Monday, January 10, 2011

Five Pictures of Perugia

There’s something that’s never quite clicked for me with the city of Perugia. The first time we went (way back on our very first trip, with pals Jeremy and Megan) we slipped in after a day at Assisi in hopes of finding dinner. We hadn’t researched Perugia in the least and so didn’t even really find the prettier part, and while we had a good meal we had perhaps the most petulant waiter in Italy (which is saying quite a lot), who looked like Nic Cage, though more sullen. The second time was on our last trip, with pals Mark and Leslie and Deena and Andy, and while we found the centro we happened in on a Monday and everything was closed. There are also other, much more tragic, Perugia and Seattle connections, of course. We headed to Perugia again, recently, with an eye on shopping a bit, as it is the biggest city in Umbria and we were looking for specific gifts for nephew Kaiser, and we wanted to give it another chance. But again, not the best trip. It was cold, and I still didn’t feel any of the welcoming nature, or historical awe, or just darn quaintness I get from other towns and cities in central Italy. I do love the escalators up to the centro from various parking garages (seems genius), and how the escalators lead into the Rocca, but does there always have to be a guy hassling you to sign some petition and then give him money right when you get out? The main part of the city is lovely, if carrying a distant feeling to me, and most things were open (and we had a good lunch, which I posted about yesterday), which was good. But I still feel I’m waiting for the Perugia “wow” day. There were some smaller “wows” though, which started with the big griffin sculpture (the griffin being a symbol of Perugia) looking out over the Piazza Quattro Novembre:
The griffin is mounted on side of the Palazzo Dei Priori that faces the piazza, and is over doors to the Chamber of Notaries. This chamber is large, arched, and like walking into a piece of art, with frescos covering all the walls and ceiling--regular fresco scenes and lots of heraldic works and ones with a more mythological touch and dogs and boars (which I'm always in favor of):
Across the piazza, and walking past the Fontana Maggiore(or big fountain--which is one of those monuments you should really try to see once, and which I’ll do a whole post on the next time we try Perugia) is the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. The way the cathedral is built into the square and city make it somewhat unassuming on the outside (the inside, which isn’t photo-able, is massive in marble), though there are some amazing sculptures on the steps, and above the door a beautiful crucifix put up as part of the “salt wars.” Which were not the spark for Star Wars, but instead a war over salt tax. The crucifix was put up in 1539 to protect Perugia during this war from Pope Paul III, who was trying to install the tax:
Perugia, like many towns and cities, has the larger monuments and art works and architectural marvels, but also has smaller pieces here and there, some half hidden, some partially hidden, some right out in the open, and some missed by most. I find the little pieces that peek out more human, sometimes, than the larger works, and like to imagine a workman or two decided to out something up just on a whim, or to add some of their own personality. For example, just on the edge of the big center square in Perugia, near to some office doors, there are these columns with hands holding up the tops:
I loved that. I also loved that, even though it was early January, and even though it was freezing, there was a carousel set up on the edge of the city (not on the outskirts, but more where one side of the older part of the city seems as if you were going off a cliff). We had gotten too ice’d up to ride the carousel, but it was stark and lovely in a way, and helped to balance out my Perugia feelings, enough that we do plan on going back, at least once more.


  1. I have been woefully remiss in visiting you out here on the internet and when I do return I get a boar mention (my stealth-favorite in the animal kingdom, owing to a certain daughter of mine being born in the Year of the Boar) and a Star Wars line. It's as if you knew this was the day I'd come back.

    Now, to catch up on the rest.

    Hurry back, but don't hurry hurry.


  2. Hey, hey, good to have you back. Lucky timing on my part (though if you look today--12th, at the Urbino post) you'll see a nice medival super hero mention that you might dig. I dig that you like cinghiale (or boar) which is a fav of mine too (doubly-so now that I knew the Yuki was born in that year).