Monthly Archives: October 2015

Heaven is a Place on Earth

Blue Nun, Spello

Blue Nun, Spello

Italy remains a Catholic country and there are many Italians for whom religion remains part of the daily ritual, whether they live a cloistered life, such as in Spello’s ancient Vallegloria Convent, or by making their own personal spiritual journey. We stepped out of a doorway and found ourselves caught up in a procession, a microphone and loud-hailer leading the chanted prayers, the street brimming with people.

Nuns in the Sun, Spello

Nuns in the Sun, Spello

The nearby town of Assisi, birthplace of Saint Francis, is an important stop on the ancient pilgrim’s route from Tuscany to Rome. Spello is one of the many hill towns visited along the way. Not everybody walks the entire route, but this section with its rolling green hills and proximity to Assisi is particularly popular.

Did I hear something?

Did I hear something?

The Spellani watch the procession in the narrow streets, leaning out of high windows or peeping between the balcony railings. Everybody loves a spectacle.

Well Hidden, Spello

Well Hidden Flower Girls, Spello

It’s time for us to bid farewell once again to Spello. Like lovers we make promises about returning soon. We greet friends for the final time and say arrivederci – until we meet again. We linger in our favourite wine bar, Vinosofia, listening to the legendary Miles Davis, one more Martini for the road, stirred not shaken. If ever heaven was a place on earth, it’s Spello. Taxi’s here. I wipe away a tear….

Lost in Contemplation

Lost in Contemplation

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place: we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”― Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

Thanks for coming along for the ride. Did you enjoy it?


Street Life

Baby You Can Drive My Car

Baby You Can Drive My Car

In the warm autumn sunshine, Spello attracts few tourists and can often be quiet and still. The restaurants with their delicious dishes celebrating local food and wines remain open, the scent of herbs wafting from their busy kitchens. The cafes still spill out onto the pavements where the afternoons drift lazily by, fuelled by strong coffee and Aperol spritz.

Paws for Thought

Paws for Thought, Spello

On the street, life continues on. The children are back at school now, and in the early mornings and afternoons their excited chatter echoes in the narrow passageways. Workers continue to improve the road surface, vehicles squeezed into the narrow streets, blocking any traffic.

Parking Problems?

Parking Problems? Spello

In the town square, old men sit chatting whilst old women fill their baskets with ingredients for dinner. A Fiat 500 (cinquecento) – ideal for the narrow roads – screeches past, its distinctive engine stutter and rattle a regular sound here on the street.

For Ishita, as promised!

For Ishita, as promised!

During the afternoon pausa, shutters are closed and the sound of clattering plates and talking can be heard from the cool interiors. Now and then people stroll by, keeping to the shade of the buildings.

Strolling, Spello

Strolling, Spello

In nearby Montefalco, even the statues have sunglasses to protect them in the heat of the day…

Blues Brothers Chef, Montefalco

Blues Brothers Chef, Montefalco

….and these young girls look cool as they whizz around the medieval villages with a scooter tutor….

Scooting, Montefalco

Scooting with a Scooter Tutor, Montefalco

But even on the warmest day there is often a hint of rain in the air, as the clouds gather over nearby Mount Subasio. Armed for any weather, this wonderful friend is all smiles….

One of my Crew, Spello

One of my Crew, Spello

How can a day be so perfect? Perhaps you have a perfect day too?


Blue Remembered Hills, Spello

Handbags and Gladrags


As part of my occasional series on artisan shops in Spello I have spoken to people who farm the produce, design the clothes and even hunt the truffles that they sell. For me, it is the people who interest me most, although I am never averse to a little purchase given the opportunity. Il Vario is located on Via Garibaldi. It sells a variety of things (the shop’s name means “varied”), but largely handbags and ceramics.


The owner is Marcello Paneri, a well-known character in his smart shoes and stylish clothes. Marcello has had his shop in Spello for 16 years and branched out 2 years ago with another in nearby Foligno. Marcello speaks little English and his quick-fire Italian is difficult for me to follow at times, but we (almost) managed to understand each other using the normal pointing and nodding translation tools!

Marcello Paneri, Il Vario, Spello

Marcello Paneri, Il Vario, Spello

Marcello collaborates with a potter to design and produce ceramics which use the work of the famous Austrian artist Gustav Klimt as inspiration. Many of the pieces are big and bold and their high glaze shines in the sunlight….


Handbags were quirkily displayed in frames or draped with well-matched accessories.


The handbags are made in Umbria using the softest leather with handcrafted stitching. These bags aren’t cheap, but the clean lines, quality and timeless styles will ensure that buyers are still filling them with absolute essentials for years to come.


Jewellery reminded me of the sea with its rocks and shells…..


….and brightly coloured, swimming fish caught in nets….


Some of the bags were decorated with tapestry designs; we asked where these were made.


Come” motioned Marcello, and we obediently followed him, destination and purpose unknown. He led us down a side street which opened out into the small Carlo Carretto piazza, and through a double door into a light-filled space with displays of tapestries created by Mauro Ottaviani, who had by now joined us, summoned by Marcello.


Mauro’s ancient Singer sewing machine was a source of great pride, although its sewing days were long gone. His intricate picture of a favela was my favourite….


….and this detail of a colourful seaside town also caught my eye….


Mauro has been creating his works since 1985, showing flowers, human figures, townscapes and geometric designs. A large tapestry of Spello took 3 years to make; the intricate work makes this understandable.


Mauro invited us (nodding and pointing) to his workshop, and we were fortunate to see him at work on his latest design, his deft fingers flying over the fabric….


Who would have thought that a chat with Marcello would result in an opportunity to see one of Spello’s craftsmen at work? Only a chilled glass of prosecco could complete our lovely afternoon, and so it was that we spent the early evening in the gardens of the Bar Bonci. Now that’s another story….