Vacations in Italy revealed always too short! Did you ever have a vacation experience that totally exceeded your expectations? Did you ever choose a destination on a whim and then end up liking it better than all of the other places you had chosen when you planned your vacation? That is what happened to me on a family trip that we took to Italy a couple of years ago.
I worked in Rome for about a year or so back in 2000. During that time, I had gotten to know some areas of Northern Italy fairly well, so I had planned a trip to show my family all of the great destinations I had found while working in Italy. But, at the last minute after all of the reservations had been made, on the strong recommendation of a friend, we squeezed in a 3-day trip to Perugia, in Umbria. We were so glad we did this because Perugia became one of our favorite destinations in Italy, based on our initial visit. The city is compact, picturesque, and chocked full of Italian history. It has excellent, but inexpensive food and is relatively unknown compared to the towns in nearby Tuscany. On the first trip we met a charming, gregarious Italian woman named Antonella, who was an acquaintance of the Italian friend who had recommended Perugia to us. She is a professional journalist, and has a special affinity for the local area of Perugia where she lives. We became fast friends on that first trip to Perugia.
My family and I spent a half-day or so with her and she was a marvelous hostess, taking us to some great local spots. I kept up my correspondence with Antonella for the intervening years until it was time to plan my next trip to Italy. This time I was taking my sister to Italy for the first time. The pressure felt immense as I wanted to be sure she got a real flavor for the country. But, I didn’t hesitate to recommend that we skip some of the other classic tourist destinations in Northern Italy in favor of Perugia and my sister readily agreed. Little did we know that on this second trip Perugia would once again exceed our expectations? When my sister and I arrived in Perugia, it was late afternoon and a beautiful fall day. It was warm, but not too hot. We sat in the main Piazza as my sister drank her excellent coffee, and I knew that the magic of the place was working on her. But, the coup de gras was the personal tour of the town by my friend Antonella the next day. We found out that Antonella studied political science and that as a journalist she specializes in historical research, iconography and archaeology. She showed us so many interesting spots in downtown from the Etruscan era to modern times, all the while weaving a fascinating tale about the history of Perugia as we visited these historical points in the city center. The last stop was the Fontana Maggiore. Antonella spent a full hour giving us a detailed description of each of the levels on the fountain, showing how there was a balance between the religious and secular symbols that were used. For example, we learned that the fountain was completed in 1278, allowing the people of Perugia access to the spring water from Monte Pacciano, rather than having to depend on the Etruscan wells and cisterns. My sister was a History major in college and was just thrilled with her new-found knowledge of the history of Perugia and the understanding of the symbolism of the fountain. Later, when we returned to the US, my sister continued to read further about the history of the area. For those of you that might be interested, Antonella conducts tours of the area in English and she has a web site with some very interesting articles.
Ci sentiamo presto!
Lina de la Torre