Scooting our way through Perugia and the Umbria surroundings
From the Eternal City of Rome we made our way to the calmer air of Perugia, a small walled city which retains much of its medieval identity. Having walked around the entire historical part of the city in just over an hour, we decided to do a little research into some of the other fun things we could do beyond the walls of Perugia and in the broader Umbria region. In the end we settled on something cool and typically Italian. No, it wasn't an afternoon siesta or a failed war campaign. It was a Vespa ride through the countryside and surrounding cities!
We found a friendly, family-run business called Umbria Scooter Hire, just outside of Assisi. After going through the paperwork and driving exam (a 30 second drive up and down the nearest street - gotta love Italy), we were ready! To make things easier, Luca at Umbria Scooter Hire carefully planned out our road trip in accordance with our interests and scooter driving ability. And with a flick of the ignition switch we were off to see Umbria!
Our first stop was Bevagna - a town with just over 5000 inhabitants and tiny medieval laneways that had more twists and turns than an episode of Days of Our Lives. Needless to say, we parked the Vespa at the city gates and made our way on foot - an Italian killed by scooter was not on my list of desired souvenirs from this trip! In Bevagna we managed to find the remains of an old Roman amphitheatre, which was nestled beneath a block of medieval homes and had now been converted into an underground art gallery. How's that for recycling!
Stop number 2 was another quaint medieval town (there are lots of them in Umbria) called Spello. Spello was an endless uphill climb of cobblestone road goodness. Needless to say, the Vespa remained at the city gates once again. The deli at the top of the town offered the perfect reward for our laborious climb - a prosciutto and provolone panini. As part of the annual Corpus Domini festa, Spello hosts the Infiorata, during which local artists spend an entire night creating over sixty flower carpets. What is a flower carpet? It's hard to explain. Think of a masterpiece painting but instead of paint, it's a mosaic of different coloured flowers. Perhaps Google images will provide a better explanation - http://www.ostellofrancescano.com/images/stories/infiorata-spello.jpg Sadly, we were a week too late to see the Infiorata.
Our final stop was the famous medieval (who would have guessed!) city of Assisi. Assisi is stunningly beautiful as you approach it on the surrounding roads. And it's just as impressive once you reach the city gates. But, once inside, there was something that didn't quite gel with us. Maybe it was the overdoing it with St Francis - similar to what we had experienced in San Giovanni Rotondo with St Pio - which was treading on the fine line between being annoying and being disturbing. Or maybe it was the abundance of tourists after we had experienced the serene tourist-free environments of Spello and Bevagna (bloody tourists!!! Glad I never was one). Or maybe it was just that our day was so damned perfect that it was always going to be hard for Assisi to top anything we'd already experienced. Whatever it was, we weren't going to dwell on it. We had a magical day in Umbria. One we weren't going to forget anytime soon...
Next stop: Orvieto