Archive for the Perugia Category

Monte Tezio Walk

Monte Tezio is a mountain just to the north of Perugia, the top of the mountain is very wide and rounded, once you are at the top it is relatively easy and you can enjoy views from several places.

Walking on Monte Tezio in Umbria

Walking on Monte Tezio in Umbria

You can find instructions for a hike up Monte Tezio in my walking guide book, Circular Walks On The Tuscany Umbria Border (available as an e-book for the Kindle). The walk is relatively short but, if you take children, it will take longer (around three hours rather than two). We set off early on a summer morning in July to avoid the heat of the day. The walk involves a hard climb through woods at the start but after about twenty minutes you emerge from the tree line onto the pasture at the top of the mountain. From here the gradient eases off and it’s a relatively short walk to the summit marked with a short stone post.

On the summit of Monte Tezio in Umbria

On the summit of Monte Tezio

A short distance to the south and, still part of the mountain, is a lower summit known as Monte Tezino, this is made obvious by a cluster of communication antennae. From up on the summit of Monte Tezio there are marvelous views in every direction, you can see Lake Trasimeno to the west, the Apennines to the east and the centre of Perugia to the south. It was going to be a hot day but up here there was still a beautiful cool breeze.

The Nevicata, an old snow store, on Monte Tezio

The Nevicata on Monte Tezio

The next point of interest on the route is the Nevicata, a circular stone structure that was used to store compacted snow in the winter. Straw was used to insulate the snow and stop it melting, it  gradually turned into ice and provided Perugia with a supply well into to summer. The blocks of ice were transported by mules to the city below.

A view from Monte Tezio

A view from Monte Tezio

The route continues across the top of Monte Tezio to Croce della Pieve, a large iron cross at the northern end of the mountain. Nearby you have to find the route down, a narrow path with a easy gradient that cuts diagonally back along the side of the mountain to the start.

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5 Umbrian Towns

When you stay on the Tuscany Umbria border you have the option to visit both these Italian regions, here’s a brief guide to some the larger towns in Umbria,.

Perugia

Perugia is the capital of Umbria, it is easy to miss out on thanks to the large amount of urban sprawl below the old city and a one way system that seems designed to confuse the visitor. Negotiating the one way system is easier these days thanks to the widespread use of GPS (I always go to the Partigiani car park). in addition, you can directly access the beautiful centro storico using the Mini Metro transport system (use the large car park near the Madonna Alta exit on the Super Strada).

The Palazzo de Priori in Perugia, Umbria

The Palazzo de Priori in Perugia, Umbria

Don’t miss:

  • Collegio di Cambio – beautiful frescoes by Perugino.
  • Galleria Nazionale del’Umbria – art works by Perugino, Piero della Francesca, Fra’Angelico.
  • Piazza IV novembre – stunning piazza with medieval fountain at the centre of the city.
  • Fontana Maggiore – the fountain at the centre of Piazza IV movembre.
  • Etruscan Well – enormous well constructed by the Etruscans.
  • Underground City – medieval streets that became the storerooms for the pope’s fortress.
  • Arco Etrusco – huge entrance to the city built by the Etruscans.

Also consider:

  • Via Maesta Delle Volte – impressive arches over this alley support the buildings.
  • San Severo – a half finished fresco by Raphael.
  • Sala del Collegio di Mercanzia – wood panelled meeting room for the merchants’ guild.
  • Sala dei Notari – frescoed meeting room open to the public if not in use.
  • Oratorio di San Bernardino – impressive carved facade on this church.
  • Via Acquedotto – medieval aqueduct that is now a pedestrian walkway.
  • San Pietro – a short walk away from the centre, visit the frescoed interior.
  • Museo Archeologico – lots of Roman and Etruscan artifacts.
  • Hypogea di Volumni – Etruscan tomb on the outskirts of the city.

Assisi

The home town of Umbra’s most famous saint, St. Francis, this town has millions of visitors every year so if you don’t like crowds, go early in the morning or in the winter. The town’s buildings have a pinkish hue because of the color of the stone from Monte Subasio, the mountain behind Assisi. Almost everyone is surprised to learn that the town’s patron saint is not St. Francis but San Rufino, an early Christian bishop and martyr. The Romanesque Duomo, rather than the Basilica of St. Francis, is the church built in his (San Rufino’s) honour.

The Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, Umbria

The Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, Umbria

Don’t miss:

  • Basilica of St. Francis – huge church & the world’s greatest collection of medieval painting.
  • Duomo (San Rufino) – Romanesque facade and inside the font used to baptise St. Francis.
  • Basilica di Santa Chiara – huge flying buttresses support this impressive church.
  • The Rocca Maggiore – vertiginous  views from the tower.
  • Tempio di Minerva – Roman temple converted to a church.

Also consider:

  • Roman Forum – under the Piazza del Comune, a collection of Roman remains.
  • San Damiano – small church outside the town walls where St. Francis had a vision.
  • Santa Maria degli Angeli – huge church below Assisi built over St. Francis’ original chapel.
  • Eremo Dei Carceri – monastery in the woods 6km from Assisi.

Gubbio

A medieval masterpiece of a town built on the lower slopes of Monte Ingino. If relatively small towns like Gubbio could build enormous civic buildings like the Palazzo dei Consoli, medieval Italy must have been a very wealthy place. Gubbio is relatively isolated and this means it is not overrun with visitors – another point in its favour. In recent years a lift (or elevator if you speak American) has been installed in the town making it easy to negotiate the steep streets. The first lift connects the lower part of Gubbio with the Palazzo dei Consoli and a second (not so easy to find) lift goes up to the Duomo.

The town of Gubbio in Umbria

The town of Gubbio in Umbria

Don’t miss:

  • Palazzo dei Consoli – huge medieval town hall on the Piazza Grande, worth a look inside.
  • Piazza Grande – large piazza built on enormous supporting arches.
  • Duomo – impressive interior with unusual supporting arches.
  • Funavia – cable car ride up Monte Ingino.
  • Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo – see the blackened corpse of Gubbio’s patron saint in a glass coffin.

Also consider

  • St Agostino – frescoes of the life of St. Agostino, also gruesome scenes of torture by demons.
  • Rocca – views from the very top of Monte Ingino (walk from St. Ubaldo).
  • Ducal Palace – Federigo di Montefeltro’s residence, now used for art exhibitions.
  • Roman Amphitheatre – below the town near the main car park.
  • San Francesco – frescoes of the Life of St. Francis and Life of The Virgin

Spoleto

A medieval town with Roman origins perched above a wide gorge, Spoleto rose to prominence as the capital of a Lombard ruled duchy after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Duchy of Spoleto lasted from AD576 to 1155 when Frederick Barbarossa captured the town.

The Rocca and medieval aqueduct, Spoleto, Umbria

The Rocca and medieval aqueduct, Spoleto, Umbria

Don’t miss:

  • Duomo – elegant facade and frescoes by Filippo Lippi and Pinturicchio inside
  • Ponti delle Torri – enormous medieval aqueduct, 76m at its highest point.
  • Arco di Druso – this Roman arch at the entrance to the forum (now the market).
  • Piazza del Mercato – lively piazza at the heart of Spoleto
  • San Pietro – Romanesque facade and views of Spoleto from across the gorge.
  • Roman Theatre –  the remains of the town’s amphitheatre.
  • Rocca – even if you don’t go in you can’t avoid seeing this impressive fortress.
  • Sant’Eufemia – Romanesque facade & unusual interior.

Also consider:

  • San Salvatore – early Christian church incorporating part of a Roman temple.
  • Museo Diocesano – the highlight is a Madonna & Child by Filippino Lippi.
  • Museo Archeologico – a collection of Roman & Etruscan remains.

Orvieto

Perched high on a volcanic plug in southern Umbria, Orvieto has one of Italy’s finest cathedrals with some apocalyptic frescoes inside. Originally Etruscan in origin and built mainly from tufa, a  soft volcanic rock, the town has a distinct appearance from other Umbrian towns.

The magnificent facade of Orvieto's Duomo

The magnificent facade of Orvieto’s Duomo

Don’t miss:

  • Duomo –  built from striped marble, it has a fine facade and spacious interior.
  • San Brizio Chapel – inside the Duomo, apocalyptic frescoes by Luca Signorelli.
  • Torre del Moro – climb to the top for a bird’s eye view of Orvieto.
  • Pozzo di San Patrizio – deep well with a double spiral staircase.
  • Orvieto Underground – tour the spaces carved out below the town.
  • Crocifisso del Tufo Etruscan Necropolis – Etruscan tombs outside Orvieto.

Also consider:

  • Funavia – ride up on a restored funavia from Orvieto station
  • Museo dell’Opera del Duomo – some interesting medieval paintings
  • Museo Archeologico Nazionale – Etruscan & Roman stuff.
  • Museo Emilio Greco – ceramics collection.

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The Paintings Of Piero Della Francesca

Art lovers who holiday on the Tuscany Umbria border are spoilt for choice when it comes to galleries and paintings, one painter, whose work you should try and see, is the Renaissance master Piero della Francesca. A mathematician and artist, Piero della Francesca spent much of his life working in the towns of the Tuscany Umbria border and the Renaissance court of mercenary soldier Federigo da Montefeltro in Urbino (in the neighbouring region of Le Marche). Determined fans of this remarkable painter can follow a Piero della Francesca Trail, taking in the towns of Arezzo, Sansepolcro, Monterchi, Urbino, Perugia and even Rimini on the Adriatic coast. A visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence can also be included in the Piero Trail as you will find his famous portraits of the aforementioned Duke of Urbino, Federigo di Montefeltro and his wife, Battista Sforza. The Piero della Francesca Trail forms the background to John Mortimer’s novel Summer’s Lease, if you haven’t already read it and you are interested in following the Piero Trail, it’s worth bringing a copy for holiday reading.

The Madonna Di Senigallia by Piero della Francesca

The Madonna Di Senigallia by Piero della Francesca

The faces in Piero della Francesca’s painting display an unusual lack of emotion, the solid figures draw their inspiration from classical sculpture and seem to be frozen in a moment in time. In 1897, the art critic Bernard Berenson wrote “Impersonality – that is the quality whereby (Piero) holds us spellbound, that is his most distinguishing virtue”.

A detail from the Proof of The Cross by Piero della Francesca showing the same faces

Proof of the Cross – detail, note the repetition of the faces. Piero della Francesca, Arezzo.

The same faces reappear throughout the paintings, and are sometimes repeated within the same scene with altered characteristics such as facial hair.

The same faces appear in different guises in Piero della Francesca's paintings

The same faces appear in different guises

Perhaps it’s stretching things a bit far to claim that this repetition influenced the Pop Art of Andy Warhol, but the overall effect is quite modern in style. The mastery of perspective and foreshortening in Piero’s painting is incredible. In true Renaissance Man style, Piero della Francesca was also a mathematician as well as an artist and the study of perspective naturally interested him, often the pictures depict Renaissance architecture and intricate floor patterns that show off his skill.

The Piero della Francesca Trail

Arezzo

The Legend of the True Cross in the church of San Francesco – book in advance as spaces are limited. A medieval tale telling the story of the cross on which Jesus was crucified and it’s magical properties throughout the centuries. It starts with the death of Adam and the planting of the acorn in his mouth, it ends with the defeat of the Persians by the Byzantine Emperor and the return of the cross to Jerusalem. Restored in the 1990’s, these vivid pictures are a “must see” on a trip to Arezzo.

Sansepolcro

The Resurrection, still in it’s original position and the Misericordia Polyptych are on display in the Museo Civico within the walls of the old town. Described by Aldous Huxley as the “worlds greatest paining”, the Resurrection shows Christ rising from a tomb while guards sleep beneath him. The pink tinged clouds reflecting the light of the rising sun and the bare trees on one side of the painting but in full foliage on the other are symbolic of renewal. The soldier second from the left is said to be a self portrait of Piero della Francesca.

The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca

The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca

The Misericordia Polyptych is remarkable in that the traditional medieval style with a flat gold leaf background actually enhances the solidity of the figures, which, unlike medieval paintings, are painted in perfect perspective.

Piero della Francesca's Misericordia tryptych in Sansepolcro

Piero della Francesca’s Misericordia tryptych in Sansepolcro

Monterchi

The Madonna del Parto

The Madonna del Parto (Madonna in Labour) in Monterchi

The Madonna del Parto in Monterchi

Depicting an unusual subject, the heavily pregnant Madonna del Parto could easily have been lost during the Counter Reformation when it would have been considered inappropriate. It now costs €5.50 to get in to see the Madonna del Parto, making it an expensive entry ticket to see a single painting, For those that are interested, you also get access to Monterchi’s museum of scales and balances with the same ticket. However, if you have never seen it, it is worth gritting your teeth and paying the extortionate entrance fee, this seemingly simple painting will stay in your memory for years to come.

Urbino

The Flagellation of Christ by Piero della Francesca

The Flagellation of Christ

In the Ducal Palace in Urbino you can see two paintings by Piero della Francesca, the Flagellation of Christ and the Madonna di Senigallia. The Flagellation is the subject of much debate, what are the three men on the right talking about? Why are they ignoring the scene in the background? There are two sources of light in the painting, the interior is illuminated from the right and the exterior of the building from the left, does this mean that the two scenes are occurring at different times?

The Madonna di Senigallia (shown at the start of this post) is influenced by artists from the Low Countries who depicted biblical scenes in ordinary contemporary settings. Piero della Francesca would have met northern European artists at the court in Urbino.

Perugia

The Annunciation on the Perugia altarpiece by Piero della Francesca

The Annunciation on the Perugia altarpiece

One of the masterpieces in the collection of the National Gallery of Umbria, the Polittico di San Antonio has a remarkable Annunciation, the perspective of columns in the background draw your eye to the back of the cloister. Look out lower down for St. Agatha, holding her breasts on a plate.

St Agatha holding her breasts on a plate

St Agatha holding her breasts on a plate

Rimini

Portrait of Sigismondo Malatesta in Rimini

Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta praying in front of St Sigismund

In the Adriatic town of Rimini, Piero della Francesca met another famous Renaissance man, Leon Battista Alberti, an architect and mathematician. Alberti started to remodel the 13th Century church of San Francesco as a Renaissance building, now known as the Tempio Malatestiano. The redesign was never finished but Piero della Francesca left this painting of Sigismondo kneeling in front of his patron saint.

 

Florence / Uffizi

In  the Uffizi Gallery in Florence you can see the portraits of the successful mercenary soldier Federigo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, and his wife Battista Sforza. In the background of his wife’s portrait it is thought that the town is Gubbio in Umbria where the Duke built a Renaissance palace. Most books will tell you that the Duke lost an eye and part of his nose in a jousting accident, however, I overheard a guide at the Uffizi saying he had the top of his nose removed after the accident to improve his vision. The side on profile may have hidden his missing eye but it also copied the profile of Roman Emperors on coins, something the Duke would have been keen to allude to.

Portraits of Federigo Da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza

Portraits of Federigo Da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza

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Perugia, Umbria

Perugia is the capital city of Umbria, it is relatively unknown compared to neighbouring Assisi and the famous towns of Tuscany. Its absence from the tourist radar and large centro storico (historic centre) mean that it is not crowded with visitors, making a visit to Perugia all the more enjoyable.

The view from Perugia's walls

The view from Perugia’s walls

There are lots of interesting things to see in Perugia, the Underground City, the National Gallery of Umbria, Perugino’s frescoes in the Collegio del Cambio, the Piazza IV Novembre, the Etruscan Gate, the Etruscan Well, Raphael’s fresco in San Severino and the Oratorio di San Bernardino di Siena, a church with with a beautifully carved facade. You can buy a single ticket that gives you access to the National Gallery, the Collegio del Cambio, the Etruscan Well and San Severio, the other places can be seen without an entrance ticket. You see all this and more by following the Perugia City Walk in my book, Circular Walks On The Tuscany Umbria Border, available as an e-book from Amazon.

The Underground City

This is all that remains of the papal fortress, the Rocca Paolina. When Pope Paul III took over Perugia he built his fortress directly over the houses of the previous rulers, the Baglioni family. The roofs were removed and huge brick vaults were built over the top, creating storerooms and, I assume, dungeons to put the Pope’s enemies in. The architect also moved an Etruscan gate, the Porta Marzia, and incorporated it into the lower wall of the fortress.

The Underground City in Perugia, Umbria

The Underground City in Perugia, Umbria

The National Gallery Of Umbria

Located on the third floor of Palazzo dei Priori, the National Gallery of Umbria houses a fine collection of art with works by Duccio di Buoninsegna, Gentile da Fabriano, Fra’ Angelico, Piero della Francesca, Pinturicchio and Perugino. In addition, one of the rooms is frescoed with a medieval city scape of Perugia that shows fortified towers similar to those in San Gimignano in Tuscany.

The Annunciation on the Perugia altarpiece by Piero della Francesca

The Annunciation on the Perugia altarpiece

Collegio del Cambio

Also located in the Palazzo dei Priori (separate ground floor entrance), the room of the Collegio del Cambio (money changers guild) has Perugino’s finest fresco in Perugia. Covering four walls and the ceiling, the fresco juxtaposes figures from classical history with those from the bible set against unmistakably Umbrian landscapes.

Perugino's frescoes in the Collegio del Cambio, Perugia

Frescoes in the Collegio del Cambio, Perugia

Piazza IV Novembre

The unfinished side of the Duomo and the end of the Palazzo di Priori face each other across Perugia’s main square, Piazza IV Novembre, the centre is dominated by the Fontana Maggiore, a medieval fountain that was supplied by a specially built aqueduct. The panels of the fountain are carved with scenes from Aesop’s Fables, zodiacal signs and labours of the month as well as scenes from the bible.

The Palazzo deo Priori seen from Piazza IV novembre, Perugia

The Palazzo deo Priori seen from Piazza IV novembre, Perugia

Etruscan Well

A short walk past the front of the Duomo takes you to the Pozzo Etrusco, or Etruscan Well. It is unknown how deep this massive structure is as it has become partially filled with rubble. You can stand on a bridge across the well (six people at a time) and admire the Etruscan’s engineering techniques.

The Etruscan Well was the principle source of water for the city in ancient times

The Etruscan Well in Perugia, Umbria

Raphael’s Fresco In San Severo

Another short walk takes you to the church of San Severo where you will find a fresco by the young Raphael. In fact, he only completed the top half of the painting before being called away to work in Siena, Florence and Rome, never to return. After his death, his elderly teacher, Perugino, completed the fresco but if you compare it to the frescoes in the Collegio del Cambio he was clearly past his prime.

The Etruscan Gate

The north entrance to the centro storico is through a massive Etruscan gate, the giant blocks in the lower wall are typical of Etruscan walls. If you look at the top of the gate you will see that the adopted son of Julius Caesar, Octavian, or Augustus Caesar had “Avgvstvs Pervsia” carved into the arch when he captured the city after a siege.

Etruscan Gate in Perugia, Umbria, italy

The northern entrance to Perugia, the Etruscan Gate.

Medieval Aqueduct

From here, it’s a few hundred metres to the medieval aqueduct, now a pedestrian walkway that takes you back up to the city centre. The aqueduct brought water from the nearby hills to the north of Perugia and supplied the Fontana Maggiore with water. The water must have been piped in a giant siphon because it would have flowed uphill at the end of the aqueduct.

The medieval aqueduct in Perugia, now a pedestrian walkway

The medieval aqueduct in Perugia, now a pedestrian walkway

Oratorio di San Bernardino

Carved by a Florentine sculptor, Agostino di Duccio, the facade of this church depicts scenes from the life of San Bernardino di Siena. Cleverly, the carvings change from relief (flat) at eye level, to a much more pronounced three dimensional shape as your eye travels upwards. This compensates for the effect of perspective and makes it easier to pick out details higher up.

Facade of the Oratorio di San Bernardino in Perugia

Facade of the Oratorio di San Bernardino in Perugia

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