A selection of images from our visit to Italy in 2015. Mostly these are from the ancient villages in the hills of Umbria, where traditional and contemporary mix in unexpected ways.
Castelluccio is a village in Umbria in the Apennine Mountains of central Italy. It is about 30km from Norcia along a winding road that threads through the mountains. At the top of the range, the road turns back on itself, the terrain changes and suddenly the view of the Great Plain of Castelluccio comes into view framed by Monte Vettore. Just breathtaking.
Ponte delle Torri, a striking 13th-century aqueduct, possibly on Roman foundations. The majestic Rocca Albornoziana fortress, built in 1359–1370 by the architect Matteo Gattapone of Gubbio for Cardinal Albornoz. The aquaduct (now a footbridge) and ruins in the foreground are much older.
The view from the balcony at The Charming Villa Nuba Apartments, Perugia. The capital of Perugia is another party town. Our accommodation is located on the edge of town and yet within walking distance of the city center. Our host Giuseppe is the Italian family you never knew you had and sets a standard for hospitably that is unlikely to be surpassed ever. He is that good. We stayed here for a week and investigated the local hill towns. This is the view from the balcony we endured daily. If you plan on visiting Perugia, I cannot imagine a better place to stay.
The view across the valley at Gubbio. This is another ancient town and has many churches. So many it would be possible to worship in a different church each week and only visit them all a few times in a year. In the Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo, there were the mummified remains of the faithful on display. Although I was not aware at the time, Saint Ubaldo (the 12th-century Bishop Ubaldo Baldassini), is kept atop the main altar on a marble plinth, surmounted by a glass case. And in case that wasn't enough we passed a shrine to the bishop out on the road somewhere as well. The display of relics and dead saints (for your veneration) is not uncommon.
A view of The Great Plain (Piano Grande - 1270 m), with the road from Norcia in the background. This is the edge of the Monti Sibillini National Park. It is a sea of wildflowers in the spring, a little drab when we visited in October, but nonetheless, a very impressive sight.
The road to Castellucio with Monte Vettore in the background.
Perugia is the capital city of the region of Umbria in central Italy, crossed by the river Tiber. The city is also the capital of the province of Perugia. Perugia is located about 164 kilometres (102 miles) north of Rome, and 148 km (92 miles) south-east of Florence. It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area. The region of Umbria is bordered by Tuscany, Lazio and Marche. It's Etruscan old, hilly, steeped in history which reads like the plot for Game of Thrones. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etruscan_civilization
The rooftops of Rome from the Terrace of the Quadrigas. Turns out Rome is pretty hilly as well. This is a place that needs a lot of time to really get to grips with the heritage. We transited in and out and only really saw a little of what Rome has to offer. In particular we spent a day at the Vatican Museum, certainly a place worth visiting if you like that sort of thing. The church has squirreled away vast amounts of ancient artifacts and while I am a little unclear about the ethics of their acquisition policy, it is probably a good thing they did. Otherwise a lot of these things would be lost to time forever.
Street view Spoleto - Via Goffredo Mameli, Spoleto. Possibly my favourite place in Italy, our home for the first part of our stay. Spoleto is compact, ancient and hilly of course. It is said that Spoleto was here long before Rome was just a row of tents and certainly you can see that in the architecture and heritage. This was a centre of Etruscan life for a long time before Rome became significant and there remains plenty of evidence of Etruscan and early Roman life today. Like many ancient places, new buildings were erected over the foundations of the old over time. This town has been the center of significant archeological investigation, and following earthquakes remedial work on significant buildings has uncovered roman and older ruins below existing medieval buildings. Some of them are substantially intact. Epic place.
The Mercato Centrale in Florence, a covered market in the San Lorenzo neighbourhood of Florence. Calling it a fancy food court would be selling it way short. This place celebrates food in a way we in Australia are yet to imagine.
Piazza IV Novembre is the heart of Perugia. It's a large, open square where locals and visitors congregate. In the center is a beautiful fountain, the Fontana Maggiore, surrounded by the Duomo (said to hold the virgen's wedding ring), the Palazzo dei Priori, and medieval buildings with shops and bars. It's old, historic on an epic scale, and well worth experiencing.
Basilica San Pietro in Spoleto is a medieval church with fascinating sculptures covering its facade. Illustrating biblical stories and medieval themes, they are among the best Romanesque carvings in Umbria. Another of the famous churches of Spoleto, ancient, storied and venerable.
Aquaduct walkway Perugia - the aqueduct was built in 1278 to bring water to Perugia from the springs of Paciano, a mountain about five miles from the city center. Since then plumbing has improved somewhat and this historic monument is now a walkway.
Assisi is a town and comune of Italy in the province of Perugia in the Umbria region, on the western flank of Monte Subasio. It was the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208, and St. Clare (Chiara d'Offreducci), the founder of the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of Poor Clares after her death. The 19th-century Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was also born in Assisi. It is a place of pilgrimage and a very shiny town it is too. Religious artifacts are abundant here, the faithful can pick up their memorabilia on the way out. Given Frank was a humble man, I wonder if he approves the commercialism in his name.
Norcia is a town and commune in the province of Perugia (Italy) in southeastern Umbria. Unlike many ancient towns, it is located in a wide plain abutting the Monti Sibillini, a subrange of the Apennines with some of its highest peaks, near the Sordo River, a small stream that eventually flows into the Nera. The town is popularly associated with the Valnerina (the valley of that river). The area is known for its air and scenery, and is a base for mountaineering and hiking. It is also widely known for hunting, especially of the wild boar, and for sausages and ham made from wild boar and pork. Such products have been named after Norcia; in Italian, they are called norcineria. Ah Norcia, we shall remember your lentil soup fondly, as well as the industry and commercial skills of the monks of Norcia, said to be the birthplace of St Benedict. Sadly the Basilca is now a ruin, following the earthquakes of 2016.
Lots of first class produce on display. A real country town vibe going on here.
And here a proper norcineria.
A norcineria in Castelluccio, a village in Umbria, in the Apennine Mountains of central Italy. The village lies at 1452 m, making it the highest settlement in the Apennines. It lies above the Great Plain (Piano Grande - 1270 m), next to the Monti Sibillini National Park.