When in Umbria: Assisi

Norberto Proietti, Il Ritorno di Francesco

Our initial decision was to give Assisi a miss, for forewarned is forearmed, as they say:

Be warned: this is the third most visited pilgrimage site in Italy (after St. Peter’s in Rome and Padre Pio’s shine in Puglia), meaning often impenetrable crowds in the main visitor hotspots. [Rough Guide to Tuscany & Umbria]

But, after viewing frescoes by Da Volterra in Rome, Fra Filippo Lippi in Spoleto, and Benozzo Gozzoli’s St. Francis cycle in Montefalco,  it seemed preposterous to miss out on Giotto’s* St. Francis cycle in St. Francis’s home town. We’re pleased to report that, while the streets were gently “peopled,” we didn’t encounter crowds. Continue reading

When in Umbria: Montefalco

Gozzoli, Preaching to the Birds & Blessing of Montefalco

The hill town of Montefalco is tiny (pop. 5,581), but that doesn’t prevent it from having a surfeit of spectacular art. As reported by the Rough Guide to Tuscany & Umbria: Continue reading

When in Umbria: Spoleto, Part 1

Spoleto Duomo bell tower

Chiesa San Gregorio Maggiore bell tower

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, we decided on Spoleto as the base for a week in Umbria. We found what looked to be (and was indeed) a comfortable, reasonably-priced apartment with lots of light and even a terrace with a view. The owners, British expats Norma and Laurie, were bursting with excellent information and, where needed, gratefully appreciated assistance in getting around. But it was more than that: they truly made us feel we’d arrived at a home away from home. Continue reading

When in Rome, Part 3

John Keats died at Rome of a consumption, in his twenty-fourth year, on the [23rd] of [February] 1821; and was buried in the romantic and lonely cemetery of the protestants in that city, under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius, and the massy walls and towers, now mouldering and desolate, which formed the circuit of ancient Rome. The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place. Continue reading

When in Rome, Part 2

Colosseum

Proceeding along the Via Sacra and passing under the arch of Titus, on turning a little to the left, we beheld the amphitheatre of Vespasian and Titus, now called the Coliseum. Never did human art present to the eye a fabric so well calculated by its size and form,
to surprise and delight.
—John Chetwode Eustace, A classical tour through Italy, p. 163

Our next two days in Rome provided for a study in contrasts: the first a series of missteps, the second a non-stop delight. Continue reading