the Basilica of Sant”Ubaldo (complete with the saint’s remains) crowns the peak. We gave this a miss this time around, but riding in a small basket to the top of a mountain sounds like something to do on a repeat visit.

Just outside the town walls are the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, dating from the 1st century and in its day able to accommodate 6,000 spectators.

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

The smell of the grease paint….

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

The roar of the crowd….

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

With wonderful views of Gubbio, this amphitheatre is still used for performances today.

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

Gubbio: Roman Amphitheatre

Looking up, we saw the unexpected sight of a low-flying hang glider. What a view he must have had over this lovely town on a hot and sunny afternoon!

Gubbio: hanglider

Gubbio: hang glider

And finally – did you know that Gubbio has had the largest Christmas tree in the world each year since 1981? Made up of 3000 lights installed on the hillside, connected by 5 miles of wiring, it is 2132 feet high and 1148 feet wide. Well – I suppose it attracts the Christmas visitors…!

The Eagle Has Landed

Todi: Palazzo dei Priori, Bronze Eagle

Todi: Palazzo dei Priori, Bronze Eagle

Legend has it that the construction of Todi had already begun on the banks of the River Tiber, when an eagle descended and snatched a tablecloth from a local family. The eagle dropped the tablecloth higher up the mountain slopes, and since this was considered to be a good omen, building work was moved to the higher site. The eagle remains the symbol of Todi to this day; this wonderful bronze example in the main piazza dates from 1339.

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Todi’s position, overlooking the east bank of the River Tiber, affords it wonderful views. Indeed, the undulating landscape could come straight out of a Renaissance painting.

We arrived in the town’s main car park and – oh joy! – there was a funicular to whisk us up to the centre. On exiting the funicular, there was a viewing point with a spectacular panorama of Todi.

Todi: panorama

Todi: panorama

Todi: panorama

Todi: panorama

Todi’s walls are medieval, Roman and Etruscan. The Romans levelled out the town’s two hilltops to make way for a forum. Todi’s main square grew up on the remains of the forum so, compared to other Umbrian hill towns, it is very large. This magnificent square – Piazza del Popolo – has, unsurprisingly, provided the location for several films; it is truly reminiscent of a film set.

Todi: Piazza del Popolo

Todi: Piazza del Popolo

The square contains at least 4 magnificent buildings. The cathedral was founded in the 12th century, possibly on the site of a Roman temple, but it was not completed for several hundred years.

Todi: Cathedral

Todi: Cathedral

The sweeping flight of steps is 18th century, the door, the choir and the rose window date from the 16th century but it all comes together to create a harmonious building.

Todi: Cathedral

Todi: Cathedral

Todi: Cathedral, door panel detail

Todi: Cathedral, door panel detail

The rose window is particularly delicate, with beautiful pink and white marble decoration and fine carving.

Todi: Cathedral, Rose Window

Todi: Cathedral, Rose Window

The interior view of the rose window shows its brightly coloured glass and the wonderful frescoes filling the entire wall.

Todi: Cathedral, internal view of Rose Window

Todi: Cathedral, internal view of Rose Window

A largely plain interior sets off the frescoes and gives the cathedral a feeling of space and light.

Todi: Cathedral

Todi: Cathedral

Opposite the cathedral is the Palazzo dei Priori, built in the 13th and 14th centuries and home to the town’s rulers through the years. Spot the eagle mounted on the facade!

Todi: Palazzo dei Priori

Todi: Palazzo dei Priori

Next to the Palazzo dei Priori is the Palazzo del Popolo, complete with swallowtail crenellations. (If I remember one thing from this trip, it will be how to recognise swallowtail crenellations and fluted merlons!) The Palazzo del Popolo is one of Italy’s oldest administrative buildings, begun in the 13th century, but heavily restored in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Todi: Palazzo del Popolo

Todi: Palazzo del Popolo

The external staircase is supported by an attractive porticoed space used for public meetings.

Todi: Palazzo del Popolo

Todi: Palazzo del Popolo

The Palazzo del Popolo continues around the corner into Piazza Garibaldi.

Todi: Palazzo del Popolo, Piazza Garibaldi facade

Todi: Piazza Garibaldi

Adjoining Palazzo del Popolo, and sharing its huge entrance staircase, is the Palazzo del Capitano. It has a grandiose facade with attractive mullioned windows, and now houses the art gallery and museum.

Why do the Italians insist on putting modern signage in front of historic buildings? It drives me crazy….

Todi: Palazzo del Popolo

Todi: Palazzo del Popolo

Leaving the main square, Todi’s labyrinthine streets have lots to offer at every turn. In Corso Cavour where medieval spice sellers once traded, is the fountain known as Fonte Rua or Fonte Cesia, after the bishop that had it built.

Todi: Fonte Cesia

Todi: Fonte Cesia

A little further on is the Porta Marzia, a medieval gate constructed from salvaged materials. This lovely statue sits just above the gate, making eternal music.

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Then up and up we climbed to Todi’s highest point, where a large public park provides a peaceful retreat. It was very peaceful when we visited as it was cool and threatening to rain…

Todi: Public Park

Todi: Steps to Public Park

Close to the park is the most unusual Franciscan church of San Fortunato. It is a huge edifice, standing at the top of an impressive flight of steps.

Todi: San Fortunato church

Todi: San Fortunato church

The interior is Gothic, airy, bright and simple. It is unusual, in that this style of church – a Gothic hall church, where the side aisles are equal in height to the nave – is rarely seen in Italy.

Todi: San Fortunato church.

Todi: San Fortunato church.

Todi: San Fortunato church, fresco

Todi: San Fortunato church, fresco

In the crypt is the tomb of Todi’s most well-known citizen: Jacopone da Todi who died in 1306. A Franciscan poet and mystic, after the death of his wife he led a simple existence, devoted to God. He was considered extreme in his views and was even accused of heresy, but he is still remembered for his religious poetry.

The other eminent Todi citizen was Pope Martin, later martyred and made a saint. This sculpture is in the cathedral.

Todi: Cathedral, sculpture dedicated to Pope Martin, Pope, martyr, saint

Todi: Cathedral, sculpture dedicated to Pope Martin, Pope, martyr, saint

In my last post, I opened the door to our apartment in Spello so that you could look in. But prior to coming to Italy, Todi had been our original destination and we had signed a contract to stay in the tower set into the town walls pictured below. No sooner was the ink dry than the owner asked us to cancel the contract due to a legal issue with a sitting tenant. So we just had to go and see where we might have spent 3 months…..

Todi: The Tower

Todi: The Tower

It looked like a nice place, but it was in a car park and next to the ring road, so lady luck was bounteous on the day that the contract fell through and we found our Spello home from home.

Steps away from the tower is the striking church of Santa Maria della Consolazione. Standing just outside the city walls, it is a Renaissance masterpiece. It has been attributed to Bramante, one of the architects of St Peter’s basilica in Rome: you can see the similarities. But there is no documentary evidence to confirm this link; it is more probable that the architect of Todi’s church may have used some of Bramante’s drawings.

The church was built to house and protect the venerated painting of Santa Maria della Consolazione. This is a tiny and – in my view – unremarkable fresco. The church’s interior is plain and elegant, with grand statues of the apostles forming the major decoration. The great dome is set above a balcony to which brave souls can climb and admire the views. The silhouette can be seen from some distance.

Todi: Santa Maria della Consolazione

Todi: Santa Maria della Consolazione

The weather was poor, the lunch was the worst we have eaten in Italy, but Todi’s attractions are many so our memories of the day – other than the food and the weather – are good ones.

One Cup of Coffee (Then I’ll Go)

“Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat”  – Johann Sebastian Bach, The Coffee Cantata

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Coffee is a way of life in Italy. Aside from the obvious caffeine hit, coffee bars offer an opportunity to gossip with your neighbours, nibble delicious sweet cakes, take a break from shopping, meet a friend or read the newspapers.

Spello is full of coffee bars. I don’t drink the stuff myself, but I am always happy to while away the hours with a cool glass of water and some pastacini.

The Bar Giordino has a beautiful terrace with views across mountains and valleys. We’ve been there once, sitting in the shade of its spreading trees. But there are 2 coffee bars we frequent much more often.

Entering Spello from the top of the town, the first bar you come across is the Tabaccheria Romani Fiorella.

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This bar is a few steps from our apartment, so it has been our favourite destination for an early morning drink with croissants or sweet cakes, or, on occasion, a cool glass of wine on a hot day after a long walk.

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The bar is run by 2 delightful ladies, sisters-in-law Fiorella and Daniella who are always smiling and welcoming. Our conversations are still interspersed with mime, but they have both been patient and helpful with our halting Italian.

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You can buy everything here: sandwiches, cigarettes, handbags, very nice wines, hand-crafted earrings and a ticket for the lottery to name but a few.

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A tiny terrace with a lovely view is perfect for a leisurely stop, but we prefer to be inside where the chattering of locals and tourists is at its best.

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Should we turn right out of our apartment, heading for the town centre, then we will often stop at Bar Tullia.

Spello: Cafe, Tulia

Tullia is well placed for people watching. It faces the main street, is next to a school and opposite the lovely facade of the church of San Lorenzo, so the clientele is a mixture of locals, tourists, mums and the occassional cleric. It’s another family affair, run by a sister and brother team.

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The cafe culture in Italy is embedded in its society. It’s not so difficult to sustain with a sunny climate. Those of us from more northern territories just have to seize the day!

“Chocolate, men, coffee – some things are better rich.”

Up on the Roof

Whilst many of my previous posts have concerned themselves with the beautiful town of Spello: its art, its architecture, its food and drink and its people, I have not yet given you a glimpse inside our apartment here. When I say “our” apartment, I mean that in a temporary, passing sense. It has been our home for the last 3 months, but soon we will have to surrender the keys and it will become somebody else’s home for a period of time, and so on.

Nunnery entrance steps

The apartment is right in the heart of the historic centre of Spello. The building was an old church, annexed to a 13th century convent where followers of Saint Clare of Assisi lived. The magnificent doorway above leads into the old cloisters, via a cool passageway where some of the convent’s wine bottles can still be found.

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The cloisters are now a private garden, enclosed by the surrounding buildings that once formed the church and convent complex. What stories these old walls could tell, if only they could speak to us of times past.

Nunnery Apartment courtyard

Nunnery Apartment view

And so from the cloisters up to the bell tower of the old church to our apartment. There are no bells here now, but the bells of the many churches of Spello can be heard in harmonious chorus throughout the day and early evening.

The kitchen area is modern, with dishwasher and cooker and room for 4 to eat comfortably.

Spello, Apartment, Kitchen/Diner

At the other end of this main room is the lounge area, with a sofa, a real fire and a satellite TV which, incidentally, we have not watched. The sunset is far more interesting.

Spello, Apartment, Lounge

Everything is tasteful, with clean lines and no clutter.

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A modern bathroom with shower and 2 double bedrooms completes our accommodation. Almost.

Spello, Apartment, Main Bedroom

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There is a very special, private terrace at the top of the bell tower. Take a look at the magnificent views from every direction.

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From here we have watched the sun rise and set, we have listened to the birdsong and been entranced by the waves of low-flying swifts. We have seen the weather change over the mountains, bathed in sunlight here and raining in other hill towns nearby, and vice versa. We have heard hymns sung as religious processions passed by and heard the Spello band as it marched musically through the streets below.

This has been a real home to us: a place to cook and to eat, a refuge from torrential rain and blazing sun, a quiet place to read, a place where our laughter has echoed often.

Our hosts have been perfect – there to help when needed, full of advice on restaurants, places to visit and local events. If you want to see more photos or are interested in spending time here, the website link is below. It is still under construction at the moment, but will soon be updated with more information.

http://www.vallegloria.com

Brick House

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Citta della Pieve sits in a lovely situation overlooking the Chiana Valley on the Tuscan border. Since there was little local stone in this area, buildings were constructed in red brick.

Citta della Pieve: tumbling houses

Citta della Pieve: tumbling houses

Citta Della Pieve - church, detail

The bricks were made from clay dug from the nearby hills. The excavations can still be clearly seen just beyond the town walls.

Citta della Pieve: view of the brick field

Citta della Pieve: view of the brick field

Perugino: self portrait

Perugino: self portrait

Citta della Pieve is best known as the birthplace of the great Renaissance painter Pietro Vanucci, known as Perugino, who was not only well respected in his own right but also for his young apprentice, Raphael.

Perugino was inspired by the landscape and his paintings often include idealised backdrops of Lake Trasimeno and the surrounding countryside. He left several works of art in his native city, the best of which is the Adoration of the Magi.

In 1504, an assembly of lay brothers known as the Brotherhood of the Disciplined or the Whites (because of the robes they wore), asked Perugino to decorate the altar of their private chapel, the Oratory of Santa Maria dei Bianchi.

Citta della Pieve: Oratory of Santa Maria dei Bianchi - Robes of the Whites

Citta della Pieve: Oratory of Santa Maria dei Bianchi – Robes of the Whites

Perugino was happy to accept the commission, but there was the small matter of payment to settle. In 1835, during drainage work, 2 letters from Perugino to the Brotherhood regarding his fee were found inside a tin tube buried at the bottom of the frescoed wall. Both letters have been reproduced in marble and hang on the Oratory walls. In the one shown below, Perugino asks for 200 ducats, but says that being a villager he would accept half of that sum, one quarter of which was to be paid immediately and the rest in instalments over the following three years.

Citta della Pieve: Oratory of Santa Maria dei Bianchi. Perugino's letter

Citta della Pieve: Oratory of Santa Maria dei Bianchi. Perugino’s letter

The Brothers agreed to his terms less a further 25 ducats discount in exchange for a mule to carry him and his materials from Perugia to Citta della Pieve. Even then, the Brothers failed to pay the final 25 ducats, and Perugino was forced to accept ownership of a house in lieu of that instalment.

Haggling, credit and default are clearly not confined to current times!

Citta della Pieve: Oratory of Santa Maria dei Bianchi. Adoration of the Magi, Perugino, 1504

Citta della Pieve: Oratory of Santa Maria dei Bianchi. Adoration of the Magi, Perugino, 1504

It took Perugino just one month to complete this exquisite fresco – one of his largest works. Note the backdrop, with Lake Trasimeno and the mountains as seen from Citta della Pieve, and the line of elegant Renaissance figures waiting to pay their respects to the infant. The detail of Mary and Jesus below illustrates the quality of the work and the glorious colours.

Citta della Pieve: Oratory of Santa Maria dei Bianchi. Detail - Adoration of the Magi, Perugino, 1504

Citta della Pieve: Oratory of Santa Maria dei Bianchi. Detail – Adoration of the Magi, Perugino, 1504

Perugino was one of the last great masters of this elegant style, where harmony and beauty are key. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were, at this point, painting visions of a contemporary and troubled world. Raphael, enchanted by the new style, left the workshop of Perugino in 1504, the year the Adoration of the Magi was painted.

In the main square – the Piazza del Plebiscito – is the house that belonged to Perugino’s family.

Citta Della Pieve: Piazza del Plebiscito

Citta Della Pieve: Piazza del Plebiscito

The Cathedral of Saints Gervasio and Protasio is also in the main square. It was built on the site of the old pieve, or parish church, for which the town is named. It is constructed with both sandstone and brick and there are some decorative elements going back to the 9th and 10th centuries. The church underwent many transformations and became a cathedral only in 1600.

Citta Della Pieve: Piazza del Plebiscito - Cathedral of Saints Gervasio and Protasio

Citta Della Pieve: Piazza del Plebiscito – Cathedral of Saints Gervasio and Protasio

I am sadly unable to describe either the interior or its (reputedly) wonderful paintings as it was closed for renovation.

An ancient tower stands at one end of the cathedral, possibly part of a former civic building.

Citta Della Pieve: Piazza del Plebiscito

Citta Della Pieve: Piazza del Plebiscito

Opposite the cathedral is the Palazzo della Corgna, the most important mansion in Citta della Pieve. It was built in the 16th century by Pope Julius III for his nephew, Ascanio della Corgna, who ruled as governor on behalf of the Pope. Its plain facade belies its interior with its monumental staircases, frescoed walls and rooms on a grand scale.

Citta Della Pieve: Piazza del Plebiscito

Citta Della Pieve: Piazza del Plebiscito, Palazzo della Corgna

Citta della Pieve is known for its narrow streets and alleyways. The wider, curved streets were said to advantage knights on horseback and the alleyways the peasants armed with bows and arrows. So, in times of conflict, the horsemen could dodge the arrows shot by the peasants and the peasants could defend themselves in the maze of alleys, many of which are too narrow for horses. A tall tale perhaps, but you can really picture it when you are walking through the town.

Citta della Pieve

Citta della Pieve, street

Citta della Pieve, alleyway

Citta della Pieve, street

Vicolo Baciadonne is reputed to be the narrowest street in Italy; it is just 80cm (31 inches) wide.

Citta della Pieve, Vicolo Bachiadonne - narrowest street in Italy

Citta della Pieve, Vicolo Bachiadonne – narrowest street in Italy

Here mio marito demonstrates that it is better to visit before a large lunch!

Citta della Pieve, Vicolo Bachiadonne - narrowest street in Italy

Citta della Pieve, Vicolo Bachiadonne – narrowest street in Italy

One of the unusual things about Citta della Pieve is that the shops, restaurants and bars do not have signs outside. So you look for chairs and tables to indicate a cafe, or just peek into windows to see what is inside. It does have the benefit of uncluttered streets. – a rare thing indeed.

Citta della Pieve

Citta della Pieve

This is a great town to stroll around. Its elegant buildings, picturesque streets and beautiful views – not to mention its many bars and restaurants – ensure an interesting and thoroughly enjoyable visit.

Citta Della Pieve - church

Citta della Pieve, street

Citta della Pieve, street

Citta della Pieve, street

Pass the Wine (Sophia Loren)

“Sir, I did not count your glasses of wine, why should you number up my cups of tea?” – Samuel Johnson

There are lots of watering holes in Spello, but we have found only two wine bars.

Spello: Enoteca Properzio

Spello: Enoteca Properzio

Enoteca Properzio is located next to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore on Spello’s winding main street. You can taste fine wines here – note the stacked cases of Krug – from all over Italy and beyond.

Spello: Enoteca Properzio

Spello: Enoteca Properzio: Ready for wine tasting.

Wine tastings are a feature here. The wines are paired with delicious cheeses, meats and pasta. This enoteca is renowned throughout Umbria and both its press and punter reviews are exceptionally good. We have been 3 times and thoroughly enjoyed both the food and the wines. But…there is somewhere else we much prefer.

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

Vinosofia is situated in Via Maddalena, just off the main street through Spello. Husband and wife duo Brenda McLeran and Graziano Santucci, welcome you in to a tasteful, calm interior with soft music playing in the background.

Combining American flair and Italian style, Brenda and Graziano have created a fine space where you can pop in for a quick glass or spend a long, languid evening. We have popped in for a quick glass on more than one occasion only to end up spending wonderful long languid evenings here!

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

Brenda and Graziano are trained sommeliers, and they are passionate about their products. They are extremely helpful in recommending wines and we have been delighted to taste some of their recommendations. They work well together, quietly ensuring that customers have everything they need.

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

Wines are largely European, mostly organic and all are from small producers. The accompanying platters of artisan cheeses and organic meats are served with baskets of fresh bread – all delicious.

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

Vinosofia also offers an excellent range of cookery books and gifts for the wine lover. We had to buy one of these wonderful wine measures – we had never seen anything like this before. As well as measuring the wine, it also aerates it. It is such a beautiful object.

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

Brenda and Graziano pride themselves on being a green business, in everything from the products they sell to the materials used in renovating the building. They source food, wines and gifts locally and minimise their environmental footprint wherever they can.

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia. A glass of man….or am I seeing things?

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

Wonderful liquor bottles…and they taste as good as they look!

Spello: Vinosofia

Spello: Vinosofia

A visit to Vinosofia is an experience not to miss if you ever have the pleasure of visiting Spello.