Umbertide , Umbria Italy 27 June - 4th July
On the trip north from Rome to Umbertide we struck a huge thunderstorm - poor Vladimir (our awesome Volvo car) looked like he was swimming at one stage. This was to be a sign of things to come for the week as I think we had thunderstorms just about every afternoon.
We found our wee town house in Umbertide it was 4 metres wide by 10 metres long and 4 stories high. and just lovely with a little verandah looking out towards Umbertide Castle. The McLeods and us soon settled in. We watched the men play cards in the piazza in the evenings.
The first morning was a Sunday morning and we found a whole lot of men fishing on the banks of the Tiber with huge extendable rods (up to 10 metres in length ), they had special seats and they threw out hand fulls of live maggots to attract the fish. It didn’t seem to work though as we never saw anyone catch anything and when they got bored they turned and used a slingshot to fire maggots at their mates.
On Sundays in Umbertide everyone seemed to buy fancy cakes for lunch so Ju bought us some , the man wrapped them in special paper and tied a lovely red ribbon round them. YUM!
In the afternoon we visited a hilltop village with great views of the countryside.
The next day we went to Sienna, stopping off on the way at another hilltop village called Cortona where there were some beautiful art shops. Parking in Sienna was a bit of a nightmare but we eventually got one. Today was the first day of Siennas famous horse race called Le Palio. This is where 10 horses are assigned to 10 different contradas (districts) of Sienna and they have 6 practices before the main race in the town square on the 4th day. The riders ride bareback and hit each other with dried bulls penises and it is a crazy 3 laps of the square and takes only about two minutes. To watch the race you have to get a standing space in the square 6 hours before the race. We hoped to watch a practice race that evening but a thunder storm rolled in and it was cancelled much to my disappointment how ever we went back on the morning of the big race and watched them do their last practice - it was quite a sight with all the supporters cheering and waving their scarves of their Contrada. It would be great to go to the race itself but I’ll do it when I’m older.
Another trip from Umbertide we did was to Assissi, birthplace of St Francis and we really enjoyed learning all about him and St Clare. It was amazing that in the short time he was spreading his message he created a whole new movement in the church which has survived to this day. The town itself was lovely although somewhat dominated by the two massive, beautiful churches built in his honour.
It was a very hot day that day, and on the way home, we called in at the ancient town of Gubbio. We went to the local swimming pool for a swim.
It was market day the next day in Umbertide, and the town centre was transformed into a huge market, selling everything from clothes to whole cooked pigs and live chooks.
Next day went to Florence , after a brief but interesting side trip through the Chianti area, where we actually got lost for the first time on our trip and ended up at the end of a gravel road which is very hard to do in Europe!
Florence was well set up for tourists, with huge new underground carparks built outside the city, to stop people taking cars into the congested town.
We had a big day exploring the magnificent cathedral, climbing the hill for views of the city, and taking in all of the amazing statues and art work, especially Michaelangeloes “David”, who popped up everywhere. There is one original, but many copies planted all around the town..
Our week in Umbertide had come to an end, and we said goodbye to our travelling companions for the last 10 days ( Ju and Ali Mcleod).Vladimir was loaded up again and we headed off for the Adriatic coast, and a small clifftop Village called Sirrolo. On the way there we went back through Gubbio because there was a big endurance horse ride on. It was so cool seeing the horses it was the Italian 160k race that day but there was soon to be the Nations cup in which many countries of the world compete, one day hopefully I’ll be there!!
This town and the camp we stayed in proved to be one of the best spots we visited in Italy, with the camp perched halfway down the cliff and two beautiful beaches within easy walking distance. That night I got sick.