Vacation Archives – Day #6: Perugia

This is an entry from the Vacation Archives, a somewhat tardy report of my adventures in Croatia and Italy. On June 5th, 2012, I travelled from Venice to Perugia, where I had gone out of my way to book a room at a century-old luxury hotel. Hmmm.

So much for specifically paying for a hotel with wifi. I’m in Perugia now, in a hotel room that smells inexplicably of bacon and keeps dropping the internet signal. The hotel is old and creepy. I want to say that it’s grand, and it definitely has some fancy touches, like faux-finished marcasite tables in my room, plus more furniture than I know what to do with. There’s a mini bar stocked to the gills with liquor, and I’m drinking a glass of champagne as I type. Weirdly for a mini bar, the prices are what you’d see on a menu anywhere. Overall, though, if it weren’t for the excellent location, I’d be disappointed in spending so much per night to stay here. Luckily there’s a great gelato place next door that has free wifi and good cappuccinos, so I can at least catch up on current events.

The doorway to my creepy hotel room.

I got in this afternoon around 2:45pm, and after a short confusion, found my way from the train station to the nearby mini metro station. Before my trip, I was led to believe that the mini metro was a train like any other. I thought that mini referred to the route, but instead it refers to the train (and maybe the route, too). There are only about eight stops, and the “train” is more like a pod, the length of a bus or maybe even a large van. There are eight seats and plenty of standing room, and for most of the trip up the mountain to historic town center, the car is on a cable system that runs from underneath. Later the car runs on tracks only. I’m no engineer, so probably not explaining it well, but the entire process was fascinating to me, not to mention a quick and seamless journey that would have been at least 45 minutes’ walk.

The weird thing about the train station is that there were no maps. I had no clue where I was going. Even once I found the mini metro, the only map there was topographical, and there was no explanation of what stop went where! I ended up just taking the metro to the last stop and hoping for the best, and had I turned right instead of left, I would have been three minutes from my hotel. Instead, I of course wandered around, got lost, finally found a newsstand that sold maps, couldn’t read it, got lost again, then eventually figured it out and got to where I was going. It’s difficult not knowing a place, then trying to find where you’re going based on street names when street names are seldom marked. I ended up seeing the cathedral of San Lorenzo and finding my way from there.

The Cathedral of San Lorenzo, Perugia

After dropping my bags, I walked about a bit, looked into every shop window, and visited the cathedral. It was gorgeous. I especially liked the famous Madonna painting there. I decided not to photograph her sweet face, as she seemed too important for that. She’s positioned on a column, and all around the rest of the column up to about 30 feet high, there are glassed-in shadow boxes filled with silver heart medallions, most bearing applied gold or silver initials. Some of the hearts are in their own frames, with velvet or lace decorations. The church didn’t have an explanation for this, but I plan to find out. I’m assuming that they’re like Milagros.

Milagros surrounding the beautiful Madonna della Grazie.

Other parts of the church were also lovely, including an amazing stained glass window of a white bearded prophet in one of the side chapels. Holy relics of Pope Innocent IV are interred in the cathedral, as well as a white onyx ring that supposedly was Mary’s wedding ring. I didn’t see the ring in the church, but plan to go to the church museum before leaving, and hope that it’s there.

Detail from the exterior of San Lorenzo Cathedral

The crowd at San Lorenzo

In my wandering, I also came across the Etruscan arch, though I had no idea at the time that was what I was seeing. It’s interesting that I still was in awe of the huge, obviously old structure. It is massive, and the very picture of masculine strength. I felt very small beside it, so can’t even imagine the effect it had on its contemporaries.

The Etruscan Arch

I was tired and the museums had all closed, so i ended up taking a nap from 5:30 til 9:30, then woke up and walked around. Much like New Orleans, the big Italian cities don’t seem to have a bedtime. Here the college students were out in the square, sitting on the steps of the cathedral like a humongous tour group, shouting happily in the streets. People had beers, but more had gelato or coffee, and many were talking sans drinks. I found it mystifying, having basically grown up in a town where people are plastered by midnight. Eventually I heeded the call of gelato, and enjoyed a cone with two scoops. I ordered pistachio, but received chocolate and some kind of butter cream. The lady was so nice that I didn’t bother to correct her, also thinking that maybe I was being directed by the universe to try something other than pistachio for once 🙂

Again, the shop windows were calling my name. I’m going to do some serious shopping tomorrow night. I want a pretty pair of Italian shoes, and I spied a tshirt, watch, and purse that were all amazing.

My champagne is caput, and I need to catch some sleep and get up early tomorrow for my trip to Assisi. I can’t believe I’m going to see St. Francis; I’m beyond excited. This is almost as cool as my trip to Chartres. I hope it feels as holy and relevant as that place did. I tried finding bus info tonight with no luck. At least I know where to catch the bus, so gonna go there early and see what I can find out. I also want to see the Etruscan well, the archaeology museum, the cathedral museum, the national gallery, and theres a house museum I saw a sign for that looks awesome, too. Hopefully I can get to Assisi early, then get back here by afternoon. If not, guess I’ll just have to come back next year!

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