ASSISI and PERUGIA ITALY – 16 July 2011

What a grand day!  Now remember, I am jotting down my adventures for my own pleasure to remember and “live it twice” (actually again and again).  Also with all my experiences it is hard to “do it all” but what I have always done is to continue my reading and research following a trip to learn more and reinforce my learning.  Of course, I am way behind with my follow-up reading on last year’s week in Iceland and London, and May’s trip to Ireland, but that is alright.  Just having the reading material piled up makes me feel good, and learn by some sort of osmosis.

Saturday is Market Day in Cortona.  I enjoy seeing how various markets are held – a tradition going back in history – and got “hooked on markets” (shopping with my eye and camera only) with the permanent Montreal fruit and vegetable market in 2009 and Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar last year (need to share some of my photos, especially Leeches For Sale – whoops

Leeches for Sale in Istanbul Turkey


decided to add that one now).  The variety and arrangements of foodstuffs in those markets were ablaze with color, but Cortona’s market was an assortment of clothing, household items, and one street had food venders – items to bring home.  What fascinated me are the massive awnings that open up from the roofs of the assorted trucks.  Most towns here have markets at various times, in fact when we were in Palau on Sardinia eating after the day on the water, the market was setting up at 8 PM.  The vendors must be constantly travelling from town to town with their rigs.


Cortona Italy Saturday Market - Note Awnings on the Vehicles

The plan for the day was for David, Mari and I to visit Assisi and Perugia (current home of Amanda Knox you may recall).  Mari wanted to wait until the intense heat subsided, and we headed off about 3:15 arriving in Assisi at 4 PM.  What a special treat. Before ascending the hill we stopped at The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Portiuncula.  The basilica was built to

The Porziuncola inside the Basilica

contain St. Frances’ original church and the Transitus Chapel where he died on October 3, 1226 at the age of 44.  It was at this spot that Saint Francis in the early 13th century found an abandoned and secluded church dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and he restored it, eventually it became the first headquarters for the Friars Minor.   I must at this point say that if it were not for the religious journey I traversed with Cathy I would not have as strong an appreciation that I have had for the historical spiritual sites that I have seen.  I am really anxious to begin my post-journey research on the rule of the Popes following the Romans, and the Renaissance art as it developed in the churches.

We then drove up the hill to the Town of Assisi , and parked at the uppermost lot and walked down through this Medieval city to the Basilica of San Franceso.  Now, Cortona has been a tourist destination for several decades, but Assisi has been a pilgrimage site for almost 800 years.  In my studies of the development of vacations and tourism the origins trace back to the trips made by Pilgrims to religious sites – oh, I have put “on my list” to write a bibliography of my library on tourism, and my collection includes Pilgrimages, The Grand Tour, Camp Meeting Grounds, Seaside and Mountain Resorts, Early Roads and Travel in the US, and Roadside Americana. 

The Town of Assisi itself seems to be larger than Cortona, and with wider streets.  David noted that the construction is of different types of stones – rose colored and bright white colored.  We strolled the streets down to the Basilica and marveled at the frescos in the Upper Church which was begun in 1228 shortly after Saint Frances’ death.  These frescos by Giotto, Mari

Tomb of St. Francis in the Crypt

explained, are the first examples of art representing depth and three dimensions, albeit primitive. A delight to see, but even grander in the lower crypt is the Tomb of St. Francis that was found again in 1818.  By 7 PM we completed our exploration of the town walking back up the hill to the car and headed for Perugia.

Now, as I have said, I am not a city person.  I briefly read about Perugia “on-line” but I did not bring my books on Umbria so I could not “bone-up” on Assisi and Perugia.  As we approached Perugia I wondered why we were coming as it looked so new (population of the area over 250,000).  David and Mari laughed at me, “just wait.”   Well, we parked in a modern car park surrounded by modern buildings. I decided to leave my camera in the car.  Off we went up the hill travelling on maybe 13 or 15 escalators interspersed with as many flights of stairs, one in a hidden alleyway, and soon we reached another escalator.  Mari said, “we are now entering the castle!”  Words cannot describe the magnitude of the climb, and the feeling as you reach the bowels of a cavernous castle with barrel vaulted ceilings, nooks crannies, stairs, and yes one more escalator which deposited us on the top of the hill in the middle of an Etruscan city, modernized in the Middle Ages (and not since), and in the middle of the Umbria Jazz Festival.    Was I ever surprised – the city is magnificent and essentially unchanged, and fun-loving crowds I actually enjoyed being in.   

We walked around, browsed, and sat on some steps in the main square and listened to a group from Nashville that started at 9 PM.  After awhile we found a small restaurant on a side alley whose kitchen and some dining was in one building, and around the corner down another alley was another dining area including a canopied alley.  Really fun, and we finished up just before 11 PM, in time to get back to the square almost at the foot of the stage with about 25,000 plus or minus 5,000 of our closest new friends (tightly packed close). The first time that crowds have been fun for me.  David wanted to hear  a very talented jazz band he had heard before with fantastic music all choreographed as they constantly moved around the stage.  We left shortly after midnight and arrived back by 1 AM today, Sunday.

Unbria Jazz Festival in the Main Public Square

I have had a full Sunday, lots more to share, but it is 11PM and I just bought my train ticket to and from Florence for tomorrow.  So, instead of trying to write about all of today’s adventures I had better get some images together for you, and post this.  Remaining itinerary: Monday Florence,  dinner at Mari’s college roommate’s restaurant in Cortona tomorrow, and hopefully post. Tuesday is a wrap-up day ready to head to Boston on Wednesday. 

It is now Midnight, I will catch a 8:17 AM train and return from Florence at 8:30 PM, so, good night, RAY

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1 Response to ASSISI and PERUGIA ITALY – 16 July 2011

  1. Marian says:

    Hi Ray. I am going to sit down and read all of this adventure in a day or two.
    My friend and I have been on the train(s) and seen so many things that you do not see on the road. Enjoy what I have been able to read about your trip. Wonderful.

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