When I was a kid my father used to bring all the family on vacation by car. We traveled all around Italy and one of the thing he used to do was to take secondary roads, in this way we could see more remote villages and passing through small cities and towns. This required more time to get to our destination but it was a better and deeper experience. I think I was around thirteen when he planned a visit to Umbria. After a long drive till Rome he exited from the freeway in “Orte”, from there he took an interstate which after a short time shows his unique beauty. We took “Via Ortana” and it was for me the first time in such scenario. The road was beside a river and attached to the mountain, which was perpendicular, on the other side there was another identical mountain. It was so cool because it was impossible to see any horizon, the roads was all curves so there was the illusion that the mountains moved while we passed by. I loved that view but unfortunately my dad told me that we wouldn’t take the same road in our return trip. I always wanted to back in that road again and this finally happened in 2013.
I planned with my sister and my cousin to go the city of Spoleto in Umbria and attend to a rhythmic gymnastics competition. We thought that once there we could have spent a day visiting two other small towns I wanted to see; Assisi and Gubbio. While I had already visited Assisi as a kid, it would have been the first time in Gubbio. It took about eight hours to reach Orte from my city and finally after years I was again in that special road. I have to say that this time has been different, I was an adult driving the car, the view was still nice but my memories of a young kid were more magic. I think it’s because when you’re young everything around you looks bigger, this time the road didn’t look so mysterious, it was just a nice road beside the river.
The different experience didn’t disappointed me, I kept driving till our destination in Spoleto. Unfortunately even if Spoleto had nice places I didn’t took pictures so I can’t write about it but I like to show you the days we had between Assisi and Gubbio.
I remember we arrived in Assisi around eleven in the morning, we parked the car in the valley and we started walking up to the town. Assisi is famous to have been the place where San Francesco and Santa Chiara were born and lived. This two saints lived in the city in 1100 and after they died, the Church built two “Basiliche” to honor them, “La Basilica di Santa Chiara” e “La Basilica di San Francesco d’Assisi”. While the one dedicated to Santa Chiara is a modest Basilica, the one dedicated to San Francesco is more complex in its beauty and majestic.
After a five minutes we were already up on the hill, from there here it was possible to see the beautiful and typical landscape of that kind of region, with beautiful hills on various levels and vegetation which looked like if if was painted. An ancient arch was like the gate of the city, we crossed it and we take a straight way which ended at the “Basilica di Santa Chiara”. This “Basilica” impressed me for its arches, there were many, tall and of different shape, they were actually only in one side of the structure. The frontal facade was simple and opened on a square, on the right side of the Basilica there was another breathtaking view over the valley and the hills. We kept going till “Piazza del Comune”, here is possible to see ancient homes made out of stones, on the main floor these homes mainly hosts stores. Then there was the big square with the city hall on the left and the “Tempio di Minerva” on the right, beside the temple there was a tower. To be honest even if the temple is a nice structure, is totally different compared to the rest of the structures all around the square. From there we took another cool and tiny street, we went down till the “Basilica di San Francesco” which is on a promontory but it is located on the valley. Our view opened up on a big green gras with a triangle shape. At the the end of it, it was possible to see one of the two church which forms the “Basilica”. We enjoyed taking pics but till then my memories about the place were different or at least there was something about the place I hadn’t seen yet. We continued to go down till the first church, there on left side there was a panoramic view, I went close and finally I saw what was in my kid memories. On the bottom there was a rectangular square with stripes floor and all around a tunnel with arches. That was actually the square which was opened in front of the other church, the one on the bottom. That square was my only memory as a child of that place, for all this time I connected “Assisi” with that place, I was really happy to have seen it again. Of course I started to take pic all over, I wanted to save that place in my photos in every possible angle. All the area was cool for pictures, the big wall, some statues, I enjoyed to take pics with my sister and my cousin waiting for lunch time. The place was full of tourists, it was nice even just sitting there and look at the people all around, as I said in other posts, there’s a unique armory in people who visit religious places. We had a great lunch in a restaurant near the “Basilica”, we ate typical food and the place was really nice in its classic design. We left Assisi in the first hours of the afternoon, till then the schedule it was going as we had planned. We still had the time to visit Gubbio, which was the town we were going to visit next.
The idea to visit Gubbio has born thanks to a popular tv fiction transmitted on tv. The series (which is still running at the 12 series) was named “Don Matteo”, it was filmed in Gubbio and it was about a priest who used to help police to resolve crime cases. In the fiction they showed many times a beautiful square with a red floor, cool ancient buildings all around and a panoramic view over the valley. I was so fascinated by that square and once I found out that was in Gubbio I decided to go and see it in person.
It took around one hour to get to Gubbio from Assisi, even here we left the car in parking lot sited in the valley and we started walking up to the old town. The first thing I noticed in Gubbio was the young generation, it was literally full of teenagers in groups, so the city must be young for some reasons. In a short walk we reached the famous square that I saw many times on tv which was “Piazza Grande”. The square is even more beautiful there in person, it gave a great sense of space which is impossible to feel while looking at it on a fiction. Looking at the panoramic view, you have “Palazzo Pretorio” (the city hall building) on the left side and “Palazzo dei Consoli” on the right. In front of the panoramic view there’s a great building made in visible bricks which is “Palazzo Ranghiasci-Brancaleoni”. Beyond the the beautiful view of the valley and the square itself, what really take the scene there is “Palazzo dei Consoli”. This structure has been built in a glorious moment of the city just to show the power, it’s a gothic style with big staircase in the middle. The building now hosts a museum but I have to say that the facade looks a little bit ruined. The impression I had about it was that some parts of the facade looked unstable and ready to fall down. Btw we had nice time taking pictures with the staircase which formed also an arch, so cool for pics. After some fun there, we took a tiny street to reach the cathedral. We actually ended up in garden which was part of cathedral and it was placed right in the back of it. We saw the “Duomo” only from that perspective but we spent the time to walk all around the garden. After that we decided to back down because we had the last thing to see, it was the “San Giovanni Battista” church even this place was featured on the tv series, it was the church ruled by the leading actor, many times he performed outside the church. The place was interesting, the church wasn’t so huge but the triangular square in front of it was big enough for my purposes. The big dimensions of the squares in general are very important for at least two reasons; to have the best view over the structures and to take nice pictures. When we finished our time there, we decided to go back, we wanted to have dinner in Spoleto and we still had around one hour of driving ahead of us.
That day has been so intense with lots of driving, lots if walking but it worth. At the end of the day I was happy because I saw again another place from my childhood and visited a new one inspired by a tv show. The company was also good, a thing which is fundamental if you want to have quality time during explorations. That trip has been the first of two with the same company, still thanks to another rhythm gymnastics competition, we reunited the team in 2015 which brought us to other two of the most important southern Italy places. Of course that trip will be a new post for the future.
Photos: Antonio Malara
Camera: Nikon D3s