It is almost a year since we left Spello in Umbria, Italy, after a wonderful 3 month stay. Previous posts have detailed the people we were fortunate to befriend and the places we visited. We hoped we would return someday, and here we are in summer 2014 making that hope a reality. Three weeks this time rather than 3 months, but still lots of time to catch up with old friends and revisit special places.
Approaching Spello by train from Rome was a new experience. Rome’s main railway station is a huge travel hub – 29 platforms radiating trains in all directions. Train travel in Italy is fast, efficient and cheap, so the train was thronged with commuters, students and the odd tourist.
The plains on the outskirts of Rome gave way to deeply wooded hills and valleys, wide rivers and arable fields. We plunged into dark tunnels, emerging into bright sunlight. High on a hill were the crumbling ruins of an ancient castellated tower, greened with ivy. Along the tracks were industrial units feeding the giant metropolis with power, cement and wood.
At Orte, 60 kilometres north of Rome, there was a sudden surge of departing passengers. Orte was an important railway junction in the 19th century as almost all of the trains leaving Rome stopped here on their way to Florence or Ancona and all points in between. The sprawling buildings around the railway station folded the people inwards like welcoming arms.
And so to Narni, ribbon developments along the tracks and distant views of rugged mountains, their jagged peaks now blue, now green, framing the moving scenery. Neat houses with tidy yards, balconies festooned with bright summer flowers and even brighter washing, and the inevitable supermarkets and DIY outlets. At Terni the olive trees cast long shadows across the orchards and rocky peaks rise as we enter a deep gorge where the sun only reaches the tops of the trees on the upper slopes. Through Giuncano and Baiano without slowing down, and sun baked slopes of green and gold emerge, with swathes of wild flowers, poppy red, brilliant yellow and royal purple.
Familiar territory as we approach Spoleto, with its huge castle high on the hill, the town clinging to the slopes below. Happy memories of a day spent here before the train rushes on to Trevi, a classic hill town on the flanks of Mount Serano and Foligno, known for its manufacturing industries and its beautiful cathedral, churches and museums. I held my breath as we rounded a bend in the track – and there was Spello, its ancient walls of stone from Mount Subasio glowing pink in the sun. I felt a surge of happiness, just like coming home. It was so good to be back.