Sojourn in Italy
We'll focus on Italy this month because that's where we're fortunate to be living for two months. The art, the food, the life... are buonissimo! I've been posting short bits on Facebook and Instagram (click to see IG posts here) ever since we left Canada. There's so much more to discover and enjoy.
We're living in an old stone house in Morruzze in the municipality of Baschi in Umbria. We stay here for one month, then on to stay in Ragusa, Sicily for a second month. In this post I'll link you up with other excursions made in Italy over the years, ones well worth seeing that I've published on Blogger. So let's go.
Here's a view of our hilltop village from the road leading to it. You can see the turrets of the castle in the Piazza Paparini.
The secret of Morruzze is that it's a tiny rural village (49 residents) in which nothing happens! It sits in the very green mountains of Umbria, in a rocky terrain of olive and chestnut groves, sheep meadows, and wild boar. Walking the very rocky road uphill from our house, we come to a vista of the towns below (Acqualoreto) and beyond (Todi). The photo I took on a misty day (below) shows nearby settlements rising from lake-like clouds.
Nearby Points of Interest in Umbria
Among nearby spots, Todi is perhaps the largest and best known hilltop town and cultural centre. Perugia and Orvieto are likely the two best-known cities of this region, both containing art and architectural wonders. Perugia is a city that celebrates its medieval heritage with pageants and heraldry. It's also famous for its chocolates and Perugino (Raphael's teacher), the Renaissance painter of sweetly graceful poses.
Not far from our village, the town of Sansepolcro boasts its heritage as home to Piero della Francesca, one of my favourite Renaissance masters of composition .
Orvieto Cathedral and its Terrific Frescoes by Signorelli
Of all the cathedrals I've seen, the one in Orvieto stands distinctly apart.Though my photos were taken on a cloudy day, the gilded mosaics on its facade glisten in the sunlight. You can see its intricate stone decorations (rose window) and carvings are unique. Begun in the late 1200s and into 14th C. Gothic style, its distinctive horizontal stripes of light and dark stone (travertine and basalt) can be seen from far off.
Inside Orvieto's Cathedral, the 15th C. frescoes by Luca Signorelli (Michelangelo's painting teacher) are a total delight (even as they depict a terrifying hell, as well as heaven). This artist was a master of human form and perspective . And he was endowed with a sense of humour, with wonderful trompe l'oeil effects as you look at figures escaping their architectural confines.
An interesting footnote about the town of Orvieto (especially for me) is that Freud liked spending his vacation time here, fascinated by the same frescoes and the many Etruscan finds in the area. He likely also enjoyed the fine food and wine. Here's a plaque commemorating Freud's stay at a local hotel.
The Silent Villages
As one learns from talking with residents here, Covid hit Italy hard, with many lock-downs and site closures. Visiting this region now, so soon after travel from Canada was permitted, the sad signs are visible of places we loved to eat now gone. Yet, much is also reviving. And you needn't worry about not finding great food! The pasta and pizza is like nowhere else, as are the local foods, like excellent lamb dishes, wild boar sausages, and chestnuts incorporated into sauces and soups. It's here that I discovered a fondness for persimmons too.
We've spent time in this same village over the years, and nothing much has changed. For example, the rocky roads are as bad as ever, and there's still no cell phone reception away from the main piazza. But one major change has happened. Morruzze is now on the map because it's one of the villages along the fairly new trekking route named Il Cammino dei Borghi Silenti (The Way of the Silent Villages). Not nearly so famous as the Camino Santiago pilgrimage across the Pyrenees, this 86km. trek across the mountains and into its ancient villages has become a challenge and inspiration to many. During the summer, the population here notably increases.
Like so many travellers, I've loved visiting Italy repeatedly, experiencing the contrasts of its different regions. Links to other interesting events and hikes in Umbria (the Pascuarela and Getting Lost and Found While Hiking) are posted below. We'll be living for a month in Sicily next, and I'll keep you posted on that.
Other columns on Italy written by this itinerant artist are available for you-- see below. Click here for access to all, Or Click below for access to each one individually. All were written pre-Covid travel restrictions and reflect stays of one-month or more. All contain photos and my usual idiosyncratic focus and commentary. There are active links to the titles in blue (just click on them). Those in black will be activated soon, so keep on the lookout at Creative LIfe News.
Travel and Experience in Central Italy: Focus on Umbria
Go Fly a Kite! In Italy -- a fun local event that had us making and flying kites
Living with Animals in Italy -- the 4-legged kind
Travel and Experience in Southern Italy: Focus on Puglia and Nearby
Taranto and the Dance of the Spider -- a fascinating column on a malady that became a Dionysian d
dance, the Tarantella, plus an excellent archaeological museum
Ever Want to Hug a House? You Will in Puglia -- about the unusual trulli
The Oldest Inhabited Cave-City in Europe: Matera -- and this traveller's worst nightmare reality
Travel and Experience in Southern Italy: Focus on Sicily
Sicily -- coming up next is a column filled with the treasures and lessons of this dramatic island
visited and stayed in over the years
Travel and Experience in Northern Italy & Adriatic Coast
featuring places in Le Marche, Milan, Fermo, Padua, Mantua, Venice
Sibillini Mountains and Sibyls in Le Marche -- where ranchers herd cattle
Urbino: A Perfect Renaissance City and the Invention of "Cool"-- including a Renaissance food fest
Ascoli Piceno and Jesi: Two Cities in Le Marche -- stuffed olives, a martyr for truth, and the unusual
paintings of Carlo Crivelli