Forte Sorgnano, the farm at which we stayed in Umbria, got its name from the fort on top of a nearby hill. The property was purchased together with the fort in a country that oozes history through every pore. I took a stroll one early morning to the top of the hill to see the fort and admire the olive trees that surrounded the place. The fort seemed to be being devoured by the vegetation that crawled through its cracks and up its exhausted walls.
After breakfast, we left the Forte for our last day of walks around the unique Umbrian towns. We chose to spend the day in Orvieto, and took a small detour to admire the detailed, carefully spun and painted ceramics in Deruta, a place quite well-known for its large array of them.
Orvieto’s Duomo may be one of the most impressive basilicas in the world. We visited it 20 years ago during our first trip to Italy. Its large nave dates from the 13th century. From its sides the glorious giant looks like a rather simply striped black and white church but from the front, its amazing facade with mosaics, detailed carved walls, and columns shining brilliantly in the sun never fail to leave tourists in utter awe and amazement. In order to reach the square one can take a cable car to the top of the rock and walk up and down the winding streets of the town. The town’s streets themselves are generally not that spectacular; though there are a few streets around the duomo lined with little food and craft shops, the kind you would expect to see in storybooks. When we returned to our car, the blue sky spotted with puffy cumulus clouds had curiously morphed into a daunting gray sheet that spewed down buckets of cold rain. To seek some shelter and a bit of entertainment while we waited off the storm, we descended into Pozzo St Patrizio, a deep well dug during a Pope’s temporary stay in Orvieto. It was meant to provide the Pope a safe haven because Rome had been invaded at the time and it was not safe to stay there.
We drove half an hour to Todi, a charming little town perched on a hill, cushioned and sheltered by three sets of walls that were meant to keep invaders out. The only way to get through the town is by making your way up a long, inclined, winding road that weaves between old, jaded houses, and eventually ends up in a large square, Piazza de Popolo. When we arrived in the main square, a stage was being either dismantled or assembled for one of the many music festivals of the summer that any Umbrian town runs. The piazza was surrounded by a charming display of palazzos and churches, white buildings with rather flat facades that gave the square an imposing allure. The square was watchfully overlooked by Palazzo del Capitano; it has quite an impressive fresco of Pisano in its nave. The evening light descended a calm, theatrical atmosphere upon the piazza. Because the town hangs on a side of hill, it offers unique, beautiful views of the valley that we were able to enjoy during dinner on a terrace of one of Todi’s many restaurants. The thought of it being our last night eating alongside the Umbrian hills and valleys eventually sank in to us and we suddenly did not want to leave. After managing to painfully peel our eyes away from the captivating golden sunset, we wanted to drive to either Spoleto or Perugia to attend one of the music festivals. We eventually decided on Perugia. When we drove into Perugia, however, we were greeted with the largest display of parked cars we have ever seen. All Parcheggios were Completo and there were lines of cars oozing out of them waiting for spots to free up. Parking on the street was not a possibility either; sidewalks were lined with cars. The upper part of the town was closed to vehicle traffic. The festival seemed to be in full swing; it speckled Perugia with concerts not only in the main town’s square but also in other areas around town. Giving up on our endeavors to find a parking space, we turned around and returned to our cozy cottage in Forte Sorgnano where we swapped the smooth jazz for the crickets, cicadas, and other mellow sounds of the Umbrian countryside.