Saturday, July 9, 2016

Romans and Popes II (Perugia, Italy: June 2016)

21.6 Nice-Perugia

Up at 6.30, walk to station, expensive platform breakfast with delicious fresh OJ. The train is on time and we are on our way to Milan. Fabulous! We have facing window seats and plenty of room to spread out for picnicking, as the train meanders along the coast via Monaco to Savona. But ... A plump Italian mama claims the seat next to Chris (not understanding that she could, for now, occupy any of several other vacant seats) and proceeds to chat loudly and non-stop to the couple across the aisle. Chris is growling. Less than an hour later another Italian mama claims the seat next to me, and joins the conversation, even more loudly and vociferously! Announcements ask those on mobile phones to be considerate, but ... They are  talking so loud they don't hear the announcements. We give up the idea of a picnic and enjoy the view - the line hugs the coast all the way from Nice to Genoa (which seems to be a vast container terminal), then inland to Milan.
On the train ...
On the train from Nice to Genoa - through a dirty train window
On the train 2 ...
We arrive on time, five hours to kill. By the time we have stored bags (12 euros), bought a map (2 euros) and been to the loo (1 euro each), then had a quick picnic in a nearby garden, it’s four hours. Enough time to walk up to the Duomo? No problem! But … phew! It is a hot walk through a busy city. Rest stops in parks along the way, photo stops in the amazing Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an insanely beautiful upmarket shopping arcade full of beautiful people, and tourists with selfie sticks. The piazza around the Duomo is likewise packed, and the Duomo - wow! Nothing has prepared me for the scale of it. We take some photos but don't fancy the wait (and security checks) for the interior, so set off back to the station, detouring for wine and pizza to eat on the train. Arrive back to the vast station with 15 minutes to spare.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
Duomo, Milan
Finally on the train, we share a compartment with a young mother and two lively children; she talks on the phone and they progressively run amok. We find a vacant compartment and picnic there, by the time our seats are claimed the mother and her mad children are gone, and it is peaceful again. It's a long trip (5.5 hr) on a regional train, but the time passes pleasantly, eating, drinking and chatting. A young woman calls her boyfriend - 'You won't believe! I am on the train with Australians!'
A late night taxi ride to the Hotel Iris - it is beautiful! Large room, large window, great view with full moon! But tomorrow we will move.
Midnight in Perugia - from Hotel Iris
Morning in Perugia - from Piazza Italia

22.6-23.6 Perugia

The Hotel Morlacchi is very different - a cosy guest house with small rooms and an indifferent view, but it is in a great part of the old town, close to everything but in a student rather than a tourist area. Where to start? Museum, Church, Piazza?
Italia classica - Piazza Italia
Dubious Mum and dodgy baby
Not so dodgy … lovely sculpture by Duccio, who also decorated the cathedral
Cattedrale San Lorenzo
After checking the view from Piazza Italia (stunning, like all the views here!) we start with the National Gallery of Umbria, located at the breathtaking Palazzo Dei Priori, another amazing space with a medieval-Renaissance collection of art and sculpture. Again the gallery is almost deserted. The focus this time of course on Perugia (and Perugino), in the context of other major cultural centres (Florence, Rome, Siena etc). As in Avignon, slightly dazed mothers of God gaze doubtfully upon their distinctly dodgy babies …
The cathedral is majestic and atmospheric, and not too OTT, but seems photography not allowed … so I manage just one quick snap …
A trek to San Severo to see the last remaining work by Raphael in Perugia, a fresco at San Severo chapel, which is tiny! Then there’s the ancient Arco Etrusco originally build in the 3rd C BC, then ‘adapted and improved’ by the Romans.
On the steps - of Palazzo Dei Priori 
Raphael fresco - detail 
Arco Etrusco 
WW1 display at Civic Museum, Palazzo della Penna
What next? There is a modern collection somewhere, but it takes some time to find it at the Palazzo della Penna - it's the most poorly signposted and designed museum that we've seen for some time! A retrospective of the futurist Dottori, installation from a 1980 visit by Beuys, and display of WW1 artefacts, signage all Italian. Well, we are in Italy, but it's remarkable how little English is spoken here compared to other European countries, far less than in France, even by many working in tourism. I wish my Italian was better - even rudimentary skill such a I have in French would be useful.

We have no kitchen so it's back to picnicking and restaurants. I buy ingredients for Caprese salad and make it up in our room. We have design-your-own salad at Café Morlacchi, our local. We try Pizza Mediterranea (a Lonely Planet recommended pizza place) and take the leftovers home for lunch. We eat salad and drink wine at Piazza Italia (Giardini Carducci) where the view is almost unreal. I try and fail to find my friend Ruth's recommended gelataria, but have a fine nocciola and cioccolato gelato at our local artisan gelataria.
Cheese man - at the little co-op supermarket 
Delicatessen - at the co-op - should show this to our local IGA
Lunch at Caffe Morlacchi - new hat from Provence
Giardini Carducci - our picnic bench
Perugia twilight 

24.6 Perugia (Locanda della Posta)

Today to Montefalco – and I can’t wait to have an apartment again. We drag our luggage to the station (it’s going to be a hot one!), but when we try to by tickets, we are told with a shrug “Sopresso!” – there’s a strike and the trains aren’t running. A hazard of Italian life, and we have been lucky so far, but not this time. I get online, book a hotel (two previous already booked out), the third in four days – Locanda Della Posta. It’s a slightly shabby 4-star in the middle of tourist territory, and the room, while bland, is large and comfortable. And there is a bath! It’s now very hot, and I’m coming down with a cold, so hibernate all afternoon, emerging for aperitivo at Kundera enoteca. It’s a nice cool spot, and we’d like to stay for dinner, but they only have aperitivi, at least for now, so we fill up on them – lovely arancini, grilled veg, tiny cups of pasta and couscous, frittata …

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